Mohammad, a Syrian Teenager Who "Chose" Arms Over School (Highlights)

1 more in collection Syrian Child Fighter

Format mpeg4, Bitrate 19.462 mbps

Morek, Hama, Syria

January 30, 2015

Fourteen-year-old Mohammad Khodr al-Hajji left school more than a year ago to fight against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Mohammad joined the opposition battalion formed by his father. He receives regular military training and has been positioned on the frontline outside the town of Morek near Hama, in an area called al-Sayyad. Opposition fighters took this area from the Syrian government’s forces fourth months ago. In a year or two, Mohammad hopes to actively engage in battles.

Mohammad’s case is not unique. Many children have been drawn into the Syrian conflict as it nears its fourth year. According to a Human Rights Watch report, non-state militias of different affiliations have recruited dozens of teenagers and given them perilous military tasks.

Khodr, Mohammad's father, says that even though his son is young, he might not be safer at home because he could die in an airstrike.

SHOTLIST AND TRANSCRIPT

Various of fighters resting inside a cave
Close-up of Mohammad al-Hajji’s face
Close-up of Mohammad al-Hajji’s hand and Kalashnikov rifle
Wide of Mohammad al-Hajji walking ,carrying a Kalashnikov rifle

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Boy) Mohammad Khodr al-Hajji, Syrian Child Fighter
00:11 – 00:24

“I am Mohammad, the son of Khodr. I was at school and I was watching TV. I saw destruction and children. I went for the quest of freedom, against Assad’s infidel regime.” Wide of Mohammad walking with other fighters.
Wide of Mohammad with other fighters in a trench shooting.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Boy) Mohammad Khodr al-Hajji, Syrian Child Fighter

00:33 – 00:48
“I have been here for a short while, but my father taught me how to use weapons and to shoot, thanks be to God. I was with my friends and I saw that they all participated in Jihad, and I wanted to be like them.
I have not been in school for many years. I was in the eighth grade. I stopped going to school.
There was an air raid. A warplane hit the school and we stopped going there.
When I first grabbed the rifle I felt something very great.
There is no work. People have stopped working. We want to work but there is nothing to do.
I kept participating in the revolution. I will keep resisting until I die.
I am still young and I am learning. In a year or two, I will start participating in battles, God willing.”

Close-up of Mohammad cleaning rifle.
Wide of Mohammad in trench with other fighters.
Various of Khodr al-Hajji, Mohammad’s father , talking on walkie-talkie Medium of Khodr al-Hajji inside cave with other fighters

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Khodr al-Hajji, Mohammad’s Father, Head of opposition armed group

01:33 – 01:59
"He [Mohammad] saw that his brother and I were involved [in the revolution]. He began to insist to accompany me, so I took him with me. His brother and I trained him to use a rifle. I showed him how to disassemble and reassemble the rifle. Then he wanted to shoot, so I showed how.
We shall carry on, God willing. Someone younger might also participate [in the fighting]. If this continues for longer, God willing, the younger people will participate.”

Wide of Mohammad opening a box of dates with a knife

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Khodr al-Hajji, Mohammad’s Father, Head of opposition armed group

02:08 – 02:28
“I do not care about education because we are losing so much blood. If he is martyred, it will be for God’s sake. He would be lucky. God giveth, God taketh. My son Mohammad or his brothers might be at home and suffer a strike by warplanes, which are dropping explosive barrels. If his days are over, he will die at home.”

Various of Mohammad and other fighters praying behind Khodr al-Hajji.
Various of Mohammad and other fighters walking