Children in the war

Children are very often victims of war and armed conflict. They are often victims of violence. As child soldiers, they are mostly victims at the same time, but also perpetrators.

Common forms of violence that children face in war include: B.

  • Killing or maiming children
  • Recruiting and deploying child soldiers
  • Attacks against schools and hospitals
  • Prevent humanitarian aid for children
  • child abduction
  • Rape and other serious forms of sexual
  • Children witness violence against family members (parents, siblings) and have to watch them be raped, tortured, kidnapped or killed


  • UNICEF estimates the number of child soldiers worldwide to be around 250,000 to 300,000. The number of unreported cases is likely to be very large. Child soldiers are recruited and deployed in various conflicts in Africa (Congo, Uganda, …), in Asia (Sri Lanka), in South America (e.g. in the drug war in Colombia).
  • Most child soldiers are not used by official states (an exception is, for example, Iran in the war against Iraq in the 1980s), but by paramilitary guerrilla troops.
  • The "Janjaweed Militias" in Darfur / Sudan, the Rwandan Hutu militia group "FDLR" (Congo) and the Ugandan "Lord’s Resistance Army" are the most brutal child recruiters.
  • Last but not least, modern weapons make it possible for children to kill just as “well” as adults
  • The children involved in the conflicts are often recruited at the age of 8 or 9.
  • Girls are very often used as "sex slaves" for the fighting soldiers, they have to do auxiliary services. Sometimes they are also used in fights.

Child soldiers and international humanitarian law

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) prohibits children and young people under the age of 18 from being recruited militarily and used in armed conflicts. (This is one of the reasons why the United States has not yet ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child); Section 38 of the CRC and an additional protocol from 2002 are particularly important.
  • The use of child soldiers is considered a war crime and "crime against humanity". He is to be punished by the International Criminal Courts (especially the ICC The Hague). The first person to answer to the ICC for the use of child soldiers is the Congolese warlod Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. He will be found guilty on March 14, 2012 in the last instance.

Why are children recruited??

A “war logic” can be seen behind the systematic recruitment of children. For example:

  • Children are much more easily “malleable” and indoctrinable than adults. Methods with which the will and identity of a person can be broken and "reprogrammed" are much more efficient for children.
  • Children are less valuable than adults and easier to replace
  • children need no pay and are therefore cheaper
  • The inhibition before killing is easier for children than for adults. They have less scruples to kill than adults because they don’t understand the scope of their actions

How are children recruited??

The recruitment of child soldiers shows different "patterns".

  • Sometimes villages are systematically raided and the adults are killed. The surviving children are recruited as soldiers.
  • Sometimes children register voluntarily because they want to escape unbearable social and family relationships.
  • In the meantime, the child soldiers are sometimes also children who were born and grew up in the camps by girls / young women. These children never got to know a civilian life at all.

What are the consequences of living as a child soldier??

Child soldiers are perpetrators and victims.

As a perpetrator …

  • … they are involved in crimes, killings, cruel rituals
  • … they develop efficient defense strategies that prevent them from critically reflecting on the problem of their own behavior
  • … Emotionally blunt them against violence and become “killer machines”
  • … they take on the recruitment and training of new soldiers, use girls as sex slaves, repeat as perpetrators, what they experienced as victims (psychoanalysis: counter-identification, identification with the aggressor, Stockholm syndrome)

As a victim …

  • … they are severely traumatized. The conscious and systematic traumatization is often that first Brainwashing and reprogramming step. For example, children are forced to watch the murder of their own parents or siblings or even to carry them out themselves. The leads to a breakdown of the core personality and the acquired social and moral structures. A new identity can be “grafted” onto this psychic “rubble field”.
  • … they are often drugged so that they are more compliant and lose inhibitions faster / better or endure brutality better
  • … they are injured or killed in fighting
  • … They often identify with the people who exploit and abuse them (Stockholm syndrome)
  • … they learn the most fundamental rules of a regulated social life and are often no longer able to find their way back to a civil life
  • … They often do not get to know the fundamental foundations for a civilian life (no school education, no civilian perspective, no social ties outside the paramilitary organization)

What to do? requirements


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Christina Cherry
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