Child recruitment by SDF raises concerns in Germany

Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces during a security campaign in northeastern Syria - January 30, 2023 (SDF)

Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces during a security campaign in northeastern Syria - January 30, 2023 (SDF)


The German Special Envoy to Syria, Stefan Schneck, expressed Germany’s concern following reports related to the forced recruitment of minors by armed groups in the Syrian conflict.

Schneck added that all parties must bear responsibility, and it is essential that these practices stop without delay.

Through his account on the “X” platform on January 31, Schneck pointed out that children deserve special protection in armed conflicts.

These comments were in response to an incident of kidnapping a girl for military recruitment by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on January 20, by an organization known as the Revolutionary Youth Movement affiliated with the SDF.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) published, on January 29, details of the kidnapping of Maya Ezzedine Shaker, a disabled child, from outside her family’s home in the town of al-Yadouda in the countryside of al-Hasakah governorate, who was then transported to a recruitment camp belonging to the SDF.

Following the incident with Maya, Samira Ali, a 14-year-old girl from the village of Bir Omar, part of the eastern countryside of Aleppo governorate, was kidnapped on January 30 by members of the Revolutionary Youth Movement and taken to one of their recruitment centers. She was prevented from communicating with her relatives or allowing them to visit her, according to the network.

The SNHR mentioned that approximately 309 children are still under compulsory recruitment in camps belonging to the SDF.

The acts of using and recruiting children clearly violate the Social Contract charter, as Article “55” stipulates that children’s rights are protected, and the use of violence against them, their employment, exploitation, and recruitment are prohibited.

52 Children in 2023

A report documented by a human rights organization, Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ), indicated the recruitment of 52 children in areas of the Autonomous Administration (the political umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces) in northeastern Syria in 2023.

The recruitment cases included 23 girls and 29 minor boys, with the majority of the cases occurring in Qamishli with 22 cases, followed by Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo with 13 cases, Manbij with seven cases, and six cases in Raqqa, while four minors were recruited in Ain al-Arab (Kobani).

The organization documented 49 cases of child recruitment in areas under the influence of the Autonomous Administration in northeastern Syria during 2022 by an organization called the Revolutionary Youth Movement, licensed in its areas.

The security apparatuses of the Autonomous Administration did not limit the activities of the openly active movement, known as “Ciwanên Şoreşger”, and Syrian citizens confirmed to the organization that the Revolutionary Youth Movement was responsible for 43 recruitment cases, while the Women’s Units and other military groups affiliated with the SDF were involved in the rest of the cases.


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