Stories

U.N. accuses U.S.-backed Syrian forces of conscripting child soldiers

Children in Syria
Children of war in Syria and Iraq. Photo by Afshin Ismaeli/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The devastating conflict in Syria has claimed civilian lives not only as unintended collateral, but as deliberate targets of "unlawful methods of warfare" by all sides, according to a new report from the United Nations.

Based on more than 500 interviews, the 37-page report alleges, among other things, that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces actively conscript children as young as 13 for military service.

The details:

  • Between July 2017 and January 2018, men and children conscripted by the SDF were given basic training and deployed to active frontlines against their will.
  • Journalists and activists have repeatedly been intimidated and arrested for reporting on violations by the SDF. In several instances, the SDF arbitrarily detained relatives of activists in order to apply pressure on them.

Meanwhile, several of the violations by ISIL and pro-Government forces documented by the U.N. commission constitute war crimes, including...

  • ISIL's use of trapped residents in Raqqa as human shields.
  • The use of cluster munitions and other indiscriminate weapons in civilian-populated areas.
  • Starvation as a method of warfare.
  • The deliberate targeting of medical infrastructure.

The U.S. Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.