QAMISHLI (Syria), Nov 28 — Kurdish protesters in northeastern Syria demonstrated outside UN offices today against what they say is the continued recruitment of teenage girls for combat, an AFP correspondent reported.
A decade of war in Syria has seen all parties to the conflict recruit minors, both boys and girls.
A report published by the United Nations in May said that more than 400 children were recruited between July 2018 and June 2020 by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia, and its affiliates in northeastern Syria.
The YPG is the dominant force in the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led autonomous administration’s de facto army.
On Sunday, nearly 30 people gathered outside a UN building in the city of Qamishli to demand action after a number of girls were reported to have been recruited into fighting, some of them allegedly by force.
The protesters carried banners saying: “Bring back our children” and “Child recruitment sows panic in the heart of mothers.”
Mohammad Sharif said his 16-year-old daughter had been missing for almost a week.
“I want my daughter to come back home,” he told AFP, adding that he believes she could be with the Women’s Protections Units (YPJ), sister organisation of the YPG.
Balqis Hussein, 45, said her daughter had been missing for eight days.
She said she didn’t know if her child had been abducted by a Kurdish militia or joined voluntarily.
“We fear for the future of our children, they should not be recruited or made to hold weapons,” she said.
In June 2019, Kurdish authorities signed a joint action plan with the UN to end and prevent child recruitment.
But since its signing, the UN has confirmed at least 160 cases.
Khaled Jabir, the co-head of the Kurdish administration’s child protection unit, said his office had “recently received a number of complaints regarding child recruitment into combat”.
“There are several attempts to return children to their families,” he told AFP.
“We categorically reject child recruitment by any party.”
Jabir said more than 213 children recruited by Kurdish militias have been returned to their families, including 54 who were handed over in the past month. — AFP