The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) recently announced that 56 boys under the age of 18 had left their organisation and were returned to their families. This decision came following a military order on child protection, issued by the SDF on 5 September 2018. This order included the prohibition to recruit and use children for combat but also for spying, to act as guards or to deliver supplies to combatants.
“We are pleased with this announcement made by the SDF. We encourage them to continue monitoring the age of current and new recruits to ensure that children under 18 are at school and not at war” said Mehmet Balci, Geneva Call’s Head of Region for the Middle East.
Geneva Call has maintained a humanitarian dialogue with the SDF on the protection of children and the law of armed conflict since 2016. In 2014, the Democratic Self-Administration in Rojava/People’s Protection Units/Women’s Protection Units (YPG-YPJ) – three actors that are close to the SDF – signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict. Many units of the YPG/YPJ are currently fighting under the command of the SDF.
Geneva Call continues to hold the YPG/YPJ accountable for its commitment and maintains its dialogue with the SDF to ensure that no children under 18 are associated with them. In October, Geneva Call trained more than 200 officers of the SDF in their military academy on the prohibition to recruit children and on the law of armed conflict. Geneva Call agreed with the SDF to conduct the same training for all new groups of officers coming to this academy.
According to the United Nations, in 2017 seven armed actors committed grave violations against children in the Syrian conflict. These violations included recruitment and use in hostilities, attacks on children and schools, and rape. In the same year, the UN documented more than 961 cases of the recruitment and use of children in the conflict.