Syrian opposition militias, SDF are biggest recruiters of child soldiers: UN
The Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) and other Syrian opposition militias were the biggest offenders, employing 949 children as soldiers. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) used 221 child soldiers, the second highest amount of any other party in the conflict in 2021.
Regime and pro-government forces used 46 child soldiers, the lowest amount of the major parties in the Syrian war last year.
Syria has ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for violations against children in conflict since the beginning of its civil war in 2011.
Though all warring parties have violated children's rights, Syrian opposition militias and the SDF have consistently been the biggest employers of child soldiers.
Both the SNA and the SDF have made commitments to the UN to stop further recruitment of child soldiers and to demobilize children already in their militias. The two organisations are loose umbrellas for a number of local militias, making uniform implementation of such plans difficult.
The UN noted that factions of the SNA and the UN have "exchanged letters aiming at the development of an action plan."
It further said that the SNA issued a statement in September 2021 on measures to abide by international humanitarian protections of children, but still urged the SNA to "end and prevent grave violations and adopt an action plan."
The SDF has signed a number of agreements with the UN to halt the use of child soldiers since 2014. The number of child soldiers in its ranks peaked in 2018 at 313 children.
The UN noted the "continuing progress" the SDF made under its latest anti-child soldiering plan signed in 2019. It said the SDF demobilized 182 children from its ranks and prevented 568 boys from joining in 2021.
However, the UN said it "remained concerned" by the continuing recruitment of minors by the SDF.
Other violations against children in 2021 included abduction, military use of schools and hospitals, maiming and killing, and a few cases of sexual violence.
The Assad regime and pro-government militias was the biggest aggressor against children, with 301 minors maimed or killed by them
The Syrian civil war has been ongoing since 2011 after the regime's bloody crackdown on protesters. At least 350,000 Syrians have been killed, though estimates of the official death toll vary.