Rawan Aleku, a 16-year-old Syrian Kurdish aerial academy student, has been missing from her hometown of Dirbasiya aback Oct 8. In assorted interviews with the bounded press, her father, Umran, claimed that she was kidnapped by an armed accumulation who afresh handed the babe to “another group.” He has appealed to Mazlum Kobane, the commander-in-chief of the US-backed Syrian Autonomous Armament (SDF) and the “highest authority” in northeast Syria, “to undertake his altruistic duty.”
“Return my babe Rawan Aleku to me, if you are honest. The affliction of her dematerialization is killing me. I’m angry to get her aback whatever it costs me, alike my life,” Umran wrote in a Facebook post Nov. 10.
Rawan is amid dozens of amateur who accept been either agreeably or forcibly recruited by Kurdish rebels to action in battles spanning Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, all home to ample Kurdish minorities. Kurds accept affiliated accustomed that some of their sons and daughters would accept to be accustomed up to the “cause” — to wrest their rights from barbarous regimes that accept denied their actuality and bloodily silenced those who dared to alarm themselves Kurds. Lovingly affected photographs of “martyred” accouchement in their uniforms are proudly displayed in abounding a home. Families of the collapsed are accorded a advantaged status. But in northeast Syria, the affection is alive as a growing cardinal of Kurds aspire to a added constant action abroad from war. And a scattering of parents like Umran are alpha to air their acerbity publicly.
Between God and a adamantine place
“I accept approved every access aural the free administration’s institutions to get my babe back,” Umran wrote in the bounded online Arknews. “But it appears that Rojava isn’t disqualified by anyone, but rather a college power, God,” he wrote, application the Kurdish name for the Kurdish-majority regions of Syria, “Because anybody keeps administering me ‘higher,’ saying that decisions are advancing ‘from above,’ and ‘we don’t apperceive anything.’ Who’s aloft except God? I appetite to alarm accurately on Gen. Mazlum (Kobane) to get alone complex and end my suffering. You are the aftermost absolute civic achievement for us,” the afflicted ancestor implored.
Kobane, who auspiciously oversaw the coalition-led advance adjoin the Islamic Accompaniment (IS) in Syria, is — afterwards catechism — the best accepted and able man in the Kurdish-run enclave. But can he deliver? The catechism goes to the affection of the ability struggles pitting a amazing adjustment of Kurdish factions adjoin anniversary added and Washington’s efforts to advice the free administering authorize political angary in the face of angry pushback from Turkey.
The armed accumulation Umran alluded to is the “Ciwanen Soresger,” or Revolutionary Youth. They are believed to booty their cues from the Kurdistan Workers Affair (PKK), the insubordinate accumulation that has been angry Turkey aback 1984, initially for Kurdish ability and now for political autonomy.
The “other group” to which Umran says Rawan was handed could be either the PKK or its all-female Syrian offshoot, the Women’s Aegis Units (YPJ).
The YPJ and its male analogue the People’s Aegis Units (YPG) anatomy the backbone of Kobane’s SDF. Rights groups and the UN have alleged out all three over the application of amateur for action in abuse of all-embracing law.
On June 29, 2019, Kobane alive an action plan with Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Accouchement and Armed Battle Virginia Gamba in Geneva “to end and anticipate the application and use of children, to analyze and abstracted boys and girls currently aural its ranks, and to put in abode preventative protection and antidotal measures accompanying to adolescent application and use.”
A ages later, the free administering opened the Child Aegis Office to action adolescent recruitment, amid added things.
More than a year on, and in an credible claiming to Kobane’s authority, there are assiduous letters of boys and girls beneath the age of 18 actuality recruited by the Revolutionary Youth. They are said to abode to chief PKK commanders central Rojava.
Fuad, addition affiliate of the Aleku family, told Al-Monitor that his nephew Lewend was alone 13 aback he was alive off by the PKK in 2015 and taken to their abode in the Qandil Mountains bridging Iraq and Iran. “They accomplished him for two years and beatific him as a soldier aback to Syria. He was martyred in Deir ez-Zor in 2019,” Fuad said.
There are no academic estimates for the cardinal of accouchement who accept been forcibly recruited in northeast Syria. The UN said that amid January and July of this year, 51 girls amid the ages of 13 and 17 had been removed from the ranks of the YPJ and housed in a rehabilitation center, while 18 boys were in the action of actuality arise at the time of reporting.
The Adolescent Aegis Appointment said it had accustomed 50 complaints aback aperture its doors and had alternate as abounding as 15 accouchement to their families. Kobane said in a July account that he admired the convenance as unacceptable and that perpetrators would be punished. But there accept been no prosecutions so far.
Parents who allege up adjoin the Revolutionary Adolescence face threats and intimidation, according to several Syrian Kurds interviewed by Al-Monitor. None was all-around to be articular by name for abhorrence of retribution. “These adolescent aegis offices absolution one child, and the adolescent men in the accomplishments go and booty 10 or 15 accouchement and accelerate them to training centers,” said one, adding, however, that he believed the Adolescent Aegis Appointment was aboveboard in its efforts but could alone do so much.
“Revolutionary Adolescence adviser accouchement through putting on contest — sports, recreation, music. They try to accomplishment accouchement that way, and no one can say anything. No one can accession his articulation or complain,” one ancestor told Al-Monitor. “Let’s say there is a soccer match. The Revolutionary Adolescence will be present at these types of events. They’ll booty agenda of people. Those boys, what are their hobbies? What do they like to do? If any adolescent there is accessible to the abstraction of joining, they’ll attract them. ‘What do you guys want?’ they’ll ask. ‘We’ll accord it to you. Soccer, ping pong, whatever you want.’”
Hosheng Ossi, a Syrian Kurd and former PKK sympathizer who now lives in banishment in Europe, says that the Revolutionary Adolescence is agnate to PKK-linked armed adolescence militias operating in Turkey that accumulate bustling up beneath altered names. “All abode anon to the PKK’s aggressive wing, the Kurdistan Accepted Attrition Forces,” he asserted in a blast account with Al-Monitor.
The Patriotic Revolutionary Adolescence movement, for example, led the burghal coup in 2015 beyond towns and cities in Turkey’s heavily Kurdish southeast region. Entire neighborhoods were burst and hundreds of civilians were dead aback the Turkish army responded with berserk aimless force. The UN said Turkey’s abuses amounted to “war crimes.” Yet the PKK was additionally acutely criticized by abounding of its supporters for putting civilians at accident by alive its action to citizenry centers. Over bisected a actor bodies were forcibly displaced, and Sur — the celebrated affection of the Kurds’ actionable basic Diyarbakir and home to a arresting Armenian abbey and an Ottoman-era abbey — was destroyed.
A Syrian Kurdish media activist in Rojava said the Revolutionary Adolescence threatened him because of his analytical reporting. “Mazlum is adjoin adolescent recruitment, but he can’t stop it. Why not? Because aggressive cadres in the PKK are administering adolescent application via the Revolutionary Youth,” the media activist told Al-Monitor. Kobane, he noted, “has ability over the SDF as an organization. But the PKK aggressive figures, mostly Turks and Iranians, they don’t accept by his decisions.”
A PKK agent contacted via WhatsApp in Qandil beneath to animadversion on PKK links with the Revolutionary Adolescence or the attendance of chief baronial PKK commanders central Rojava.
Nasser Afrin, a affiliate of the accepted analogous board for the Revolutionary Adolescence Movement, additionally dodged Al-Monitor’s questions about whether it took its orders from the PKK. But he rebuffed suggestions that the accumulation partook in adolescent recruitment. “We are not a aggressive alignment that enables us to recruit children. We absolutely abjure it,” he said.
While some Revolutionary Adolescence associates serve on some of the free administration’s adolescence committees, “We are an absolute adolescence group; we are not allotment of the free administration, there’s a difference” Afrin asserted. “Our ambition is to be able to adapt adolescence beyond all areas of northeast Syria, educated youth, youth absorbed in sports, culture, employed, unemployed. Meaning all adolescence everywhere..”
Afrin accustomed that allotment of the accomplishment to “develop the thought, the talents, the attitude of youth” in communes beyond the Kurdish breadth included “military exercises.” He claimed this was to accredit the adolescence to “protect themselves” and to “develop adolescent people’s potential.”
Queried about Rawan, Afrin responded, “I accept no abstraction about that.”
Kobane’s appointment did not acknowledge to Al-Monitor’s appeal for animadversion as to Rawan’s whereabouts.
An undated photo of Rawan Aleku’s ID card, KMN TV
The PKK is classified as a agitator accumulation by the United States and the European Union. Abounding of the free administration’s leaders, including Kobane, were fatigued from the PKK’s ranks. This has served as absolution for Turkey’s affiliated assaults adjoin the Syrian Kurdish commodity and pushes US-Turkish ties into the abyss. As Ankara sees things, its NATO accessory is partnered with terrorists who affectation an existential blackmail to Turkey.
Washington has approved to abate Turkish concerns, claiming initially that its amalgamation with the SDF was “tactical, acting and transactional,” and bound to the action adjoin IS. But the affiliated attendance of US troops aback the abatement of Baghouz, the jihadis’ aftermost absolute application of breadth aftermost spring, has deepened Turkish paranoia about Washington’s plans. The constant anguish in the Turkish aegis enactment is that the United States and its European allies are angled on establishing an absolute Kurdish accompaniment that will crumb abroad at Turkey.
The approachable US administration’s efforts to allay Turkey took a Machiavellian about-face in October 2019 when President Donald Trump accustomed Turkish troops to access a ample swath of Kurdish-run breadth including the bound towns of Ras al-Ain and Tell Abyad and ordered US troops to abjure to bright the way. Russian and administering troops confused into the bound areas alone by the Americans who confused added south, upending balances in the Kurdish-run zone.
Yankee break on!
Getting US troops to abide in Rojava is Kobane’s priority. About modest — and precarious — their presence, clashing that of the Russians, insulates the Kurds adjoin attacks from the administering and IS, but not adjoin Turkey. So what could be done to get Turkey to aback off? Kobane came up with an idea: reach out to the battling Kurdish Civic Council (KNC), a accumulation of Syrian Kurdish parties with abutting ties to the Turkish-supported Syrian action and Kurdistan Autonomous Affair (KDP) addition of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq.
Peace with the KNC serves several important purposes. It would augment the free administration’s accessible support, anoint relations with the KRG and serve as a backdoor for convalescent relations with Turkey. It would also, at atomic in theory, adulterate the PKK’s influence. This would in about-face accomplish it easier for US troops to abide in the northeast, cook Turkish attrition to the Autonomous Union Party’s (PYD) participation in UN-facilitated talks to actuate Syria’s future, and aggrandize Kobane’s allowance for action until these talks arise to fruition. And that won’t be anytime soon.
Kobane succeeded in acceptable Washington to agent talks for a power-sharing acceding with the KNC that kicked off in April. In a contempo account with Al-Monitor, he accustomed that he adapted detente with Turkey and was accessible to allocution with Ankara “without any preconditions.”
On paper, there is absolutely a bit of advance toward finalizing the argument of what will be alleged the Qamishli Declaration. The certificate builds on an beforehand set of attempt agreed aloft amid the abandon in 2014 aback Massoud Barzani, the KDP leader, sponsored a additional — and bootless — annular of talks amid the KNC and the PYD.
One of the stickiest issues for example, chief the KNC and the PYD’s corresponding allotment of associates on a proposed Kurdish Shura Council, has been agreed aloft with affluence of prodding from US diplomats on the ground. Abounding acclaim Kobane for continuously all-around the KNC’s demands aback it’s acutely the bottom power. A well-placed antecedent told Al-Monitor, “The KNC is allurement for 50% of what the PYD has but is not all-around to accord annihilation that they accept in return.”
“For the PYD and for Mazlum, this is an accomplishment account advancing anyhow because they are absorbed in reforming the self-administration, they are absorbed in all-embracing angary and they achievement it would advance to a role for them in the [UN-mentored] political process — but there is no acceding for them that it would,” the antecedent added.
However, the one point on which the talks accumulate accepting ashore is the PKK. With its affiliates like the Revolutionary Youth, the PKK acts in means that at times attenuate but additionally bolster Kobane. Indeed, abounding altercate that the PKK is the “real power” in Rojava, and that it decides how abundant breadth to admission him and the free administration.
Child application bolsters this anecdotal and feeds Turkey’s efforts to delegitimize the Kurds’ adventure for according rights. It additionally causes acerbity amid the KNC’s bourgeois base. Rawan Aleku’s ancestors is accepted to be affectionate to the KNC.
Kobane accepted to Al-Monitor that the KNC insists that the Qamishli Declaration accommodate diction that accurately refers to the PKK and states that the free administering and its affiliates abjure all access to the group. He has refused, adage the free administering will not acknowledge abutment or abhorrence to any accumulation as allotment of the agreement.
Washington has additionally affiliated apprenticed Kobane to “distance” himself from the PKK, not atomic because their attendance in Rojava serves as absolution for Turkey’s afresh attacks and poisons US relations.
The bolt is that Mazlum and abounding chief abstracts in the free administering abutting the PKK’s ranks aback its now-imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, ran the affront out of Syria. Washington is altogether acquainted of this yet feigns ignorance. In 1998, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s backward father, Hafez, expelled the PKK baton aback the Turkish army threatened to invade. Ocalan was captured anon afterwards — with the CIA’s advice — and has been kept in a bastille island off the bank of Istanbul anytime since.
Coming abounding circle
During his 19 years in Syria, Ocalan congenital what is now admired as one of the best airy and adult guerrilla apparel in contempo history, one that has withstood NATO’s second-largest army for 36 years. His bulletin of mobilizing and allotment women has spawned abject advantage in the Western media.
Assad Senior gave the PKK altar for two reasons. One was to alter the ire of Syria’s own agitated Kurds to their added big oppressor, Turkey, from beginning abounding had fled in the aboriginal 20th century. The added was to use the PKK as a batten to burden Turkey into absolution Syria’s fair allotment of baptize from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which adulterate the country’s breadbasket, the Jazirah region.
The Assad regime’s Kurdish chickens accept now arise home to roost. Kobane is a globally acclaimed amount who has arise to Trump over the telephone, while Ilham Ahmed, who alive the SDF’s noncombatant arm, has been accustomed by France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Russian Adopted Minister Sergey Lavrov. The Jazirah arena and the country’s capital dams and oil fields are now beneath Kurdish ascendancy and adequate by US forces. Turkey occupies ample swaths of arctic Syria with its Sunni insubordinate allies. Unfazed and anytime recalcitrant, Assad Junior has spurned the Kurds’ demands for a fair deal.
Yet one of Ankara’s affliction fears is that they could yet bang one and aggregation up, with Russia and Iran’s backing, adjoin Turkey already again. It follows that Turkey ability appearance a power-sharing adjustment amid the PYD and the KNC that would eventually beset Arabs in the northeast, all beneath US protection, as a bottom evil.
But there are few signs that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is interested, alike admitting Kobane has signaled abreast that PKK cadres aural the noncombatant administering charge to be acclaim eased out. Already by bold a co-sponsorship role forth with the United States in the Kurdish accord talks, Kobane has finer casting himself as absolute of the PKK and the PYD. Not alone that, he arise for the aboriginal time via Al-Monitor that should this be of account to Rojava and his bodies and, provided that the Turks were sincere, he would be all-around to arbitrate amid Ankara and the PKK.
It wouldn’t be a first. Amed Dicle, a adept Kurdish reporter, arise in a groundbreaking book about the Turkish state’s abstruse talks with the PKK that a Turkish colonel had met with the PKK’s top man in Europe on the German-Dutch bound in the backward 1990s to analysis the achievability of a cease-fire. The PKK’s man was Kobane. Aback Turkey’s latest ache at accord with the PKK in the aboriginal canicule of the Syrian battle was still in play, Kobane was absolute abundant in the loop.
Either way, the fiction that the PKK and the YPG are not affiliated is acceptable added adamantine to maintain.
“The clandestineness that was surrounding the attendance of these [PKK] cadres is no best viable. It’s not accessible to accumulate this artful band in Arab areas like Deir ez-Zor breadth the way they conduct themselves appears adopted to the area. Today, bodies apperceive who they are and allocution aboveboard about it,” said Dareen Khalifa, a chief Syria analyst for the All-embracing Crisis Accumulation who aloof alternate from a acreage cruise to Rojava breadth she interviewed Kobane. “To the free administration’s credit, it’s commodity that’s actuality discussed added aboveboard aural the branch of the intra-Kurdish talks and the centralized ameliorate action that they’ve been undergoing, through boondocks hall, meetings, accepted conferences,” Khalifa explained in an account with Al-Monitor. “So, the way they are alive on this now,” she continued, “is putting it aural the framework of a Syrianization of institutions, reforming bounded babyminding based on calm pressure.”
Khalifa added, “So aback [Kobane] said they’d already committed to phasing out the [PKK] cadres and that the action has already started, he put it aural the framework of intra-Kurdish talks and of the bounded dialogues they accept been accepting in the predominantly Arab areas [under Kurdish control].”
However, “Despite the acceptation of Kobane’s agreement to cull out non-Syrian [PKK] cadres from Syria, it charcoal cryptic whether such a move would be acceptable to abate tensions with Ankara aback for Turkey the capital affair is affair amalgamation (and operational ties to Qandil) rather than citizenship. Ankara is additionally agnostic whether Kobane is absolutely all-around and able of implementing such a move,” she said.
Zagros Hiwa, the PKK spokesman, beneath to animadversion on US efforts to drive out the PKK from Syria. “The capital antecedent of the problems in arctic Syria, and Syria in general, is the Turkish state’s occupation of Syria, either anon or through abolitionist jihadist groups. If the US absolutely wants to break the Syrian crisis, they will accept to abode this amount issue,” Hiwa said via Whatsapp.
Kurds beyond the brainy spectrum abutment Kobane and his efforts to defended Rojava’s approaching through a mix of advantage and diplomacy. His dream for the northeast to eventually become the arrangement for a autonomous and affluent Syria that is anchored in the West and has affable ties with all of its neighbors is communicable on.
The Revolutionary Youth’s accomplishments and Kobane’s credible disability to rein them in, however, flies in the face of such efforts and provides Ankara with added ammunition.
KNC admiral accusation the accumulation for vandalizing its offices in Qamishli in August. The SDF accursed the attack, adage the perpetrators would be captivated accountable. “Recently, every time the KNC-PYD negotiations accept progressed, beneath American administration and [with Kobane] present, this group’s action has added added and more,” said Ibrahim Birro, a chief KNC figure.
“It’s a bright assurance from Qandil, from the PKK, that they don’t appetite these negotiations to succeed,” he told Al-Monitor in an interview. But is it?
The aforementioned night that the KNC affiliate’s appointment was targeted, Revolutionary Adolescence associates alternate to the arena and restored the awning along with a defaced Kurdistan flag.
Child application is commonplace amid Kurdish groups throughout the region. By afraid Kobane’s efforts to end the practice, the PKK is acceptable signaling anger that the accord talks arise to be advancing at their expense.
US affectation in this attention is “utterly disgusting,” said a Western civilian association artisan who has dealt with Kurdish factions for added than three decades. “All of those US generals who were planning the battles adjoin the Islamic State, who were they planning it with, who was accomplishing the abundant appropriation on the ground? The PKK,” he said. “And now they are aloof declared to disappear?”
“It’s acknowledgment in ample allotment to PKK cadres that the Islamic Accompaniment was defeated,” concurred Aliza Marcus, the columnist of “Blood and Belief,” the best accurate English-language history of the PKK. “The catechism is: What is the point of the demand?” she said in emailed comments to Al-Monitor. “Is this in hopes of acceptable Turkey or is there an absolute accord underway? If it’s the above — in added words, a achievement this will amuse Ankara — afresh the US needs to admit that removing Turkish cadres will not be sufficient, not atomic of all because there are Syrian Kurdish cadres alive as well,” she observed.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s amaranthine attacks adjoin the accumulation beyond Iraqi Kurdistan contradict its calls for PKK militants to leave Rojava. The weaker they abound in Iraq, the added they will acceptable dig into Syria.
Kobane, in his November account with Al-Monitor, accepted the PKK for its role in acquisition IS. “It’s important to agenda that the PKK fabricated big sacrifices in the war adjoin alarm in Rojava. Nobody can altercation this. The PKK will consistently avert the interests of the bodies of Rojava. It will not actualize problems for them. On the contrary, it will consistently attending to affluence their path. That is what we believe,” he said. What bigger affidavit than to acknowledgment Rawan to her family.
This commodity has been updated since its antecedent publication.
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