The youth of Arab-dominated Manbij city were forced to join the SDF ranks for years until the longstanding resentment exploded into social unrest.

Protests that began in central Manbij on Monday over the forced conscription of the local population by YPG/PKK have spread to the outskirts of the district, despite a movement ban imposed by members of the terrorist organization.
Protests that began in central Manbij on Monday over the forced conscription of the local population by YPG/PKK have spread to the outskirts of the district, despite a movement ban imposed by members of the terrorist organization. (AA)

In Syria’s Manbij, the YPG dominated SDF militants shot dead eight Syrians who were part of a wider protest against the armed group's policy of forced conscriptions. 

As the killings sparked condemnation, the SDF on Wednesday agreed to stop the practice of forcing young Arabs to join their ranks in the northern city, according to Qussai Jukhadar, a Syrian researcher.

The recent wave of protests that began four days ago met with a violent crackdown by SDF militants who also injured scores of people and detained some protesters. Citing local activists, the German Press Agency (DPA) reported that the SDF brought additional militants from Kobane, another SDF-controlled city, to suppress the protests. 

The local tribal heads were able to reach an agreement with the SDF leaders after the city witnessed one of the bloodiest crackdowns since 2016. 

The SDF said they would release the detained, investigate the killings and the violence caused by its militants and also punish those responsible, according to reports.

The agreement between the tribal leaders and the SDF came after the United States called on the SDF to respect the rights of Syrian civilians.

"We urge all parties in Syria to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to peacefully assemble," a State Department official told Anadolu Agency (AA). 

"We regularly discuss human rights issues with SDF leadership as an integral aspect of our joint efforts to promote stability in northeast Syria and ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS," the official said, referring to Daesh with another name.

Years of frustration remains in SDF controlled areas

The forced conscriptions are only part of locals’ frustrations in the city.

The SDF, a militia dominated by YPG, PKK terror group's Syrian branch, captured the tribal Arab region five years ago from Daesh, thanks to the support from the United States.

Sidelining Manbij's residents, the group then continued ruling the city. Local Arab leaders have been complaining for several years that they were not given top management posts in the city, accusing the SDF of being discriminatory against the local Arabs. 

Syrian opposition figures accused the SDF of forcing local farmers to sell their produce at extremely low rates to its forces and plundering resources of the region for their benefit.

In 2015, a year before the defeat of Daesh in the city, the US founded the SDF in order to fight Daesh after arming the YPG, despite listing PKK as a terror group. 

Washington’s NATO ally Turkey also considers PKK a terror group and supports moderate rebels in the country to fight the Syrian regime and Daesh instead.

While the SDF claims the protests were ignited by Turkey, local residents have also been complaining about an education crisis affecting Syria’s SDF-controlled areas. They say the PKK’s ideology was forced upon them through school curriculums, and that students’ diplomas are not recognised elsewhere, preventing them from pursuing higher education in areas controlled by Syrian regime leader, Bashar al Assad.

The terror group's so-called Autonomous Administration, which was set up in 2014, initially included a limit of five hours of the Kurdish language in the curriculum, according to an employee of the Education Authority in the area who spoke to Ana Press. However, education gradually turned into Kurdish, even for Arab students.

Teachers in SDF-controlled areas previously held a strike in February, protesting against the YPG/PYD terror group's arrest of educators who refused forced conscriptions that have now come to an end. 

Source: TRT World