Military Instructions Issued by the General Command of the Syrian Democratic Forces
“Affirmation of Our Policy towards the Military Use of Schools and Educational Facilities and the Protection of Children”
In accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1998 (2011) and 2143 (2014), regarding the military use of schools by military forces and its implications for the safety of children and education personnel, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stresses the right to education during armed conflicts, as well as reducing the impact of the conflict on the safety of children and those who work in the educational field, and the provision of the necessary facilities to protect them from the dangers of military operations in areas under their security and military control. Accordingly, the SDF affirms its commitment to the following:
1- As part of our efforts in the SDF to protect children, schools, and educational personnel from the effects of armed conflict and military operations, and to ensure the civilian nature of schools as safe learning environments for children, the SDF is obligated to refrain from using schools for military purposes and from placing equipment or weapons near them, except in cases of extreme military necessity, when schools are exposed to aggression from other military parties and need protection. However, this action is carried out in full coordination with the civil authorities, including the Education Authority of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (EAAANES), as the civil authority vested in regulating schools, the educational process and facilities.
2- All members of the SDF are in full compliance with the Principle of Distinction between Civilian Objects and Military Objectives and the Principle of Precautions against the Effects of Attacks, as stipulated in the Law of Armed Conflict. Therefore, the SDF refrains from military use of schools in a manner that does not contradict its above commitment No. 1.
3- The SDF is obliged to take precautions while attacking schools where military targets are identified to avoid direct or incidental damage, and to resort to legal advisers accompanying military operations to assist commanders in making decisions.
4- All military leaders of the SDF in headquarters, as well as field officers and military personnel under their command, must be fully aware of these instructions and include this document in all training programs in schools and military academies of the SDF.
5- These instructions are included in the Rules of Military Engagement, related military policies, and in the overall military planning, preparation, and implementation of military operations by the SDF.
6- The SDF allows civil authorities and humanitarian actors, following coordination with and approval by the EAAANES, to access the sites, review the state of schools and make efforts to assess the damage to schools and remove military risks, which allows schools to be restored to their civilian nature.
7- The SDF is committed to cooperating fully with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and the United Nations Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting, including the exchange of appropriate information on violations and abuses against children.
8- As of the date of issuance of these instructions, the SDF shall proceed with the evacuation process of sites, which the EAAANES, as the official and duly constituted authority responsible for education, classifies as schools to complete the teaching process.
9- The SDF will abide by what is stated in this document. All SDF leaders and officers face penalties if they do not adhere to the above-mentioned instructions properly.
The General Command of the Syrian Democratic Forces