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Kurdish-led forces in Syria say they will keep conscription system

US forces and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) patrol the Kurdish-held town of Al-Darbasiyah in northeastern Syria bordering Turkey on November 4, 2018 [DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images]
US forces and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) patrol the Kurdish-held town of Al-Darbasiyah in northeastern Syria bordering Turkey on 4 November 2018 [DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images]

A senior Kurdish official in the "Defence Board" of the so-called Autonomous Self-Administration in Syria's northeast town of Ain Al-Issa has stated that there are no plans to stop the controversial forced military conscription of young men in the Syrian territory currently controlled by Kurdish-led forces, known as the Syrian Defence Forces (SDF).

According to Kurdistan24 Shirin Qamar, co-chair of the Board, reiterated the decision to keep the system in place, describing the military service as "for the sake" of the defence of their homeland.

READ: US forces expand military presence in north-east Syria

"The process is known to everyone: it includes 45 days of patriotic education and self-knowledge, as well as military training. And later on, they serve their homeland in the position of border guards," she explained.

The Kurdish administration passed their own law making conscription compulsory in the "autonomous areas" on 14 July 2014, which was implemented in November of the same year on military-aged men and applies to all men regardless of their ethnic or religious background and regardless of whether they have previously served in the Syrian-state army.

However, every local authority in Kurdish-controlled Syria has the right to decide its own military conscription age, leading to complaints against discrimination and inconsistency.

There are documented allegations of child soldiers serving in the SDF, despite an order issued banning their recruitment in 2018.

The SDF has received funding and arms from the US to aid its efforts to combat Daesh. The force consists largely but not exclusively of YPG fighters, which is considered to be the Syrian faction of the terrorist PKK organisation. It has recently been reported that Saudi and US officials have held talks on potentially financing Arab factions who are currently affiliated to the SDF, under the pretext of "resisting the Iranian expansion attempts" in the country.

READ: Saudi Arabia, US to back formation of SDF-affiliated Arab forces

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