Research Handbook on Child Soldiers
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Research Handbook on Child Soldiers

Edited by Mark A. Drumbl and Jastine C. Barrett

Child soldiers remain poorly understood and inadequately protected, despite significant media attention and many policy initiatives. This Research Handbook aims to redress this troubling gap. It offers a reflective, fresh and nuanced review of the complex issue of child soldiering. The Handbook brings together scholars from six continents, diverse experiences, and a broad range of disciplines. Along the way, it unpacks the life-cycle of youth and militarization: from recruitment to demobilization to return to civilian life. The overarching aim of the Handbook is to render the invisible visible – the contributions map the unmapped and chart new directions. Challenging prevailing assumptions and conceptions, the Research Handbook on Child Soldiers focuses on adversity but also capacity: emphasising the resilience, humanity, and potentiality of children affected (rather than ‘afflicted’) by armed conflict.
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Chapter 8: The voiceless child soldiers of Afghanistan

Anicée Van Engeland


This chapter addresses the agency of children associated with armed forces and armed groups in Afghanistan. Although globally there may be a continuum of volunteerism upon which the child soldier experience may be mapped, Afghanistan presents as a point on the far end of that continuum. In Afghanistan, children do not enrol to fight with armed non-state actors (Taleban, ISIS or militias) or the armed forces. This choice is usually made for them by the family or the community. In a context that has witnessed a surge in recruitment, male Afghan children have been kidnapped, sold, exchanged for protection and coerced to join for a salary. Once recruited, these children endure exposure to violence, drugs and sexual abuses. Death or migration are among the most realistic ‘exit’ patterns, so to speak. The chapter unpacks how to understand and approach child soldiers struggling within highly coercive socio-political contexts.

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