US-backed Kurdish militants in Syria recruited at least 483 child soldiers into their ranks last year, a report by the United Nations has revealed.
According to the annual Children and Armed Conflict report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, published on Monday, the Kurdish-led umbrella group, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), recruited 221 children into its forces, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) recruited 220, while other branches and groups of Kurdish militants recruited 42 more children altogether in 2021.
Other armed factions within Syria also engaged in the practice of recruiting child soldiers last year, including the numerous Syrian opposition groups which overall recruited a total of 1,518 children. The majority of those recruits were taken by the Syrian National Army (SNA) and then Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS).
Syrian regime forces and affiliated militias fighting in support of Bashar Al-Assad, including the National Defence Forces (NDF), also recruited a total of 81 children into their ranks last year.
Despite Syrian opposition forces having recruited a higher number of children as soldiers than the Kurdish militias did in 2021, the primary difference between those two sides is that the Kurdish groups are directly backed by the US and receive support from other Western nations, all of whom are aware that their allies on the ground continue to engage in the illegal practice.
The UN report also cited statistics revealing that the Kurdish militias imprisoned 52 children last year, in comparison to 8 jailed by regime forces and 2 jailed by opposition factions. It also mentioned over 800 children – including foreigners – who “remained in detention for alleged association with Da’esh in the north-eastern Syrian Arab Republic”, where the infamous detention camps are based.