In a discussion with Kurdish analyst and writer Ibrahim Guchloo, interesting conclusions surrounding the widespread recruitment of children throughout the PKK’s different wings, such as SDF, PJAK and HPG were made.
Every parent wants a bright future for their children
Recruitment of children is a large problem in most countries with a Kurdish minority, such as Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. The fault for the recruitment of their children cannot be placed with their families, as nearly all families interviewed do not support the groups that have taken their children, nor was recruitment by these groups the future they had envisioned for their children.
“It is well known that all people, in every nation, and even in every family, envision a future for their children. Therefore, in order for their children and young people to understand each other well, work and thrive, they try to provide their children with good living conditions, an a good education.“
“The Kurdish nation, too, envision a future for their young people, and their children. They also have the mindset and goal of having their children and young people grow up in good living conditions, get an education, and to at least finish high school. That is why they do not want their children and youth to be recruited by these groups, perish and be killed. The Kurdish people try to protect their children and young people with many sacrifices.”
“Unfortunately, certain actors aim for the Kurdish nation not to develop; that is why Kurdish children and youth have been targets for years. They are well aware that the youth are the most active and creative part of the Kurdish society.”
PKK is the largest child-killer in the region
PKK has a good reason for recruiting children and generally under-educated people. The reason for this lies in its problems with other Kurdish groups, intellectuals and parties.
“The PKK, as an organization, had the same goal as the Turkish state namely to annihilate the Kurds that did not agree with it. That is why the PKK recruited illiterate children and young people from the beginning (1975). Ocalan has stated: ‘university and bachelor’s students are a problem for us, they ask too many questions, we can not easily implement our decisions (to kill Kurds and Kurdish scholars) by them’.”
“Therefore, it is an important force for the PKK to suck children, the poor and illiterate into their system of leftist, totalitarian and authoritarian fascism. Those university youths who did not listen to them, Kurdish people who did not implement their decisions, were killed by the PKK. Ocalan himself confessed in court that he had killed 20,000 Kurdish and pro-Kurdish youths. The recruitment of children and youth by the PKK actually served the Turkish colonial state’s policy of exterminating the Kurds. The PKK initially established this system in North Kurdistan (Turkey), then moved strongly to Syrian Kurds when they had their camps there. From there on, the virus spread across other Kurdish societies.”
More information about the PKK’s initial mobilization and the killing of its (Kurdish) rivals can be read in the book:
Blood and Belief by Aliza Marcus.
Click here to read several chapters of the book.
The recruitment of children in PKK’s various wings today
Although both the SDF under Mazloum Kobani’s lead with the UN special representative for children’s rights, the PJAK leadership with the organization Geneva Call in 2015, and the PKK itself at several times throughout its bloody history have signed conventions not to recruit children for the purpose of war, the recruitment of children continues widely.
“In 2021, 47 Kurdish children were abducted in North-East Syria alone. Several of them are also sick. The PKK / PYD does so because it can only implement its decisions with children in order to carry out a legitimate operation in Syria in the interest of the Kurds there. So it kidnaps them and makes them soldiers.”
Guchloo’s statement is on point. The PKK has established a tight network of ruling organs in its controlled territories in Syria, that target all layers of society, and especially children. From ideological lessons about Ocalan and leftist theory in elementary school, through youth clubs such as the “Revolutionary Youth” (Ciwanen Shoreshger, infamous for recruiting minors and sending them to Qandil for arms training), and the neighborhood watch which baptized HPC, which also recruits at a younger age (16+), but then passes these recruits on to YPG and YPJ.
Recruitment of 11 Kurdish children in North-East Syria (IDs provided)
“The PKK is also a foreigner and occupier in Iraqi Kurdistan. It is the enemy of the Kurdistan Region Government. It is in fact trying to build an army to defeat it. This war, too, is not a legitimate war.”
“When it comes to kidnapping kids in Iraqi Kurdistan... The PKK has reportedly recruited more Kurdish children than ISIS in Sinjar. And in Iranian Kurdistan, children are kidnapped and recruited at a young age, perhaps to prevent them from being reached by the other Kurdish opposition groups there, that are stricter about age in their recruitment process.”
“What the PKK does is a crime. It is a crime against humanity. It is against the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is against Kurdishness and what Kurdistan stands for. It is against all the values of Kurds and Kurdistan. There is a need for trial and adjudication.”