Despite public claims to the contrary in 2019, the PKK-affiliated terrorist group in Syria has been forcing children to fight within its ranks.
A recent report published by the US military has confirmed that the YPG terrorist organisation continues to recruit children to take part in its operations despite a pledge to stop.
The US Lead Inspector General's report cites US State Department research: it has concluded that the Syrian affiliate of the PKK terrorist group has been forcing minors to undergo military training.
In July 2019, the YPG, which also goes by the self-designation ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’, agreed to a UN-mandated action plan to stop the recruitment of children to fight in its ranks.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), had previously revealed the extent to which the YPG and PKK were forcing children to pick up arms.
Despite the outcry, YPG terrorists have made use of coercion tactics against parents, resorting to kidnapping in order to get children to join their outfit. Rights groups say that once children are caught up in the snare of the terror group, they risk torture for disobedience and disruption to their education, as well as being deprived of health care services.
The 2018 report on ‘Children in Armed Conflict’ by the UN, revealed that hundreds of children had been recruited by the PKK/YPG terrorist group - a five-fold increase in previous years.
In terms of international law, it is prohibited for non-state armed groups to recruit anyone under 18. Enlisting children under 15 is considered a war crime.
Acting emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, Priyanka Motaparthy, previously said that the YPG, despite pledges to stop using child soldiers, is still recruiting children for military training in territories it occupies.
“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,” said Motaparthy.
Human Rights Watch also urged the United States, the supporter and prime supplier of the YPG, to use its influence to stop the use of child fighters.
Previously, investigators at HRW have found that YPG terrorists were recruiting children at camps for displaced Syrians in the north of the country. The rights group found that in one instance, six girls and two boys aged between 13 and 17 had been recruited.
Most families have no contact with their children after recruitment, and only later come to learn from authorities that they have in fact ended up at terror camps.
One mother said that her son, who was 16 when he was enlisted, had a combat role and died as the group fought to capture the city of Raqqa. One former captive said she saw girls between 15 and 17 in training.
In July, PKK and YPG-linked websites revealed that more than a dozen underage girls joined the PKK terror organisation, drawing condemnation on social media.
A website affiliated with the group, called Nuce Ciwan, referred to the girls as “young women."
“Young women from Rojava joined the ranks of the PKK,” it read.
US arming of YPG
The US and the YPG have been collaborating in northern Syria since 2015, when Washington helped set up the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to fight the growing presence of another terror group, Daesh, in the region.
America provided weapons and auxiliary equipment, such as several hundred anti-tank missiles, thousands of RPG-7 anti-tank weapons, DShk heavy machine guns, PK heavy machine guns, SPG-9 recoilless guns, 60mm mortar systems, 81 mm mortar systems, night vision goggles, as well as laser sights.
Turkey, which has fought a more than three-decade-long campaign against the PKK, strongly objected to the cooperation. PKK is designated as a terror organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU. YPG is its Syrian wing.
The US Department of Defense has allocated $300m to the YPG for 2020.