After Combat Deaths Of Two Teen Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) Fighters, Opponents Accuse Group Of 'War Crimes' For Using Child Soldiers, Supporter Responds By Rejecting International Law

September 19, 2022

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On September 18, 2022, several Telegram channels supporting Syrian jihadi group Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) reported that two fighters from HTS' 'Umar bin Al-Khattab Brigade had been killed at the front in Al-Atareb, west of Aleppo. The "martyrs" were named as 'Abd Al-Samad 'Abd Al-Naser Al-Hasoun aka Abu 'Ubaydah, from the town of Al-Tah, south of Idlib, and Abu 'Abdo, from Basratoun, west of Aleppo.[1] According to some channels, the two had belonged to HTS "special forces."[2]

HTS Opponents Accuse Group Of Committing "War Crimes" By Using Child Soldiers

On the same day, some pro-rebel channels published photos of the two fighters alive, in uniform or armed, along with other photos showing their corpses. From the photos, the two appear to have been minors, although their exact age was not publicized. One channel opposed to HTS, Muzamjir Al-Thawrah Al-Suriyah [Roaring Lion of the Syrian Revolution], also shared a photo of a wounded fighter with his face bandaged, naming him as thirty-three-year-old Muhammad Al-'Arbini. The channel lashed out at HTS: "They send children to the frontlines [to fight] with the regime and gather elite fighting forces in the Security Apparatus [to fight] against revolutionary factions."[3]

In another post, Muzamjir Al-Thawrah Al-Suriyah described the two "martyred" fighters hyperbolically as "children who did not reach puberty," adding that conscripting children as soldiers is "a crime according to the consensus of all countries, which they agree to fight and criminalize." The channel accused HTS of sending children to guard at the front, while stationing "those who resemble men" at crossings between rebel- and regime-controlled areas to collect taxes and to "raid [IDP] camps and houses of oppressed Muslims."[4]

Hammam 'Isa Al-Sheikh, a self-described "activist" based in Idlib, similarly wrote: "Conscripting children is a crime. The world and international law and accords are in consensus to criminalize it and combat it. Conscripting children is a war crime. Using children in armed operations, either voluntarily or under compulsion, is a full-fledged crime."[5]

HTS Supporter Responds By Rejecting International Law

In response to the posts accusing HTS of violating international law by conscripting children, HTS supporter Abu Shiro Al-Kurdi lashed out at the Idlib "activist," calling him an "evil man." Al-Kurdi wrote: "We are a people who follow our Lord's Book. […] These martyrs […] which you describe as children, are actually men, lions who sold themselves to Allah. They preferred ribat [guarding at the frontline] and jihad to sitting behind the screens of their phones, like those who resemble men, for idle defamation and theorizing." The HTS supporter accused 'Isa of appealing to "international laws and agreements and false politicized nonsense" to gain popularity, at the expense of "our martyrs and their sacrifices," and asked Allah to punish those who "want to defame Your sincere servants, who act to support Your religion and defend the oppressed Muslims."[6]

In March 2021, after jihadi Telegram channels published a video showing children participating in military training, allegedly at a training camp for elite forces run by HTS, the group's spokesman rejected its involvement in the video's production, claiming that it forbids training underaged children.[7] However, it should be noted that HTS' stated opposition to the recruitment of children does not mean all its members are above the age of 18, as the group has publicly announced it was recruiting fighters as young as 16.[8]


[1] Telegram, September 18, 2022.

[2] Telegram, September 18, 2022.

[3] Telegram, September 18, 2022.

[4] Telegram, September 18, 2022.

[5] Telegram, September 18, 2022.

[6] Telegram, September 18, 2022.

[8] For example, see MEMRI JTTM Report: Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) Issues Military Recruitment Poster, August 27, 2019.


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