Skip to main content

2.6. Individuals approached for recruitment by armed groups

Last updated: June 2019*

This section addresses the issue of recruitment by different armed groups. For child recruitment see Child recruitment under the profile Children.

COI summary

a. Recruitment by ISIL and affiliated groups

[Targeting, 2.3, 3.8.1]

During the rise of ISIL, the group had no shortage of volunteers, however forced recruitment of young professionals whose skills where needed did occur. Such recruitment particularly affected doctors. Pressure and coercion to join ISIL could be violent, but could also be exercised through the family, clan or religious network, depending on the local circumstances.

b. Recruitment by the PMU

[Targeting, 1.1.2, 1.3.1, 1.6, 3.8.1; Actors of protection, 5.4; Security situation 2019, 1.4.3, 2.3]

The recruitment to the PMU is entirely on a voluntary basis. Many join the PMU for economic reasons, because the salaries are attractive, compared to the rest of Iraq. The PMU are very influential and they are popular among the majority of the population for their effort to defeat ISIL. Forced recruitment of fighters did not occur in the PMU, but there have been small scale reports that men might have faced social pressure to join a militia, including after the downfall of ISIL; and in some cases returns are conditioned on the commitment of families to enlist one or more male family member into government-affiliated armed groups.

c. Recruitment by the Peshmerga

[Actors of protection, 8.1.2; Targeting, 1.6.1, 1.8.3, 3.8.1]

Recruitment by the Peshmerga is on voluntary contractual basis and there are no reports of forced recruitment. However, pressure from family and surroundings is possible.

Risk analysis

Forced recruitment is of such severe nature that it would amount to persecution.

Given that the intensity of armed confrontations and military operations has declined significantly, and based on the COI that forced recruitment at the moment seldom occurs, it can be concluded that well-founded fear of persecution would only be substantiated in exceptional cases.

The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: gender, area of origin, ethnic/religious background (e.g. Kurds for the PKK, Sunni Arabs for ISIL), age, the presence/influence of armed groups, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

While the risk of forced recruitment as such may not generally imply a nexus to a reason for persecution, the consequences of refusal, could, depending on individual circumstances, substantiate such a nexus, among other reasons, to (imputed) political opinion.


Exclusion considerations could be relevant to this profile (see the chapter on Exclusion).



*  The scope of this profile has been revised and child recruitment has been moved under a separate section. However, no recent common COI has been consulted for the purposes of this update and the information and analysis remain unchanged as from June 2019 when the document was originally published.