The Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, SETA, has leaked data on child recruitment by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) by mistake.
The SNA was formed in 2017 by several Turkish-backed groups. Today the coalition rules over Turkish-occupied areas in northern and northeastern Syria and maintains a small presence in the northwestern region of Greater Idlib.
On November 18, the think tank, which is close to the ruling Justice and Development Party, shared a study on the SNA by researcher Ömer Özkizilcik.
The study revealed that many of the SNA’s fighters are between 18 and 20 years old. Nevertheless, most of them have been fighting for the Turkish-backed coalition for three years or even more, meaning many were minors when they enlisted.
7.85% of more than 1,400 fighters covered by the study were between 18 and 20 years old. Yet, 6.78% of all fighters have been with the SNA from less than year to three years. The rest, 93,22% have been fighting for the coalition for more than 4 years.
These numbers suggest that some of the current SNA fighters may have joined the coalition when they were 14 years old or even at a younger age.
pro-AKP Turkish think tank SETA releases a survey of SNA fighters with data implying a number of the fighters were recruited under the age of 18, causing them to quickly delete the PDF.
— Alexander McKeever (@AKMcKeever) November 19, 2020
SETA removed the study from its website when some activists picked up the data as a proof of child recruitment by Turkish proxies in Syria.
Child recruitment is a known practice among Turkish-backed factions in Syria, especially the SNA which usually denies it. According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the SNA sent hundreds of children to Libya to fight as mercenaries.
Turkey, which maintains a tight grip over the SNA’s command, is apparently attempting to hide this serious moral issue instead of addressing it.
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