Kongreya Star writes to UN Women

In the Turkish occupation areas in Northern Syria, women are exposed to constant terror. The women's movement Kongreya Star appeals to UN Women to work for a withdrawal of Turkey from Syria and to prevent further attacks.

The women's movement Kongreya Star appeals to UN Women to work for a withdrawal of Turkey from Syria and to set up a committee of inquiry to determine the war crimes committed by the Turkish state in Northern and Eastern Syria. In order to prevent further attacks by Turkey and to enable the displaced persons to return to the occupied territories, the association calls for cooperation.

UN Women is the unit of the United Nations that works for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. In 2010, as part of a resolution by the UN General Assembly, four separate UN units charged with gender equality were brought together under the umbrella of UN Women. The origin of this mandate is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, in particular, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

In its appeal to UN Women, Kongreya Star said: “All over the world, women organize on this day and condemn all forms of violence that women suffer in their lives and draw attention to this topic. As women in Northern and Eastern Syria, we are concerned about the situation of women in this region, as there is a constant state of war (whether militarily, economically, ecologically or psychologically). That is why we are writing this letter to you on the occasion of the International Day to End Violence against Women."

Beatings, torture, virginity tests, rape

The letter from Kongreya Star goes on to say that “the region is still threatened by wars of invasion by the Turkish state and is continuously under attack. The residents of the region have resisted the Turkish state and jihadist militias for years. The instability and the ongoing attacks are causing a painful scare in the lives of women and children and are worsening the human rights situation in the region. We could see this during the occupation of Afrin, Girê Spî, Serêkaniyê and most recently during the drone attacks on Kobanê, Qamishlo and the Hesekê region.”

The statement continues: “Turkey and its jihadist militias continuously violate international and humanitarian law. They rob, loot, vandalize, destroy houses, kidnap, torture and make arrests outside of the law. At the same time, they also use chemical weapons and commit brutal crimes. All of this shapes everyday life in the occupied territories for the civilian population. Women are arrested, kidnapped and sent to prisons in Turkey, where all forms of violence are experienced: beatings, torture, 'virginity tests', rape or the publication of photos and videos showing how they have been abused. In the occupied territories, women are victims of assassinations or they are put under pressure until they can no longer see a way out and commit suicide.”

Çiçek Kobanê, Hevrîn Xelef and deaths from drones

The statement adds: “In Northern and Eastern Syria, women are also the target of attacks by the Turkish state. In October 2019, Çiçek Kobanê, a Syrian citizen and fighter for the YPJ Women's Defense Units, was kidnapped by jihadist militias and transported to Turkey. She was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Turkish criminal court.

On 12 October 2019, during the Turkish invasion of northeast Syria, the General Secretary of the Syrian Future Party, Hevrîn Xelef, was brutally murdered by the Turkish-backed militia Ahrar al-Sharqiya.

On 13 October2019, our member Aqide Osman and 14 other civilians were bombed by Turkish fighter planes while they were participating in a civilian aid convoy en route to Serêkaniyê to protest the invasion.

On 23 June 2020, three members of Kongreya Star, Hebûn Mele Xelil, Emîna Waysî and Zerha Berkel, were murdered by a drone attack in the village of Helince near Kobanê. On August 19, 2021, Sosin Mihemed, a member of the Military Council of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), was killed by a Turkish drone. These are just some examples.”

The world cannot close a blind eye

Kongreya Star insist that “the constant attacks and threats greatly affect the lives of the population and put women in great danger. Besides the jihadist militias, ISIS cells are also still active. The world was shocked by the dire crimes committed by IS against women, but remains silent while women in the occupied territories experience sexual assault, violence, torture, kidnapping and murder. The world cannot close a blind eye. Many reports, articles and appeals describe the situation which reflects the darkest periods women had to go through under the rule of ISIS.

All women's organizations that fight for the liberation of women and society as a whole work all year round and give all their energy to protect women from violence and to build a society in which everyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or religion, lives in peace and security. Our connection to this struggle will never end, but in order to do our job, the war and occupation must end.”

Build pressure on the international community

Kongreya Star says: “We turn to the United Nations, whose primary role is to strengthen peace and security internationally by taking effective joint action to prevent and eliminate threats to peace, halt attacks and build bridges for peace.

In this context, the support of women is essential and for this reason we call on the UN to put pressure on the international community

- to prevent further barbaric attacks on the part of Turkey and to protect the ceasefire agreement that has been signed;

- to set up a commission of inquiry and send it to North-east Syria to investigate the crimes of the Turkish state and its affiliated groups

- to demand that the Turkish state immediately end its occupation and interventions in northern and eastern Syria

- to ensure a safe return of the refugees to their homeland in accordance with international law."