The PKK's Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorist group, manipulates underage children to fight against Turkey, according to a reporter for Anadolu Agency (AA).
Children between the ages of 9 to 16 who have been forced to fight against the Turkish military have lost their lives in the midst of Turkey's domestic and overseas anti-terror operations, said security sources who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
A terrorist who has surrendered to Turkish security forces said YPG terrorists had established a "youth battalion" to fight on the front lines. Security sources said this was an indication that the terrorist group has a shortage of members and the would-be ringleaders had sent children to their deaths to save their own lives.
In July, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented a report to the U.N. Security Council, revealing that the YPG had recruited 313 children and is using schools for military purposes.
According to a report produced at the request of the U.N. Security Council, nearly 40% of children recruited by the terrorist group included girls younger than 15 years old. The report found that these children had received military training and that 119 underage girls had fought in battles. The U.N. report also unveiled that the YPG terrorist group used 24 schools and hospitals as training grounds and 14 schools as ammunition depots.
The 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War prohibits the use of children under the age of 15 as soldiers.
The YPG's use of child soldiers within its ranks is not a new phenomenon, having been repeatedly documented and criticized by international human rights organizations over the years. The group reportedly tricks families into giving up their children or kidnaps the children, taking them to training camps where they are denied contact with their families.
The U.N. has been aware of this phenomenon for quite some time and reports on the issue regularly. In 2018, a U.N. annual report on children in armed conflict revealed 224 cases of child recruitment by the YPG between January and December in 2017, a fivefold increase compared to previous years.
Regarding the use of the schools as military headquarters, Vail Hamdo, head of the local council, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the terror group closed schools to recruit young people in Tal Abyad, Raqqa, which was cleared of terrorist by Turkey's anti-terror operation in northern Syria.
Video footage shows that schools closed by the YPG were being used as military headquarters and that the terrorist group dug many tunnels under these schools to reach Turkish border.
"They abolished education in Tal Abyad to deprive young people of education and use them as 'fuel' for their own terrorist wars. They wanted to create an unemployed and ignorant youth," Hamdo said.
Tal Abyad was liberated from YPG terrorists by Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and Syrian National Army (SNA) on Oct. 13 during Turkey's counter-terror operation in northern Syria.
Turkey on Oct. 9 launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate YPG terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey's borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria's territorial integrity.