He was meant to start school, learn how to read and write and meet friends. Instead he goes around carrying a rifle, runs for cover at the sound of shelling and smokes cigarettes.
At eight, Ahmed is already a soldier in the Free Syrian Army. His picture, holding a rifle and smoking a cigarette, has gone viral in the past week and has done what a thousand words could never do – it reminded the world of the terrible reality of the Syrian civil war.
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After the photograph circulated in media outlets, Britain's The Telegraph brought the story of the young rebel to anxious readers. From a carefree boy with a loving family, Ahmed turned into a child soldier living on one of the most lethal streets of the devastated city of Aleppo, the Telegraph reported.
"I ended up helping my uncle and his comrades because I have no other choice, there is no school, my family is dead, what choice do I have?" he says.
According to the report, Ahmed's mother and father died in a mortar strike in Salaheddin neighborhood, where his father had been working as a fighter with the rebel Free Syrian Army. Now the only person Ahmed has left is his uncle, a rebel who the boy follows and imitates as he fights against government soldiers.
"There is always something to do here, I am never bored," he says of life as a child-rebel. "The fighting has calmed down a lot from last year, we had a lot of mortars, but snipers are still a big problem."
At his young age he has already learned how brief life can be. "Sooner or later the regime will kiss you with one of their bullets," he says.
Clutching an AK-47 rifle he still has difficulty operating the weapon. "Weapons are heavy I still have a difficult time shooting them, I can only shoot resting on the floor," he says.
A report by Human Rights Watch has warned that hundreds of children from the towns worst affected by the conflict in Syria are being trained to take part in the war. Young boys, mostly from the age of 14 years old are sent on reconnaissance missions or to smuggle weapons to opposition groups.
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