New mechanism allows northeast Syrians to report child recruitment by armed forces

“Established in partnership with the UN, the mechanism will allow civilians to report suspected instances of child recruitment for investigation.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria (AANES), in cooperation with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has established a new recruitment mechanism to prevent the enrolment of children and their use in armed conflict.

“Established in partnership with the UN, the mechanism will allow civilians to report suspected instances of child recruitment for investigation,” the Syria-based Rojava Information Centre (RIC) said in a tweet on Saturday.

The SDF said in a press release that the new mechanism allows citizens, families, parents, and humanitarian groups to submit complaints and report any recruitment of minors by SDF.

It can also be used to report any alleged cases of child recruitment into the ranks of the Internal Security Forces, also known as Asayish.

The UN and SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi signed an action plan on June 29 in Switzerland to restrict the recruitment of children under the age of 18 in the armed forces.

Read more: UN, SDF sign agreement to prevent enrolment of children

The action plan dictates that the SDF end its recruitment of minors, “to identify and separate boys and girls currently within its ranks, and to put in place preventative, protection and disciplinary measures related to child recruitment and use,” a statement on the UN’s website read.

Moreover, on July 13, the SDF issued new directives to protect schools, children from military conflict.

Read more: SDF issues new directives to protect schools, children from military conflict

A UN report released in June about child recruitment in northeast Syria in 2019 verified the enrolment of 820 children (765 boys, 55 girls), of which 798 served in combat. Of the total, 147 were below the age of 15.

The report said 283 of the cases were attributed to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). Moreover, other unspecified SDF components recruited 23 underage children, and the Internal Security Forces recruited 22.

Although these child recruitment cases are often attributed to the SDF, Syrian rebel and pro-regime forces also used such measures to bolster their numbers.

The UN also reported numbers on other groups: Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (245 cases), Free Syrian Army (191), Ahrar al-Sham (26), unidentified armed groups (eleven), Nur al-Din al-Zanki (three) and ISIS (one).

There were also ten cases among Syrian government forces and five more in pro-government militia groups.

“Most cases occurred in Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqah. In addition, within the framework of the action plan signed in June 2019 with SDF, 51 girls were released,” the UN added.

There have also been recent claims that the Tevgera Ciwanên Şoreşger (Revolutionary Youth Movement) has recruited underage children. However, the group so far has not responded to the allegations.

Thomas McClure, a Syria-based researcher at the Rojava Information Center, told Kurdistan 24 earlier that “[the] SDF are less likely to engage in such practices than any of the other forces in Syria, but seek to hold themselves to a higher standard of accountability and human rights.”

Editing by Khrush Najari