NORTH AND EAST SYRIA — Co-Chair of the newly created Child Protection Office (CPO) of the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria Murhaf al-Abdullah confirmed that the branch offices of the CPO have received many complaints about child labor and military recruitment in the areas governed by the DAA.
“A meeting was held with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund [UNICEF] about child protection in North and East Syria from various aspects, including child recruitment,” said al-Abdullah, adding that another meeting was held with representatives of the UNICEF Middle East and Africa office about the agreement signed between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and UNICEF regarding preventing child labor and recruitment.
Al-Abdullah stated they also discussed laying the foundations for the CPO’s work and the expected role of UNICEF in combating child labor, as well as supporting the children affected by the war.
“Meetings were held with aid organizations in order to conduct training and awareness sessions for the benefit of the CPO branches and facilitate cooperation with the SDF leadership to establish a mechanism to deal with complaints about child recruitment,” al-Abdullah concluded.
In August, the Executive Council of the DAA established the CPO following criticism that minors were still making their ways into the ranks of the SDF. Subsidiary offices in the social affairs and labor authorities were established to combat illegal child labor and other types of child exploitation.
The CPO formally receives complaints about child recruitment in the ranks of the SDF and the Internal Security Forces (ISF), in addition to other matters related to violations of children’s rights presented by families, witnesses, or any guardian for children. After being received by the CPO, complaints are then sent to the leadership of the SDF to investigate and take the necessary measures to demobilize recruits found to be under 18 years old. Based on the results of the investigation, perpetrators of child rights violations, including commanders, will be held accountable.
In June 2019, General Commander of the SDF Mazloum Abdi signed an Action Plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children.
The Action Plan was also signed by Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, on behalf of the United Nations during an official ceremony at the Palais des Nations.
Last week, the CPO officially opened a branch in Mabbug (Manbij).
Co-Chair of the CPO branch in Mabbug Omar Saaed told North Press Agency that they have already received a written complaint from the parents who claim their child has joined the ranks of the Manbij Military Council (MMC).
So far, the Mabbug CPO has received seven complaints about four boys and three girls, said Saaed.
Last month, the CPO Hasakah branch returned two minors who were in the ranks of the SDF to their families.