After several months of intense fighting, the city of Kobane is now under the control of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) / the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) – the main Syrian Kurdish armed movement. Thousands of civilians that had fled to Turkey are now attempting to cross the Turkish border to return home. However, the city is reported to have been left with explosive devices, booby traps and remnants of war.
In June 2014, YPG-YPJ signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment banning anti-personnel (AP) mines and committed to prohibit under any circumstance the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of AP mines [and any other victim-activated explosive device]. They also pledged to undertake and cooperate in stockpile destruction; mine clearance; victim assistance; mine awareness; and various other forms of mine action, in cooperation with specialized organizations.
In this regard, they communicated to Geneva Call the humanitarian emergency and the need for specialized mine action organizations to intervene as soon as possible, to demine and clear the city, as they don’t have the experience, the equipment nor the resources to do it by themselves. Several thousand civilians have come back to Kobane and according to the Kurdish self-administration, 10 civilians have died and more than 20 were injured because of explosive devices.
An assessment of the situation, mine risk education and demining are urgently needed to avoid more casualties. Geneva Call has informed specialized demining agencies of the situation and has expressed his willingness to facilitate contact with YPG-YPJ to address this need. Geneva Call hopes this will start a process to clear the city and allow a safe return of the population.
Geneva Call collected images showing some of the booby traps and mines remaining in the city. They can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/HUOPrVSnv38.
Geneva Call is also monitoring closely several allegations of child use in hostilities after the YPG-YPJ signed the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict last year. In Syria, Geneva Call engages YPG-YPG as well as two other armed groups – Islam Army and Free Syrian Army / Hazzm Movement on the protection of civilians.