Ida fought for three years with Sri Lanka's female Tamil Tigers, one of
the longest-surviving and successful guerilla movements in the world.
She started at seventeen. Francois, a fourteen-year-old Rwandan child
of mixed ethnicity, was forced by Hutu militiamen to hack to death his
sister's Tutsi children. And fifteen-year-old Gueso is fighting in
Columbia, a country where all the parties in conflict have used
children to further their military objectives.
The phenomenon of child soldiers is not a new one, but the last several
decades have seen a marked and tragic increase in their use,
particularly in civil wars. Yet the growing exploitation of children in
war is still little known. There are over 250,000 children fighting in
three dozen conflicts around the world: From the "little
bees" of Columbia to the "baby brigades" of Sri Lanka, the subject of
child soldiers is changing the face of war. Over the last six years,
journalist Jimmie Briggs has been researching, writing about, and
talking to these young combatants in Uganda, Rwanda, Sri Lanka,
Colombia, and Afghanistan. The personal and tragic stories of these
children -- in their own voices, and in Briggs' moving accounts -- not
only reveal the horror of children fighting, but focus on what is
happening today, fifteen years since the first reports of the global
phenomena of children in combat began to make headlines. Briggs takes
us to the front, where child soldiers are learning to kill, and to the
villages and rehabilitation centers where they are struggling to
transcend the horror of the past and build new lives.
These stories of active and former child soldiers illustrate the
different ways children are inducted into the military -- including
abduction, voluntary enlistment, coercion, indoctrination, and physical
threat -- as well as the various roles children perform as combatants.
Innocents Lost puts human faces on child combatants around the world,
and shines a beacon of hope into the dark worlds they inhabit.
Cogent, passionate, impeccably researched, and compellingly told,
Innocents Lost is one of the most personal and powerful examinations
yet of the lives of child soldiers and war-affected children.
When Child Soldiers Go to War
by Jimmie Briggs
Hardcover, 188 pages