YPG recruitment center opens amidst battle for Al-Hasakah

A new recruitment center for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) opened in the Kurdish city of Afrin in northern Aleppo province on Tuesday as part of a push for new recruits to fight the Islamic State (IS) on a number of fronts.

Onlookers carrying YPG and Rojava flags stood outside of the new center on Tuesday in images postedon the Afrin Now Facebook page.

“The role of the office is to recruit young people and give them service papers,” Ali Abdul Rahman, a correspondent for the Kurdish Welati news agency in Afrin told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

Afrin is the westernmost of three administrative subdivisions within the de facto autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava in northeastern Syria, and has been under the self-declared joint administration of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) since January of last year.

The PYD, which administers Afrin, passed a mandatory military service law last July, requiring one young man between the ages of 18-30 per family to serve in the YPG units for a term of six months, pro-opposition All4Syria reported.

For families without young men, young women are conscripted in their place, a Kurdish citizen journalist wanted for military service in Al-Hasakah province told Syria Direct in an interview this past January.

As combined YPG and rebel forces battle IS alongside for control of Tel Abyad in northern A-Raqqa province and IS pushes ever closer to Al-Hasakah city, Kurdish forces have leaned on conscription to ensure a steady supply of new fighters.

“Many young people are against the idea of mandatory enlistment, so some of them have fled to Turkey and other countries,” journalist Abdul Rahman said, qualifying that “some support the idea, but they are few.”

Last month, YPG arrest campaigns reportedly rounded up young Kurds and Arabs alike in Al-Hasakah city and the surrounding countryside for mandatory enlistment into the ranks of Kurdish militias in the fight against IS, Kurdish news agency Ara News reported.  

Photo courtesy of Afrin Now

Mohammed Al-Haj Ali

Mohammed Al-Haj Ali, originally from Daraa, had completed his first year studying Broadcast Journalism at Damascus University before leaving Syria in August 2012.

Mateo Nelson

Mateo Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. Mateo holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.