The PKK terrorist group and its Syrian offshoot YPG continue to recruit children for fighting in Syria and Iraq, according to a report published by the U.S. State Department
The 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report stated that children remain vulnerable to forcible recruitment and use by multiple armed groups operating in Iraq, including Daesh, the PKK/YPG and Iran backed-militias.
Citing multiple sources, the report noted that the PKK/YPG terrorists operating in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) areas and Sinjar continue to recruit and use children.
The report highlighted that the PKK terrorists recruited dozens of children to prepare them for combat last year. Among them were those from Kirkuk, Iraq.
In addition, the PKK’s militia groups in Sinjar, formed by Yazidi women, employed Yazidi minors and teenage recruits in paramilitary roles in the region last year, according to the report.
“In 2018, civil society organizations reported the PKK recruited and trained children from Sinjar, Makhmour, and other locations and then sent them to bases in Sinjar, Turkey and the Qandil Mountains between Iraq and Iran,” the report said.
Turning to Syria, the annual report noted the activity of the YPG, the Syrian affiliate there, saying the recruitment and use of children in combat in Syria remain common.
The report noted that the PKK/YPG “in northwest Syria continue to recruit, train, and use boys and girls as young as 12 years old.”
It also showed that since 2017, international observers reported that PKK/YPG recruited – sometimes by force – children from displacement camps in northeast Syria.
Though the PKK/YPG initially signed a pledge with Geneva Call – a Swiss humanitarian organization that works to “protect civilians in armed conflict” – to stop the use of child soldiers in 2014, its use of child soldiers has only increased since then.
While recognizing the PKK as a terrorist group, some Western countries have refused to recognize its link to the YPG, but its child recruits being taken from northern Syria to the PKK base in northern Iraq is yet another piece of evidence that the two terror groups are in fact the same.
This February, YPG terrorists kidnapped four children, aged 14-16, from the Ain al-Arab, also known as Kobani, region in Syria, an area the terrorist group occupies.
In March, a 14-year-old was kidnapped by YPG terrorists, and two girls, aged 16 and 17, were kidnapped from Aleppo, adjacent to northern Syria.
The terrorist group also kidnapped four children from Aleppo in April, according to local sources.
Since 2016, Turkey has launched several military operations across its border to free northern Syria from the PKK/YPG terror group’s domination, secure the border region and make the area safe for locals.
After suffering heavy losses from these Turkish counterterrorism operations, including similar ones in northern Iraq, the YPG is forcing minors to serve in combat zones, in flagrant violation of both the laws of the war and human rights agreements.
The terrorist group “declared mobilization” in response to Turkish counterterrorism cross-border operations, and it uses its proxies in Syria to recruit children.