New report sheds light on Turkey's “systematic repression" of Kurds in Afrin
A report published by two Syrian rights groups reveals a "systematic policy of repression" by Turkey and its Syrian mercenaries against residents of the Kurdish city of Afrin in northwestern Syria, based on the testimony of 40 victims.
Kurdish forces controlled Afrin after Syrian regime forces withdrew from the city at the start of the country's uprising in 2011. However, Turkey and its Syrian mercenaries invaded the city in 2018, displacing hundreds of thousands of Kurds and committing crimes against those who remained behind.
The Afrin Human Rights Organization and Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) released a joint report Wednesday based on interviews with 40 victims of Turkey's invasion of the city. The testimonies were recorded between 2021 and early 2022.
"The witnesses recounted their traumatic experiences of torture and ill-treatment during their visits to detention centers. They reported arbitrary arrests, cruel torture, and acts of sexual violence. Most of the arrests occurred in March 2018 by the Turkish army and allied Syrian armed groups following Turkey's invasion of Afrin," the report said. "After their release, most victims fled Afrin for IDP camps and safe areas in Aleppo, fearing re-arrest, as happened to survivors who remained in Afrin."
All the interviewed victims were Kurds, except for six Arabs. Twenty-five of them were male and the rest were females, including a young child, according to the paper.
One of the victims is a woman who says she was abducted by three armed men when Afrin was taken. She was first taken to a detention center in the city and then transferred to a prison in Turkey's Kilis province along with six other women and 37 men. Later, they were all returned to Afrin and held in a military base for mercenaries, "where they saw dozens of detained women."
The witnesses told the two human rights organizations that the Turkish-backed armed groups had turned people's homes into detention centers.
One female victim reported that she was put in a communal cell where she was repeatedly interrogated for over five days. "They brutally tortured me by beating me with a four-wire cable and giving me electric shocks. There were more than 20 women in the room, some of whom had their children with them. The prisoners insulted me and called me an 'infidel' because I am Yazidi, and forced me to convert to Islam."
The United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic said in a 2020 report that residents of Afrin and Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain), which were occupied by Turkey and its Syrian proxies in 2019, "witnessed an onslaught of attacks by members of the Syrian National Army, as well as shelling and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices," referring to the military alliance of Turkey-backed groups formerly called the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
"During the reporting period, the Commission confirmed repeated patterns of systematic looting and appropriation of property, as well as widespread arbitrary deprivation of liberty by various Syrian National Army brigades in the Afrin and Ra's al-Ayn regions. After civilian property was looted, Syrian National Army fighters and their families occupied houses after civilians fled or forced residents, mainly of Kurdish origin, to flee their homes through threats, extortion, murder, kidnapping, torture, and imprisonment," the report states.