ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday welcomed a decision by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to end the use of child soldiers in their ranks.
The order calls for SDF commanders to transfer any member under 18 to the educational authorities in northeast Syria and to end salary payments.
Moreover, it holds military commanders responsible for appointing ombudspeople to receive complaints of child recruitment, and orders punitive measures against commanders who fail to comply with the ban on child recruitment.
The order follows a report by the US-based HRW published in early August, accusing the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the leading component of the SDF military alliance in northeast Syria, of recruiting children, including girls, and using some in hostilities despite pledges to stop the practice.
“We and other groups, like Geneva Call, have called on the YPG to end child recruitment in Syria since 2014, but the abuse proliferated during heavy fighting last year,” HRW said.
“If implemented, the new SDF order is a welcome step toward protecting the children of Syria, many of whom have already had to flee their homes, and whose future remains so uncertain,” the statement added.
Geneva Call, which describes itself as “a neutral and impartial non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting respect by Armed Non-State Actors (ANSAs) for international humanitarian norms in armed conflict and other situations of violence,” also praised the SDF Military Leadership’s decision.
“Geneva Call has been raising awareness through conducting training sessions for the SDF commanders about the protection of children, including the use and recruitment since last year,” Head of Near and Middle East Region for Geneva Call Mehmet Balci told Kurdistan 24.
In June 2018, Geneva Call welcomed new measures by the YPG, YPJ (Women’s Protection Units), and the self-administration to stop violations of the Deed of Commitment to protect children in conflict, signed with Geneva Call in 2014.
“Geneva Call definitely welcomes this military order since it will also bring YPG/YPJ to put an end the child use and recruitment,” Balci stated.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany