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US report: YPG recruiting child soldiers

Image of a YPG fighter in Hasaka, Syria on 21 September 2014 [Kurdishstruggle/Flickr]
YPG fighter in Hasaka, Syria on 21 September 2014 [Kurdishstruggle/Flickr]

Children younger than 15 are being recruited by the armed People’s Protection Units (YPG), despite pledges by the group in 2014 that it would not deploy fighters younger than 18.

The US confirmed yesterday in its annual report on human trafficking that the YPG, which is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) a US designated terrorist organisation, was recruiting boys and girls that were younger than 15 and subjecting them to indoctrination in preparation for conflict. The report claims that in some cases children are being taken by force against their wishes from their parents and families.

The US human trafficking report, which is also referred to as the modern face of slavery, revealed that the children in Syria and Iraq were vulnerable to forced recruitment by armed groups such as the PKK, YPG, Daesh and militias.

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The US State Department believes that the report is “the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts.” It rates 190 nations – up from last year’s 188 with the addition of Libya and Yemen – on how effectively governments are tackling the human trafficking industry on a scale from the worst on Tier 3 to best on Tier 1.

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The PKK and the YPG have a history of exploiting children and forcing them to become soldiers. The report mentioned that “the PKK and Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) – a Yezidi armed militia group -forcibly recruited and used Kurdish and Yezidi boys and girls, some as young as 12 years old, in combat and support roles in northern Iraq.”

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