The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed on Saturday that at least 34 minors have been killed in the Libyan conflict between the Government of National Accord (GNA) represented by the Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by field Marshall Khalifa Haftar.
In a new proof of the depth Turkish intervention in the Libyan crisis beside the GNA, the organization also indicated that the bodies of the children were returned to Syria via Turkey among 500 other corpses of fighters.
According to the Observatory, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Defense minister transferred 19 thousand Syrian mercenaries and 10 thousand foreign extremists from Syria into Libya, exploiting their miserable conditions and need of money.
Some 350 minors were moved from Syria to Libya to fight in the ranks of GNA’s armed militias and a new batch of hundreds of mercenaries are currently in training camps in Turkey, waiting the green light for their mission to Libya. All of this represents a clear violation of the Charter of Human Rights and the Rights of the Child.
The United Nations has made it known that it is investigating these violations, after some familiesrecognized their children who have been missing for weeks in some videos shot in Libya. Often these minors belong to the poorest layer of Syrian society, many have been orphaned and have nothing to survive, which is why they fall into the networks of Erdogan recruiters.
They have nowhere to stay, life in refugee camps is made more and more unbearable by the lack of basic necessities and resources. Families impoverished by the prolonged conflict are unable to take care of their children, to guarantee them an education, they have nothing to put on their tables, and in the end all this forces them to accept ignoble compromises.
Turkey is circumventing international law and is once again failing to deliver on its international commitments. Measure 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals requires states to take immediate and effective measures to ensure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers.Until a few years ago this was done discreetly, in secret.
Today, after the signing of the Defense and Military Cooperation Agreement between Erdogan and al-Serraj in November 2019, the UN decisions are being openly circumvented. Ankara officially claims to support the efforts of the UN Mission for peaceful solutions, but at the same time it sends weapons, equipment, mercenaries, extremists, drones and modern defense systems, effectively prolonging the war and the suffering of civilians in Libya.
More than nine years since the start of the conflict in Libya and Syria, Ankara is still committing serious violations of children’s rights, including killings, detentions and recruitment to be used repeatedly in military operations by all warring parties across Syria, and now also in Libya. The problem is known, the responsible actors are known, but unfortunately these crimes continue.
Exploiting minors for material need in Syria and sending them to fight in Libya along extremist militias or using them to carry weapons and military equipment represent a war crime and a crime against humanity.
Most of the Syrian children claim to be volunteers. However, this description is not appropriate. In the training camps, Turkish officers brainwash them with ideas about the Islamic State and the rebirth of the Ottoman Empire. It is circumstances that force them to enlist in the Turkish army, it is not a free choice.
They have nowhere to stay, life in Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon and Turkey is made more and more unbearable by the lack of basic necessities and resources. Families impoverished by the prolonged conflict are unable to take care of their children, to guarantee them an education, they have nothing to put on their tables, and in the end all this forces them to accept ignoble compromises.
These children without any military experience or training expose civilians to further risks, their lives are also in danger in the military camps in Tripoli and Misrata, as the al-Wefaq militias themselves do not like the presence of Syrian mercenaries.In light of these horrendous crimes, we don’t know how Erdogan can sleep at night.