To Human Rights Watch
In response to your questions about the recruitment of children in the People’s and Women’s Protection [Units], this is our reply to you:
First, we value your huge efforts to document human rights violations, especially in states witnessing conflict and brutal wars.
As you stated, a commitment was signed between Geneva Call and the Autonomous Administration and the People’s and Women’s Protection [Units], in which the [Units] made clear and frank commitments.
In addition, the Units have had reservations about accepting enlistment of those over [the age of] 16, though they are not used in offensive operations directly or indirectly. The People’s and Women’s Protection Units have committed to this, and Geneva Call has been overseeing the implementation of this commitment, and the People’s and Women’s Protection Units for their part have been diligently implementing it.
We would like to point out that the internal bylaws of the People’s and Women’s Protection Units include a prohibition on using those under 18 in offensive operations, either directly or indirectly. Rather, they are placed in special centers where they receive intellectual and occupational training.
When enlistment does occur, the families are contacted, and sometimes the families ask about their sons, and in either case they have the choice of… returning to their families. We have recorded cases where they have been delivered back to their families. However, if they want to enlist they are accepted, though without being used in combat.
In camps containing thousands of internally displaced Syrians and those from conflict areas, and also Iraqi refugees, cases of rape, harassment and marriage of minors have been recorded, and sometimes the lives of women have been endangered, in which case they are taken to special centers for the protection of women. In the al-Arisha camp, we noted the case of a girl no older than 12 who was raped and impregnated, and she sought assistance from the Protection Forces in the camp and was taken to the special women’s protection center out of fear for her life. Her family claimed that she had been kidnapped and forcibly conscripted into the Women’s Protection Units, without mentioning that they wanted to kill the girl because of the pregnancy. He presence with the Women’s Protection Units was for her protection from her family.
A general notice was issued from the General Leadership of the People’s and Women’s Protection Units prohibiting the use of those under 18 in offensive operations, under legal and moral accountability, and in case of violation of this rule the person directly responsible will be detained as well as demoted in military rank, and the penalty is increased upon repeated violation.
The Autonomous Administration is preparing a special program for those enlisted into the People’s and Women’s [Protection] Units, including the opening of a special center under the direct supervision of the Autonomous Administration’s Education Committee. Those under 18 [enlisting in] the People’s and Women’s Protection Forces will be placed in the center. Special staff will be provided, and they will receive education as well as occupational courses according to the curriculum.
A copy of the program will be sent to you if it should start to be implemented.
In conclusion, the People’s and Women’s Protection Units were formed from the sons of the area’s communities, including Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, Assyrians, and Armenians, and they have achieved great victories combating terrorism on behalf of the world. Land and people have been liberated from the extremist groups, and according to the reports of organizations and various regional and international news agencies, the People’s and Women’s Protection Units are the most organized and disciplined military force, waging an ethical war. We do not deny that mistakes and violations have occurred in individual cases which have been punished by the authorities as per our clear and transparent internal bylaws. This is consistent with our humanitarian, tolerant, and moral vision of this issue, as well as our commitment to all international laws and agreements, which ensure the necessity of protecting children, especially in times of war and conflict, as they are the most vulnerable population to violations of their rights.
We apologize for the lateness of our report.
Thank you for your efforts… be well