Al-Hasakah: Revolutionary Youth Movement kidnaps minor girls and recruits them

Kurdish families during their protests against the recruitment of their daughters by the Syrian Democratic Forces (Facebook)

Kurdish families during their protests against the recruitment of their daughters by the Syrian Democratic Forces (Facebook)


More than four years after it signed an action plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment of children into its ranks, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) face repeated accusations of kidnapping and recruiting minor girls and children, contrary to its commitments under the plan signed on July 1, 2019.

Several Kurdish families from the parents of kidnapped girls held a sit-in in front of al-Wazir’s Rest base, which belongs to the International Coalition Forces (ICF) in the city of al-Hasakah, from March 6 until March 11, in protest against the recruitment of girls in the Kurdish forces’ ranks, accusing the SDF of kidnapping the minors.

The sit-in, which lasted for five nights, was disbanded by order of the SDF after promises were made to release the girls held for recruitment purposes because they were minors, without specifying a clear date for the release, according to families that spoke with Enab Baladi.

SDF tempts minor girls to enlist them

“After speaking with my daughter for more than two and a half months via kwai app, she was lured into recruitment,” Inas Othman said regarding the story of her minor daughter’s kidnap.

Othman mentioned that her daughter was being enticed: training videos of Kurdish female fighters in SDF camps and their fighting style were shown to her, to attract her to join their ranks.

Othman’s daughter, Lava Khalaf, aged 12, left her house about two months ago, under the pretext of going shopping and “buying a shawarma sandwich,” as she told her mother, but she has not returned home since.

The mother noted that the family received a call from the Revolutionary Youth Movement (Ciwanên Şoreşger) after Lava was kidnapped and disappeared, informing the family that she was in a camp in the city of Qamishli.

Othman stated to Enab Baladi that she sat in front of al-Wazir’s Rest base, the headquarters of SDF leadership, with four other families, to meet their general commander, Mazloum Abdi, who refused the meeting.

Lava Khalaf was not the only one; the girl Wasilla Kika, was among the victims, and she was kidnapped from in front of her school by a group belonging to the Revolutionary Youth in the city of Tel Tamr in al-Hasakah governorate, on February 28, according to what a relative of the girl said (Enab Baladi withheld explicitly stating his familial relation to the girl for security reasons).

According to what the relative of Wasilla, who is 15 years old, told Enab Baladi, her family learned a few days later that she was taken to recruitment camps willingly, according to what a young man working on recruiting the girls told her family.

The relative continued that her family tried to get information about their daughter from the young man by beating him, but he, in turn, threatened the family, refusing to disclose information about Wasilla.

Wasilla’s family was forced to contact the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazloum Abdi, who said that the SDF cannot deter the Revolutionary Youth Movement, according to the relative who spoke to Enab Baladi.

Although Article “55” of the Social Contract Charter of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) states that children’s rights are protected and that the use of violence against them, their employment, exploitation, and recruitment is prohibited, incidents of kidnapping and recruitment are still recurrent.

All recruitment, including forced, of those under the age of 15, is prohibited by international treaty law in the International Protocols of 1977, annexed to the Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is considered a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in its Article “8”.

52 Children in 2023

The Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) organization documented the recruitment of 52 children in the Autonomous Administration areas (the political umbrella for the Syrian Democratic Forces) in northeastern Syria in 2023.

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

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

The Autonomous Administration security agencies did not limit the overt activity of the Revolutionary Youth Movement, also 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 belonging to the SDF were involved in the rest.

According to a leader (who refused to disclose his name as he is not authorized to speak to the media) from Asayish forces, which represent the security arm of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Revolutionary Youth units consist of a group of young people, most of whom are minors, followers of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and are directly managed by military leaders.

One of the Revolutionary Youth’s roles is to attract teenagers through enticement or force after luring them to join their ranks, engaging in schools, playgrounds, entertainment centers, as well as using Autonomous Administration centers to open training courses such as computer skills or sports, etc., with the aim of attracting teenagers whom they work to recruit after joining, according to the leader.

Child soldiers are the “firewood for war”

An investigative report titled “Death for (Serok Apo).. Kurdish children as firewood for war in northeast Syria”, conducted by the Syria Indicator team, revealed the ongoing recruitment operations targeting children in northeastern Syria by an armed group licensed by the Autonomous Administration, which controls the area.

The investigation stated that the recruitment operations target Kurdish girls and children and are carried out by the Revolutionary Youth Movement (Ciwanên Şoreşger) representing the youth wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and it uses centers of People’s Protection Units (YPG), Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) affiliated with them, and includes a women’s faction, Young Women’s Union.

A UN report published in July 2022, stated that Syria is the worst country in the world in terms of recruiting and using children in conflicts, as 1,296 children were recruited and used in Syria in 2021, with 1,285 of them playing combat roles.

An international report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in August 2018, stated that the People’s Protection Units (YPG) recruit children, including girls, for fighting in its ranks, noting that among the recruited children were displaced children with their families to camps controlled by the YPG.

At the time, the Syrian Democratic Council (MSD) responded to the report by saying that child recruitment is a matter of “individual transgressions“.


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