Militants belonging to the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) are reported to have opened fire on children who attempted to flee after they were recruited forcibly by the militia earlier this week, Anadolu has reported.
The YPG militants were in the process of rounding up over a dozen boys in the centre of Qamishli in Hasakah province on Tuesday when the unwilling recruits began to flee. The militants opened fire, injuring at least one.
The militia has long been reported to recruit children by force in the territories it controls. Militants are accused of raiding homes and whole villages to abduct the youngsters, who are then transported to training camps prior to fighting across north and eastern Syria and northern Iraq.
The practice of forcibly recruiting children, largely between the ages of 11 and 16, remains a significant stain on the reputation of the Kurdish militia, which wants to be seen as a legitimate entity in the region. This is particularly so because the YPG has been supported by the United States and European nations over the past few years in the fight against Daesh.
Under the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statute, the recruitment and use of persons under 15 years of age for military purposes is regarded as a war crime and a violation of human rights. In the YPG’s case, this is compounded by the fact that the recruits are forced to get involved.
This incident comes at a time when the YPG has been suspected of assassinations and attacks on figures within eastern Syria. Over the past six weeks a number of local officials and tribal figures in Deir Ez-Zor province have been assassinated by unidentified gunmen; at least 70 have been killed in the province over the past five months.
While not all of these attacks have been confirmed as conducted by the YPG or its affiliate, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), local people and the Arab population have expressed their suspicions that they are likely to be behind them based on their track record in the region.