Geneva Call recently visited the People’s Defense Centre/People’s Defense Forces (HPG), also known as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), in order to monitor their commitment to prohibiting the use of children under 18 years old in hostilities.
In October 2013, HPG/PKK, represented by HPG commander Ms. Delal Amed, signed the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict. Since April 2014, due to allegations of non-compliance made in various media—such as the recruitment of children under 16 years old—Geneva Call has been raising this issue with high-level military commanders.
During Geneva Call’s most recent visit, Ms. Amed highlighted the efforts being made, stating, we are sending back all children under 16, and we don’t do it publicly in order to protect them from the legal persecution once they are back home. Following last year’s allegations, there is nobody under 18 fighting in our ranks. Last year, HPG/PKK admitted that some mistakes had been made by local units, even though they were all aware of their obligations under the Deed of Commitment.
Geneva Call also visited a youth camp where only 16 to 18 years old boys and girls can join the HPG/PKK on a voluntary basis in a non-militarily active category and remain under the HPG/PKK’s responsibility, as allowed by a reservation to the Deed of Commitment that can be activated under certain, very strict conditions. Geneva Call observed that the children were receiving an education on subjects such as geography or mathematics, and that they were kept far from any military activities.
To enhance dissemination of the prohibition on using children in hostilities, Geneva Call also conducted a three-day advanced training course on international humanitarian norms for HPG fighter instructors. The focus was on the obligations contained in the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict.
Geneva Call will continue to closely monitor this situation.