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Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Iran

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 20 May 2008
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Iran, 20 May 2008, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 69.5 million (25.2 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 545,000
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 18 (regular forces); unknown (paramilitary forces)
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 16
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: not signed
Other Treaties: CRC, ILO 182

The number of under-18s in government armed forces was unknown, but the official paramilitary Basij recruited schoolchildren. It was not known whether armed opposition groups had children in their ranks.


Bomb explosions in October 2005 and January 2006 in Khuzestan province reportedly killed at least 12 people and injured hundreds of others. There were also attacks against oil installations there in September and October 2005. The province bordered Iraq, and was home to a large part of Iran's Arab minority. Much of Iran's oil resources were located in the province, and long-standing grievances about resource distribution continued to be reported. The response of the security forces to unrest in Khuzestan resulted in human rights violations.1

Iran allegedly supported Hizbollah, a political party and armed group in Lebanon which reportedly trained children for military purposes. Support included military equipment and training of Hizbollah fighters by members of the Iranian al-Quds Force (a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) in Lebanon.2 Iran also allegedly gave financial support to Hamas, a Palestinian political party with an armed wing which was currently in control of the Gaza Strip.3 Financial support was also given to Islamic Jihad, another armed group in Palestine. Both groups used children in military attacks and training.4


National recruitment legislation and practice

Current information about recruitment was difficult to obtain. The constitution stated that "the government is obliged to provide a programme of military training, with all requisite facilities for all its citizens, in accordance with the Islamic criteria, in such a way that all citizens will be able to engage in the armed defence of the Islamic Republic of Iran" (Article 151). The government stated in 1998 that "according to article 2 of the Public Conscription Act, every Iranian citizen is eligible for military service as of 21 March of the year he reaches 19", and that "the minimum employment age for the armed forces for the purpose of receiving military training is 16 and the minimum age for employment for the Police Forces is 17".5 The voluntary recruitment age was 16.6 Military service was carried out in the Iranian Armed Forces and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the latter established shortly after the 1979 revolution and with its own air and naval services. Most of the armed forces were reportedly made up of conscripts who received minimal training and served for 18 months. There was also a large army reserve, who received "negligible" training.7 There was a military academy in Teheran, and a signals training centre and special forces and airborne training facility in Shiraz.8 The number of under-18s in government armed forces was unknown.

Armed Groups:


The Basij, under the control of the Revolutionary Guards,9 was a paramilitary organization reportedly made up of volunteers, including schoolchildren.10 Basij members were reportedly mostly boys, older men and recent veterans. Middle-school members were known as Seekers and high-school members as the Vanguard. Ansar-e Hizbollah was a semi-official paramilitary organization aiming to enforce Islamic standards in Iranian society. Most of its members reportedly also belonged to the Basij or were veterans of the Iran – Iraq War.11

Armed opposition groups

In March 2006 Jondallah, a Baluchi armed group, killed 22 Iranian officials and took at least seven people hostage in Sistan-Baluchistan province.12 Human rights abuses by both the Iranian security forces and Jondallah against children were reported, including the killing of two boys by the Iranian security forces in January 2006.13

Although some Iranian Kurdish armed groups, including Komala and the Kurdistan People's Democratic Party (KDPI) had carried out armed resistance in the past, they had renounced armed struggle and supported a federal solution. However, the Kurdistan Independent Life Party (PJAK, affiliated to the Turkish PKK, Kurdistan Workers' Party) had reportedly begun armed operations in 2004, which continued into 2007. Violent unrest broke out in July 2005 in Kurdish areas, mainly in the north-eastern provinces, after the security forces shot dead a Kurdish opposition activist.14

It was not known whether armed opposition groups recruited or used under-18s.


During 2006 at least four people were executed who were under 18 at the time of the alleged offence, including one who was under 18 at the time of the execution. A 14-year-old ethnic Azeri boy was arrested in April 2006 and reportedly tortured before being released. In September he was rearrested and beaten.15 As of January 2007 there were reportedly 23 under-18s awaiting execution.16 In March 2007 the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions called the execution of juveniles in Iran "completely unacceptable". Referring to Iran's ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994, he reminded the government that this was "a clear and unambiguous legal commitment not to impose the death penalty for offences committed by persons less than 18 years old".17

The government delivered its second periodic report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in July 2002. Among its recommendations the Committee urged the government to ensure that all children were registered at birth and acquired irrevocable nationality without discrimination. The Committee also expressed concern that Iran had not signed or acceded to either of the two Optional Protocols.18

1 Amnesty International (AI), "Iran: New government fails to address dire human rights situation", report, 16 February 2006, AI Index MDE 13/010/2006.

2 Anthony H. Cordesman, Iran's Support of the Hezbollah in Lebanon, Institute of Strategic and International Studies, 15 July 2006.

3 Patrick Saint-Paul, "L'Axe Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas s'organise contre les forces modérées en Palestine", Le Figaro, 5 January 2007,

4 "Iran's Khamenei calls on Islamic govts to support Hamas", Reuters, 20 February 2006,

5 Initial report by Iran to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/41/Add.5, 23 July 1998.

6 UK Home Office, Border and Immigration Agency, Country of Origin Report, Iran, 4 May 2007,

7 Janes Information Group, "World Armies Profile: Iran", 29 August 2006,

8 Global Security, "Iran Army",

9 Global Security, "Intelligence, Niruyeh Moghavemat Basij, Mobilisation Resistance Force",

10 Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, "Basij – the Revolutionary People's Militia of Iran", Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series No. 262, 1 February 2006,

11 Global Security, "Ansar-i Hizbullah, followers of the party of God",

12 Amnesty International Report 2007.

13 AI, "Iran", above note 1.

14 AI, "Iran: new government fails to address dire human rights situation", 16 February 2006, AI Index MDE 13/010/2006.

15 Amnesty International Report 2007.

16 AI, "Iran: fear of imminent execution", 26 January 2007, Amnesty International Urgent Action, AI Index number AI MDE 13/008/2007.

17 Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, UN Doc. A/HRC/4/20, 27 March 2007.

18 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of second periodic report submitted by Iran, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add.254, 31 March 2005.

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