18 more civilians kidnapped in occupied Afrin

Thousands of civilians have been kidnapped in Afrin since it was occupied by the Turkish army and allied mercenaries in March 2018.

According to the Hawar News Agency (ANHA), 18 more civilians have been kidnapped by Turkish intelligence service MIT and Semerkand and Jaysh al-Sharqiya mercenaries in occupied Afrin city.

Citing local sources, ANHA reported that the occupation forces stormed several houses in villages in the Jindires district. 11 civilians were kidnapped from the village of Kefersefreyê and 7 others from the Goranê village. Their aftermath remains unknown.

The names of the kidnapped civilians are as follows:

Kefersefrayê village; Mustafa Mihemed Xelo (50), Egid Mustafa Xelo (21), Şiyar Ebdulrehman Xelo, Ebdo Bedrî Kemal Exres (20), Murad Seydo Xelo, Hesen Eyûb Ebdo (50 year-old with disability), Emîna Hesen Eyûb, Fatima isimli Ezazlı bir kadın, Almaz Xelîl Hac Ebdo, Selah Reşîd Mehmûd and Mustafa Cafer.

Goran village; Ehmed Hisên Mihemed Deko, Mehmûd Ehmed Hec Birîm, Mihemed Nebî Henan, Cîhad Şikirî, Riyad Murad Kedro, Rêzan Hisên Yûsif, Silêman Hikumet Henan.

Afrin has been occupied by Turkey since March 2018. Kidnappings are a common source of income for the Islamist mercenaries of the Turkish state. Since the beginning of the occupation of Afrin, human rights violations and war crimes have been on the agenda in what was once the safest region of all Syria. In addition to a classic colonial policy, Turkey continues to practice a policy of ethnic cleansing, which has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their ancestral settlements. The demographic change in favour of Turkey and its Islamist invasion forces, crimes such as kidnapping, torture, extortion and murder are happening with the de facto approval of the international community of states.

Even two and a half years after the occupation of Afrin in northwestern Syria by Turkey and jihadist militias, excessive violence, looting and expulsions continue to be on the agenda in the formerly self-governing canton. These are the findings of a monthly report by the Human Rights Organization of Afrin. The balance sheet of human rights violations recorded in September was presented on Sunday at the Serdem Camp in the Shehba canton. The contents of the report are; two civilians killed, including a child, over eighty abducted, and three minors married to Islamist mercenaries against the will of their families.

In September, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic published a 25-page report presenting its findings based on investigations conducted from 11 January 2020 to 1 July 2020.

Documenting continuing violations and abuses by nearly every conflict actor controlling territory in Syria, the report highlights an increase in patterns of targeted abuses such as assassinations, sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, and looting or appropriation of private property, with sectarian undertones.

In Afrin and surrounding area, the report documents how the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army may have committed the war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment and torture, and rape. In the same region scores of civilians were killed and maimed by large improvised explosive devices, as well as during shelling and rocket attacks.

In particular the report said: "Since 2019, Kurdish women throughout the Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn [Serêkaniyê] regions have faced acts of intimidation by Syrian National Army brigade members, engendering a pervasive climate of fear which in effect confined them to their homes. Women and girls have also been detained by Syrian National Army fighters, and subjected to rape and sexual violence – causing severe physical and psychological harm at the individual level, as well as at the community level, owing to stigma and cultural norms related to ideations of “female honour”. During the period under review, cases of sexual violence against women and men at one detention facility in Afrin were documented.

The Commission also received reports of forced marriage and the abduction of Kurdish women in Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn [Serêkaniyê], which primarily involved members of Division 24 (the Sultan Murad Brigade) of the Syrian National Army."

The human rights situation in parts of north, northwest and northeast Syria under the control of Turkish forces and Turkish-affiliated armed groups is grim, with violence and criminality rife, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned on Friday.

While human rights and international humanitarian law violations against civilians continue across Syria, the UN Human Rights Office has noted an alarming pattern in recent months of grave violations in these areas, including in Afrin, Ras al-Ain, and Tel Abyad, where increased killings, kidnappings, unlawful transfers of people, seizures of land and properties and forcible evictions have been documented.

From 1 January to 14 September 2020, the UN Human Rights Office verified the deaths of at least 116 civilians as a result of improvised explosive devices (IEDS) used by unidentified perpetrators and explosive remnants of war (ERW). Those killed included 15 women, 20 boys and two girls. Some 463 civilians were injured.

“I also call on the Turkish authorities to respect international law and to ensure that violations committed by armed groups under Turkey’s effective control cease,” she said.