In September 2017, Geneva Call trained more than 100 commanders from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the law of armed conflict, including the rules regulating the conduct of hostilities and humanitarian relief.
The session took place at their military base in Ain Issa, a city located 50 km north of Raqqa, in northern Syria, and came after a first meeting with the SDF General Command in July. It was the first training session of its kind for these high- and middle-ranking commanders. The SDF were created in 2015 and include Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian forces. They recently took the city of Raqqa with the support of a US-led coalition.
“These commanders were very receptive to the different rules that we presented. Firm knowledge is always necessary as the situation in the field is often complex and requires quick decisions. They also have to work on implementation mechanisms to ensure that each of their thousands of fighters respects the law,” said one of Geneva Call’s trainers.
“The situation of civilian populations in this area of Syria is very concerning. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced following the hostilities in Raqqa, and it is important that all armed actors comply with humanitarian norms,” he added.
After the training session, the SDF leaders also expressed their interest in signing Geneva Call’s Deeds of Commitment, including the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict that the People’s Protection Units (YPG)—which are part of the SDF—signed in 2014 together with the other two Deeds of Commitment.
In November 2016, the SDF had issued a humanitarian declaration, based on Geneva Call’s recommendations, in which they publicly committed to respecting humanitarian norms to protect civilian populations during armed operations.
During the same visit, Geneva Call also carried out training sessions on humanitarian norms for 15 commanders from the Raqqa Internal Security Forces, the police forces of Raqqa province.