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Iraq: training a Kurdish armed non-State actor’s combatants on the law of war

In November 2015, over two days, Geneva Call held its first training session for combatants since it reopened its programme in Iraq. Twenty fighters from the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK)–an Iranian Kurdish armed non-State actor (ANSA) involved in the current fighting–were trained on the Deeds of Commitment and the law of war (humanitarian norms). 

We leave Erbil early in the morning to travel to the facility where the training session will take place, somewhere between Erbil and Kirkuk, 25 km from the front line.

After a one-hour drive on a busy motorway and through a number of checkpoints, we arrive at a militarized areashared with the Peshmergawhere 15 male PAK fighters are waiting for us at a small base.

After a military salute, we are invited to enter a room, and we begin the training session.

This training session follows a dialogue initiated with PAK in 2014 and which led to this armed movement signing all three of Geneva Call’sDeeds of Commitment — protecting children in armed conflict, prohibiting sexual violence and against gender discrimination, and banning anti-personnel mines — in June 2015.

As agreed with PAK’s leaders in the implementation plan, this session’s goal is to train a number of rank-and-file fighters in order to increase the dissemination of the rules contained in the Deeds. Our training team comprises a legal adviser and a programme officer. The following day’s session will cover the dissemination of the law of war (humanitarian norms).

Although PAK is originally from Iran, it is now based in Iraq, and its operations are focused on the fight against the Islamic State group (ISg) alongside Kurdistan Regional Government forces, the Peshmerga. According to PAK, around 600 of its combatants are fighting in the Kirkuk area, with more around Mosul.


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