Crimes and violations in Turkish occupied Afrin denounced at Qamishlo forum
The Human Rights Organization of Afrin presented a report on the violations and crimes committed by Turkey and its mercenaries in Afrin Canton over three years of occupation.
The second forum on human rights violations in occupied Afrin, which kicked off in Qamishlo city this morning, continues to highlight the crimes committed by the Turkish occupation since March 2018.
After the speech of the co-chair of the Executive Council in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, Abdul Hamid al-Mahbash, the head of the Human Rights Organization in Afrin, Ibrahim Sheikho, revealed the violations that Turkey and its mercenaries have committed for 3 years.
The report of the head of the Human Rights Organization in Afrin includes the following:
On January 20, 2018, the Turkish occupation army and its affiliated Syrian jihadist groups launched a military operation to occupy Afrin canton, using all kinds of heavy and modern weapons. The aggression carried out with the support of artillery bombardment and warplanes with all brutality left a huge amount of destruction to the infrastructure and vital civilian facilities.
The attack caused thousands of civilian casualties, either dead or wounded, displacement of hundreds of thousands of residents, and dozens of massacres characterized by ethnic cleansing. These acts were committed in flagrant violation of all international principles and conventions and under various pretexts to justify the occupation of Afrin canton, including protecting Turkish national security, establishing safe regions, resettlement of Syrian refugees and displaced persons.
As is known, Afrin had an administrative and societal system before its occupation and enjoyed relative stability in terms of security and economics, which was lacking in most other Syrian regions and cities. In addition, it housed tens of thousands of displaced people from other Syrian regions.
In this report, we will review an aspect of the violations committed against civilians in Afrin Canton during three years of occupation. A part of these violations has been documented, yet the bulk is still hidden as a result of the policy of the Turkish state and the jihadist groups affiliated with it through the media blackout and concealment of evidence, and the absence of capable independent international committees on access to all victims. The violations and crimes committed in Afrin are as follows:
FIGURES FOR 2018
400,000 foreigners settled in Afrin
The Turkish state launched the military operation on Afrin at the first hours of dawn on January 20, 2018, using more than 72 warplanes and artillery support, targeting all vital military, civil and vital facilities. Afrin was invaded by the Turkish state in cooperation with the Syrian jihadist factions, after a brave resistance by the Syrian Democratic Forces for more than 58 days.
The Turkish army’s occupation of Afrin caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of its residents, approximately 80%, to the areas of Shehba (al-Shahba), the city of Aleppo, the town of Tal Rifaat, and the al-Shahba camp, which was later established by the Autonomous Administration. During three years of occupation, nearly 400,000 foreigners were resettled throughout the villages and districts of Afrin, who were brought from the conflict zones in Syria, especially the southern countryside of Idlib, the southern and western countryside of Aleppo, and the Ghouta region.
498 civilians lost their lives as a result of the bombing by the Turkish army and the jihadist factions affiliated with it. 82 people died under torture and more than 696 were wounded as a result of the bombing, including 303 children and 213 women.
Schools destroyed, hospitals bombed
According to the Afrin Canton Education Authority’s statistics, 64 schools were destroyed due to the military operation. While the number of students registered before the military operation was 50,855, there are only 13,000 students in Shehba areas currently.
The Turkish state closed all educational centers, including Afrin University, canceled the curricula taught in the mother tongue (Kurdish) and imposed Turkish and Arabic languages in schools, in addition to imposing the teaching of Islamic law on the rest of the population from all minorities.
During 2018, the Turkish state and the extremist Syrian armed factions carried out systematic killings and kidnappings. The number of kidnapped persons reached 943, of whom 76 were killed under torture or executed without any trials, charged with having connections with the Autonomous Administration. Most of the kidnappings took place under the supervision of the Turkish forces and their intelligence service MIT, through direct investigation and torture operations.
Dozens of vital sites and health, educational and service facilities were targeted. Afrin Hospital was bombed 3 times, and ambulances belonging to the Kurdish Red Crescent were targeted while transporting the wounded to hospital. On the other hand, a water purification station was targeted in the village of Metina, affiliated to Shera district, and the dam in the village of Maidanki was targeted during the military operation to cut off the water on the population, using it as a weapon of war to force civilians to flee.
FIGURES FOR 2019
The number of kidnappings and ransom demands in Afrin Canton in 2019 exceeded 6,000 cases. Ransom was asked from the relatives of 500 of these and the fate of 330 people is unknown. 700 people were documented subjected to torture. Some of the kidnapped women and children were filmed while being tortured and the videos were then sent to their families who were blackmailed for ransom, which sometimes amounted to more than 100 thousand US dollars.
The number of murders at the hands of the factions reached 54 who died under torture in detention centers. 41 died as a result of the bombing of the Turkish state and jihadist factions. While 2 journalists and 670 civilians were wounded as a result of bombardments, 1,730 were injured by mines and explosions.
On December 2, 2019, the city of Tal Rifaat, 35 km north of Aleppo, was subjected to direct artillery shelling by the Turkish state and armed factions. The bombing targeted the displaced people from Afrin directly, resulting in the loss of 8 children and 2 adults, in addition to wounding 17 people, including 9 children.
The Afrin region witnessed widespread violations against women, including kidnappings, killings, rape and torture, a policy followed by jihadist factions and Turkish forces to abuse civilians and force them to flee. 40 women were murdered and 128 wounded between 2018 and 2019. In addition, 60 cases of rape were recorded, most of them against minors. 5 of these committed suicides and 270 were kidnapped. Cases of forced marriage under threat and extortion were also recorded, as well as a high rate of underage marriage among women to avoid their relatives marrying members of armed groups.
FIGURES FOR 2020
During 2020, 58 people were killed, among them 9 women. 987 people were kidnapped. 39 bombings occurred in civilian-populated areas, resulting in the injury and loss of 170 people.
35 women were kidnapped in 2020 and 67 women were raped, including minors and disabled. 5 cases of forced marriage with jihadist factions against minors from Afrin have been documented. Sexual violence was not only against women, as cases of rape of men and adolescents were documented in the prisons of the factions under the supervision and knowledge of the Turkish army.
Violations against minorities and historical monuments
Minorities have been subjected to displacement, widespread violations and cultural and religious change processes, especially the Alawite and Yazidi sects. Afrin is home to 23 Yazidi villages which were inhabited by about 25,000 thousand people before the outbreak of the conflict in Syria in 2011. With the repeated attacks of jihadist factions throughout the years of the Syrian conflict, a number of them emigrated, heading towards European countries. With the entry of the Turkish occupation forces and the extremist Syrian factions into Afrin, most of them fled from these villages. A few of them did not leave their villages, most of whom were elderly, and the number of those remaining did not exceed 7,000 people. The groups and factions committed crimes and violations amounting to crimes against humanity.
These factions pursued a policy of intimidation, imposed the Islamic faith, forced these people to perform the Islamic rituals of prayer and fast. On the other hand, they destroyed the cultural and religious heritage of this sect in an attempt to exterminate them, turned their religious shrines into stables and destroyed their historical shrines and exhumed them in search of antiquities.
More than 300,000 trees cut down
Nothing was spared in Afrin canton of the oppression of the jihadist factions and the Turkish army for whom everything was permissible. The number of forest and olive trees that were cut down for firewood trade reached more than 300,000, including 300 rare perennial olive trees, 15,000 oak trees and more than 11,000 forest trees. The factions burned an equivalent of 2,180 dunums, as well as 10,000 of the total 33,000 hectares of agricultural land.
The historical and cultural monuments in Afrin witnessed major destruction and looting. According to the statistics of the Antiquities Authority in Afrin, more than 28 archaeological sites and mounds were destroyed and the antiquities in them were stolen and sold in Turkish markets in an organized process to obliterate the historical identity of Afrin canton.
A religious shrine for religious and sectarian minorities was destroyed and some of them were converted into Islamic mosques under the auspices of Turkish relief and religious institutions. Some of them were transformed into animal barns after the completion of their exhumation. The names of most of the streets, squares, public and historical places in Afrin canton were changed with the names of Turkish and Islamic personalities, especially those who committed crimes against the Kurdish people.