A ruling Kurdish militia in north-east Syria fired on protestors demonstrating against the forced recruitment of their children earlier this week, killing eight and wounding 27 others.
On Monday and Tuesday, protestors in the city of Manbij were protesting against the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Unit (YPG) and its forced recruitment of minors in areas under its control, when militia members fired live ammunition into the crowd.
The militia, which has fostered a positive image amongst many in the West as democratic freedom fighters against Daesh, has come under increasing scrutiny over the past two years after reports gradually emerged about the enlisting of child soldiers into its forces, an action illegal under international law.
Led by Kurds – and according to Turkey, linked to the terror group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – the YPG and the affiliated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are reported to regularly raid predominantly Arab-populated towns and villages in order to kidnap minors and force them into conscription. Those reports were confirmed by the United Nations in 2019, as well as by the United States’ Pentagon last year.
According to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, the US State Department – which backs and arms the Kurdish militias – then released a statement calling on “all parties in Syria to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to peacefully assemble.”
The unnamed State Department official added: “We regularly discuss human rights issues with SDF leadership as an integral aspect of our joint efforts to promote stability in northeast Syria and ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS [Daesh].”
Following the incident and the US’ statement, the YPG reportedly accepted the demands of the people of Manbij and announced that it would end the forced recruitment, punish those who fired on the protestors and release all prisoners who were arrested during the recent demonstrations.