In the context of the recent military operations in Afrin, in north-west Syria, a worrying number of allegations on the use of child soldiers have been reported. Geneva Call reminds all parties to the conflict that no children under 18 years old should be involved in hostilities, even as spies, porters or informants, whether on front lines, at checkpoints or in military camps.
Several armed actors active in Afrin—including the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and several brigades of the Free Syrian Army—are part of the group of eight Syrian signatories to Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict.
Through their signatures, these groups publicly pledged to ban the recruitment and use of children in hostilities. Geneva Call has been monitoring the respect of these humanitarian agreements through its local and international partners and will continue to engage in a humanitarian dialogue with all the signatories to hold them accountable for their commitment to protect children from recruitment and from conflict.
The organization also regularly trains the combatants and officers of signatory armed actors about the obligations contained in the Deed and helps them to define the measures that they should take to implement the document. In February, Geneva Call met with three brigades of the Free Syrian Army, which had recently signed this Deed of Commitment, to define how they should enforce their commitment among their rank-and-file members.
In 2016, the United Nations verified 815 cases of the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict by armed non-State actors in Syria.