Rafael Romo reports for CNN’s Freedom Project:
Sara Morales is in her early 20s, but already, she says, she’s been to hell and back. The Colombian woman who lives in Bogota says she was forcibly recruited by the main guerrilla group in her country when she was just a young girl.
“When I was only 11 years-old I was raped by FARC guerrillas and for 11 years I was abused and exploited by them,” Morales said.
FARC is a Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a leftist guerrilla group that has been at war with the Colombian government for about five decades.
… A recent study suggests that in the years after the video was released, armed groups, including paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug cartels, have not only continued recruiting children, but have increased the number of minors in their ranks in a dramatic way.
The study called “Like Lambs Among Wolves” was authored by Natalia Springer, the dean of the law school at Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogota, Colombia. Springer, who’s also a political analyst and a human rights activist, has found that in the last four years, 18,000 children have been forced to join guerrilla groups and paramilitaries in Colombia.
… The findings of her study are chilling. Springer says she found 69 percent of those captured are 14 years of age or younger, some as young as eight. Ninety-eight percent reported they were abused or witnessed atrocities.
Springer also says that guerrilla groups recruit children to do “their dirty work” which includes extremely dangerous activities in which their lives are constantly at risk. “They’re installing land mines, they’re transporting explosives, they’re kidnapping, they’re involved in all of the activities that the adults are doing,” Springer said.
Springer says her team noticed what she calls an alarming new trend. Whereas in the past the vast majority of the children captured by the armed groups were boys, the percentage of kidnapped girls has dramatically increased to 43 percent. In addition to combat activities, Springer says these girls are subjected to sexual servitude.
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