WASHINGTON – A compilation of videos reveals the Syrian opposition, particularly the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army, is recruiting children to fight against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
One segment of video shows a 12-year-old child being guided by an adult as he hacks off the head of a captured fighter. The child is then instructed to place the head on the top of the body.
The video compilation opens with a number of children and young people displaying a variety of weapons they are carrying, from a Kalashnikov, or AK-47, to a rocket propelled grenade, or RPG and firing artillery pieces.
The video, put out by “Syrian Truth,” was a compilation of others from Syrian rebel channels that have appeared at various times on YouTube.
Revelation of the video comes as the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI, released a report with dozens of images of Islamist militants teaching children to embrace violent jihad against Islam’s enemies.
“Children’s deaths in fighting are being glorified in videos and photos circulated online and in social media,” MEMRI said. “In a November 2012 video, a Syrian boy, who appears to be about 10, digs his own grave and expresses his wish for ‘martyrdom.'”
The Syrian Truth video, which has English subtitles, points out that recruiting underage minors and “thrusting them in war actions is a crime punishable by international law.”
It goes on to say that the recruitment is a violation committed by the “Armed Resistance in Syria,” which it identifies as the “FSA,” or Free Syrian Army.
It asks where are the “world’s jurists, legal professionals and Human Rights Organizations on these violations?”
According to the English subtitles, these videos are “only the tip of the iceberg.”
The video goes on to show examples of children during a battle on Jan. 12, 2013, in Aleppo.
Another scene shows a child with a Kalashnikov slung over his right arm being escorted for a meeting in which he cites how he wants to fight the Syrian army in his village.
Asked “if he wants to drive a tank, and if he can jump over the walls of the airport. The child answers, ‘yes,'” according to the video.
In another sequence, a 14-year-old identified only as Danny is shown firing his rifle in a town and is said to be the “youngest sniper in Syria fighting Bashar al-Assad.”
The video then shows another young man who apparently had just shot someone and examines his body but breaks down in tears and is gently led away from the body by a male adult.
Then, in what is described as “the most horrible and terrifying video,” a child “not even 12 years old,” is shown beheading a Syrian using a chopper. The video is blurred to mask the details of what the child is instructed by an accompanying adult to do.
The decapitated Syrian’s head is then placed on top of his body.
Watch the video compilation below (Editor’s note: Some of the footage is graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers):
A United Nations report by the secretary-general to the Security Council acknowledges the use of children by the opposition. In its May 15, 2013, report the special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict acknowledges the role of children in combat and specifically singled out their recruitment by the FSA.
“The United Nations has received a growing number of reports of use of children by armed opposition groups, such as the Free Syrian Army,” the report said in part. “From accounts received, child association with the Free Syrian Army is often linked to an older relative facilitating recruitment or in instances in which the child has lost all members of his or her family. It is also linked to the fact that there is no central recruitment authority among the Free Syrian Army and that many forces are clan-based or village-based.”
Separate reports reveal that the Islamist militants who make up part of the Syrian opposition have established training camps for boys.
A Washington Post report recently spoke of a youth brigade called “Zarqawi’s Cubs” being set up by the most ruthless of the Islamist militant groups in Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
A video of their school shows very young masked children in camouflage uniforms undergoing training.
Zarqawi’s Cubs is said to bear a remarkable resemblance to Iraq’s “Birds of Paradise,” a brigade created a decade ago by the same al-Qaida group when it fought in Iraq.
Zarqawi’s Cubs is named after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who fought alongside Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and then made his way to Iraq, where he was regarded as so ruthless sources claim al-Qaida leadership gave away his position in Iraq, where he was killed by a U.S. F-16 bombing attack.
“This is the future threat,” said Steven Stalinsky of the Washington-based non-profit group, MEMRI. “These are the children of al-Qaida.”
F. Michael Maloof, staff writer for WND’s G2Bulletin, is a former senior security policy analyst in the office of the secretary of defense. He can be contacted at [email protected].