Under the title “Turkey’s involvement in recruiting children from the areas it occupies in northern Syria,” the Maat Foundation affirmed in a report issued today that the repeated failure of the international community to act effectively to protect civilians in Syria has encouraged Turkish mercenaries to commit systematic war crimes and other violations of international law, including child recruitment.
'Turkish mercenaries forcibly recruit children'
The "Maat" report indicated that mercenaries use complex patterns to forcibly recruit children and push them into warfare in the various areas it controls in northern Syria, killing and wounding hundreds of them.
The report confirmed Turkey's direct involvement in the recruitment of children to fight in northern and eastern Syria, and the transfer and use of these children to fight in Libya to support the Government of National Accord, Turkey's political ally, by using security companies working to recruit children under the age of 18 to participate in armed hostilities, especially in Libya.
"Maat" warned that "children are used on the front lines as fighters directly, or in security services such as inspecting border points, or logistical support related to military operations, in addition to working to serve older fighters, in addition to carrying out espionage activities."
What reinforced the emergence of the phenomenon of child recruitment - according to the report - the presence of a group of social factors, the most prominent of which are; the lack of funds, awareness, and education, which facilitated the recruitment of these children on an ideological basis.
The report noted “Turkish mercenaries sent in April 2020 two children to carry out a bombing operation in military gatherings of the Syrian Democratic Forces in northern and eastern Syria, who were no more than 15 years old, disguised as sheep shepherds, as one of the two children blew himself up before arriving at one of the military points, while the Syrian Democratic Forces managed to arrest the second child, who was wounded. "
For his part, the head of the Maat Foundation, Ayman Aqil, said, "Turkey's mercenaries in northern and eastern Syria were involved in the recruitment of about 1,316 children during the period from 2014 to 2019, according to UN reports and the follow-up of the Maat Foundation."
He added, "This matter violates all international conventions and treaties that prohibit the recruitment of children in armed conflict, and the related actions that result from them."
Aqil revealed that Turkey had "sent about 380 children after being recruited by mercenaries loyal to it in northern Syria to fight in the various conflict areas involved in it, especially Libya, which led to the killing of about 25 of them."
'Turkey ignores international agreements'
The researcher at the Maat Foundation, Muhammad Mukhtar, confirmed that Turkey, despite its accession to most of the international conventions that prevent the recruitment of children under eighteen, whether directly or indirectly, ignores these international charters, agreements and UN resolutions, and provides full support to its mercenaries in North and East Syria, for the purpose of recruiting children to participate in armed conflicts.
'Turkey's crimes in Afrin'
In a previous report, the Maat Foundation monitored Turkey's crimes in occupied Afrin, most notably; Attempts to obliterate identity, systematic displacement, resettlement of foreign mercenaries, and extrajudicial killings.
Ayman Aqil said: "Turkey began to bring about a demographic change that includes settling its mercenaries in Afrin instead of the indigenous people."
He continued: "This came in conjunction with changing the names of government and service buildings to Turkish names, which represents obliteration of the cultural identity in the region and perpetuates the process of the ongoing Turkish occupation in the Afrin region."
It is noteworthy that the Maat Foundation for Peace, Development and Human Rights is an Egyptian non-governmental organization that works to promote and respect human rights in Africa and the Middle East.