UN expert condemns SDF abduction of children in Syria camps – Middle East Monitor
A United Nations expert has expressed concern about the rampant abduction and detention of children in northeastern Syria by the autonomous Kurdish authorities in the region.
In a nine-page report on her six-day visit to north-east Syria this month, the UN Special Rapporteur, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, raised her concerns about the “abduction” of hundreds of boys from camps, detention centers and prisons in the region, saying that what worried her and her staff the most was the “insecure and arbitrary detention of children”, especially boys in various facilities.
Among the places she visited during her trip – apparently the first visit by a UN human rights expert – was the infamous Al-Hol camp, home to around 55,000 people, including 31,000 children and at least several thousand foreign nationals.
Describing the conditions at Al-Hol as “harsh and extreme”, especially since the temperature was 50 degrees Celsius during her visit, she said that “camp” is an inappropriate term because its inhabitants are not free to come and go at will, but are instead detained by Kurdish authorities affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
After the territorial and military defeat of the Daesh terrorist group in 2019, its surviving fighters are kept in prisons in northeastern Syria and their female relatives and wives, as well as children, are kept in camps such as Al-Hol where conditions are continuously deteriorating.
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As the years go by and the inhabitants of the camps have not been repatriated, returned or released, the male children among them are entering adolescence and the Kurdish-led authorities are viewing them as potential threats at risk of extremism. That is “based on the alleged threat they pose to security based on alleged links they or their parents had with Daesh in the past”, said Ni Aolain.
The solution of the SDF authorities, therefore, was to abduct the children from their mothers as soon as they reach about 10 years of age, snatch them “most often in the middle of the night or in the market” and take them to unknown destinations. Mothers who spoke to Ni Aolain complained that it would take months for camp authorities to even confirm whether they had taken their boys.
Despite the SDF’s claims that they are only being taken to “rehabilitation” centers, concerns about their abduction are largely based on the fact that they are human rights violations, as well as the risk that the Kurdish-led authorities may forcefully recruit them into their militias, as has often happened with children abducted by the SDF across northeastern Syria over the years.
“There seems to be no understanding that keeping children in a cradle-to-grave cycle of detention is a complete violation of international law,” said the UN Special Rapporteur. She added, “Every woman I’ve spoken to has said that the most worrying, the most suffering, the most psychological damage is the child’s disappearance.
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