London, March 13 (IANS) Human rights activists have accused Iran of using “child soldiers” as young as 14 to fight anti-government protesters in the country.
The teenager combatants, armed with batons, clubs and air guns, have been deployed alongside riot police, the Guardian reported citing the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
According to witnesses, the young troops – apparently recruited from the country’s rural areas – comprise up to one-third of the total force.
“They had rural accents, which indicated they had been brought in from villages far from Tehran,” a woman protesters, who claimed to have faced one of the yough soldiers, was quoted as saying.
Hadi Ghaemi, the campaign’s executive director, said: “It’s really a violation of international law. It’s no different than child soldiers, which is the custom in many zones of conflict.”
The Iranian authorities have been facing demonstrations since past two weeks. A wave of popular unrest have swept through several countries in the Middle East as well as North Africa soon after toppling the long-term regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.
The allegation comes amid efforts by Iran’s opposition Green movement to revive the mass protests that challenged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009, which opponents say was rigged.
Ghaemi said: “They are very keen to display violence. Teenage boys are notorious for that.”
“They are being used to ensure there is a good ratio of government forces to protesters and because the average policeman in Tehran could have some kind of family connection to the people they have to beat up. It’s a classic tactic to bring people from outside, because they have no sense of sympathy for city dwellers.”