Photo: The FARC forcibly recruited teens in Putumayo
Colombia’s FARC guerrillas pulled at least 13 teenagers out of boarding schools in the southern province of Putumayo and forced them to join the ranks of the insurgency, a prominent human rights activist told Efe on Friday.
The youngsters were taken from schools in a rural area near Puerto Guzman, sociologist and Andean Parliament member Gloria Ines Florez said by telephone from Putumayo, which borders Ecuador.
Fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, burst into the schools a few days ago and left with at least 13 adolescents.
“They are students between the ages of 13 and 15, and the majority of them are girls,” Florez said. “I don’t have information on how many are indigenous.”
She said she learned of the forced recruitment from her contacts in the area, where the boarding schools - a recent phenomenon - “have become places of protection for school-boys and -girls, given the serious conditions of the armed conflict.”
Youngsters at the boarding schools have been relatively insulated from battles between rebels and security forces, the threat of landmines and forcible recruitment, Florez said, calling on the FARC and other parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law.
The FARC, now thought to number some 8,000 fighters, has battled a succession of Colombian governments since the mid-1960s.