Children are used as soldiers by Armenia in the war of Nagorno Karabakh against Azerbaijan.
With fighting continuing across the entire front, Azerbaijani troops control the operational situation to free lands illegally occupied by Armenian forces. Defending units of the Armenian Armed Forces are being forced to withdraw from Azerbaijani territories losing their positions and military personnel. In such a situation Armenian armed forces are more likely to use children to replenish their ranks.
The evidence of children participating in mass atrocities has occurred from the Hitler Youth of the Second World War, to the killing fields of Cambodia, and to the genocide in Rwanda. And today, in the 21st century we are witnessing the same in Armenia.
According to the information obtained from the Armenian social network, children are serving as soldiers in armed conflict over Nagorno Karabakh against Azerbaijan. These boys and girls, some as young as 8 years old, serve in Armenian government forces and armed separatists groups of the so-called Nagorno Karabakh and act as spies, messengers, or lookouts. Many are abducted or recruited by force, while others join out of desperation, believing that the Armenian government offer their best chance for survival.
The Armenian commanders started gathering rebel child soldiers in Armenian-occupied Nagorno Karabakh after Prime Minister Nickol Pashinyan, dismissing diplomatic efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, called all Armenians to take up arms. He said, “an acceptable solution to the conflict can be achieved with arms in hand.” He also passed a post to call on the Armenian people to form volunteer squads, choose a commander, undertake preparation, and finally go to the frontline. According to the Armenian sources, a volunteer squad led by Yerevan’s mayor Aik Marutyan has already been created in the Armenian capital. Evidence shows that there are underage children among the volunteer squad.
Armenian authorities can of course refuse the fact of recruiting children. But the evidence suggests otherwise.
Besides, in Armenia, there are circumstances in which armed groups, including terrorist groups of the so-called volunteers and mercenaries, are perceived by a community as a defence against the danger from the Azerbaijan Army. In such circumstances, family and communities may expect and push children to join the ranks of such groups.
Earlier, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan said, Armenia is using mercenaries from the Middle East. People of Armenian origin from some Western countries are being involved in battles against Azerbaijan in exchange for a huge amount of money.’
However, when recruiting children, Armenia benefits from notable economic advantages. Whether they are used in support roles or as combatants, children are usually paid less (if at all) and require less food to survive. Accordingly, children remain less expensive than adult combatants.
Children become part of an armed force or group for various reasons. Some are abducted, threatened, coerced, or manipulated by armed actors. Others are driven by poverty, compelled to generate income for their families. Still, others associate themselves for survival or to protect their communities. No matter their involvement, the recruitment and use of children by armed forces is a grave violation of child rights and international humanitarian law.
Up to date, 170 countries, including Armenia have ratified the treaty, agreeing not to use children under the age of 18 in direct hostilities and to criminalize the recruitment and use of children by non-state armed groups. Armenia has to fulfill formal agreements with the UN to end its use of child soldiers. Otherwise, commanders who once recruited children with impunity should be convicted of war crimes and receive long sentences.
The UN and other responsible organizations should investigate and prosecute Armenian commanders who recruit underage children, cut off support for the Armenian government that exploits children, negotiate more action plans to end the use of children in war.