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Theoretical and Empirical Reflections about the Use of Children in Armed Conflicts: A Case Study of the Afghan Refugee Children Recruited by the IRGC in the Syrian Civil War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2021

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Summary

ABSTRACT

The Islamic Republic of Iran is host to approximately three million Afghan refugees who fled their homes after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1989. In order to avoid returning home, the Afghan refugee children, who have lived in tough conditions and have been deprived of their basic human rights, including the right to education and safe learning spaces, have resigned themselves to the Iranian government's refugee policies and procedures. After all, as Human Rights Watch have previously reported, the Iranian government has pledged to issue residence permits to the children of Afghan refugees on condition that they join the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as soldiers in the Syrian civil war.

By tackling the legal implications of the recruitment and use of refugee children by the armed forces of their country of refuge and returning them to war, this contribution challenges the direct interplay between human rights law, humanitarian law and refugee law. By doing so, this contribution presents the most straightforward legal explanation of states’ obligations to protect the rights of refugees and to enhance the rights of the child in their country of refuge. The contribution also develops the argument that one legal regime would be more useful than another in protecting the rights of the child. To prove the validity of this argument, the contribution will list the general principles that remain common in human rights law, international humanitarian law and refugee law. This serves as the basis for structuring competency-based responses to the questions of whether and to what extent the Iranian government's approach to child soldiering is compatible with the rights set out in the current international legal framework, which is supposed to protect children from violence and abuse.

This contribution addresses how the Iranian government is contributing to the declining protection of the refugee and human rights of Afghan children who are recruited as child soldiers and are wounded or even killed in the Syrian civil war. It then draws attention to the Iranian government's responsibility for human rights, humanitarian law and refugee law abuses – in particular, for the breach of the general obligation to protect refugees in the country of refuge.

INTRODUCTION

The recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts by states and armed non-state actors is a direct violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in a variety of aspects.

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Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2020

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