Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairperson Devlet Bahçeli criticized a recent report by the United States claiming that Turkey has a clear record of protecting children's rights.
"It is known, as a country, we are an open party to the regulations and conventions adopted by the United Nations on protecting children's rights," Bahçeli said at a parliamentary group meeting Tuesday.
Criticizing the "contradictory" assumptions of a recent report by the U.S. State Department on trafficking people, Bahçeli said: "The U.S. attempt to defame Turkey is both a hypocritical and futile effort."
Washington on June 30 added Turkey and 15 other countries to the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) list – a designation included in the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report that ranks countries in various tiers in accordance with their efforts to eliminate trafficking.
The list includes Afghanistan, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela and Yemen.
Bahçeli also accused the U.S. of having links to the PKK terrorist organization and its Syrian wing, the YPG, "which uses children in terrorist acts."
Turkey strongly rejected the “baseless” allegations by the U.S. – which claims that Ankara violated the Child Soldiers Prevention Act in Libya and Syria – as the country noted that Washington turns a blind eye to the activities of YPG/PKK terrorists.
In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of at least 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
Turkey has consistently criticized the U.S. for partnering with YPG/PKK terrorists in Syria to defeat another terrorist group.
In May, the U.N. published a report on children in the armed conflict in Syria, stressing the YPG's continued use of children in combat on top of several other serious rights violations.
The report, which documented violations involving children in Syria between July 2018 and June 2020, noted that the YPG continued to use children as fighters and stores ammunition in schools. It pointed out the 236 attacks on schools and protected persons, of which 33 occurred in the second half of 2018, 154 in 2019 and 49 in the first half of 2020. During the incidents, several staff members were killed, maimed or arrested, and 133 children were killed or injured while at school.
While more than 400 children were used as fighters during the period, the YPG also carried out at least 4,700 rights violations against children, including abduction and rape.
Within this period, more than 2,700 children lost their lives or became permanently disabled as a result of airstrikes, explosions or artillery bombardments. A total of 1,423 children, 117 of whom were girls, were used systematically by armed groups, while 1,388 children, 250 of whom were under the age of 15, were forced to fight.
International law prohibits nonstate armed groups from recruiting anyone under 18, and enlisting children under 15 is considered a war crime.
The YPG’s use of child soldiers has been repeatedly documented and criticized by international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Though the YPG/PKK initially signed a pledge with Geneva Call – a Swiss humanitarian organization that works to "protect civilians in armed conflict" – to stop the use of child soldiers in 2014, its use of child soldiers has only increased since then.
The U.S. Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General’s Aug. 4 report last year on the Command Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) noted that in 2019 the YPG "recruited children into their ranks from displacement camps in northeastern Syria." The U.S. report stated that each year since 2014 the "Kurdish entities partnered with the U.S." made promises to end the use of child soldiers, but each year the practice continues.
The U.S. has primarily partnered with the YPG in northern Syria in the fight against the Daesh terrorist group. Turkey strongly opposes the YPG's presence in northern Syria, which has been a major sticking point in strained Ankara-Washington relations. The U.S. has provided military training and thousands of truckloads of weaponry to the YPG, despite its NATO ally's security concerns.
Local people living in areas held by the YPG have long suffered from its atrocities, as the terrorist organization has a notorious record of human rights abuses, ranging from kidnappings, recruitment of child soldiers, torture, ethnic cleansing and forced displacement.
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