People’s Protection Units (YPG)

The People’s Protection Units (also called the People’s Defense Units) is the home-grown defence force of the Kurdish area of Syria. It was formed in 2004 as the armed wing of the left-leaning Democratic Union Party. Its Kurdish name is Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, from which it derives its acronym YPG. It is allied against the ISIS. In this article, you can read all about the YPG, its origins, role in the Syrian conflict, activities, etc. for the UPSC exam.

YPG Origins

  • It originated among the Kurdish youth after the Qamlishi riots, in the aftermath of which, 36 Kurds were killed by the Syrian security forces.
  • But, the militia emerged as a major force after the eruption of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
  • In 2011, it was formed as the armed wing of two Kurdish political parties, namely, the Democratic Union Party and the Kurdish National Council.

YPG Activities

  • The force was chiefly formed in order to defend Kurdish-occupied areas in northern Syria.
  • It has now become the de-facto army of the Kurds in Syria with many small militias joining forces with it. Thus, the YPG has unified the forces of the Syrian Kurds under one banner.
  • JIhadist and Salafist groups have been at loggerheads with the YPG, making it a significant force against Islamic fundamentalists in the region.
  • It is the only Kurdish militia which has been able to resist the Islamic State in Syria.
  • It allies with all major forces who are fighting the ISIS.
  • The YPG, along with US support, was able to hand over ISIS’s first major defeat in the ongoing civil war at the Siege of Kobane.
  • Although chiefly made up of Kurds, the YPG also has non-Kurdish soldiers such as Syrian, Armenian Christians and Assyrians as members. It also has many Europeans and Americans as volunteer fighters.
  • The YPG’s officers are elected by the troops and there is no bar on anyone getting elected irrespective of ethnicity, gender or religion.
  • The militia operate with a great deal of autonomy so that there is better adaptability to battlefield conditions and mobilisation of forces.
  • It also has a women’s brigade called the Women’s Protection Units formed in 2012. They make up about 40% of the total force.
  • The YPG operates mainly like a guerilla force and relies on speed, stealth and snipers for its operations.
  • The size of the militia is estimated to be between 20000 and 30000.

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