Kurdish PKK fighters in Sinjar
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) have released separate statements criticising a recent Human Rights Watch report claiming that the groups are recruiting child soldiers.
In the report the HRW recently said they had documented 29 cases in which Kurdish and Yazidi children had been recruited by the PKK and Yazidi force, YBS.
PKK: Smear campaign
In a statement, the People's Defence Centre (NPG) of the PKK said they strictly abided by the Geneva Call, which they are a signatory of and which prohibits the use of child soldiers.
The NPG accused the HRW of participating in a smear campaign against the group to push it out of Sinjar (Shengal).
“Despite the rare participation of underage youths in our ranks without our approval, our movement has laid emphasis on this issue and made efforts to fulfill the convention we are a party to. There are no fighters aged under 16 in our ranks. Those youths aged 16-17 who were forced to join our ranks after fleeing the repression and violence of the Turkish state are not involved in the battle by our movement, and these are receiving training in areas outside the battle field,” the NPG said.
The NPG reiterated that they were open to the inspection of all relevant international powers. "We have not received any letters or reports prepared about us. Still, if the HRW has conducted a research on this matter in South Kurdistan, and prepared a report on it, they should have visited our camps and examined on-site instead."
The NPG also said the HRW had brought their movement under suspicion, which was "a serious misfortune for an organisation that is meant to conserve its impartiality in international terms." The group said they did not have any organic ties with the YBS and were not responsible for any actions it took.
YBS: Defamation to break Yazidis' will
The Yazidi militia YBS released a separate statement condemning the HRW report saying it had been written to defame the group and break its will.
"The YBS is a force made up of Yazidi women and men that protects the rights of the Yazidi people. The establishment of YBS created a huge confidence among society. However, some circles are disturbed by this development and they want to defame the YBS in the eyes of the world, for which they make evaluations far from the truth. This most recent report by HRW is biased and we don't accept such an attitude from such a human rights organisation. All the YBS fighters are aged above 18 years and the recruitment of children cannot be accepted by our side under no circumstance."
The YBS ended its statement by inviting HRW to "the battle front" to investigate things "on the front line". The group was set up with the support of PKK fighters to defend the area against attacks by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) group. PKK fighters entered Sinjar in August 2014 as the IS onslaught on the Yazidi homeland began its campaign of murder and displacement.
The report comes at a time when the Turkish government and Kurdistan Regional Government leaders have stepped up calls for the removal of PKK presence from the Sinjar and Kurdistan Region in Northern Iraq.
KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani recently said they could resort to force to remove PKK fighters from the region.
The PKK has responded by saying such an action would be detrimental to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by the Barzani family.
Sourec: ANF, Kurdishqestion.com