On 5 June 2014, in Ramalan, in the Kurdish region of Syria, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), and the « Democratic Self-Administration in Rojava » signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment banning AP mines and the Deed of Commitment prohibiting sexual violence in armed conflict and against gender discrimination.
“By signing these Deeds of Commitment, they show their willingness to abide by the highest international standards and pledge to take further action to protect civilians from the threat of landmines and sexual violence” said Pascal Bongard, Geneva Call’s Head of Operations, during the ceremony.
Geneva Call’s delegation also raised the issue of child recruitment and use in hostilities. “Despite earlier measures to prohibit the recruitment of children under 18, we admit that the problem persists, we are aware of international concern about this issue, and we are making every effort to find a permanent solution, in collaboration with all stakeholders, and particularly with Geneva Call,” YPG Deputy General Commander Redur Xelil said.
“We have decided to record all under-18 combatants in our ranks and to demobilize them. This will be done within a month,” he added. The YPG-YPJ also agreed to no longer admit new recruits under 18 and to sign Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict.
In addition, Geneva Call also met with the police forces (Asayish). They expressed their willingness to cooperate with Geneva Call to train their members in respecting human rights. The General Commander of the Asayish, Ciwan, invited Geneva Call ” to discuss transparently all allegations against us, and we are ready to cooperate to avoid any unacceptable behavior.”.
Geneva Call will visit the police training academy for a closer review of the curriculum, and assess the requirement to integrate other norms into it, such as the treatment of detained minors.
The YPG-YPJ are the dominant military force in the Kurdish-populated areas since the withdrawal of most Government forces in 2012 and have been mainly fighting against Islamist armed groups, notably the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Al-Nusra Front. The « Democratic Self-Administration in Rojava » was formed in January 2014 and is the de facto governing authority in the Kurdish areas.