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Erdogan and the Recruitment of Children to Fight in Libya

Erdogan and the Recruitment of Children to Fight in Libya

Friday, 5 June, 2020 - 09:30
Jebril Elabidi
Libyan writer and researcher

Erdogan is recruiting children to fight in Libya, a process that qualifies as a full-blown war crime, a humanitarian catastrophe and a clear violation of the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries.

This crime of recruiting children has been documented on the ground after the Libyan Army captured a large number of children while others were killed after they were caught in the crossfire. Al-Monitor website published a report on Erdogan recruiting Syrian children and teenagers and deploying them alongside the Government of National Accord’s militias.

The website revealed how the ages of these children and teenagers were falsified on their identity cards, and their dates and places of birth were altered, often using their older brothers’ names to obscure the reality.

This crime was confirmed by US journalist Lindsey Snell who said, “Turkey has recruited children no older than 14 years into the ranks of Syrian mercenaries and has deployed them to fight in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.”

It was also confirmed by Arab News newspaper, which confirmed that Erdogan recruited children to fight in Libya, taking advantage of the poverty that their families live in.

These children are specifically selected from camps using substantial financial incentives reaching 3,000 dollars per month with promises to remove them from refugee camps and providing them with a Turkish nationality and money, and to return the children three months later loaded with dollars. Instead, however, the reality of the war returns them unidentified in coffins to be buried in mass graves away from the spotlight.

Syrian children are victims of Erdogan’s greed and delusions of taking over Libya and looting its riches. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that 16 out of 150 Syrian children between the ages of 14 and 18 were killed during the most recent battles after being deployed with 10,000 Syrian mercenaries who fought among the ranks of the “political Islam” militias in Tripoli, taking part in the displacement and armed robbery of people there.

Prosecuting those involved in recruiting mercenaries and children under the International Criminal Court Statute (ICC) would serve as a future deterrent against similar crimes. According to Article 8, “Both the voluntary and forced recruitment of children” in armed forces or groups in international and local conflicts is “considered a war crime”. Prosecuting Erdogan and his partners for the conscription of children by the ICC is a national duty of the national forces in Syria and Libya.

Political opportunism, which is Erdogan’s political method, has made him use mercenaries including children to achieve political and geopolitical goals and satisfy his expansionist tendencies to fulfil his delusion of a second Ottoman Empire and taking over the riches of the sea. These interests intersect with those of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Caliphate of the Murshid to loot Libyan money and turn it into a treasury for the Brotherhood to restore its rule in Egypt.

Deploying thousands of mercenaries, both children and men, in Libya is like throwing wood and fuel into the flames. It is not only a threat to the security and interests of Libya, but also of Europe. The presence of mercenaries not more than 300 miles across the sea south of Europe is a looming danger that is inevitably coming to Europeans even if they turned a blind eye to them. Libya is certainly not these people’s endpoint.

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