Turkish-backed mercenaries continue to commit violations against Afrin residents

The crimes perpetrated by the Turkish state and its mercenaries against the people of Afrin continue unabated.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the “Jaysh Al-Nukhbah” mercenaries severely beat a civilian in his 30’s and his 67-year-old father from Shekhoutkah village in Mabeta district of Afrin.

The mercenaries attacked the two men because they refrained from selling foodstuffs from their shop to an armed group of the faction due to debt accumulation. 

On the other hand, the “National Army” mercenaries brutally assaulted a 45-year-old civilian from Hasan Dera village in Bilbile district in Afrin. The man was then taken to an unknown destination for unknown reasons and his fate remains unknown, according to SOHR.

In addition, a civilian from Qarah Gul village in Bilbile district, was released after paying a release bail to the court in Afrin city, estimated at 150 USD. The man had been arrested last month in a raid operation on his house in Al-Ashrafiah neighbourhood in Afrin city, on charges of going out on guard shifts during the former Autonomous Administration rule.

Afrin Canton was the westernmost canton of Rojava and North and East Syria, home to 200,000 ethnic Kurds. Though the population was overwhelmingly Kurdish, it was home to diverse religious groups including Yazidis, Alawites and Christians alongside Sunni Muslims.

On 20 January 2018, Turkey launched air strikes on 100 locations in Afrin, as the onset of an invasion they dubbed ‘Operation Olive Branch.’

The Turkish Airforce indiscriminately shelled civilians as well as YPG/YPJ positions, while a ground assault was carried out by factions and militias organised under the umbrella of the Turkish-backed National Army.

By 15 March, Turkish-backed militias had encircled Afrin city and placed it under artillery bombardment. A Turkish airstrike struck the city’s only functioning hospital, killing 16 civilians.

Civilians fled and the SDF retreated, and by 18 March Turkey was in de facto occupation of Afrin. Between 400 and 500 civilians died in the invasion, overwhelmingly as a result of Turkish bombing. Other civilians were summarily executed in the field.

Prior to the Turkish invasion, Afrin had been one of the most peaceful and secure parts of Syria, virtually never seeing combat during the civil war bar occasional skirmishes between YPG/YPJ and jihadi forces on its borders. As a result, Afrin offered peaceful sanctuary to over 300,000 internally displaced people from elsewhere in Syria.