July 17, 2021
The Government of Tigray strongly repudiates the spurious allegation that child soldiers are serving and/or being trained in the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF). We assert in the strongest terms possible that the TDF is committed to international protocols prohibiting the recruitment of children for military training and children’s engagement in armed hostilities. There has never been nor is there at this time a single child under the age of service training or serving with the TDF.
The images taken from the July 11, 2021 New York Times article that have been used as a basis for this specious allegation by the Abiy Administration’s propaganda machinery were taken after the end of active hostilities in the area. These images show civilians of all ages including children coming out to meet the TDF fighters in celebration and relief that the invading forces that have committed so many brutal atrocities against civilians have finally been defeated. This context is clearly articulated in the article itself and the location of the images can easily be geo-located for further confirmation.
The strict age limit enforced by the TDF in accepting recruits for training was clearly evidenced in the poignant story of the 16-year-old girl interviewed by Associated Press on July 14, 2021. She noted that she had been told she was too young to join even though she was strongly motivated by the threat of sexual violence that has been weaponized against girls as young as Four.
It is also important to note that the non-involvement of children in armed hostilities is an abiding principle that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front adhered to even during the 17-year struggle against the Derg. Additionally, military leaders of international repute that know well, respect, and strictly adhere to all rules of engagement and international protocols governing armed hostilities are leading the TDF.
On the other hand, the Ethiopian forces and their Eritrean and Amhara allies have contravened every rule in the book since the war on Tigray began. They have demonstrated they are willing to deploy all manners of false narratives, as well as breaching international humanitarian laws and violating human rights. These allegations are yet another example of a false report designed to distract the international community from the genuine humanitarian crisis that is deliberately being manufactured in Tigray by the Abiy Administration through the ongoing siege.
The Government of Tigray assures the international community that it has never and nor will ever children train or serve in the TDF. We invite journalists, humanitarians, and other international observers to visit both our training centres and TDF personnel on the field to reassure themselves of this.