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Human Rights Watch: A Report or Campaign Against Islamic Institutions?

22 February 2016

By Shahamat Emarat

The Human Rights Watch published a report on Wednesday entitled ‘Taliban Child Recruitment Surges' in which it alleges that since mid-2015 the Taliban have added scores of child soldiers in their ranks in violation of the international prohibition on the use of child soldiers.

This report which is largely based on unfounded allegations states that research by HRW shows that the Taliban deploy children in military operations including production and planting of IEDs, further adding that the Taliban increasingly use madrasas (Islamic religious schools) to provide military training to children followed by their recruitment and deployment in combat.

In an apparent move to try and provide evidence for these allegations, the organization states that it interviewed relatives of 13 children recruited by the Taliban as soldiers in Kunduz province over the past year and verified these claims through interviews with civil society activists, political analysts and the United Nations.

The report further notes that this recruitment drive actually coincided with a major Taliban offensive in northern Afghanistan which began in April 2015, paving way for the Taliban to gain more influence over the education sector in Kunduz. Since then Madrasas were increasingly used to indoctrinate, train and recruit children inside these institutions.

The report alleges that indoctrination begins at age of 6, continuing for up to 7 years of religious education under Taliban teachers and by the time these children are 13 years of age, they have learned military skills including use of firearms as well as production and deployment of IEDs. After this, these children are handed over to Taliban groups by their Taliban teachers.

And the two of the most audacious claims in the report state that:

Taliban madrasas attract the poor because the Taliban cover their expenses and even provided their families with cash.

Children who had been recruited were full time madrasa students while those attending government schools were not prone to being convinced to fight.

Then to bury the final nail in the coffin, the report suggests that the government and military forces (US and NATO) ban madrasas and teaching of religious education by evoking ‘The Optional Protocol' in the ‘Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict' found in International Humanitarian Law.

This ‘The Optional Protocol' clause stipulates that governments ‘take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices'.

The report finally ends with recalling interviews with families and relatives of 13 such cases where Taliban have recruited Child Soldiers in 2015 albeit with the caveat ‘The names of children and their relatives are changed for security reasons and the names of Taliban commanders who use these children in warfare are not provided because it was not possible to contact the Taliban on their views'.

A round of applause for HRW and their thorough research which is basically that we have conjured some allegations and will substantiate them with zero evidence. Allegations which hold no validity whatsoever in international law. First of all 13 cases is hardly the threshold for making such a broad allegation that Taliban use madrasas to indoctrinate children and use them for conflict related purposes. The HRW obviously had to conveniently withhold the names of these children for their security.

Madrasas are one of the oldest and most effective forms of education in human history. Through over a thousand years they have trained generations upon generations across the Muslim world. To attempt to wipe out this essential institute of Islamic culture would frankly require a bit more than 13 obscure cases by unknown and unverified children.

If the report can't publish the real names of these children and their family members they could at least be so kind as to publish the names and locations of the madrasas where this widespread practice is taking place. To justify their claim for closing down the tens of thousands of madrasas across Afghanistan, they could at least provide enough evidence to prove that this practice of child recruitment is a deliberate policy taking place across all the areas under the Taliban control and not a one-off incident.

The enemies of our nation and religion know no moral compass. Here they try to accuse the Taliban of using child soldiers and call for the closure of madrasas based on 13 concocted and unsubstantiated claims. While there they bring a poor and innocent child in front of the television and by paying him convince him to say that he was somehow recruited by the Taliban to carry out a suicide attack.

The Taliban regularly publish videos of martyrdom seeking individuals. Why has not one child been seen in these publications? Now obviously in most cases bodily parts of these martyrdom seekers are also left intact. Why the government and these supposed human rights organizations can't produce a single case where the bodily parts of the martyrdom seeker belonged to a child?

The Taliban have also published hundreds of videos of their operations. Why has not a single child soldier observed in these videos?

How obtuse of a supposedly reputable international human rights organization to allege things all the while turning a blind eye to provable known international war crimes carried out by the US, her allies and the Kabul regime.

There are dozens of pictures, videos and interviews by government officials that testify to the fact that local militias and even the Afghan army recruit child soldiers among their ranks. Why has the HRW turned a blind eye to these accusations despite having the resources and full access to investigate them?

This report is an affront to human intellect and the notion of human rights. We don't know what has gotten into these rights organizations and the extent of their hatred after the fall of Kunduz because first, Amnesty International published a similar unsubstantial report alleging rape and extra-judicial killings by Taliban that was subsequently spurned and proved baseless by eye witness accounts and even the Kabul regime officials admitted to the fallaciousness of such reports. Now we have this fabrication which goes to great lengths to demonize the religious seminaries that work to educate and provide education opportunity for the poor Afghan masses.

Moreover this move by HRW is a clear indication that the war on Madrasas is not over especially after the women right organizations voiced their concerns recently, followed by an Al Jazeera documentary of Madrasas in Kunduz which towed the same line as HRW and this theme was again picked up by Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah urging Taliban to stop using child soldiers recruited from Madrasas in their latest speeches, which essentially consisted of extending an olive branch or rather the branch of surrender and shame to the Taliban.
 

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