Statement by Turkey at the UNSC Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

Rauf Alp Denktaş 02.08.2019

I wish to start by thanking the Polish Presidency for organizing this very important debate, and the valuable (and, in the case of Ms Kamara, touching) contributions of the briefers.

We also wish to thank the Secretary General for his report, and commend UN’s efforts in taking the “Children and Armed Conflict” agenda forward.

I will go straight to our point. The Secretary General’s report paints a grim picture: the situation of children continues to be adversely and disproportionately affected by [the prevailing security, protection and humanitarian challenges caused by] armed conflicts around the world.

Daunting acts under the six defined categories continue to bear an immense impact on children. We are deeply troubled, particularly by the figures that relate to 2018.

It is impossible to ignore the suffering and hopelessness in the eyes of Syrian, Palestinian, Rohingya and other children around the world.

As per Syria, obviously, the crisis in Syria has taken the highest toll on children. Figures in the Secretary General’s report, as well as images coming from Idlib bear witness to the gravity of the situation.

In addition to the crimes of Assad’s brutal regime in the form of indiscriminate airstrikes, barrel bombs, chemical weapons and artillery shelling, and as recently repeated in Idlip, deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, there are other menaces facing children in Syria:
Well-documented crimes of the terrorist organization PKK and its Syrian brand PYD/YPG in relation to young girls and boys over the years.

We must make no mistake: PYD/YPG employs the same tactics as other terrorist organizations operating in Syria, such as DAESH, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusrah and other affiliated groups. As such, they deserve no less condemnation than either of these groups.

The (Secretary General’s) latest report provides damning insights into the horrific treatment of children at the hands of PKK, as well as in areas under its control. As highlighted in the report, YPG recruited the highest number of children in Syria last year. It also topped the list in the deprivation of liberty of children.

Our national estimates put the number of children kidnapped or forcefully separated from their families by PKK at 700. The majority of these are either of Kurdish origin or from other groups such as Arameans (as pointed out by the World Council of Arameans.) [PYD/YPG’s recruitment of children from Makhmur, Iraq and Syria is also documented in Human Rights Watch’s 2014 Report.]
Intimidating dissidents, demographic engineering, forced conscription, oppression over local population, looting and confiscation of properties in areas under its de facto control are some of the other crimes committed by the PYD/YPG.
They target schools, convert them into ammunition storages and deprive children of their fundamental right of education.
You will see in the Secretary General’s report, that more than half the schools listed for military use in Syria are used by YPG. These are figures that speak for themselves.
Other reports of the SG and OCHA underline that the so-called “Kurdish Self Administration” in Syria banned Arabic in more than 250 schools, obstructed school buses in Qamishli bound for Arabic speaking schools. About 60 thousand students are kept form attending school in the areas controlled by YPG. [Consequently, only in Qamishli, the rate of school attendance has fallen by 45%. Furthermore, schools books in areas under the control of PYD/YPG glorify PKK’s women suicide bombers.]


We fully support the UN’s efforts to document PKK’s and other terrorist groups’ mistreatment of children, and fully subscribe to the appeal to the countries-concerned to facilitate the repatriation of their citizens, particularly women and children affiliated with DAESH.

But while we appreciate the documentation of PKK/PYD/YPG’s crimes that are relevant to the subject matter of this open debate, we must stress the need to demonstrate a unified front against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
We will not approve any act that would be exploited by terrorists in their search for recognition and legitimacy. That is why we condemned the signing of an "Action Plan" with a well-known PKK terrorist. A terrorist for whom INTERPOL had issued a red notice (Ferhat Abdi Şahin, also known as “General Mazloum Abdi”).
Cherry-picking, Mr President, is not an option. PYD/YPG/PKK is a terrorist organization with the blood of over 40 thousand people in its hands. It should be treated as such. Its existence and its actions cannot and should not be given any legitimization for any reason.

Also, regarding some of the statements made earlier today, I should underline that we do not accept and cannot remain idle to a terrorist organization being praised for committing to limit its level of criminality.
That approach and the method of strategic communication needs to be urgently reconsidered.

Mr. President,

My government fully shares and supports the agenda of the UN in addressing the situation of children in armed conflict.

For that we show the utmost care and take all precautions necessitated by international humanitarian law. We will continue to work closely and in complete transparency with the Special Representative’s Office to make sure all the information they reach is correct and complete. [My authorities are ready to continue their due diligence as the Office of the Special Representative provides further data during the ongoing investigation process.]

We also do everything within our means to alleviate the suffering of children running from armed conflict.

Of the 3.6 million Syrians that had fled to Turkey for obvious reasons, 1.7 million are children under 18. More than 444.000 Syrian babies, Mr President, were born in Turkey since the conflict started 8 years ago.

We have mobilized our resources to provide proper and dignified living conditions for Syrian children who are under temporary protection in Turkey from education (important as they will be the ones to eventually to rebuild their own country) to free health care.

Mr President,

The best way of keeping children from harm’s way is prevention in the first place. With this understanding, Turkey will also continue to support the Secretary General’s focus on prevention and protection of children.
I thank you.