HRW calls on Turkey to investigate Newroz killings in Afrin
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Ankara to launch an independent and transparent investigation into a shooting incident where an armed group affiliated with the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army on Monday killed four civilians from the same family during the Newroz celebrations in the town of Jindires in northern Syria.
In a statement released on Thursday, HRW called on Turkey to take action to prevent further human rights violations.
The statement, which also featured the views of HRW's Deputy Director for the Middle East, Adam Coogle, said that the killings had taken place in the context of ongoing and unchecked human rights abuses by Turkish forces and their local Syrian allies.
“These killings come after over five years of unaddressed human rights abuses at the hands of Turkish forces and the local Syrian factions they empower,” said Coogle.
“Turkey has allowed these fighters to abuse people living in the areas under their control with impunity, risking making itself complicit in the violations.”
HRW conducted interviews with the brother of one of the victims, two eyewitnesses to the incident, and a local humanitarian worker near Jindires, as well as examining photographs and videos of the bodies.
HRW said that eyewitnesses had identified the group responsible for the attack as Jaysh Al-Sharqiyah, an FSA-affiliated group, and called on Turkey to investigate the incident and cut all support for groups implicated in repeated or systematic human rights violations or breaches of international humanitarian law.
“As an occupying power and as a backer of the local factions operating in areas under its control in northern Syria, Turkey is obliged to investigate these killings and ensure that those responsible are held accountable. Turkey should also cut all support to SNA factions implicated in recurrent or systemic human rights abuses and international humanitarian law violations,” the statement said.
HRW also gave details about how the incident unfolded:
A verbal argument broke out between a member of the Jaysh Al-Sharqiyah and Farhaddin Osman, one of the victims, outside his family's home.
Witnesses said that the fighter ordered Osman to put out a small fire on the roof as part of Newroz celebrations. Then he returned with two others and opened fire indiscriminately, killing four members of the family and injuring others.
The incident was also reportedly discussed during a meeting in Ankara between the head of the Barzani Aid Foundation, Musa Ahmed Barzani, and the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday. According to reports in Kurdish media, Ahmed raised concerns about the incident and asked Cavusoglu to convey these to the Prime Minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government, Masrour Barzani.