Syrian children

Syrian rebel propaganda video stars kids with assault rifles

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Part of becoming a grown-up is putting on the costumes and airs of an adult, wearing Mom’s shoes or Dad’s hat or pretending to drive. It’s usually adorable. But sometimes it sounds a sour note. Child beauty pageants, for instance, are often grotesque, as is sticking a gun into a child’s hands.

It’s the latter a group calling itself Syria Justice and Freedom, an apparent Syrian rebel group, has done. It has posted a YouTube video featuring a dozen children, some mere toddlers, packing machine-guns and wrapped in the colors of the Syrian rebellion and apparently purporting to be a squad of child fighters.

Video via mrctv.org

The central child, wrapped in the flag of the country’s main armed rebel group, the Free Syrian Army, and reading off a laptop, leads the group in a hair-raising chant. The shrillness of the young child’s voice grates horribly.

The pièce de résistance of skin-crawling repugnance, however, is the hoarse chorus of the grown men behind the camera who join in at the end, in an apparent attempt to tease the group into the appropriate level of ardour.

Imagery is powerful, but it’s even more so when you realize that this is unlikely to be a simple (and simply awful) piece of propaganda. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the rebels have used children as young as 14 for reconnaissance, transport, message-running, and even combat missions. It makes special mention of the Free Syrian Army.

Per the International Criminal Court, using children 15 and under is a war crime.

Ammar Abdulhamid, Syrian exile, activist, and poet at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies warns that things are not as they seem.

“There have been teenagers for sure working with the rebels, unfortunately,” he told the Daily Dot. “Occasionally, children work as information gatherers moving between checkpoints in places like Aleppo and other areas of intersections. This video, however, is actually a joke. Sick, indeed. But there is no fighting unit made of children.”

The video was apparently removed from YouTube by its creators early this morning.

Photo via Algareeb8/YouTube