Redur Xelil Response to Human Rights Watch Concerns
(Human Rights Watch translation)
23 January 2013
Mr. Fred Abrahams, Special Advisor at Human Rights Watch
We highly appreciate your efforts and your message so that we can clarify some issues which we consider to be very sensitive and important with regard to what our society in Syria and Western Kurdistan (Rojava) is going through –a phase of grave sensitivity that is facing terrorist ‘takfiri’ assaults so distant from our culture and education. It is an education that carries a message of peace, security and co-existence amidst a democratic regime that preserves a person’s dignity and right to life and freedom of speech.
We would be very glad if you could come to our region and investigate the allegations that your respectable organization receives so that you’d see the truth as it is on the ground with regard to your inquiries; so you could form a clear and true vision to add to your report.
Respectable Mr. Abrahams,
There are several misconceptions concerning the manner by which the role of the YPG is defined in liberated areas where it liberated from regime forces or terrorist and ‘takfiri’ fighters. This faulty definition is nothing but a type of hostile propaganda against our units as well as a distortion to the real principle role of the YPG.
The YPG is an organized militaristic power whose goal is to protect the Kurdish areas with all of its Kurd, Arab, Assyrian, and Ashouri etc… components. Therefore, it does not interfere in social affairs or internal politics seeing as its principle task is to defend, protect, and face foreign threats and dangers. We try as much as possible to maintain a distance between the YPG strongholds and posts and city centers. The strongholds are stationed in the countryside and peripheries so as not to budge with internal affairs; the Asayish (security) – and not the YPG – deal with internal affairs known as Asayish Forces Rojava, which is an internal security force that bears no connection whatsoever to the YPG except with political matters. The Asayish refer to the YPG in political matters through the Supreme Kurdish Committee.
With regard to your inquiries, it is imperative we make clear the following:
1. Concerning the issue of abductees by terrorist groups: we, the YPG, do not have statistical information seeing as the Asayish in Rojava are the correct reference to this matter.
2. The YPG does not have or manage detention centers/prisons across the region in any way or form and dealing with prisoners and detainees is a matter that concerns the Asayish (internal security) and the judiciary.
3. Concerning the issue of child soldiers (under the age of 18 years) within YPG units: we are serious in our judiciary over this individual phenomenon despite the presence of a separate article within the rules of conduct of the internal system of our units that legislates that the ‘age of association’ is necessarily equal or above the legal age of 18. Also, we have released a general statement to all of our units on December 14th 2013 to refuse anyone into the YPG who is not of legal age. Indeed, we undertook a number of practical procedures to face this phenomenon; 17 members, that have not attained the legal age, were disqualified from YPG military operations and were sent to service-based institutions such as the media, or educational and political training centers. And we have conducted serious negotiations with Geneva Call and soon we are going to sign a treaty prohibiting the recruitment of individuals who are under the legal age.
4. Concerning the events in Amuda on 27 June/July 2013: truthfully, it was such a shame that the event was exaggerated in the media (as opposed to the truth of it) and was politically used for other purposes. Our units were on its way back from a military operation on the outskirts of Al Hasakeh city, 80 km south of Amuda, without any information that there was a civil protest or strike in the city. While the military convoy was passing through Amuda as usual, it was shot at by someone within the protestors and a YPG fighter instantly died. A predicable reaction, the YPG traced and shot at the source of fire and the result was the death and injury of some civilians. An internal investigation was opened on behalf of the YPG’s general command for this case particularly. The attacks with light and middle firearms and the shooting from within the protestors are documented through video and you can take a look at that. Despite all that, we found it inappropriate to use this force in this reckless manner.
5. As for the Erbil Agreement in December, it does not demand the formation of an investigative committee to look into the events, but demands the formation of a committee or judicial organization that encompasses the National Kurdish Council in Syria and the Civil Council in Western Kurdistan to look into these events in the future; in this manner, neither side would throw blame at the other and this organization would be the mediator between both.
6. We advise you to communicate with the Asayish forces in Rojava to inquire about the issues that fall under its jurisdiction, as we do not have the right to speak on its behalf.
With all the appreciation and respect,
Official spokesperson for the YPG