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Child Soldiers after War
by Robert Koenig and Brandon Kohrt (published in Anthropology News)
May 2009

"Asha"from Robert Koenig's "Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army".

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Fears for 10 thousand child soldiers in Nepal
Presented by Liam Cochrane (Radio Australia)
Posted on Wed Oct 22, 2008 11:54am AEST

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"Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army" Wins Artivist Award for Children's Advocacy at the 5th Annual Artivist Film Festival
By Shannon Strischek (Savvy Buzz)
October 1, 2008

Robert Koenig outside The Egyptian Theatre where "Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army" made its Hollywood premiere on Oct 4, 2008.

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Documentary on Child Soldiers of Nepal Thursday and Friday September 25 and 26
By Shannon Strischek (Savvy Buzz)
September 18, 2008

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Emory study of former child soldiers yields new data to guide mental health interventions
By EMORY UNIVERSITY (e! Science News)
August 13, 2008

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UN Extends Mission in Nepal & Exclusive Video with Prachanda Distributed
By Shannon Strischek (Savvy Buzz)
July 25th, 2008

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After War, Child Soldiers Fight a New Battle
By BRANDON KOHRT (EMORY | in the world)
May 09, 2008

Brandon Kohrt conducts mental health and psychosocial training for Nepali villagers.

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New Film Captures Children's Struggles
Dec. 07, 2007

Director Bob Koenig (center, wearing headset) and his crew interview a former child soldier.

When Brandon Kohrt and Robert Koenig visited Ramechhan, a village in rural Nepal, they stopped at a police station to register their identities, as required by law. But they were greeted not by police but by a group of child soldiers.

The children were policing the area because the police station was closed. So instead of receiving a friendly welcome, they were robbed of their money. Kohrt, an Emory graduate student, and Koenig, a filmmaker, had traveled to Nepal to film a documentary about child soldiers like the ones who greeted them in Ramechhan.

Kohrt, a student in an M.D.-Ph.D. program between the anthropology department and the School of Medicine, has been working in Nepal for the past 11 years, doing field research for his dissertation about mental health problems such as depression and substance abuse.

Earlier this year, when Kohrt went to Nepal to finish his dissertation, he witnessed children associated with the Maoist insurgency — a group that fought the Nepali government from 1996 to 2006 — being reintegrated into their communities.

He told his long-time friend Koenig, an Emmy Award-nominated producer, writer, editor, and director of photography, about his research. They decided that the stories of the children were worthwhile material for another documentary.

Kohrt, Koenig and a film crew departed for Nepal in late September and spent the next several weeks interviewing former child soldiers. They were accompanied by another Emory alumnus, Scott Ippolito, who served as the cinematographer.

Nepal's society operates under a caste system, with people of low castes forced to live in poverty, denied access to jobs and other opportunities. Also limiting opportunities, education beyond the fifth grade costs money. Many families cannot afford to educate their children.

Many children who fight for the Maoists were forced because which the Maoists demanded contributions from households in rural areas. Households with no money or food had to give the Maoists a “physical person,” in most cases a child.

Other children, Koenig said, joined voluntarily because they had no other opportunities. Kohrt said girls are the majority of the children who joined voluntarily because they essentially become servants at home once they are pulled out of school.

It's a choice that "illustrates their desperation," Kohrt said. "These children see their only opportunity for a future as joining the Maoists," he said.

One boy Koenig interviewed became quiet and introverted after seeing his friend killed.

"Once that happens,” Koenig said, “that is the end of your childhood. There is no coming back from there."

According to Kohrt and Koenig, however, the worst part of being a child soldier is the reintegration.

Koenig gave one example of a low-caste girl he interviewed for the documentary. When she returned from her service, she was 14, and her family immediately married her off to a 22-year-old. Her in-laws did not accept her because they believed she was impure after being around so many men in her time with the insurgents.

Overwhelmed by the disapproval, the girl attempted to hang herself. She survived but was banished to her parents' house.

Now that she's been divorced, she cannot get remarried because of the culture, and she cannot get a practical education because she does not have the money. Koenig says the only opportunity for many girls is "commercialized sex in which they make next to nothing."

The film is currently being edited and prepared for release.

Among the issues the crew faced were security threats. Koenig kept a blog through much of the trip but stopped updating it in mid-November because he feared reprisal from the Young Communists League, an organization of child soldiers.

There were also technical challenges. Koenig wrote on his blog that many of the villages they visited had no electricity, running water, bathrooms or even outhouses.

The filmmakers believe that with enough support, they can find ways to give child soldiers more opportunities through education.

"We cannot think about these children as vulnerable and victimized because they are not,” Kohrt said. “They are empowered, have agency, and often choose voluntarily to become a part of this situation. So we need to think about how these children would use opportunities beyond the military if they were given a chance."

(Article also available from here.)

White Mills Man Brings Plight Of Nepalese Youngsters To Life
By TESSA LYNADY (The Wayne Independent)
Sep. 25, 2007

Local Emmy-nominated documentary producer Bob Koenig and his wife Elisabeth at this year’s NATAS Southeast Regional Emmy Awards. (Contributed photo)

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All in the mind: looking beyond just the physical scars of conflict
Guest column by BRANDON KOHRT (Nepali Times)
From Issue #355 (29 June 07 - 05 July 07)

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