Foreign Policy Blogs

The Use of Children to Commit Crimes and Acts of War


I have been painfully aware of the horrid use of children in war and to commit horrendous acts during a time of war. Children are used as soldiers in a time when genocide, rape, and so many other unspeakable acts are committed. For a child to witness such acts is a crime in its self, however using a child to commit such acts leaves one speechless and horrified. These children are essentially being used as weapons, their mental health and future are given no consideration, as the child is seen as nothing more than a disposable tool of war.

Two days ago a child was used by the Taliban to behead a man accused of betraying a high level Taliban official. The incident was made more shocking, as the beheading was filmed, giving even more reality to the shear youth of the executioner, a boy who looks no more than 12. The use of such a young executioner is not only shocking and illegal, but also unprecedented, even for jihad militia.

According to Sam Zarifi of Human Rights Watch, “This is truly shocking, without cultural context or historical precedent. The Taliban must condemn this act and make sure it never happens again,” (Global outcry at Taliban’s use of boy in filmed beheading).

I have touched on the issue of child soldiers in past postings, with approximately 300,000 soldiers plaguing our world, it is a hard subject to avoid. Children are used in wars as they are cheap, effective weapons and in a time of globalization, they allow war to be cost effective in many regions.

Throughout the history of man and war, children have been used in wars and as the nature of war has changed, so has the way children are used. Children have historically been used primarily as non-combat forces. We have seen an increase in the use of children as a sort of shield, being used in the front line of some conflicts.

We see an increase in the youthful faces of suicide bombers and however much we would like to believe that its just not possible, children are killing everyday. But this new public display of violence by a child brings to light the foundation of child soldiers. Children don’t spend there youth dreaming of war, committing and killing others, the are lead, forced or manipulated into these situations. We already know that many countries violate state and international laws regarding the age of soldiers, however using a child to commit a brutal and archaic act, leads one to wonder what will the future hold as our children are forced into increasingly violent situations. All acts of war should never have to be witness, nor committed by a child. Children are the future and if their lives begin in violence and their adolescence is spent in war, then one can only wonder how their adult lives will be, if they live that long. We must increase our stand against the use of child soldiers in war, as we can see that being lax will only increase the violent acts that children are allowed, or forced, to participate in.

Additional Articles:
‘He is a spy’: Boy beheads militant
Children as Weapons of War



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict