The youth in Raqqa have no option but to join the ranks of US-backed SDF. As per local accounts, a youth drowned in the Euphrates river to avoid it.
Ahmad Alali, a young Syrian man from Raqqa, reportedly died after jumping into the Euphrates river from a bridge while he was being chased by an SDF patrolling party on July 28.
Alali ran because the SDF forces wanted to conscript him into the military.
The SDF, a force dominated by PKK’s Syrian branch YPG, captured the tribal Arab region in 2017 from Daesh, thanks to the support from the United States.
The militants, locally known as Asayish, have been calling residents of the city to join the SDF ranks since they recaptured it five years ago. The SDF faced protests from locals against its forced conscriptions in both Raqqa and Manbij, another SDF controlled town.
Hussam Hammoud, a Syrian investigative journalist who’s originally from Raqqa was first to make the circumstances behind Alali’s death public.
He told TRT World that a private network he is part of informed him about the death of the young Syrian man. The network aims to collect and document all information about North Eastern Syria
“Some colleagues in the field confirmed it to me and I tweeted about this violation in turn,” Hammoud said. Alali’s body is still missing, he said in his tweet.
The United Nations’s Human Rights Council and international human rights organisations see SDF’s practice of forced conscription as a rights violation, noting that children were among the forcefully conscripted residents.
In 2019, the SDF agreed on an action plan with the UN to end and prevent the recruitment of children, separate boys and girls within the group’s ranks, and put in place protection.
However, a report by the Syrians for Truth and Justice said 50 child soldiers were demobilised and 19 others were being commissioned between May 2020 and March 2021, despite the agreement.
Many of the locals in the towns the SDF captured, say they don’t share the SDF’s ideology and don’t want to participate in their military operations.
In Manbij, another town, the months-long recurring protests by the Arab youth led the SDF to step back from forced conscriptions in June.
The US previously called on the group that it backs to “respect rights and fundamental freedoms” of the Syrian residents as the city faced the bloodiest crackdown by the SDF in Manbij in years. The militants shot dead eight Syrians who participated in protests that turned into social unrest.
Alali’s death came after rumours that SDF would abolish forced conscription in Raqqa for a certain age group.
Military or arrest
The SDF previously denied that the military service was compulsory, however, various media reports suggested that the residents were not given any other option.
In a mass campaign of arrests, residents, both Arab and Kurds, who refused to join the army have been arrested across the region controlled by the SDF. Young men born between 1990 and 2003 are currently subjected to conscription.
Teachers in the SDF controlled region were particularly resentful to the militant group -- both for the forced conscription and for a curriculum that was forced upon them to teach at schools. The SDF-imposed curriculum is in the Kurdish language and reportedly re-arranged to reflect the ideology of the PKK.
Dozens were More than 60 teachers in northeast Syria were detained and 550 arbitrarily dismissed from their jobs between January and March
SDF’s arrest campaign also affected humanitarian and media workers. A fixer, Kamiran Saadoun, who helped an international journalist to report on the situation in Northeastern Syria was arrested, beaten by the security forces, locally called Asayish.
As a result of the policy, young males quit their jobs or leave northeastern Syria for countries including Turkey, Syria, and Iraq.
Reporters Without Borders said in a report that the forces banned the fixer, a Syrian Kurd, from working as a journalist for four months for “harming the image of the SDF.” He later fled to neighbouring northern Iraq.
At least three other journalists were detained by the SDF since the beginning of the year.