ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – The Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report on Thursday accused the Kurdistan Workers Party’s military wing in Sinjar (Shingal) of recruiting child soldiers.
The armed groups in Iraq affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have recruited boys and girls against their will, the report said.
The HRW report mentioned two cases where the PKK armed groups abducted or seriously abused children who tried to leave their forces.
The HRW stated that they have documented 29 cases in northern Iraq in which Kurdish and Yezidi children were recruited by two armed groups, the People’s Defense Forces (known as HPG) and the Shingal Resistance Units (known as YBŞ).
The HRW urges PKK and its military wings to “urgently demobilize children, investigate abuses, pledge to end child recruitment, and appropriately penalize commanders who fail to do so.”
“The recruitment or use of children under 15 is a war crime. Under international law, non-state armed groups like the HPG and YBŞ must not, under any circumstances, recruit children under 18, or use them in hostilities,” the HRW report added.
According to the report, there were nine documented cases of using children by HPG. In four cases the children had left the armed group.
The child recruits that HRW spoken with said that the YBŞ received salaries from Iraqi authorities in Baghdad that were only supposed to be paid to fighters age 18 and older, but that the group collected and pooled the money and used it to pay children.
The report also called upon the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities to treat children suspected of involvement with the armed groups primarily as victims of abuse, not as criminals.
Editing by Ava Homa