PKK denies forceful enlistment of local people in Yezidi regions

By Rudaw – 13 März – 2017 – SHINGAL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has not recruited Yezidis in Shingal town or other areas bordering Syria under pressure, according to a PKK commander who rejected allegations of forceful enlistment of young Yezidi men and women.The commander of the PKK-backed Shingal Resistance Units (YBS) Zardasht Shingal told Rudaw the charges were “untrue” and that the Yezidi fighters within YBS were defending their land.

Security officials in the area have in the past accused the PKK of enlisting Yezidi youngsters against their consent, many of them reported to be under 18 years of age.“There are around 700 Yezidis with the groups that have been created by the PKK of which about 200 are under 18 years of age who were lured and brain-washed,” said the director of the security office (Asaysh) in Shingal, Qasim Simo, a Yezidi.

The claims of the Kurdish authorities echo similar concerns by Human Rights Watch which documented 29 cases of children recruited by the PKK-affiliated YBS in the Shingal region.

In a report published in December, Zama Coursen-Neff, children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch said:  “The PKK should categorically denounce the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and commanders in affiliated armed groups should know that the recruitment and use of children under age 15 constitute war crimes. Boys and girls should be with their families and going to school, not used as means to military ends.”Simo told Rudaw that according to their intelligence reports, around 10 percent of the enlisted consist of Yezidi women a number of them are now in the Qandil Mountain where the PKK has its main bases on the Turkish border.

The PKK commander however rejected the allegations and denied the Yezidi recruits would serve outside their own territory west of the Kurdistan Region.“These are untrue figures about the number of the (Yezidi) fighters. They are far more than 700, to be sure. But no one has been forced to become a fighter. They became fighters of their own will and defend their own land,” Zardasht Shingal said.

Authorities in the Kurdistan Region have accused the PKK of unlawful military activities in Yezidi areas setting up militia groups outside of the Kurdish ministry of Peshmerga. Erbil has called on the PKK to withdraw its forces and dismantle its local militia groups.

“We do have detailed information about those men and women who were rescued in Syria. They were not allowed to reunite with their relatives by the PKK who sent them to military bases and armed them,” Simo said. “The youngsters were told by the PKK that they needed to defend their lands,” he added.