Protecting civilians in armed conflict


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The unrest, which began in Syria in 2011 as a peaceful demand for reform in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’, has since evolved. Protests began demanding the end of Ba’ath regime rule, and rapidly escalated into an armed insurrection against the government.

Now in its seventh year, the conflict in Syria is characterized by a proliferation of armed non-State actors (ANSAs) and other participants in the violence. In addition to the regime’s forces and Hezbollah, Iranian and other militias, Salafi-Jihadi movements, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Kurdish ANSAs all control territory in Syria. Despite international efforts to resolve the conflict, no political solution is in sight.

The humanitarian impact of the country’s armed conflict is catastrophic. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed, around 13.5 million people need humanitarian assistance, there are 6.6 million internally displaced person (IDPs) and 4.8 million more have fled the country.


Thematic areas of work in this country
Humanitarian_norms_dark Landmine_ban_dark Gender_issues_dark Child_protection_dark
Humanitarian norms Landmine ban Gender issues Child protection

Since 2012, Geneva Call has been raising awareness about humanitarian norms among the ANSAs operating in the Syrian armed conflict. Its primary targets include the Free Syrian Army and its affiliated brigades, other ANSAs of an Islamist orientation and Kurdish ANSAs. Meetings and training sessions, also held for representatives of civil society, contribute directly to the promotion of humanitarian norms and the Deeds of Commitment among ANSAs. A public communication campaign also supports these efforts. Activities are conducted in Syria and neighbouring countries.

Main achievements

  • Several ANSAs have signed one or more of the Deeds of Commitment (see the table below)
  • ANSAs and their constituencies have been engaged in dialogue, sensitized and their combatants trained on international humanitarian norms.
  • Evidence from training courses suggests that ANSA fighters had become aware of their responsibilities to uphold international norms through the training they received from Geneva Call.
  • As part of the Fighter not Killer campaign, videos on key rules of international humanitarian law (IHL) were viewed hundreds of thousands of times on social media, including the Facebook pages and websites of various organizations.
  • Thousands booklets on IHL have been distributed to ANSA commanders and fighters on the ground.
  • Right after the signature of the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict, the  Democratic Self-Administration in Rojava / People’s Protection Units / Women’s Protection Units (YPG-YPJ) demobilized 149 of them from their ranks. Since then, more children were demobilized by the YPG-YGJ.
  • The Islam Army (IA) and other ANSAs jointly prepared a draft statement with 15 key IHL rules and their congruence with Islamic law to be respected in armed conflict.
  • In 2015, approximately 380 ANSA fighters from the IA, FSA-affiliated groups and the YPG-YPJ, including many commanders, attended 17 training sessions on humanitarian norms; in several cases, noted behavioural change was reported.

In Syria, Geneva Call works or has worked with the following armed non-State actors:

Organization Active Thematic areas
Landmine ban Child protection Gender issues Humanitarian norms
Democratic Self-Administration in Rojava / People’s Protection Units / Women’s Protection Units (YPG-YPJ) Yes
  • Fatah Army & affiliated factions No
    Free Syrian Army & other affiliated factions (FSA) Yes
    Free Syrian Army – 21st Force Union (FSA – 21st FU) Yes
  • Free Syrian Army – 23rd Division (FSA – 23rd D) Yes
  • Free Syrian Army – Central Division (FSA – CD) Yes
  • Free Syrian Army – First Costal Division (FSA – FCD) Yes
  • Hazzm Movement No
  • Islam Army Yes
    Southern Front Yes
    Click on the ticks to display the signed Deeds of Commitment

    The ANSA is being engaged by Geneva Call on this thematic area


    The ANSA was engaged by Geneva Call on this thematic area


    The ANSA has signed the Deed of Commitment on this thematic area


    • is a directory of armed non-State actors commitments. Check out the documents concerning this country on

    Related Medias

    Strategy 2017-2019


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