Parents Protest Child Abductions by US-backed SDF in Syria


Copyright: 2015 Getty Images

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed Kurdish-led armed group with ties to the PKK, controlling much of northeast Syria, are facing intensified scrutiny and protest over allegations of ongoing abduction, arbitrary detention, and child recruitment, as families demand the return of their kidnapped children.

A 2023 UN report on children and armed conflict highlighted an alarming increase in child recruitment in Syria, with over half of documented cases occurring in SDF-controlled areas. According to last year’s annual report, from the Geneva-based Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), the SDF is responsible for the forced conscription of no fewer than 296 children, despite previous promises to end such practices.

Last month, women staged a sit-in in front of the “Al-Wazir Rest House” base shared between the SDF and the International Coalition Forces in the countryside of Hasakah. Their demands were the return of their children kidnapped by the Revolutionary Youth Organization (RYO), an entity allegedly affiliated with the SDF and operating in their administrative areas.

Situated near the residence of SDF leader Mazloum Abdi, the base stands as a symbolic backdrop to the mothers’ pleas for justice. A source close to the children’s families lamented the lack of response from security and civil institutions despite the efforts of the families to locate and see the return of their children – forcing them to resort to public demonstrations.

Local sources maintain that the RYO has abducted over 20 minors in the past few months alone. Claiming the organization is affiliated with the PKK and not only abducts children and minors but commits other acts of violence and intimidation in the region.

A participant in the sit-in criticized the recent celebrations organized by the SDF and the Autonomous Administration, highlighting the stark contrast between the rhetoric of women’s rights and democratic freedoms and the reality faced by mothers whose children have been snatched away.

Mazloum Abdi, who previously pledged to halt the conscription of minors through a joint action plan with the UN now faces mounting pressure to honor his commitment. However, the closure of the Child Protection in Armed Conflict office, by the SDF, raises doubts about the SDF’s sincerity in addressing child recruitment.


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