Iran faces dilemma as children join protests in ‘unprecedented’ phenomenon, with some seeking to topple regime.
By Chris Morris
Baghdad – On 19 June, during the annual commemoration of the victims of the 1979 Iranian revolution – the year when the country witnessed its worst civil war – there was a moment of unusual significance that marked the turning point in the Arab world. The moment was the arrival of the first of an estimated 100,000 children aged 15 and younger, on the streets of the capital, Baghdad.
In recent weeks, the unprecedented phenomenon of children taking to the streets of the Middle East in a wave of protests has led to a wide range of reactions on the part of countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, Palestine and Saudi Arabia to name a few.
The Guardian visited some of these schools, on the outskirts of the capital, to find out how children are being trained to take on the role of freedom fighters and what exactly children in an Islamic republic believe makes them join the protests.
A few boys wearing black T-shirts with the words “Forgotten our roots” were already standing on the lawns of the school, waiting for the bus to take them to their new school. The majority of the children at the al-Hidaya school, on the outskirts of Baghdad, were wearing green and white striped uniforms – the same colour combination of the Iranian army’s green uniforms and the flag of the new Iraqi government.
“I have dreams that I’ll be a soldier like my father was killed at the Iran-Iraq war,” said one child, 13-year-old Ali.
Others have different dreams: a 6-year-old boy had only one dream. “I’m going to be a politician,” he said.
Ali said he joined the protests because of the “freedom” offered by what he called the demonstrators. “They’re all like me”, he said, “they all live in the city and don’t know anything about my father.”
His school friends at the al-Hidaya school