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Last update: February 2023

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are the armed force of the Autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria (AANES). They are militarily and financially supported by the US to fight ISIL in northeast Syria. The SDF is a mixed force, with Arab, Kurds and fighters of other minorities within its ranks. In comparison, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which leads the SDF, only features Kurdish fighters from Syria, Iraq, Türkiye and Iran, and is linked to the PKK [Security 2022, 1.4.3, p. 31].

The Asayish are the Kurdish internal security forces and fulfil various security roles that range from police to counterterrorism. The Asayish reportedly have command centres in each canton of the Kurdish-controlled region, some of which operate independently from each other. There are also 30 000 police officers operating in Kurdish-controlled areas in northeast Syria [Actors, 3.2.2, p. 46].

The SDF and the YPG controlled most of Raqqa and Hasaka governorates, part of Deir Ez-Zor governorate north-east of the Euphrates, and parts of Aleppo governorate. The areas around Manbij, Ain Al-Arab (Kobane) and Tal Rifaat as well as stripes of land along the Turkish border are under joint control of GoS and their allies and Kurdish forces [Security 2022, 1.5.3, p. 45, 2.2.2, p. 83].

During the reference period, the SDF engaged in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention of civilians. Torture, which led to death, was reported to continue to take place in SDF detention facilities [Security 2022, 1.4.3, p. 33]. Forced recruitment of children continued into late 2021/early 2022, including through kidnappings. [Targeting 2022, 5.3, p. 65]

For further information on human rights violations committed by the SDF and the Asayish and their relevance as potential exclusion grounds, see 8. Exclusion.