US-Backed Kurdish YPG Recruit, Use Children in Combat Operations – HRW

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which make up a major component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, continue using children in combat operations, despite the fact that international law prohibits non-state armed groups to recruit minors, a prominent human rights watchdog said on Friday.

“The YPG, despite pledges to stop using child soldiers, is still recruiting children for military training in territory it controls. It’s especially horrendous that the group is recruiting children from the vulnerable families in displacement camps without their parents’ knowledge or even telling them where their children are,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) Acting Emergency Director Priyanka Motaparthy said.

The HRW said on its official website that the US government should force the YPG to stop the practice. The US government supports the Syrian Democratic Forces, namely, the YPG, and should thus apply their own principles of not recruiting children to the YPG, according to the watchdog.

According to the UN annual report on children in armed conflict, the YPG recruited 224 children, including 72 girls, over 2017.

Families whose children have been recruited told the HRW that the minors were encouraged to enlist by the YPG officers and did in voluntarily, with some of them not informing their parents and some asking for permission, but joining the YPG even if they were prohibited to do so. The YPG authorities do not disclose where the children are and keep them from communicating with families.

On July 16, the YPG said in its letter to the HRW that children did not require their parents’ permission to be recruited and that those under 18 were not used during combat operations, but the HRW remains concerned.


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