A Statement Regarding the Recent Statements of the UNICEF’s representative in Syria

A statement issued by the Relations Office of the Syrian Democratic Forces regarding the irresponsible statements of the UNICEF representative in Syria to the media.

While the Syrian Democratic Forces welcome the official statement issued by the UNICEF Syria office on February 6, after they have been given the access, despite the exceptional security conditions, to the detention center of ISIS terrorist members in Al-Hasakah, the Syrian Democratic Forces at the same time denounce the statements of the UNICEF representative in Syria, Mr. Bo Viktor Nylund about the situation of adolescents associated with ISIS for the New York Times newspaper because of the inaccuracies and unfair information it contains and contradicts the facts and as well as the official statement of the UNICEF itself, it is a huge contradiction and unprofessional.
It’s unacceptable when it comes to distortion of facts, distortion of the image of our forces, and denial of the tremendous efforts that have been made to preserve the lives of adolescents and to meet their basic needs. Therefore, the following details must be clarified:
First: The teenagers associated with ISIS were not in the old detention center when UNICEF visited them, but rather they were in another center because the old detention center became out of service due to the military operations, and Mr. Nylund saw it himself. The segmentation approach to the problem and not addressing it as a whole, is subjective and unacceptable, because most countries which have nationals among these teenagers, and international organizations, including UNICEF, are aware of all the details related to the process of transporting teenagers due to the emergency situation which posed a threat to local peace and security and caused the displacement of more than 30,000 thousand civilians and the death of dozens of our fighters to protect the population and the region and keep these teenagers safe.
Second: The leaked photo of the teenagers, which UNICEF provided to the New York Times newspaper, was of a temporary dormitory in which the teenagers were placed because the main dormitories were undergoing restoration and rehabilitation operations during the visit. The photo was taken while the teenagers performed group prayers in the afternoon, and the photo does not reflect the situation of the teenagers inside the detention center.
Third: Adolescents inside the detention center receive three main meals on a daily basis, clean water, and health care is provided to them by the medical staff of the detention center.
Fourth: The access of humanitarian actors (international non-governmental organizations) to adolescents inside the detention center to provide support was available from the beginning of the year 2020 until the detention center was subjected to an armed attack by ISIS militants on January 20, and it stopped for purely security reasons related to the emergency situation.
The Syrian Democratic Forces confirm that the access to the adolescent detention center by the active humanitarian organizations will be activated as soon as the security situation gets more stabilized and terrorist threats are ended, and the rehabilitation programs will be resumed as planned to repatriate those children to their countries of origin and integrate them into society.
Asking for support and mobilizing assistance from countries and concerned parties and advocating to end the crisis of adolescents associated with ISIS who stranded in northern and eastern Syria shouldn’t be done by falsifying facts or distorting the efforts of the Syrian Democratic Forces because it is shameful and contradicts the basics of humanitarian work in a system such as the United Nations’ and harms UNICEF.
At the same time, the Syrian Democratic Forces commend the role of all international organizations and international non-governmental organizations for their rapid and exceptional intervention in the most difficult circumstances to meet the basic needs and provide health care for adolescents inside the detention center.

Relations Office of the Syrian Democratic Forces

February 8, 2022

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