Readers of this blog know that I like to post and translate historical documents on this blog related to Syria and the current conflict in the country. Previously I posted and translated an old document on the internal system of the 'communes' in Rojava (Syrian/'western' Kurdistan). The document, which detailed the internal system of the most basic unit of political organisation and governance in Rojava, was issued in 2014 by TEV-DEM. TEV-DEM is 'The Democratic Society Movement,' the political coalition dominated by the Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party that is also known by the abbreviation of the PYD.
The document that is the focus of this post details the internal system of the YPG (translated as the 'People's Protection Units'), which is essentially the armed wing of the PYD and now the primary component of the U.S.-backed 'Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF). As far as I can tell, the earliest copies of this document go back to 2013 and as such the document predates the establishment of the SDF and predates the time when the YPG began to receive U.S. support to fight against the Islamic State (late 2014). It may be that there was some internal revision to the internal system of the YPG detailed in this document when the SDF was formed.
The basic structures of the YPG at the time (i.e. 2013) that can be noted from this internal system are as follows:
- Military Council (55 members).
- General Command (implements the decisions of the Military Council).
- Divisional Commands (based on three centres in accordance with the cantons of al-Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin).
- Local Military Councils.
Further the YPG divides its forces into three main components:
- Professional Forces.
- Resistance Units.
- Local Forces.
More specifically the organisation of smaller units is as follows (in descending order):
- Brigade (provincial level).
- Battalion (each battalion is composed of three squadrons).
- Squadron (each squadron is composed of three crews).
- Crew (each crew is composed of two teams).
- Team (composed of three to five people).
Note also these institutions mentioned in the internal system:
- Military Academies.
- Logistics Foundation.
- Financial Department.
- Recording and Archiving Foundation.
- Ammunition and Equipment Foundation.
- Units of Correspondents.
- Border Forces.
The final note I will say on this internal system document is that the ideological influence of the PYD is very apparent, such as the expression of ideals regarding ecology and gender liberation.
Below is the document translated in full with the original. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
The Internal System of the People's Protection Units (YPG)
Organisation's name: YPG, which organises itself as a foundational force in west Kurdistan, and its name in the military organisation is known as the 'People's Protection Units.'
Symbol of the YPG: on a yellow background is a red start and on the bottom part in big and green letters is written 'YPG' and on the two sides of the peripheries of the flag and around the start is a put a line in green colour.
Aims of the YPG are focused around the paradigm of the ecological democratic society and gender liberation, for the sake of building a democratic Syria and a free Kurdistan.
- It aims to protect the political and ethical society, and to adopt the autonomous system as a foundation for it, without discrimination on the basis of religion, language, ethnicity and gender, and to put in place the parties around democratic and national interests and in particular the Kurdish people in western Kurdistan.
- It strives to realise the freedom of all the Syrian ethnicities and organises itself in west Kurdistan, to stand in the face of any external and internal intervention, while striving for legitimate defence as a foundational mission for it. Therefore the YPG is a national military force not connected with any political force and concerning the defence of the national interests it is to be subject to the decisions of the Supreme Kurdish Commission.
Means of Organisation in the YPG.
- The YPG organises itself on the basis: a general command and divisional commands, and to organise the YPG are three centres that organise themselves, and they are:
- The highest institution for the YPG is the expanded military council that convenes its meeting on an annual basis. And this council can meet in emergency cases, and in its yearly meeting the works of the past year will be assessed and the council will put in place a plan of work for the next year.
- The military council for the YPG is composed of 55 members who meet every six months and it is responsible for all the activities of the YPG.
- The general command: it is responsible for the daily operations of the YPG and implementing the decisions of the military council and there are the necessary plans for work and it establishes them.
- The local military council: connected with the local decisions and works on their basis and the number of members of the council is connected with the size of the centre and it holds its meeting every three months.
- The YPG is composed of three foundational components and they are:
. The professional forces
. The resistance units
. The local forces
- Work is done in accordance with the centralised democratic system through reports and commands and instructions, as well as the suggestions of the divisional command on condition of the general command's acceptance of the suggestions.
- Appointing and defining every fighter according to the assessment and commands. With the knowledge of the commands are the forces established according to the fields of operation.
Membership in the YPG:
- Membership in the YPG revolves around credibility and protection of the ethic interest for the Kurdish people and the national interest, through an ethically emotional way, building and protecting the democratic society and joining it in freedom.
- All the Syrian citizens who have reached 18 years of age and have accepted the values and principles of the YPG after visiting the recruitment and military and ideological training and after carrying out the portion, they can become members in the YPG.
- Ending of membership in the YPG: every member in the YPG who oversteps the foundations of war and goes beyond the organisation and has been punished by official decision is to have his membership of the YPG ended, and any person upon whom particular characteristics of the YPG do not apply, is to have his membership ended.
- The oath for the members of the YPG: it is to be done on the basis of the paradigm of the democratic and ecological society and gender freedom for the sake of a democratic Syria and a free Kurdistan, on this form: that I will protect the political society- without religious, language, ethnic, madhhabist, gender and party discrimination- against any external attack and on the basis of the concept of legitimate protection and on the basis of the internal system for the YPG outside the frameworks of personal interests; and I join with all boldness and organisation and resolve despite all the difficulties, with great will and force, and I adopt from victory a foundation and around this. And before the martyrs of Kurdistan, the intrepid Kurdish people and all my fighting companions I swear, I swear, I swear.
Particular Qualities of the YPG:
It is characterised by national revolutionary knowledge, the democratic and ecological life, freedom, equality and building the ethical and political society.
- Among its lofty values the protection of the people.
- It has familiarity with the culture of the people and its heritage and the sensitivities of the people for their sanctities like religion, madhhab, gender and ethnicity. And it works on the basis of these things.
- It makes service of the people a foundation for it: winning over the people and training them are among its foundational values.
- It gets near to the people on the basis of ethical principles, raising the awareness of the people on the foundations of protection, organisation and operation in an active sense.
- The member of the YPG does not work on the basis of war spoils because he makes service of the people a foundation for himself and stays away from all kinds of individual, family, tribal and regionalist interests.
- It is known for its positions, determinations and respect from the people.
- They work on the basis of ecological, democratic and gender equality thought, so they reject gender and social discrimination.
- Open to criticism and self-criticism and change and root change.
- They resist all conflicts of family, religion, party and localism with the society, for they are the just force of solution who protect the national unity through democratic thought.
Organisation of the Cadres of the YPG
Organisation of the woman
- Within the ranks of the YPG the woman organises herself in an autonomous organisation.
- Within the YPG the gender ratio is 40%.
- The woman's forces in the ranks of the YPG are considered the force that protects the woman in west Kurdistan.
- The women who consolidates her position in the ranks of the YPG takes the role of leadership to realise the aims of the YPG.
- Appointing and defining the woman's forces in the YPG will be done by the woman's command.
Leadership of the Academies
- The general command of the YPG: in accordance with the internal system, and that is through the branches of the divisional military councils, for the sake of training the candidates to become leadership of the academies.
- The leadership of the academies: connected organisationally with the general command of the YPG, organising themselves through the divisional councils. The academies are called the 'Military Academies of the Martyr Khabat' and the woman's academies are known by the name of 'The Female Martyr Shaylan.'
- The training is done on the basis of the political and military training and building the democratic and national thought and free life and acquiring the foundational values and principles.
- Training is done in the academies on the basis of the modern strategy and the concept of legitimate protection and tactical and technical training for military methods.
- The Military Academies of the Martyr Khabat: training candidates to join the YPG and finding professional personnel to send them to professionalisation courses and providing the need for commanders and that is through opening courses.
- The Military Academies of the Martyr Khabat: as the leadership of the military academies they organise themselves from highest to lowest and establish branches for them and that is according to need.
- Under the roof of the academies: specialisation courses are opened (heavy weapons, mines, snipers etc.).
Borders Units (Borders Command)
- On the principle of border stations and that is through the military groups (block)
- The system of the battalions is done through three centres, each centre containing a group.
- The units of the borders engage in reconnaissance and monitoring of the borders.
- In the borders units it is forbidden to use phones except the commanders. Contacts are done through wireless devices.
- On the borders except the designated places it is forbidden to come and go, and no one has the right to give permission to cross.
- If any crossing of the borders happens, an investigation is to be opened and the goods are to be confiscates and the detainees and goods are to be handed over to the relevant authorities.
- In the border stations the necessary tasks are done.
- The forces of the borders put in place their life and educational program.
Provisions Foundation (Logistics)
- The logistics command is established and that is to secure needs.
- The foundational task of the logistics command is to secure the needs of the military command and the military units.
- The logistics foundation is established in the field of operations centre, and is distributed according to need over divisional centres.
- The logistics foundation works according to its financial designations, and going outside the designations requires agreement from the supreme command.
- The goods and provisions that are gathered and purchased are to be distributed in a specific way, without opening the space before material ambitions.
- Adopting the principle of the commune and democracy as foundation for it, and its operations are to be organised on the basis of thought and organisation.
- There is to be storage of needs for six months in advance.
Recording and Archiving Foundation
- Archiving foundation: connected organisationally with the YPG leadership. It makes records of the protection forces through a specific organised way.
- It undertakes its works in all the command's centres, and it sends the registers of the fighters to the archiving centre in the general command centre.
- Archiving foundation: records the military ID particular to each member in his special compilation.
- Under the roof of this foundation, the media works are organised.
- All the works of the archive are secret works and they must not be reviewed by any person.
Ammunition and Equipment Foundation
- This foundation is established in the general command centre and the divisional command centres.
- This foundation is responsible for storing and recording and protecting the ammunition and equipment.
- Ammunition and equipment reserves are distributed in the desired form, and this foundation is responsible for protecting these reserves.
- Always prepared for any emergency state of war and stores ammunition and equipment on the its basis and it does not spend ammunition and equipment in a random sense.
- Defining the centres for purchasing ammunition and equipment and the foundation is in direct contact with these centres.
- The ammunition and equipment are distributed according to need for the forces and commands designated in advance, responsible for that.
- This foundation organises itself under the roof of the general command and is responsible for financial policy.
- Responsible for verifying all the outflows and inflows.
- Responsible for finding centres and parties of financial support.
- Receives reports from every field of operations officially, and hands over its report to the general command.
- The financial authority: responsible for the logistics foundation.
- The financial department is responsible for the large needs and transactions of selling and buying.
- Units of correspondents are established under the roof of the general command that is according to the need and the correspondences will be between the general command and the divisional commands.
- Every divisional command establishes units of correspondents particular to it in order to be the means of contact between it and the other commands.
The system in the YPG
The military organisation in the YPG arises on three pillars and they are:
- Team: composed of three to five people.
- Crew: composed of two teams.
- Squadron: composed of three crews.
- Battalion: composed of three squadrons.
- Provinces command: considered at the same time the command of the brigades.
- The professional units are established within the paradigm of the democratic and ecological society and gender liberation with the aim of removing the obstacles before the freedom of the Kurdish people. These units are established from specialists in the YPG, volunteers in the YPG on the 24-hour basis and the political and military training is done and on the basis of complete awareness of the concept of the legitimate protection.
- And in the events of peace and when the conditions permit they have the right for a leave permit of one week per month and that is after seeking permission from the relevant command.
Particular features of the members of the professional units.
- Patriotic and defending the people.
- Democratic and advocates for freedom.
- People of thought, bold.
- Ethical and practical and people of initiative.
- Understanding of the tactical technical methods.
- Adhering to the principles and implementing the instructions.
- People of an autonomous system and developing themselves through autonomous training.
- In so far as they are people of democratic and ecological thought, so they reject the outdated customs in society.
- They accept criticism and self-criticism as they are open to change.
- The resistance units are established from the cadres of the provinces and the fields of operations. A unit or two units are established to stand against the colonialist enemy attacks, and they are in a constant and complete state of readiness.
- The members of the resistance units are selected with all care, and especially the trusted people.
- Every cadre trains his unit with special training.
- These units are concealed, known by no one and even their members do not know some of them [sic: /each other].
- The members of these units are people of a particular system and method of work.
- In all circumstances and conditions they preserve their ability to fight.
And they are the units of the core protection of the people that implement the concept of legitimate protection for the sake of the democracy of the people with the aim of offering and protecting the equality and the freedoms, and they arise on the foundation of organisation and leadership. The members of the local units: they are forces that wage war for the sake of the people. They are present within the groupings of the people, joining the military operations without being cut off from the society.
- Without being cut off from civilian life and society, patriotic and people of military force, and they have no material proceeds, and they are people of specific thought.
- People of high earnestness in work, protecting the interests of the people.
- They learn the methods of technology and technique for war and fighting through training.
- People of speciality in the concept of core protection and they mobilise according to the political aims.
- Members of the local units are not affiliated with any organisation or movement of society.
- They are not connected with any task of aims. They are connected with their aims as units for protection.
- And for the sake of continuing their social life, they work, responsible for their families and they do not confound in any way their social life and military life, so they do not set up grounds for personal interests.
- And for the sake of implementing their national work, they join with complete credibility the works of the units and they do not have the right to abandon their work in an arbitrary sense.
- The form of instructions and commands:
They arise on the basis of democratic centralism, and the meaning by centralism is the instructions and commands and its democratic form means their implementation through meetings and discussions, and that is through the attendance of all members to find the appropriate suggestions.
- The form of reports:
Concerning the operations that are implemented, from the lowest to the highest and that is so that the leadership can be aware of that. The members of the units implement the instructions after taking them directly and from there the notification of the completion of the deeds is given to the leadership that gave the instructions. Each unit and each divisional command submit the notification of the completion of their deeds orally and in writing to the supreme leadership in a time specified in advance. They hold their meetings and give the notification of their completion and prepare a report about it. The divisional institutions that have not offered the notification of their completions and their reports are considered not implementing of their deeds.
- All of our forces are to have their meetings according to need.
- In the camps the notification of completion is taken daily and once every three days they meet to discuss these completions and assess them.
- The hidden and local teams take their completion on a weekly basis and meet every 15 days, meeting to discuss these completions and assess them and submit them as a report to the leadership that is more senior than they are.
- The crews: every fifteen days, while the squadrons hold their meeting monthly, and they submit their report to the leadership that is more senior than they are.
- All the foundations and the centres of decision hold their meeting monthly and submit their report to the leadership that is more senior than they are.
- The system:
The military operations require a very disciplined system and a system including all the military principles connected with the freedom of will and building democracy. The system strengthens the operations and activities and the unit, and brings with it victory. And the victory is only possible during the exertion of the struggle [/fight] and complying with the principles and essential system.
The principles that one must comply with and on the basis of which there must be work.
- They work according to the secret and hidden principles.
- Complying with assignments of thought.
- Not hesitating before the enemy.
- Not giving the field for transgressing the principles of the struggle [/fight].
- Protecting the material principles (arms and ammunition) that have been received and used according to need and necessity.
- Being keen for the collective sense to work and being aware of the personal health.
- Initiative, and resistance against all difficult conditions and circumstances.
- Putting in place the plans of operation in advance and organising the time.
- Criticism and self-criticism
Criticism and self-criticism are considered important so that the members can be free of their personal mistakes and to comply with principles of freedom and the democratic mindset. Every member in the YPG is responsible for criticism and self-criticism and that is in official meetings. Criticism and self-criticism are not to be used as a weapon to belittle the companions, and on the contrary they are to be used as a means for advancement and development of the companions.
Mistakes and Punishments:
In so far as the YPG is a military organisation comprises amid its ranks all of the professional units, resistance units and local units, mistakes in it are considered a crime to be punished. The mistakes and crimes are divided into two types.
- Mistakes of war (war crimes): considered greater mistakes.
- Mistakes of transgression of the system.
War crimes are to be referred to a military court. Mistakes of transgression of the system are resolved through organisational investigation (platform).
The assessment of the mistakes that are referred to the military courts.
- Collaboration for the interest of the enemy.
- Betrayal of the principles of the struggle [/fight].
- Deeds that distort the functioning of the democratic civilisation and the struggle [/fight] for freedom, works that distort the struggle [/fight] of the forces of freedom.
- Expending the efforts of the fighters during the military campaign against the targets of the enemy [sic: perhaps what is meant is 'not expending the efforts of the fighters...'].
- Opinions and assignments that call to commit grave mistakes.
- Using the method of harshness and violence outside the concept of legitimate concept.
- Causing the martyrdom of the companions.
- Committing the mistakes of the system in the face of the units.
- Ruining the principles of the struggle [/fight] and the people.
The persons against whom the military court proves these crimes, are to be removed from military operations by decision of the military court.
Mistakes of transgression of the system
- Concealing things from the leadership, and disdain towards work.
- Appearance of the first signs of individual dispositions during operation. Making the assignment a tool for harshness.
- Standing as an obstacle for the works of the units.
- Abandoning the organisation without implementing the official bases for resignation.
- Going outside the organisational decisions or delaying in implementing them.
- Not supporting companions and abandoning them without control.
- Not completing the operations with required insistence and determination.
- Revealing secret things.
- Revealing and publicising the result of operations and works to non-relevant parties.
- Not protecting the provisions that have been distributed to the members.
- Giving erroneous information to the supreme leadership.
- Delaying the informing of the supreme leadership of the information.
- Not completing the tasks in their specified time.
- Acceptance of the inclusion and expulsion of members that is done through suggestion from the lower leadership to the field operations command [sic: perhaps the intent was to separate this sentence from the list of mistakes of transgression of the system and make clear the necessity of informing the leadership of mistakes].
Those who commit the mistakes of the transgression of the system are to be punished after organisational investigation (platform) and accountability and that is in accordance with the seriousness of the crime through suspension of membership, stripping, stopping of his missions, suspending his mission etc.