Institute of Social Anthropology
Priska Handayani Rüegg: “If I would not have gone to war, I would have been illegal.” On a former child soldier’s seeking for freedom and belonging
Ali, a young Afghan, arrived in Switzerland as an unaccompanied minor refugee. He escaped from Afghanistan where the Hazara people cannot feel safe. Ali grew up as an orphan in his uncle’s family. Ever since, he has been looking for freedom, safety, and a sense of belonging. So, he took off, when he was fifteen years old. The reality across the Iranian border appeared brusquely serious. Either he had to return to Afghanistan or he had to serve in Syria’s war against terrorism. How did Ali perceive the options he could consider, and how much of a choice did he have? Among the key factors known to put children at risk participating in war, are war itself, poverty, education or employment, and a disrupted or non-existent family. Apart from those factors the role of adolescence can be considered. Does adolescence contain specific aspects that may contribute to the decision to go to war? Examining aspects of adolescence offer an interesting and more nuanced view both on the agency and on the motivation of youth to join the army. In the presented chapter of the master thesis, Ali’s motives to join the war are discussed and, linked to his seeking of belonging.
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