Yara was not yet 14 years-old before she started to attend festivals and parties organized by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in her city of al-Malakiyeh (Dereik), sometimes with her family, sometimes without. Given the intersecting relations between the PYD and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whose fighters are heavily present in the area, eyes were turned toward minors, with the idea of conscripting them into Kurdish bases in the Qandil mountains.
In the spring of 2017, the choice fell to Yara, who had not yet turned 15, to disappear during mourning rituals for a YPG fighter who had fallen during fighting with the Islamic State, as Kurdish cadres persuaded her to join their ranks. For more than six months, her family was unable to find out anything about her, as military bodies in the YPJ insisted on denying that Yara was in their camps or that they knew what happened to her.
Sources close to Yara’s family told Alsouria Net that her full name is Yara Rashid Saleh. She was born in 2003 in the town of Ayn Diwar on the Tigris River in the furthest point of the Syrian-Iraqi-Turkish border triangle. She was the only girl for her parents, alongside four brothers. Her father had fled to Europe about a year earlier, and when she left her city she had not completed the basic education certification (ninth grade).
Sources close to Yara’s family, many of whose children were inducted into the YPG ranks, said that some family members in the YPG informed the child’s family that she was in Qandil.
Last Thursday, the PYD announced that Yara had been killed by “Turkish bombardment on the Qandil mountains,” along with 12 other PKK members.
Yara will not receive any traditional mourning rituals and will not be laid to rest in her city. She will likely be buried where she was killed.
A source close to the family expressed doubts about the PYD’s story, saying that Yara, “was killed in mysterious circumstances in Qandil about eight months ago, but the announcement of her death in this fashion was contrary to what was rumored in the town earlier.”
In their 2014 annual report, the Human Rights Watch organization, accused the PYD of violations related to arbitrary arrests and the conscription of children.
The organization said in its report that the PYD had, in the areas under its control in northeastern Syria in the Hassakeh province and the cities of Afrin and Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) in Aleppo province in northern Syria had “committed arbitrary arrests, due process violations, and failed to address unsolved killings and disappearances.”
The organization added that Kurdish authorities had conscripted children into the local police force, armed forces and YPG despite having pledged in June to demobilize and stop using child soldiers.
Kurdish journalist Mir Yaqoub, speaking about the conscription of minors, told Alsouria Net that Yara Rashid’s situation, “was not the only one. There are many similar cases, including Breishan Antar from Amouda, and Jaiman from al-Qahtaniyeh, Yasmin Taha Khalil from Qamishli, Awish from Kobani, and dozens of others who were conscripted on the pretext of defending the nation—but actually for the purpose of expelling people and clearing the area and dominating the administration, as if it was a private estate for the party and its supporters.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.