The Guardian reports: When Firoza handed her two grandsons Kalashnikovs and enlisted them in her militia, it was, she says, to give them a chance to avenge their father who was killed by the Taliban.
Known in Helmand by her nom de guerre – Hajani – 54-year-old Firoza fought for years to repel the militants from Sistani, in Marjah district, commanding a unit of the US-backed government militia called the Afghan Local Police (ALP). During the war, in which she lost three of her six adult sons, she armed most of her male family members, including two children.
The eldest, Nabi*, a shy boy with bags under his eyes, echoes his grandmother. “The enemy killed my father so I am also fighting,” he says.
According to Firoza, the government pays Nabi the standard 9,500 afghanis (£100) local police salary; his younger brother, Habib, is not paid.
Firoza says Nabi is 18. Many Afghans don’t know their age, but that claim seems improbable. Face smooth, voice unbroken, he looks perhaps 14. Firoza says she gave her grandsons weapons five years ago.
Despite government pledges to rid its armed forces of children, a growing number of minors are recruited to fight in the intensifying war, according to experts. [Continue reading…]