Young Soldiers: Why They Choose To Fight

Rachel Brett and Irma Specht, 2004. Young Soldiers: Why they choose to fight. Geneva: International Labour Organization

They are part of rebel factions, national armies, paramilitaries, and other armed groups and entrenched in some of the most violent conflicts around the globe. They are in some ways still children? Yet, from Afghanistan to Sierra Leone to Northern Ireland, you can find them among the fighters. Why?

Young Soldiers is a book that provides the reader with a powerful opportunity to learn from the 'inside out.' It is an opportunity that should not be missed.” - Shyrl Topp Matias, International Journal on World Peace.

Young Soldiers explores the reasons that adolescents who are neither physically forced nor abducted choose to join armed groups. Drawing on in-depth interviews with the soldiers themselves, the authors challenge conventional wisdom to offer a thought-provoking account of the role that war, poverty, education, politics, identity, family, and friends all play in driving these young men and women to join military life. They also address the important issues of demobilization and the reintegration process.

I want to advise people who want to be rebel fighters, young soldiers, that they should learn from what we have gone through, which is too sad an experience. Those children younger than we are should never again be involved in such a life anymore. What I have seen and undergone is not for a child to experience.” - Arthur, Sierra Leone.

International in scope, covering a variety of situations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom, Young Soldiers concludes with a discussion of the steps needed to create an environment in which adolescents are no longer "forced" to volunteer.

Book available in full from here