Hezbollah and Iranian Elements Recruiting Minors in Syria’s Deir Ezzor

Credit: (Reuters)

Recent reports from local sources in Deir Ezzor have raised concerns over child recruitment in the city of Al-Mayadeen, east of Deir Ezzor, exposing the disturbing recruitment of minors by Iranian militias and Hezbollah-affiliated organizations in Syria. According to these sources, the Iranian Cultural Center in Al-Mayadeen orchestrated the recruitment of 75 children, aged between 12 and 17, under the guise of scouting activities.

The recruitment process, which began in early December, occurred via events organized by the Iranian Culture Center and Hezbollah’s Mahdi Scouts and culminated in the training of 17-year-olds in the use of light weapons, including Kalashnikovs and pistols. The training course reportedly occurred in the desert of Al-Mayadeen and was overseen by Hajj Rasoul, the director of the Iranian Cultural Center in Deir Ez-Zor, along with an official from both the Hezbollah militia and the Lebanon-founded Mahdi Scouts.

The Mahdi Scouts, established in 1985, three years after the founding of Hezbollah, has been the subject of controversy due to allegations of indoctrinating children. While the group received a license from the Lebanese Ministry of Education in 1992 and later joined the Lebanese Scout Federation, it has faced criticism for its purported predatory practices seen as indoctrinating children for military service. Over the last few years, Iran has been increasing its exploitative programs in Syria, especially in Deir Ezzor province.

A 2006 report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Center at the Center for Special Studies accused the Mahdi Scouts of indoctrinating children with the principles of “radical Iranian Islam.” This alarming trend of recruiting and indoctrinating minors to participate in the conflict in Syria, in direct violation of human rights and the protection of children, is further exacerbated by the activities of the Mahdi Scouts alongside similar practices by the PKK-aligned Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The recruitment of minors into military organizations by Hezbollah and Iranian elements in Syria represents a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and the rights of children. The use of children in armed conflict not only endangers their lives but also perpetuates cycles of violence and hinders their physical, mental, and emotional development.


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