Since the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) signed the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict in July 2014, Geneva Call has maintained a constant dialogue with them in order to monitor the situation. Following several allegations about the use of children in hostilities, particularly in a United Nations report on the Human Rights situation in Syria, Geneva Call recently conducted two field visits to the territories controlled by YPG-YPJ in Northeast Syria.
Geneva Call’s representatives, including Elisabeth Decrey Warner, Geneva Call’s President, met with YPG-YPJ military commanders Redur Xelil and Sozdar Derik. The allegations were intensely discussed in the presence of Hediye Youssef and Abdul Karim Sarukhan, President and Minister of Defence of the de facto Kurdish authorities in Syria.
As already in the past, YPG-YPJ admitted to facing difficulties in implementing their commitment across all their units, however, they highlighted the efforts being made: “We control a huge area and we have to defend ourselves against ISIS attacks every day. Children often come voluntarily to join our ranks and our officers have the duty to refuse them. We sanctioned seven officers for recruiting and using children aged under 18 in hostilities”. The YPG/YPJ informed Geneva Call’s delegation that they were in the process of identifying and separating some remaining or new under-18 children from their fighting units.
Geneva Call also visited the educational centre that fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the de facto Kurdish authorities. It accommodates demobilized children who either cannot go back to their families or do not want to do so.
To improve the monitoring process, Geneva Call conducted a two-day training session on humanitarian norms for 20 Syrian Human Rights activists in order to increase their capacities for monitoring this issue.
Geneva Call will continue to monitor the situation closely and will support the dissemination of the rules contained in the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict through a local media campaign and trainings on child protection for their fighter trainers.