In December 2022, Denmark’s Immigration Service, a directorate within the country’s Ministry of Refugees, Immigration and Integration، released a report on the recruitment practices implemented by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the armed opposition factions in Syria.
The report draws upon several sources, the most notable of which are listed below by the number of times their material is cited .
Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR): 52
European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA): 17
Other sources include the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, as well as various media outlets.
The report focuses on the recruitment practices implemented by the two largest armed groups active in northern Syria – the Syrian National Army (SNA) and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The report also sheds light on the evolutionary trajectory of the Free Syrian Army since 2018.
The reportstates that 569 children were recruited by the SNA in 2021, further revealing that some cases children as young as 14 or 15 years of age are recruited if they are deemed physically ready by SNA officials. The report notes that financial compenstation is the main incentive for minors who decide to join the SNA.
The report also reveals that the number of children recruitedby HTS rose from 61 to 187 in the first half of 2021, bringing the total number of 380 children documented as having been recruited and deployed by HTS to 380. The report goes on to state that the actual number of child recruits actively serving with HTS is unknown as of November 2022, adding that the group has been working to reduce the number of child recruits, with its rate of child recruitment falling compared to previous years.
Furthermore, the report notes that HTS’s recruitment of children is carried out on an ideological basis. The group works to propagate its ideology through religious figures which it employs. These men hold meetings at mosques and seminars at IDPs camps. In other cases, the report documents teachers at schools in areas under HTS’ control implicitly teaching the group’s ideological views to pupils.
SNHR stresses that it is always prepared to collaborate in and contribute to any international reports on the state of human rights in Syria. SNHR will spare no effort in meeting any needs or requirements for data or information in this regard. This is part of SNHR’s mission to report the violations and incidents taking place in Syria objectively and honestly, serving the goal of protecting civilians in Syria, exposing the perpetrators of violations, and holding them to account as part of the course of change and progress towards democracy.
To read the full report.