Translated by: Nabil Nabo
In the heart of Qamishli, northeastern Syria, the anxious parents of young Kurdish girl, Laura, awaited her return from school. To their shock, she had vanished, drawn into the clutches of a recruitment camp, emerging alongside a group of young girls, gripping a gun in her trembling hand.
Fearful of reprisal, Laura, now anonymous, courageously shares her haunting tale of being thrust into combat camps in 2018 at the tender age of 13. Snatched from the vicinity of her school, she recounts the relentless nightmare that has plagued her ever since.
Laura’s eyes well up as she reflects, “From the moment we arrived, they forced us into military uniforms and captured images of us, depicting us as fighters.” She spent a harrowing four months held captive across three camps, each housing a multitude of girls and boys who had fallen prey to deceitful recruitment tactics.
Laura’s account represents just one of many shocking stories emerging from the systematic recruitment of children in northeastern Syria. These practices take place in hidden enclaves nestled among mountains or remote training centers, where young lives are callously thrust onto the frontlines of combat and death.
The intricate details of these recruitment operations come to light through witness testimonies. While grieving families label these acts as abductions, the armed parties behind them contend that they are executed with the children’s purported consent.
According to a range of testimonies and gathered documentation, Kurdish girls and boys bear the brunt of these recruitment efforts. They are ensnared through the operations of the “Revolutionary Youth Movement” (Joanne Shoreshkar), an entity accused of unwavering loyalty to and association with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). These recruitment activities occur under the auspices of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the military arm of the Autonomous Administration. Various groups affiliated with the Autonomous Administration contribute to these recruitment endeavors.