A 13-year-old Kurdish girl went missing on her way home from a school exam last month, after being approached by a man from an armed group. Her parents immediately feared the worst — that she had been persuaded to join the group and was taken to one of its training camps.
The girl, Peyal Aqil, was with friends when she encountered the man who turned out to be a recruiter for a group known as the Revolutionary Youth. She followed him to one of the group’s centers in the city of Qamishli in northeast Syria. Her friends waited for her outside, but she never emerged.
Peyal’s mother, Hamrin Alouji, said she and her husband complained to local authorities, to no avail.
The group later said Peyal joined willingly, a claim rejected by Alouji. “We consider that at this age, she cannot give consent, even if she was convinced” by the group’s program, Alouji said, sitting for an interview in her daughter’s room, filled with stuffed animals and school texts.
Armed groups have recruited children throughout the past 12 years of conflict and civil war in Syria. A new United Nations report on children in armed conflict, released Tuesday, says the use of child soldiers in Syria is growing, even as fighting in most parts of Syria is winding down.
The number of children recruited by armed groups in Syria has risen steadily over the past three years — from 813 in 2020 to 1,296 in 2021 and 1,696 in 2022, the U.N. says.