YPG recruits child soldiers in Syria, violates international pledge, US confirms
The United States confirmed Tuesday that the PKK's Syrian offshoot the armed People's Protection Units (YPG) continues to recruit and use children younger than 15-years-old as militants despite signing a pledge of commitment with an international organization in June 2014 to demobilize all fighters younger than 18-years-old.
In its annual report on human trafficking, the U.S. State Department said the group recruits boys and girls, some of them younger than 15, subjecting them to indoctrination and sending them to training camps, and in some cases the children are taken by force against the wishes of their families.
The report said that the children in Syria and Iraq are vulnerable to the forced recruitment by armed groups such as the PKK, YPG, Daesh and Iranian militias.
The PKK and the YPG have a history of exploiting children and forcing them to become soldiers. Earlier in 2017, the YPG mandated conscription for all girls and boys over the age of 16 in the city of Manbij, located on the west banks of the Euphrates River.
The Yazidis, a regional minority group, have also suffered from oppressive acts at the hands of the PKK and the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The terrorist groups allegedly drove Yazidi children onto the battlefront, either by deceiving them or kidnapping them in Iraq and Syria, Sinjar District Governor Mehma Halili from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) stated last year.
On Sept. 1, 2016, a video of a little girl reportedly being told to shoot an automatic rifle in a PYD-controlled area in northern Syria went viral on the internet in a video that has been described by Twitter users as further proof of child abuse by the terrorist group.
Regarding the involvement of children in the armed conflict, the U.N. Convention on Children's Rights states that "Armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a state should not, under any circumstances, recruit or exploit in hostilities any persons under the age of 18 years."