On today’s International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, members of the Coalition for Just Reparations (C4JR) are reminded of the need to protect the children caught in the crossfires of war, even after the conflicts end. As campaigners across the world raise their red hands in solidarity, let us also extend our hands to those who have endured the horrors of war, including the children impacted by the ISIS conflict in Iraq.
Central to C4JR’s call for justice and reparations is the Yazidi Survivors Law (YSL), enacted to address the specific needs of survivors, recognising the profound physical and psychological harm inflicted upon them. Crucially, the YSL doesn’t just acknowledge the past; it aspires to support a better future. Among its provisions are comprehensive rehabilitation and integration measures, aimed at empowering survivors to rebuild their lives and contribute meaningfully to society.
Education is vital for a world in which children hold pencils, rather than weapons. The YSL prioritises educational opportunities for survivors and their children, understanding that education is not just a right but a powerful tool for healing and empowerment. By providing access to education, children can be provided with a path forward, away from the shadows of conflict and towards a future filled with promise and possibility. But this isn’t the case for many survivors in Iraq.
Hope Givers, a network of Yazidi male survivors once held captive by ISIS, are supporting former child soldiers in Iraq by bringing attention to the plight of boys and young men who survived attempts at indoctrination.
“Education is a right for all children worldwide,” says one male Yazidi child soldier survivor. “I was deprived of continuing my education during my abduction by ISIS, and the worst part is that I am now deprived of completing my education in my homeland after being liberated from ISIS’s captivity.”
“I lived through difficult times during my abduction by ISIS,” says another Yazidi child soldier survivor and Hope Givers member. “I dreamed of a happy life outside their grip and of returning to my area. However, after my return, I began to live in the hell of the camps for five years.”
C4JR welcomes the bold efforts of the Government of Iraq in adopting the YSL, but more support is needed. As we commemorate Red Hand Day, let us not only raise awareness of the horrors of the past but take concrete action by continuing to call for the implementation of the YSL, ensuring that its promises are fulfilled without delay.