Within Iran, not only are the military taking part in exporting terrorism and unrest to the region, the regime is actively training its young men to participate in the war against the West, particularly the United States and Israel.
While it might look like summer camp, these training camps teach the young men how to handle weapons, kidnap individuals and to be willing to die as martyrs. Their mothers are encouraged to see the death of their sons as an honor and encourage other mothers to want the same for their own sons, according to the Clarion Project.
In 2010, Iran was signatory to an international protocol of the Convention on the Rights of Children, which banned the involvement of children in armed conflict, but the indoctrination and physical training of children has been continuing in schools and more formally at training camps. Using child soldiers is nothing new to the Iranian regime, which began using them after the 1979 Revolution, sacrificing more than 100,000 young children in the Iran Iraq War during 1980 through 1988. In 2011, Iran used child soldiers to suppress Tehran protests, according to the Guardian.
Propping up Houthi rebels in Yemen, Iran has used child soldiers, some as young as 5 or 6, by luring them away from their families in exchange for food, money or other basic supplies.
“It’s really a violation of international law. It’s no different than child soldiers, which is the custom in many zones of conflict,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “They are being recruited into being part of the conflict and armed for it.”
In December 2016, The Sun reported that Iran had opened a kids’ military theme park with AK47s, where children fired bullets into US flags and effigies of the Israeli Prime Minister. The children are allowed to dress up in full combat gear and pretend to attack Iran’s enemies. Instructors built control towers, sand-bagged check-points stuffed with replica assault rifles, grenades and landmines, as well as radios for communicating orders to the child soldiers.
“At the City of Games, we are trying to convey to the children messages about fighting, the Holy Defense and current global issues, through games, amusements, and group activities,” claimed the park’s boss, Hamid Sadeghi.
This same strategy is also used by ISIS, which is based on a model of including all members of the Caliphate in different aspects of Jihad. Young children often appear in ISIS propaganda videos and can be seen witnessing beheadings, crucifixions and executions.