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Don't let our children be used as human shields.

Bahrain is going through a phase of Shia sectarian unrest, manifested in organised action designed to interfere with the daily life of ordinary citizens through seemingly random acts of violence - mostly perpetrated by youth gangs.

Burnings lock out and suffocate entire neighbourhoods. Assaults on unsuspecting citizens and foreign nationals continue relentlessly.

But most worrisome is the dramatic increase in ambush style attacks on Bahrain's public safety and security personnel.

Recently, Bahrain paid its final respect to three brave souls who lost their lives in a roadside bomb explosion.

Preponderance of video material depicting "street wars" or confrontations between terrorists and security personnel provides evidence that Hizbollah, or Hizbollah-trained cadres, have now taken a leading role in Shi'ite collective action.

Also inescapable is the fact that the Shia theological oligarchy and local clergy maintain a firm grip on ideological and operational components of political violence in Bahrain. The latter reveals the capacity of opposition and rejectionists to act on their collective interests. Albeit the sheer intensity of confrontations in recent months is indicative of a certain degree of wavering, if not agony, due to profound frustration over their failure to shift the momentum or achieve any tangible outcome.

One other indicator of nonfulfilment of the political violence movement in Bahrain is specially alarming. It's evolution in utilisation of children by Shia sects as a resource needed for action. Children have been often used as a human shield, as we have seen it since early days of Hizbollah-organised events.

Today in Bahrain, children are routinely mobilised for more active role in violent confrontations, often times armed with "Molotov" incendiary devices and white weapons.

But on March 6, Bahrain was profoundly shaken when adult militants enlisted children, aged 10 and 11, to transit an explosive device, which incidentally detonated causing severe injuries to the children involved.

This last incident went largely unnoticed by the Western human rights organisations and their media pundits, thus it does not fit the political narrative of their handlers, yet it constitutes high crime as denoted by world legal bodies.

So, under Article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), adopted in July 1998 and entered into force on July 1, 2002: "Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years ... or using them to participate actively in hostilities" is a war crime.

Further, under civil unrest, armed conflict and other emergency situations, children and youths are also offered protection under the United Nations Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict.

This puts responsibility for mobilising children for sectarian violence in Bahrain squarely on the shoulders of Shia religious authorities, opposition leaders and, of course, the children's parents.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 38, (1989) proclaimed: "State parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 15 years do not take direct part in hostilities."

The optional protocol further obligates states to "take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use (of children under age of 15 for participation in hostilities), including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalise such practices" (Art 4, Optional Protocol.) Therefore it is reasonable to expect severe criminalisation of those responsible for allowing the participation of children in violent clashes throughout Bahrain, including criminalisation of the parents of those children involved.

One can easily name Middle Eastern countries that exhibit levels of economic stagnation, decline in culture and morals conducive to youth - having virtually no options for education - and denied the most basic infrastructure (in terms of health, sanitation, water, transport, etc). Countries where children turn to idleness, religiosity and political violence. But this is not the case in Bahrain!

Children in Bahrain have been blessed with some of the best opportunities available throughout the region and beyond.

Therefore, the education system in Bahrain must be scrutinised with respect to practices of political indoctrination of children in early age.

Appropriate steps must be taken to protect children from Al Wefaq political perdition to ensure that they grow dreaming of becoming heroes to their people, becoming doctors, scientists, highly skilled workers able to do wonders - and not victims in emergency rooms or beddable assets in corrupt games of Al Wefaq operatives.

In a parallel line of thought, we must realise that a child involved in political violence or hostilities is inadvertently faced with possibility of martyrdom.

And yet martyrdom is the decision achieved by an individual immersed in Quranic study and of age that presume an understanding of repercussions of one's actions.

Is there place in Islam for tricking children by putting their fragile lives on an altar of political ambitions of a view, or misguided activism, or pursuit of Islamic state? I refer this question to a learned man held in high esteem by religious scholars and mujtahid.

But remember, it is up to majority of Shi'ites to decide whether they will allow Al Wefaq to lead them to stalemate stagnation and ineffable suffering, to the verge of existential precipice, or will they elect to rejoin the community and be delivered to harmony and prosperity through peace and reconciliation as one people - Bahrainis.

Vladimir Remmer

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Apr 7, 2014
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