People’s Protection Units (YPG)

People's Protection Units YPG symbol emblem

Wikipedia says:

Military situation in the Syrian Civil War

The People's Protection Units (Kurdish: ;یەکینەکانی پاراستنی گەل ;Yekîneyên Parastina Gelpronounced [jɛkiːnɛjeːn pɑːɾɑːstɯnɑː ɡɛl], Arabic: وحدات حماية الشعب‎, Classical Syriac: ܚܕܝ̈ܘܬܐ ܕܣܘܬܪܐ ܕܥܡܐ‎, translit. Ḥdoywotho d'Sutoro d'Amo; YPG) is a mainly-Kurdish militia in Syria and the primary component of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria's Syrian Democratic Forces.[3][4] The YPG is mostly ethnically Kurdish, but it also includes Arabs, foreign volunteers, and is closely allied to the Syriac Military Council, a militia of Assyrians.

The YPG was formed in 2004 as the armed wing of the Kurdish leftist Democratic Union Party. It expanded rapidly in the Syrian Civil War and came to predominate over other armed Kurdish groups. A sister group, the Women's Protection Units (YPJ), fights alongside them.

In early 2015, the group won a major victory over the Islamic State at the Siege of Kobanî, where the YPG began to receive air and ground support from the United States and other coalition nations. Since then, the YPG primarily fought against ISIL, as well as on occasion fighting other Syrian rebel groups.[5]

In late 2015, the YPG founded the Syrian Democratic Forces upon the US's urging, as an umbrella group to better incorporate Arabs and minorities into the war effort. The SDF's Raqqa campaign was launched in late 2016 to capture the city of Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital.

The YPG is regarded as the "most effective" force in fighting ISIL in Syria.[6][7] A light infantry force, the YPG has limited military equipment and few armoured vehicles. However, it receives substantial air and armament support from the United States and some support from Russia.


YPG and YPJ fighters

2003: Foundation of the PYD

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) was founded in 2003 as one of many Kurdish opposition parties in Syria.[8][9] The PYD distinguished itself as the only Kurdish party that fully supported the Qamishli uprising in 2004. As a result, it was brutally repressed in the years leading up to the Syrian Civil War. In 2016, Turkish government officials claimed that the PYD was the political branch of the PKK in Syria.[10]

2011: Syrian Civil War

YPG militias were first formed in 2004,[11] after the Syrian government quashed a rebellion in its largest Kurdish-majority city, Qamishli, killing 30 Kurds. It did not emerge as a significant force until the Syrian uprising erupted in 2011, but had been organising clandestinely during the interim.[citation needed]

Other groups in the YPG include the Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party (KDPP).[12]

July 2012: Control of Kurdish areas

In July 2012, the YPG had a standoff with Syrian government forces in the Kurdish city of Kobanî and the surrounding areas. After negotiations, government forces withdrew and the YPG took possession of Kobanî, Amuda, and Afrin.[13][14] By December 2012, it had expanded to 8 brigades, which were formed in Qamishli, Kobanî, and Ras al-Ayn (Serê Kaniyê) and in the districts of Afrin, al-Malikiyah, and al-Bab.[15]

Late 2012: Islamist attacks make YPG dominant

The YPG did not initially take an offensive posture in the Syrian Civil War. Aiming mostly to defend Kurdish-majority areas, it avoided engaging Syrian government forces, which still controlled several enclaves in Kurdish territory. The YPG changed this policy when Ras al-Ayn was taken by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front. At first the YPG conquered the surrounding government-controlled areas: al-Darbasiyah (Kurdish: Dirbêsî), Tel Tamer and al-Malikiyah (Kurdish: Dêrika Hemko) in order to prevent the FSA from gaining more power in the area.[citation needed] The subsequent Battle of Ras al-Ayn started in earnest when on 19 November 2012, the al-Nusra Front and a second al-Qaeda affiliate, Ghuraba al-Sham, attacked Kurdish positions in the town. The battle ended with a YPG victory in July 2013.[16]

While many rebel groups clashed with the YPG, jihadist and Salafist groups did so the most often.[17] The YPG proved to be the only Kurdish militia able to effectively resist the fundamentalists.[18] While the YPG protected the Kurdish communities it was able to extract a price: it prevented the emergence of new, rival militias and forced existing ones to cooperate with or join the YPG forces on its terms.[19] This was how the Islamist attacks enabled the YPG to unite the Syrian Kurds under its banner[20] and caused[21] it to become the de facto army of the Syrian Kurds.[22][23][24][25]

2013: Kurdish control of al-Yaarubiyah/Til Koçer

In October 2013, YPG fighters took control of al-Yaarubiyah (Til Koçer) following intense clashes with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The clashes lasted about three days, with the Til Koçer border gate to Iraq being taken in a major offensive launched on the night of 24 October.[26] PYD leader Saleh Muslim told Stêrk TV that this success created an alternative against efforts to hold the territory under embargo,[26] referring to the fact that the other border crossings with Iraq led to areas controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government, while al-Yaarubiyah led to areas controlled by the Iraqi central government.

2014: Fight against ISIL

In 2014, the Syriac Military Council, a group of Assyrian units, was formally integrated into the YPG's command structure.

The inter-rebel conflict during the Syrian Civil War led to open war between the Free Syrian Army and ISIL in January 2014. The YPG collaborated with FSA groups to fight ISIL in Raqqa province;[27] the group also formed an operations room with multiple FSA factions, called Euphrates Volcano.[28] However, the general outcome of this campaign was a massive advance by ISIL, which effectively separated the eastern part of Rojava from the main force of FSA rebels. ISIL followed up on its success by attacking the YPG and the FSA in Kobanî Canton in March and fighting its way to the gates of the city of Kobanî in September.

YPJ fighter, November 2014

The actual Siege of Kobanî approximately coincided with an escalation in the American-led intervention in Syria. This intervention had started with aiding the FSA against the government, but when the FSA was getting defeated by ISIL in eastern Syria, it escalated to bombing ISIL on Syrian territory.

With the world fearing another massacre in Kobanî, American support increased substantially. The US gave intense close air support to the YPG, and in doing so, started military cooperation with one of the factions. While it expected that ISIL would quickly crush the YPG and the FSA, this alliance was not considered a problem for the US.[29] The YPG won the battle in early 2015.

YPJ fighters embrace after battle, August 2015

Meanwhile, the situation had been stable in Afrin and Aleppo. The fight between the FSA and ISIL had led to a normalization in the relations between FSA and YPG since the end of 2013. In February 2015, the YPG signed a judicial agreement with the Levant Front in Aleppo.[30]

Spring 2015: offensive operations with coalition support

In the spring 2015, ISIL was close to capturing the Iraqi city of Ramadi.[relevant? ] The YPG was able and willing to offensively engage and put pressure on ISIL and had built up a track record as a reliable military partner of the US. With American close air support, offensives near Hasakah and from Hasakah westward culminated in the conquest of Tell Abyad, linking up Kobanî with Hasakah in July 2015.

With these offensives, the YPG had begun to make advances into areas that did not always have a Kurdish majority. When the YPG and the FSA entered the border town of Tell Abyad in June 2015, parts of the population fled the intense fighting and the airstrikes.[31]

Autumn 2015: foundation of the SDF

YPG-controlled territory, February 2014
YPG-controlled territory, June 2015
SDF-controlled territory, October 2016

The Syrian Democratic Forces was established in Hasakah on 11 October 2015. It has its origins in the YPG-FSA collaboration against ISIL, which had previously led to the establishment of the Euphrates Volcano joint operations room in 2014. Many of the partners are the same, and even the logo / flag with the Blue Euphrates symbol has common traits with that of Euphrates Volcano. The primary difference is that Euphrates Volcano was limited to coordinating the activities of independent Kurdish and Arab groups, while the SDF is a single organisation made up of Kurds, Arabs, and Assyrians.

The first success of the SDF was the capture of the strategic ethnically Arab town of al-Hawl from ISIL during the al-Hawl offensive in November 2015. This was followed in December by the Tishrin Dam offensive. The dam was captured on 26 December. Participating forces included the YPG, the FSA group Army of Revolutionaries, the tribal group A=al-Sanadid Forces and the Assyrian Syriac Military Council. The coalition had some heavy weapons and was supported by intense US led airstrikes.[32] The capture of the hydroelectric dam also had positive effects on the economy of Rojava.[33]


In February, the YPG-majority SDF launched the al-Shaddadi offensive, followed by the Manbij offensive in May, and the Raqqa and Aleppo offensives in November. These operations extended SDF-controlled territory, usually at ISIL's expense.

Women's Protection Units

The Women's Protection Units (YPJ), also known as the Women's Defense Units, is the YPG's female brigade, which was set up in 2012. Kurdish media have said that YPJ troops became vital during the Siege of Kobanî.[34][35] Consisting of approximately 20,000 fighters, they make up around 40% of the YPG.[36]



Flags of the People's Protection Units
Red flag of the YPG, used since 2011 until early 2013 
Variant of the red flag, also used until early 2013 
Yellow flag of the YPG, first used since late 2012, widely adopted in 2013 and since then the official flag of the militia 


In 2017, the YPG began to form units called regiments in translation, though they are smaller than comparable units in standard militaries.

CantonNumberNameDate EstablishedStrength
Afrin1Martyr Xebat Dêrik27 Feb 2017236 in 4 Btns.
Afrin2Martyr Afrin20 April 2017235
Afrin3Martyr Rojhiletearly June? 2017236
Afrin4Martyr Mazloum2 July 2017234
Afrin5Martyr Alişêr27 August 2017303
Afrin7Martyr Jayan23 Oct 2017250
Afrin8Martyr Bahoz Afrin18 Nov 2017234
CantonNumberNameDate EstablishedStrength
Kobane1 ?13 Feb 201780
Kobane2Martyr Şevger Kobanî Regiment18 Feb 201790
Jazira - al-Hasakah1Jian Judy and Dogan Fadel20 July 2017500
Jazira - Girkê Legê3Qereçox Martyrs12 July 2017200
Aleppo1Martyr Baqour30 Sep 201755 (Abu Shayar btn.)
Tabqa (SDF)1Martyr Haboun Arab14 Nov 2017250


According to a report in IHS Jane's regarding the YPG,

Relying on speed, stealth, and surprise, it is the archetypal guerrilla army, able to deploy quickly to front lines and concentrate its forces before quickly redirecting the axis of its attack to outflank and ambush its enemy. The key to its success is autonomy. Although operating under an overarching tactical rubric, YPG brigades are inculcated with a high degree of freedom and can adapt to the changing battlefield.[37]

The YPG relies heavily on snipers and backs them by suppressing enemy fire using mobile heavy machine guns. It also uses roadside bombs to prevent outflanking maneuvers, particularly at night. Its lines have generally held when attacked by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces who have better equipment, including helmets and body armor.[38]

The YPG and HPG have also trained and equipped more than 1,000 Yazidis, who operate in the Mount Sinjar area as local defense units under their supervision.[38]

The YPG considers itself a people's army, and therefore appoints officers by internal elections.[39]


Compared to other factions engaged in the Syrian Civil war, the YPG has not received significant foreign assistance in the form of weapons and military equipment. According to the YPG, circumstances led to their capture of less equipment from the Syrian Army than other opposition groups did. The figures below are estimates only based on the balance sheet that the YPG regularly publishes of its activities.[40]

Small arms

NameCountry of originTypeNumberCaliberNotes
Makarov pistol Soviet UnionPistolThousands9×18mm1
Browning Hi-Power BelgiumPistolThousands[citation needed]9×19mm
Glock AustriaPistolunknown9×19mm1 2 3
Beretta M12 ItalySubmachine GunThousands[citation needed]9×19mm1
MP5 GermanySubmachine Gununknown9×19mm1 2 3
M4 carbine United StatesAssault rifleThousands[citation needed]5.56×45mm1 2 3 4
M16 rifle United StatesAssault rifleThousands[citation needed]5.56×45mm1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
FN FAL BelgiumBattle rifleunknown7.62×51mm1 2 3 4 5
Zagros Rifle[41] RojavaAnti-materiel rifleHundreds12.7×108mmself made anti-materiel rifle 1 2
Zijiang M99 ChinaAnti-materiel rifleunknown12.7×108mm1
AK-47 Soviet UnionAssault rifleTens of Thousands7.62×39mm1 2 3 4 5 6 7
AKM Soviet UnionAssault rifleTens of Thousands7.62×39mm1
AK-104 RussiaAssault rifle ?7.62×39mm1
Type 56 ChinaAssault rifleTens of Thousands[citation needed]7.62×39mm1 2 3
PM md. 63/65Romania Socialist Republic of RomaniaAssault rifleTens of Thousands[citation needed]7.62×39mm1 2 3
MPi-KM East GermanyAssault rifleTens of Thousands[citation needed]7.62×39mm1 2 3
AK-63 HungaryAssault rifleTens of Thousands[citation needed]7.62×39mm
Kbk wz. 1988 Tantal PolandAssault rifle ?5.45×39mm1
Dragunov sniper rifle Soviet UnionSniper rifleUnknown7.62×54mmR1 2 3
PSL (rifle)Romania Socialist Republic of RomaniaSniper rifleUnknown7.62×54mmR1 2 3
Tabuk Sniper Rifle IraqSniper rifleUnknown7.62×39mm1
Mosin–Nagant Soviet UnionRifleunknown7.62×54mmR1
Rheinmetall MG 3 GermanyGeneral-purpose machine gunFew7.62×51mm1
FN MAG BelgiumGeneral-purpose machine gunFew7.62×51mm1
RPK Soviet UnionLight machine gunUnknown7.62×54mmR1
Zastava M72 YugoslaviaLight machine gunUnknown7.62×39mm1
PK machine gun Soviet UnionGeneral-purpose machine gunHundreds7.62×54mmR1 2 3
Zastava M84 YugoslaviaGeneral-purpose machine gunHundreds7.62×54mmR1
DShK Soviet UnionHeavy machine gunDozens12.7×108mm1 2 3 4
KPV heavy machine gun Soviet UnionHeavy machine gunA few dozen14.5×114mm1 2

Anti-tank weaponry

NameCountry of originTypeNumberCaliberNotes
RPG-7 Soviet UnionRocket-propelled grenadeThousands40mmYPG's RPG are supposed to be of this type 1 2 3 4
Type 69 RPG ChinaRocket-propelled grenadeThousands40mm1 2
M79 Osa YugoslaviaAnti-tank weaponFew90mm1 2 3 4
FGM-148 Javelin United StatesAnti-tank missile ?missileDisputed, spotted in YPG hands in February 2016 1 2
Mk 19 United Statesgrenade launcher ?40×53mm1
MILAN FranceAnti-tank missile ?115mm1 2 3
BGM-71 TOW United StatesAnti-tank missile ?152mm1
AT-4 Spigot Soviet UnionAnti-tank missile ?120mm1
AT-5 spandrel RussiaAnti-tank missile ?115mm1
AT-13 Saxhorn-2 RussiaAnti-tank missile ?130mm1
SPG-9 Soviet UnionRecoilless Rifle ?73mm1
IED RojavaImprovised explosive deviceThousandsN/a


NameCountry of originTypeNumberCaliberNotes
82-BM-37 Soviet UnionMortarA dozen82mmcaptured, SAA had 200
M1938 mortar Soviet UnionMortarA dozen120mmcaptured, SAA had 300
120-PM-43 mortar Soviet UnionMortarA dozen120mmcaptured, SAA had 400
Improvised mortarsSyria SyriaImprovised mortarsSeveralVariousCaptured from Syrian Opposition
Hell CannonSyria SyriaImprovised mortarsSeveralVariousCaptured from Free Syrian Army

Unarmored vehicles

All are pickup trucks which were either modified to hold weapons, or are used to transport troops to battlefields.

NameCountry of originTypeNumberNotes
Toyota Hilux JapanImprovised fighting vehicleThousands
Nissan Navara JapanImprovised fighting vehicleThousands
Volkswagen Amarok GermanyImprovised fighting vehicleThousands

Armored vehicles

A YPG T-55 in Tell Tamer
NameCountry of originType# in Afrin# in East RojavaNotes
Humvee United StatesArmoured fighting vehicle0Dozens20+ received as aid in November 2017 [42]. Others captured from ISIS, whom likely captured from Iraqi military forces donated by the United States when they left Iraq.
T-55 with 2*14.5MG[43] Soviet UnionMain battle tank01Well designed local variant with twin 14.5MG, used in eastern Syria
T-55 Soviet UnionMain battle tank1[44]6?Captured from the Menagh Military Airbase.
T-72[45] Soviet UnionMain battle tank2[44]0At least 1 used in the Northern Aleppo offensive (2016), 1 destroyed by the Falcons of Mount Zawiya Brigade[46]

International outreach

Foreign volunteers

German, French, and Spanish fighters of the YPG in northern Syria.

Ex–U.S. Army soldier Jordan Matson was among the first foreign volunteers of the YPG. Injured by an ISIL suicide bomb, he developed the "Lions of Rojava" recruitment campaign for foreign volunteers,[47] launched on 21 October 2014 on Facebook.[48][49] More than 400 volunteers from Europe, the Americas and Australia have joined the YPG as of 11 June 2015[update],[50] including at least ten U.S. volunteers, three of which were U.S. Army veterans.[51][52][53][54] People from both China and the Chinese diaspora have also joined.[55]

Other prominent foreign volunteers have included Macer Gifford,[56] Ryan Lock,[57] Michael Israel,[58] Dean Evans[59] and Jac Holmes.[60]

Dozens of non-Kurdish Turks (from both Turkey and the European diaspora) have also joined.[51] The Turkish Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) has been sending volunteers to fight in the YPG since 2012. At least four have been killed in battle as of February 2015—one during the Battle of Ras al-Ayn and three during the Siege of Kobanî. The party released a video in late January 2015 showing several Spanish- and German-speaking volunteers from Europe among its ranks in Jazira Canton; they were reorganised into the International Freedom Battalion on 10 June 2015.[61]


On 26 February 2015, the death of the first foreign volunteer to be killed in action with the YPG was announced.[62] Ashley Johnston, 28, of Canberra, with Kurdish nom-de-guerre Heval Bagok, had travelled to Syrian Kurdistan in October 2014, volunteered as a humanitarian aid worker, and later decided to serve as a front-line fighter with the YPG.[63][64][65] The official command of YPG paid tribute after his death in action against ISIL.[66] Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, a British former Royal Marine from Barnsley, was killed on 2 March 2015 near the north-east Syrian town of Tel Hamis.[67] The American Keith Broomfield, 36, was killed fighting against ISIS in Syria in August 2015. [68] One known Canadian was killed on November 4, 2015, who previously served with the Canadian Forces.[69][70] Six Western volunteers were killed in the battle for the town of Manbij from June to August 2016. A Portuguese fighter, Mario Nunes, was killed in June, Levi Jonathan "Jack" Shirley, from Colorado, US, was killed on July 14, Dean Carl Evans, born in Reading, UK, was killed on July 21, Martin Gruden, born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, was killed on July 27, Jordan MacTaggart, from Colorado, U.S., was killed on 3 August and William Savage, from Maryland, U.S., was killed on 10 August.[71][72][73][74] During the YPG and Arab allies assault on the IS held village of Erima on 24 November 2016, Michael Israel from California, U.S., a member of Industrial Workers of the World organization and Anton Leschek from Germany died in Turkish airstrikes.[75] Ryan Lock, 20, from Chichester, West Sussex, UK, and Nazzareno Antonio Tassone, 24, from Keswick, Ontario, Canada, were killed on the battlefield during an operation north of Raqqa on 21 December 2016.[76][77][78] The American Paolo Todd was killed in clashes against ISIS in the village of Little Swadiyah, north of Raqqa on January 22, 2017.[79] The U.S. citizen Albert Avery Harrington died on 25 January 2017 of injuries sustained seven days earlier by a car bomb attack in the village of Suwaydiya Al-Saghirah in Al-Raqqa.[80] 28-year-old Robert Grodt from Santa Cruz, California, was killed on July 6, 2017 and the 29-year-old Nicholas Warden, from Buffalo, New York, was killed on July 5, 2017, both the two U.S. citizens were killed while fighting for YPG against ISIL in the outskirts of Raqqa. Grodt was a former Occupy Wall Street protester and Warden was a veteran of the U.S. Army who had served in Afghanistan and reached the rank of sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division.[81][82] The 22-year-old Briton, Luke Rutter of Birkenhead, U.K. was killed in the same IS ambush as Grodt and Warden in the suburbs of Raqqa on July 6, 2017.[83] A former Marine fighting for the YPG, the 25-year-old David Taylor who grew up in Ocala, Florida, was killed fighting ISIS on July 16, 2017 by an improvised explosive device in Syria.[84][85] Sniper Jac Holmes, a 24-year-old former IT worker and decorator from Bournemouth in southern England, who was fighting with YPG which he had joined in January 2015, was clearing mines in Raqqa, when he was killed on October 23, 2017, after an explosive device went off close to him.[86]


While most countries do not object in principle to their citizens joining the ranks of the YPG, Turkey has been vocal against YPG's foreign recruits.[87]

Several Australians, including former trade unionist and politician Matthew Gardiner,[88] have been involved with the YPG despite threats by Australia to prosecute any citizens involved in the Syrian Civil War.[63] Under Australian law it is a criminal offence to fight with any side in a foreign conflict.[89]

Foreign government support

Because the YPG operates in a landlocked territory, rival opposition groups as well as the Turkish and Syrian government were able to physically prevent foreign aid from reaching it. The YPG's seizure of Til Koçer in October 2013 (cf. above) created an overland connection to more or less friendly groups in Iraq, but could not change the even more fundamental problem that the YPG had no allies willing to provide equipment.

United States

A US military officer and YPG and YPJ commanders tour an area hit by Turkish airstrikes in April 2017.

The United States provided the YPG with air support during the Siege of Kobanî[90] and during later campaigns, helping the YPG defend territory against attacks by the Islamic State.[91] Turkey has criticised US support.[92]

The YPG also received 27 bundles totalling 24 tons of small arms and ammunition and 10 tons of medical supplies from the United States and Iraqi Kurdistan during the Siege.[93]

On October 11, 2015, the US began an operation to airdrop 120 tons of military supplies to the YPG and its local Arab and Turkmen allies to fight ISIL north of Raqqa. The first airdrop consisted of 112 pallets of ammunition and 'other items like hand grenades', totaling 50 tons.[94] However, statements from the US that the aid did not contain TOW's or anti-aircraft weapons made it clear that the U.S. continued to have serious regard for the interests of Turkey, which has warned against continued US support for the YPG. On the other hand, the US also supported Islamist rebel groups who fought the YPG. During the Battle of Aleppo, the US-backed Mountain Hawks Brigade battled the YPG and the Army of Revolutionaries for control of the village of Maryamin.[95]

US aid to the YPG continued in late October with the deployment of up to 50 US special forces to assist the YPG, and an enhanced air campaign to support the YPG and local militia groups in their fight against ISIS.[96][97] Some of these special forces participated in the al-Shaddadi offensive (2016) and coordinated airstrikes against ISIL.[98]

During the Battle of Tabqa (2017), YPG special forces were equipped with US-supplied combat helmets, AN/PVS-7 night vision devices, flashlights, and were armed with M4 carbines equipped with AN/PEQ-2 laser sights, holographic weapon sights, and STANAG magazines.[99]

On 9 May 2017, it was announced by the Pentagon that American President Donald Trump approved of a plan that would have the United States directly provide heavy armaments to the major SDF component group, the YPG; the plan comes before a planned final offensive to capture Raqqa from ISIL.[100][101][102]


With Russia's entrance into the war in late 2015 backing the Syrian government, some reports have alleged that the YPG coordinated with or received weapons from Russia, with rival opposition groups claiming that the timing and targeting of Russian airstrikes were suspiciously advantageous to the Kurdish militias.[103]

Despite this, YPG officials have denied any coordination with Russia.[104]

Diplomatic relations

Russia's position towards the YPG is not clear, and the US actively supports it, but their diplomatic relations with the PYD are the opposite. In January 2016 Russia pushed for the inclusion of the PYD in the Geneva talks.[105] In February 2016 the PYD opened a branch representative office in Moscow.[106] In contrast to this the YPG denied any coordination with officials from the U.S. State Department. The YPG would like to open a representative branch in the US, but in March 2016 interview its leader implied that it was not allowed to do so.[107]

International media outreach

The YPG's press office media operation has been a particular focus of its opponents, with Turkey bombing its premises in Cizire Canton in April 2017,[108] and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) singling out its premises in Raqqa for a raid during the late stages of the Battle of Raqqa in September 2017.[109]

Allegations concerning violations of international law


In July 2014, the YPG and YPJ signed the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment.[110]

In June 2015, a report by the United Nations Secretary General found that 24 minors under age of 18 had been recruited by YPG, 124 by Free Syrian Army and 5 by Syrian Arab Army.[111]

In response, Kurdish security forces (YPG and Asayish) began receiving human rights training from Geneva Call and other international organisations. At the same time, the YPG signed the Geneva call convention and began to punish commanders of the units that had involved in corruption, and accepting members of under age of 18 to their ranks.[112] In October 2015 the YPG demobilized 21 minors from the military service in its ranks.[113]

Ethnic cleansing

In June 2015 the Turkish government alleged that the YPG was carrying out an ethnic cleansing as part of a plan to join the Jazira and Kobanî cantons into a single territory.[114]

The U.S. State Department reacted by starting an inquiry into the allegations.[115] Its initial reaction to the report was quite skeptical, claiming it had to determine if there was "any veracity to the claims", but showed concern by calling for any administrator in the area to rule "with respect for all groups regardless of ethnicity". The fact that the report does not make any claim of the YPG targeting people based on ethnicity was probably one of the reasons why they did not take it seriously, especially when there were dozens of similar reports regarding the Syrian government, Al-Nusra Front and Free Syrian Army, who have all committed serious war crimes.

In a report published by the United Nations' Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic on 10 March 2017, the Commission refuted Amnesty International's claims of ethnic cleansing, stating that "'though allegations of 'ethnic cleansing' continued to be received during the period under review, the Commission found no evidence to substantiate claims that YPG or SDF forces ever targeted Arab communities on the basis of ethnicity."[116][117][118]

Forced displacement

In October 2015, Amnesty International published a report[119] with claims that the YPG had driven at least 100 families from northern Syria and that in the villages of Asaylem and Husseiniya it had demolished resident homes. The report was made by Amnesty visiting the area contained in the report. It made local observations of destruction, and collected testimonies from former and actual residents of al-Hasakeh and Raqqa governorates. It found cases of YPG fighters forcibly displacing residents and using fire and bulldozers to raze homes and other structures.[120][121]

Forced displacement of civilians and destruction of civilian property is not a war crime per se. These acts only become a war crime when there is no "imperative military necessity" for them. Amnesty International claims the report documents cases in which there was no such justification.[122] It furthermore claims that "the circumstances of some of these displacements suggested that they were carried out in retaliation for people's perceived sympathies with, or family ties to, suspected members of ISIL or other armed groups",[123] thus constituting "collective punishment, which is a violation of international humanitarian law".

In interviews, YPG spokespersons acknowledged that a number of families were in fact displaced. However, they placed the number at no more than 25,[124] and claimed military necessity. They stated that the family members of terrorists maintained communications with them, and therefore had to be removed from areas where they might pose a danger.[125] They further stated that ISIL was using civilians in those areas to plant car bombs or carry out other attacks on the YPG.[126] By describing the events in Hammam al-Turkman before the village was evacuated, the report itself inadvertently supports these claims of military necessity.[127]

See also


  1. ^ "PYD announces surprise interim government in Syria's Kurdish regions". Rudaw. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Perry, Tom (15 August 2015). "Syrian Kurds now say they now control territory the size of Qatar and Kuwait combined". Business Insider. 
  3. ^ Barfi, Barak (April 2016). "Ascent of the PYD and the SDF". Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 
  4. ^ Cook, Steven A. (25 February 2016). "Who Exactly Are 'the Kurds'?". Retrieved 16 February 2017. 
  5. ^ "Kurdish Forces Bolster Assad in Aleppo". 29 July 2016. Retrieved 2017-03-17. 
  6. ^ "Turkey v Syria's Kurds v Islamic State". BBC. 23 August 2016. 
  7. ^ "US troops wearing YPG patches in Syria". Business Insider. 27 May 2016. 
  8. ^ "The Kurdish Democratic Union Party". 1 March 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Caves, John (6 December 2012), "Syrian Kurds and the Democratic Union Party (PYD)" (PDF), Institute for the Study of War: 4, 5 
  10. ^ "Who are the Kurds?". BBC. 14 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-09-29. Turkey’s government says the YPG and the PYD are affiliates of the PKK [and] share its goal of secession through armed struggle... In January 2014 [the PYD and the Kurdistan National Council] stressed that they were not seeking independence from Syria but ‘local democratic administration’ within a federal framework. 
  11. ^ Gold, Danny (31 October 2012). "Meet the YPG, the Kurdish militia that doesn't want help from anyone". VICE. Retrieved 9 October 2014. A member of YPG’s central command … said that the YPG formed in 2004 shortly after the Qamishlo riots, when a number of Kurdish youth realized that they needed to be able to defend themselves more efficiently. They did not officially declare themselves until the revolution started in 2011. 
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