Turkey-backed factions in Libya recruiting child soldiers: Report

Turkey-backed factions in Libya recruiting child soldiers: Report
Military vehicles of the Libyan internationally recognized government forces head out to the front line from Misrata, Libya, Feb. 3, 2020. (Reuters/Ayman Al-Sahili)
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Updated 13 May 2020

Turkey-backed factions in Libya recruiting child soldiers: Report

Turkey-backed factions in Libya recruiting child soldiers: Report
  • Allegations should be taken seriously, says analyst

JEDDAH: Factions of the Turkish-backed opposition Syrian National Army are recruiting minors to fight in Libya, according to a report from Al-Monitor.

The report looks at Turkey’s use of Syrian rebels to consolidate the power of Libya’s Government of National Accord against General Khalifa Haftar.

Ankara is a long-time backer of rebel groups currently fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, among them Syrian teenagers with forged identity papers who are said to have been recruited for fighting alongside rebels deployed to overseas battlefields.

It has been reported that the recruitment of child soldiers, who are promised a decent salary, is still ongoing, especially in the ranks of the Turkish-backed Syrian Sultan Murad faction.

Seth J. Frantzman, executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said Ankara had sought to increasingly involve itself in Libya since November after wrapping up its offensive in northern Syria.

“Ankara’s goal is to use Libya to acquire rights to gas off the coast and also to send Syrian rebels to Libya in order to remove them from Turkey and Idlib, giving them a distraction by sending them to fight in a foreign war,” he told Arab News. “Ankara’s leadership is now seeking to threaten to expand operations in Libya, where it has sent weapons, hoping that a war of words with the LNA (Haftar’s Libyan National Army) will result in European support for Turkey or concessions by Russia in Idlib. Turkey has used these threats in the past to wring concessions from the EU and US.”

An independent Syrian newspaper, Jesrpress, reported in January that a 17-year-old Syrian boy had died while fighting in Libya in the ranks of the Sultan Murad faction and that his body was sent to his family via Turkey. Images of his burial could be seen on YouTube.

Ankara has not yet commented about the allegations or the death of the teen.

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Oil-rich Libya has been gripped by chaos since longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi was ousted and killed in 2011, with rival administrations in the east and west vying for power.

Last month the UN-recognised GNA rejected a truce unilaterally called by Haftar, saying it “did not trust” its eastern-based rival.

Ankara considers Haftar’s forces to be “putschists” and has criticized the UN for remaining silent on developments in Libya that it calls “war crimes.”

Frantzman said that allegations of Turkey recruiting child soldiers from Syria should be taken seriously. The real problem was that, despite attempts to enforce an embargo on the Libya conflict by Western countries, Turkey among other countries had been permitted to fuel the war with impunity.

“The recruiting of Syrians to fight in Libya was already an abuse of vulnerable people by Ankara, which has claimed it is helping Syrians,” he added. “Ankara also seeks to use Libya as a test-bed for its new drones such as the Bayraktar. Libya is thus a proxy war for Ankara, a way to distract from failures in Idlib, a war to distract Syrians and get both potential profits through trade and test weapons.”

Qatar has also reportedly funded the dispatch of Syrian mercenaries to Libyan battlegrounds.

The UN warned in January, without naming names, that some countries supporting belligerent factions in Libya had violated an international arms embargo. 

France subsequently accused Turkey of sending warships and Syrian fighters to the North African country by violating its previous commitments that were made during an international conference on Libya.

In late March, Egypt also accused Turkey of exporting “extremists” from Syria to Libya in a letter submitted to the UN Security Council.

More than 275 Syrian mercenaries fighting alongside GNA forces have died in Libya so far.

The allegations about Syrian children being sent to Libya contradicts basic international norms, such as the UN Optional Protocol on the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Syria, Libya and Turkey are party to the protocol.


Egypt’s 14-fold population rise in 135 years a ‘national problem’: Govt. minister

Updated 03 December 2020

Egypt’s 14-fold population rise in 135 years a ‘national problem’: Govt. minister

Egypt’s 14-fold population rise in 135 years a ‘national problem’: Govt. minister
  • The rise had impacted on each individual’s share of education, health, and available resources, affecting overall demographics: minister

CAIRO: Egypt’s 14-fold population increase between 1882 and 2017 had created a “national problem” that required urgent attention, a government minister has said.

Deputy Minister of Health and Population Tarek Tawfik revealed that over the 135-year period the number of people living in the country had shot up from 6.7 million to 94.8 million.

The rise had impacted on each individual’s share of education, health, and available resources, affecting overall demographics, he added.

“(The population increase) is a national problem that needs to be solved through the collaboration of efforts between all the ministries, governmental, and non-governmental institutions, and the civil society,” Tawfik said.

He pointed out that the Egyptian National Population Council was currently drafting public policy documentation in collaboration with The American University in Cairo (AUC) aimed at resolving some of the country’s population-related issues.

Plans in the pipeline included awareness campaigns on family sizes, food and water security, and sustainability.

The council’s former rapporteur, Dr. Amr Hassan, said that a family planning project due to be launched early next year, would help to cut the birth rate in Egypt by 1 million.

Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, US Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Leslie Reed, AUC President Francis Joseph Ricciardone, and Tawfik recently launched the Strengthening Egypt’s Family Planning Program (SEFPP) youth competition, part of a $31 million initiative previously signed with the USAID to improve population health results.

Al-Mashat said that improving general healthcare, reproductive health, and family planning services were key to achieving economic empowerment for men and women.

She pointed out that the SEFPP youth competition was aimed at paving the way for the implementation of new and effective solutions to the issues and involved the Egyptian government, educational institutions and universities, youth, and civil society organizations represented by the USAID.

The program was designed to tackle the over-population problem through innovative techniques, developing youth ideas on family planning schemes, and raising awareness throughout the country.