US-sanctioned jihadist leader graduates from Turkish university, attends ceremony

US-sanctioned jihadist leader graduates from Turkish university, attends ceremony
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Abu Hatem Shaqra, who is held responsible for the execution of hundreds of detainees in Syria and for the trafficking of enslaved Yazidi women and children, has graduated from Turkey's Artuklu University.

The commander of the armed jihadist Ahrar al-Sharqiya group who has been sanctioned by the United States over crimes committed in Syria and is held responsible for war crimes by the United Nations graduated from Turkey's Artuklu University, bianet reported.

Abu Hatem Shaqra received his degree from the department of political science and international relations, attended the graduation ceremony on Tuesday wearing a gown with the name "Ahmad Ihsan Fayyad al-Hayes" inscribed in Arabic, bianet said, adding that he and some other men posed with a flag of the Syrian National Army at the ceremony.

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Ahrar al-Sharqiya is among Turkish-backed armed groups that operate in areas under Turkish occupation in northern Syria.

The group and in particular Abu Hatem Shaqra were sanctioned by the United States Treasury Department in July 2021 over "crimes against civilians," including unlawful killings, abductions, torture, and seizures of private property. The group is known to have in its ranks former members of the Islamic State (ISIS).

The department said in its report:

"Ahmad Ihsan Fayyad al-Hayes (Ahmad al-Hayes), commonly known as 'Abu Hatem Shaqra,' is Ahrar al-Sharqiya’s leader and is directly complicit in many of the militia's human rights abuses. Al-Hayes commanded Ahrar al-Sharqiya’s prison outside of Aleppo, where hundreds of detainees have been executed since 2018. Ahmad al-Hayes has been implicated in the trafficking of Yazidi women and children and has integrated former ISIS members into the ranks of Ahrar al-Sharqiya. A number of former ISIS officials had sworn allegiance to al-Hayes and worked to support Ahrar al-Sharqiya’s ransom and extortion efforts."

The group is responsible for the murder of many civilians, including Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf, one of the leaders of Future Syria Party.

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on 15 October 2019:

"We have received reports and viewed two separate pieces of video footage showing what appear to be summary executions carried out by fighters belonging to the Ahrar al-Sharqiya armed group, which is affiliated with Turkey, on 12 October."

The spokesperson stressed:

"Under international human rights and international humanitarian law, summary executions are serious violations - and may amount to a war crime. Turkey could be deemed responsible as a State for violations committed by their affiliated armed groups, as long as Turkey exercises effective control over these groups, or the operations in the course of which those violations occurred."