Kurdish National Council in Syria – Geneva Office
21 October 2016
PYD extends compulsory service and turns young Kurds into cannon fodder
In June 2014, the Legislative Council for the Jazirah, appointed by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), passed a law on compulsory military service. The law provides that every family offers a “volunteer” between the ages of eighteen and thirty to serve for six months in the People’s Defense Units (YPG). Kurds who did not voluntarily fulfil this obligation were forcibly recruited not only in the Jazirah, but also in ‘Afrin and Ayn al-‘Arab (Kobanî). Likewise, numerous cases of forced recruitment of minors have been documented.
The recently published announcement about the “duty of self protection” extended the period of forced recruitment to 9 respectively 12 months for those potential recruits not voluntarily registering with the YPG until December 1, 2016. There is no definition of who is a potential recruit. However, it is reasonable to assume that at least all men between eighteen and thirty will be affected.
The Kurdish National Council in Syria strongly rejects this step. We expect new waves of arrests, forcing young people to participate in armed combat. The PYD is using these young recruits as cannon fodder to secure its claim to power. An air strike by Turkey in the evening of October 19, 2016, hitting YPG posts, allegedly killed 200 fighters. The example reveals once more the threatening reality of the current conflict. In light of this fate, large numbers of young Kurds will try to flee the country: hundreds of thousands already have taken that path and left. As it is particularly difficult for teenagers to flee, the KNC fears that in the near future notably minors will be recruited by the PYD and its militia.
This extended compulsory military service seems even more irrational as thousands of highly motivated, combat tested Syrian-Kurdish soldiers, the Roj Peshmerga, are ready to fight. However, the PYD does not allow them to return to Syrian Kurdistan to join the fight against the IS.
The KNC condemns the continuous violations of human rights by the PYD and demands an immediate stop of all forms of forced recruitment as well as the opening of the border for the Roj Peshmerga units. No one has the right to decide on life and death of young Kurds – except for themselves.