In the article we published in July 2020 (“The use of children as combatants and human shields in The Shiite Militias”), we described the use of children as a human shield by the Shiite militias in Syria operating on behalf of the Iranian Quds Force.
We recently discovered additional information on the Shiite militias’ use of children as operatives.
The information reveals that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps established 3 training centers for children, with the goal of drafting them into the militias’ ranks. All the centers are located in the city Al Mayadin and its outskirts, and are named: the “Elnour Al Sateh” Center, the “Al Shadoukhi” Center, and the “Al Basira” Center.
The “Elnour Al Sateh” Center was established in September 2019, headed by Sayyed Ayoub and Sayyed Mahdi, Iranian civilians with a good command of the Arabic language. Abu Assed, an IRGC-affiliated citizen from the village al-Huij, east of Deir a-Zur, assists them. Approximately 250 children aged 13-18 train in this center.
The “Al Shakhoudi” center was established in May 2019 and is headed by Hajj Ibrahim, an Iranian citizen as well. Hajj Ibrahim has 2 Syrian assistants named Abu Talal al-Hamdi, from the city Hama, and Kes Abu Sarmad, from the city Deir a-Zur. The center trains 70 kids aged 12-15, providing them with basic physical training. The center’s activity is under the patronage of the IRGC’s “Jihad Construction Organization”. Children who complete the training in this center are then transferred to the “Al Basira” Center for combat training.
The “Al Basira” Center, situated on the outskirts of Al Mayadin and headed by Hajj Ibrahim as well, is designated for combat warfare training. Normally, children aged 15-18 train in this center, however, their numbers are unknown.
All three of these centers brainwash the children with lessons in religion, ideology, and Shiitization. Following their training in these centers (and not necessarily upon completion of training in all three of the centers), the children are transferred to an IRGC center located in an industrial zone in the city Deir a-Zur. From there, they are sent to advanced training and are then assigned to the various militias according to necessity.
The Iranian’s use of children on the battlefield has been known since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. The Iranians are aware they are working with a captive and easily malleable “audience”, in terms of education in ideological and religious extremism. Usually, the children and the Syrian youth drafted by the IRGC come from extremely poor families, which in the “best-case scenario” are unable to prevent their draft, and in the “worst-case scenario” even encourage it, viewing it as their children’s “last resort” in terms of escape from poverty. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is well aware of this and take advantage of it.