A leaked video purportedly filmed by Kurdish militants from inside a prison in northern Syria has revealed a member of a Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its Syrian branch the People’s Protection Units (YPG) beating and torturing two young men who allegedly refused to sign up for compulsory military service under the group.
The graphic video, which was released by Nedaa or Syria Call news site last week and went viral on Twitter, shows a militant with a YPG arm badge sewn into his uniform violently flogging the two young men – stripped down to their underwear and blindfolded – hanging from the ceiling of the cell with blood dripping down their bodies. On the far wall at the back of the cell is displayed a flag consisting of a red background with a red star in the centre enclosed by a yellow circle; the PKK’s official flag.
The leaked footage comes a month after a previous video was leaked from northern Syria, showing a Kurdish militant belonging to the YPG kidnapping, beating and urinating on an Arab family passing through the Kurdish-held territory.
Both of the videos and the human rights violations perpetrated in them call into question the morality of Kurdish forces which are backed by the US and other international players. Recent revelations of forced military recruitment, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the oppression of local civilian populations by the Kurdish militias in Syria disparage the notion that such actions are only prevalent among the likes of Daesh, opposition groups, and the Syrian Arab army.
The largely peaceful image that the Kurdish groups have maintained about themselves throughout the Syrian conflict have encouraged, for example, numerous Western individuals and military personnel to travel to the country to fight alongside the YPG and SDF, with little to no charges or prosecution over their decision once they return to their home countries. The US and certain EU member states have also made the decision to arm and back the groups over the years saying they are the most reliable force to eliminate Daesh.
This support has continued despite a UN report in July stating that the YPG is guilty of recruiting at least 313 child soldiers and minors into its forces during the Syrian conflict, 40 per cent of whom are young girls.