As conflicts in the Middle East escalate, the number of child soldiers is also increasing. The UN reports that the numbers have doubled in the past year, and the question that arises is: Why?
Once war arrives, children in the region are only given two options: Eat or be eaten. Oftentimes, the children are family-less and are incapable of managing alone; there are no jobs or homes available, and the children do not have any hope to survive. Unable to protect themselves, the children will most probably die of starvation or sickness.
Thus, becoming a soldier is not an alternative, but rather a quite appealing choice. The army provides them with food, shelter, and other necessities of life. The children are also able to receive an “education,” in a way. They learn how to use weapons and to protect themselves. What’s more, these children find themselves belonging to a group where a comradeship and brotherhood is established. In addition, these children are paid. In order to maintain a lifestyle once they become an adult, these boys need to have some money. The pay allows them to get married, pay a dowry of sorts, and support a family.
Another source of motivation is the revenge that the children want to get for their families’ deaths. Having lost family members in the war, many have a hatred towards the enemy, and they seek to get revenge by taking part in the war.
Moreover, groups within the Middle East are striving to recruit soldiers. Groups like ISIS have methods for recruitment. Through videos and other online sources, these groups target young people that feel like outsiders or isolated. They appeal to the manliness of soldiers and promise adventure to those who join.
If these children join on their own will, can we call this modern-day slavery? In South Sudan, the children that were “rescued” by UNICEF asked that they be sent back to the armies. They missed the benefits of being a child soldier, where they were paid and everyday was exhilarating. If it was a choice that was made, can it be called slavery?