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Last updated: January 2021

COI summary

[Targeting, 1.6, 3.8.1, Actors of protection, 5.4.4; Security situation 2019, 1.4.3; COI query on Yazidis]

Child recruitment by multiple armed groups operating in Iraq has been reported. According to the USDOS assessment of 2018, ‘children remain highly vulnerable to forced recruitment and use by multiple armed groups operating in Iraq, including—but not limited to—ISIS, the PMF, tribal forces, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), and Iran-backed militias’.

ISIL heavily recruited children. In its recruitment, the group used a biological rather than a numerical definition of adulthood that is based on perceptions of an individual’s strength and physical maturity. The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism established by the UN documented ISIL’s recruitment of children as young as seven for combat roles. Many of the recruited children have been dispatched to the front, while others have been reported to work as spies, bomb-makers, cooks or prison guards. Thousands more have been exposed to the ideology of ISIL in ISIL-sponsored schools.

The PMU have reportedly recruited few children. There have been reports that PMU recruited, trained and used children in militia activities and to man checkpoints or provide support at checkpoints. There have been reports that Sunni tribal militias have recruited young men, sometimes minors, in camps for displaced persons through tribal leaders.

In 2017 it was reported that 9 children were recruited by the People’s Defence Forces — the armed wing of PKK. In 2020, it was also reported that recruitment and use of children in Sinjar continued by both PKK and YBS, estimating the number of children to be in the hundreds.

Risk analysis

Child recruitment is of such severe nature that it would amount to persecution.

Given that the intensity of armed confrontations and military operations has declined significantly and based on the COI that child recruitment at the moment seldom occurs, it can be concluded that well-founded fear of persecution would only be substantiated in exceptional cases.

The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: gender, area of origin, ethnic/religious background (e.g. Kurds for the PKK, Sunni Arabs for ISIL), age (being an adolescent), being an IDP, the presence/influence of armed groups, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

The individual circumstances of the child need to be taken into account to determine whether or not a nexus to a reason for persecution can be substantiated.

See other topics concerning children:       
2.17.5. Child recruitment