Among those training this month in the streets of Baghdad, 15-year-old Jaafar Osama said he used to want to be an engineer when he grew up, but now he wants to be a fighter. His father is a volunteer fighting with the Shiite militias in Anbar and his older brother is fighting in Beiji, north of Baghdad.
“God willing, when I complete my training I will join them, even if it means sacrificing my life to keep Iraq safe,” he said.
Earlier this summer, the AP saw over a dozen armed young boys, some as young as 10, deployed on the front line with the Shiite militias in western Anbar province.
Baghdad natives Hussein Ali, 12, and his cousin Ali Ahsan, 14, said they joined their fathers on the battlefield after they finished their final exams. Carrying AK-47′s, they paced around the Anbar desert, boasting of their resolve to liberate the predominantly Sunni province from IS militants.
“It’s our honor to serve our country,” Hussein Ali said, adding that some of his schoolmates were also fighting. When asked if he was afraid, he smiled and said no.
Read the full story by Vivian Salama and Qassim Abdul-Zahra at Salon.com.