About the Campaign
The Global Problem
According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, “...any person below 18 years of age who is or who has been recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes... It does not only refer to a child who is taking or has taken a direct part in hostilities.”
There are an estimated 300,000 child soldiers in the world today in at least 20 countries, some as young as 8 years old. About 40% of child soldiers are young girls, who are often used as sex slaves and taken as "wives" by male fighters. Often, children aren’t “recruited,” but forced to partake in a conflict. When children do volunteer to join military and paramilitary groups, they do out of naivety - which is taken advantage of by adults for political purposes. They are easier to manipulate or brainwash, and once they have joined, are less likely to desert or disobey orders. Children do not have a refined sense of danger like adults do, and are willing to undertake suicide missions without truly understanding the objectives or the outcomes. In addition to being more obedient, they consume less food and don’t demand salaries.
The Forgotten Palestinian Child Soldiers
While many people are aware of the child soldier issues that’s plaguing places like Africa, little has been done to address the same horrific phenomenon happens every day in the Palestinian Territories. The evil of using child soldiers has afflicted Palestinian society for decades. This injustice cannot continue to go unnoticed or unaddressed by world powers.
Several Palestinian terrorist and militant factions use children in their operations. PFLP, Hamas, Fatah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad blatantly abuse these child soldiers in the face of weak condemnation. Unless awareness is brought to this issue, Palestinian children will continue to be used as war resources.
Palestinian Kids in Combat
The ruling power of the Gaza Strip, the terrorist organization called Hamas, has child training camps in which it trains children as auxiliaries and militia members. Approximately 10,000 children and teens are trained each year with terrorist “summer camps” which are grueling basic training boot camps. There, children learn to march, combat maneuvers, weapon operation, and terrorist tactics. This is not watered down as showcase or theatre, but are practical lessons meant to be implemented.
In combat, children from 17 to as young as 9 have been pushed into the battle fray, to fight and die alongside adult militants and terrorists. While in some cases the youngest of these casualties has been covered up with older, fake ages on casualty lists, Hamas and PIJ have been proud of the teenagers that have been “martyred” in battle.
This injustice is even more heart-breaking when it comes to the use of these children in terrorist attacks. Dozens of children have been used as suicide bombers, disposal human munitions for these groups to use and discard. Often, children do not even understand the consequence of their suicidal actions, and that they are going to be killed when the bomb explodes. Beyond direct recruitment, organizations like Fatah actively encourage children to engage in suicidal stabbing attacks, which often results in severe injury or death for the child and their victims.
Similarly, children are encouraged to engage in violent riots. Palestinian are often taught by radical organizations to throw stones at passing cars and people. Such low-tech acts of violence greatly danger others, and help warp children's perception toward violence. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of stone-throwing incidents occur every year at the behest of Palestinian organizations. Sent to the front of riots, children are used as human shields to protect adult rioters or even armed elements within the hosts. Children are systematically used as riot fodder, their school days canceled and school children bused to the front lines to be used as a modern day shield-wall. Further, children are bribed with as little as $83 to rush security fences and try to sabotage them.
Using desperate economic situations to manipulate children is not isolated to riots. Children are also employed in dangerous child labour projects. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have long been building tunnels into neighbouring territories for purposes of attack and smuggling military equipment. These tunnels are being built with a child labour force, operating in lethal sweatshop conditions. By 2012, over 9 children have been buried alive and killed while digging terrorist tunnels. There has been no indication that this practice has stopped.
These practices have lead to a strategic culture that views children as resources, and denies them their childhoods. This is demonstrated not only in the way that schools are constantly used as storage sites for munitions or as launch sites for rocket terrorism, but also in the media that children are exposed to. Hamas and Fatah television stations are rife with incitement to violence, dehumanization to Jews, and glorification of Jihad and martyrdom. This leaves children primed for child soldier practices, as demonstrated above.
For the future of the Palestinian people as a whole, and for these children as individuals with rights according to international law and decent moral doctrine, the above practices must be stopped.
PCS Week is a global movement to end the use of Palestinian children as child soldiers. It is non-partisan and non-political, and all inclusive. By bringing awareness to the plight of Palestinian child soldiers, the movement hopes to pressure and shame the offending organizations into cessation of their abuses.
The week of solidarity will begin on February 18th until the 21st, with all organizations and individuals welcome to join online and offline. On campuses across the US, students will hold solidarity rallies, urging everyone to sign the international open letter. If you would like to take part in the campaign online, visit our action center to see how you can help. If you want to hold your own rally, visit the resource center, and download printable content. Together, we can save Palestinian child soldiers. #KidsNotSoldiers