US's PKK-linked partners in northeastern Syria continue to recruit children: State Department

US's PKK-linked partners in northeastern Syria continue to recruit children: State Department

'SDF-affiliated armed groups recruited and used children in 2022 and 2023,' says 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report

By Servet Gunerigok

WASHINGTON (AA) - US partners in northeastern Syria affiliated with the PKK continue to recruit children into their armed ranks, according to a report released Monday.

The US State Department's 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report said the recruitment or use of children in combat and support roles in Syria remains common.

"Since the beginning of 2018, international observers reported continued incidents of recruitment and use by armed groups, though the prevalence of the practice differs by group," said the report.

The report cited Syrian government forces, pro-regime militias and armed groups that include the PKK's youth wing, known as the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H) and the PKK's Syrian affiliates the SDF and YPG as well as its all-women wing the YPJ, "who recruit and/or use boys and girls as child soldiers.”

It said the YDG-H in northwest Syria continues to recruit, train and use boys and girls as young as 12 years old.

"The SDF continued to implement the UNSCR-mandated action plan to end the recruitment and use of children and demobilize children in SDF ranks; however, an international organization reported SDF-affiliated armed groups recruited and used children in 2022 and 2023," said the report.

It accuses the YDG-H of recruiting children into the radical Kurdish youth organization through fraudulent announcements for educational courses in northeast Syria.

NGOs and international organizations report that the PKK's youth group continued to fraudulently and forcibly recruit and use children.

"Observers report these children have undergone military training in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq," said the report.

Last month, a UN report revealed that the PKK/YPG and affiliated structures forcibly integrated 231 children into their armed ranks in 2023 in Syria.

Anadolu reviewed the "Children and Armed Conflict Report" by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres which contains data from 2023.

It said last year that the PKK/YPG terror organization and affiliated structures operating under the name SDF in Syria forcibly recruited children into their armed ranks.

The PKK/YPG usually takes the kidnapped children and teens to terror camps for armed training – a violation of international law forbidding the use of minors in conflict.

In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.

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