Two civilians, including a woman, abducted in Afrin

Thousands of civilians have been kidnapped in Afrin since it was occupied by the Turkish army and allied mercenaries in March 2018.

Hawar News Agency (ANHA) reported that the Turkish-backed mercenary group Ahrar al-Sharqiya have abducted a young woman in the occupied Afrin territory. Accordingly, the woman, named as Meryem Evdik Şêxo, was kidnapped from the village of Qasim in Rajo district on Friday.

Local sources reported that 25-year-old civilian Murad Abdurrahman Reşîd was kidnapped by Turkish-backed Sultan Murad mercenaries from the Jindires district on September 16.

The aftermath of both kidnapped civilians is unknown.

Afrin has been occupied by Turkey since March 2018. Kidnappings are a common source of income for the Islamist mercenaries of the Turkish state. Since the beginning of the occupation of Afrin, human rights violations and war crimes have been on the agenda in what was once the safest region of all Syria. In addition to a classic colonial policy, Turkey continues to practice a policy of ethnic cleansing, which has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their ancestral settlements. The demographic change in favour of Turkey and its Islamist invasion forces, crimes such as kidnapping, torture, extortion and murder are happening with the de facto approval of the international community of states.

According to a quarterly report by the human rights organization of Afrin, 139 civilians, including 13 women, were abducted in the past three months. At least 22 of them, including six women, were murdered by torture. The militias of the so-called Syrian National Army (SNA) are acting on orders from the Turkish secret service MIT, extorting ransom money and putting the civilian population under pressure. This is intended to systematically change the demographic composition of the region and crush the ongoing resistance.

Earlier this week, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic published a 25-page report presenting its findings based on investigations conducted from 11 January 2020 to 1 July 2020.

Documenting continuing violations and abuses by nearly every conflict actor controlling territory in Syria, the report highlights an increase in patterns of targeted abuses such as assassinations, sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, and looting or appropriation of private property, with sectarian undertones.

In Afrin and surrounding area, the report documents how the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army may have committed the war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment and torture, and rape. In the same region scores of civilians were killed and maimed by large improvised explosive devices, as well as during shelling and rocket attacks.

In particular the report said: "Since 2019, Kurdish women throughout the Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn [Serêkaniyê] regions have faced acts of intimidation by Syrian National Army brigade members, engendering a pervasive climate of fear which in effect confined them to their homes. Women and girls have also been detained by Syrian National Army fighters, and subjected to rape and sexual violence – causing severe physical and psychological harm at the individual level, as well as at the community level, owing to stigma and cultural norms related to ideations of “female honour”. During the period under review, cases of sexual violence against women and men at one detention facility in Afrin were documented.

The Commission also received reports of forced marriage and the abduction of Kurdish women in Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn [Serêkaniyê], which primarily involved members of Division 24 (the Sultan Murad Brigade) of the Syrian National Army."

The human rights situation in parts of north, northwest and northeast Syria under the control of Turkish forces and Turkish-affiliated armed groups is grim, with violence and criminality rife, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned on Friday.

While human rights and international humanitarian law violations against civilians continue across Syria, the UN Human Rights Office has noted an alarming pattern in recent months of grave violations in these areas, including in Afrin, Ras al-Ain, and Tel Abyad, where increased killings, kidnappings, unlawful transfers of people, seizures of land and properties and forcible evictions have been documented.

From 1 January to 14 September 2020, the UN Human Rights Office verified the deaths of at least 116 civilians as a result of improvised explosive devices (IEDS) used by unidentified perpetrators and explosive remnants of war (ERW). Those killed included 15 women, 20 boys and two girls. Some 463 civilians were injured.

“I also call on the Turkish authorities to respect international law and to ensure that violations committed by armed groups under Turkey’s effective control cease,” she said.