Lawyer Xelil tells of atrocities in Afrin

The lawyer was detained while investigating crimes against humanity.

Crimes against the humanity are carried out on a daily basis in Afrin.

News of murder, torture, plunder, kidnapping are coming through every day from the Turkish state-occupied city and its villages.

Lawyer Mihemmed Xelil is the co-chair of Afrin Human Rights Association. He was forced to leave Afrin with the city residents after the Turkish forces’ and mercenaries’ occupation. He was then captured in Shêrewa.

Xelil told ANF about their life under the occupation and about his captivity in the hands of the Turkish state.

At the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Afrin was a safe area for all refugees in Syria, said Mihemmed Xelil.

After the beginning of the war, Xelil said that Syria witnessed many rights violations.

The lawyer noted that the state could not protect its people during the attacks. In Afrin, he said, the people were organized both politically and militarily to defend their land for years.

“Afrin has become a protected area for many refugees, and indeed thousands fled to Afrin to escape war”.

Xelil added: “As Human Rights Association, we came to monitor the situation. We were monitoring the situation of the Syrian refugees who had been taking shelter in Afrin for years. During the period of threats carried out by the Turkish state against Afrin, we worked as association to prevent the situation from degenerating. However, the Syrian regime, together with all the other states and international forces involved in the Syrian conflict, have allowed Turkey to occupy Afrin”.

Xelil remarked that crimes against humanity have been carried out during the occupation. “Many people’s rights were violated in that region, war crimes are committed. Drinking water and electricity centers were targeted, public places were plundered, Salafi idea was imposed on the region, civilians were slaughtered, Avrin hospital was attacked, and chlorine gas was used in areas where civilians were living. All this is considered a war crime under the Geneva Agreement”.

Xelil said that seven committees have been created with the task to identify war crimes committed.

The lawyer confirmed that the Human Rights Association has prepared reports and documents for the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

He added that they have handed the reports and documents to the necessary institutions and reminded that close to one million people were forced to migrate to Shehba and Sherewa.

The lawyer said that human rights defenders and activists also had to leave Afrin with the residents and went to the region of Shêrewa.

Xelil continued: "We did not anticipate that the Turkish state would come and occupy Sherewa as well. But they did, they attacked us, shot and wounded me, took me to Idlib, and they operated me in a place like an underground hospital. The prison was also underground, and after staying there for 14 days, they blindfolded me and brought me for interrogation”.

During the interrogation, said Xelil, “They told me that I was a lawyer in Sheikh Maqsoud, and that I was involved in the investigation commission and the co-chair of the human rights department in Afrin and that I was giving interviews with a lot of press against the Turkish state. They even told me that I called Turkey an occupying force in an Egyptian newspaper”.

After the interrogation Xelil was taken to prison again. The lawyer said he was hearing people screaming all the time.

"Everything was forbidden, they were constantly threatening us, telling us we were supporters of the Syrian regime, that we were against the Syrian revolution, that we were organizing ourselves against the attack and protecting our territories".

Underlining the fact that the journalists and activists who uncover the facts are constantly targeted, lawyer Xelil stressed that about 20 human rights activists and media workers were killed in 2018.

Xelil was then left in a place he did not know, after torture and beating. He was rescued by a civilian.

The lawyer crawled along for 4 kilometers: "Our people are living under a condition of permanent aggression and migration. Thousands of people still stage demonstrations for their rights. And this people believe and trust that Afrin will be liberated”.

Xelil said he considers Northern Syria as part of Syria, and it is for the whole of Syria that a solution must be found, through dialogue and not war.