"Where are the bodies of our martyrs?"

The relatives of the martyrs of Afrin are demanding immediate clarification about where the bodies exhumed from a martyrs' cemetery in Afrin by the Turkish occupiers were taken.

The Turkish state and its mercenaries systematically commit war crimes and human rights violations in Afrin. Most recently, a martyrs' cemetery was desecrated by pulling the bodies of people buried there out of the ground and taking them to an unknown location. The cemetery was subsequently presented as a "mass grave" in the Turkish media, claiming that the opened graves contained civilians executed by the People's Defense Units (YPG). The cemeteries of martyrs in Afrin have been repeatedly bombed or vandalized. Targeting the bodies of the martyrs is a frequently used tool in Turkish special warfare.

"Three of my relatives were buried in this cemetery"

Relatives of the martyrs exhumed by the occupation forces spoke to ANF and raised their demands. Cibrayil Mustefa, himself a member of the Afrin human rights organization, said the following regarding the attack on the cemetery behind the Avrîn hospital and the media campaign by the Turkish state press: "The Turkish official news agency Anadolu reported that a mass grave had been found in Afrin. The report claims that those buried there were killed by the YPG and YPJ.

Legally, a mass grave is defined as a place where people in an exceptional situation are buried together with their everyday clothes. However, when we look at the pictures and footage of the area in question, it becomes clear that this is not a mass grave, but each body has its own grave. It also becomes clear that each exhumed body is buried in a shroud. This means that each burial was carried out according to customs and traditions. I come from Afrin, and the bodies of three of my relatives were buried in this cemetery. If the Turkish state claims that this is a mass grave, then it should return the bodies to the families."

"The murderers of the martyrs are known"

Mustefa continued, "The state uses this issue for a murder trial. Every murder trial has to ask the following questions: Who is the murderer? Who is the murdered? What is the motive? In what way was the person killed? The answer to these questions, however, is perfectly clear: The murdered are people from Afrin, their murderers are the Turkish state and its mercenaries. There is also no doubt about the murder weapon; they were killed by Turkish warplanes and drones. We want an international committee to be formed and the bodies of those killed to be examined. Legally, it is proven that these killings were committed by the Turkish state. On this basis, we can state that the Turkish state is legally and politically finished. There is nothing more they can do, so they are attacking the bodies of the martyrs."

"The crimes of the Turkish state are documented"

Mustefa reported on the documentation of war crimes in Afrin and mentioned in particular a report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria. The human rights activist said, "The committee is affiliated with the United Nations Human Rights Council. The report, published in March 2021, highlights human rights violations by the Turkish state and its mercenaries. Although the Turkish state knew it was a martyrs' cemetery, it tried to deceive the international community by re-titling it a 'mass grave.' The Turkish state took steps in this way to avoid the danger [of condemnation based on the report]. One of these steps was sending Nasir al-Hariri to Afrin and setting up a 'committee against injustice' in Afrin. However, the people in Afrin who had contact with us said that the committee itself was involved in the land theft. The people who complain to the committee are also arrested and detained. Therefore, this attempt by the Turkish state [to cover up its crimes] was unsuccessful. Now they sent Abdulhakim Başar (ENKS) and had him declare that there were no human rights violations in Afrin. When that was not credible either, the cemetery was used."

"The lies of the Turkish state have come to light"

The Turkish state committed these murders, said Cebrayil Mustefa. "We made relevant documents available to the public. At the latest, then it became clear that the Turkish state is lying. Since the truth came to light, the occupiers have remained silent. However, as the people of Afrin, we call on international institutions to form a committee and expose the murderers of the martyrs." Mustefa pointed out that the Turkish state is violating the Hague Land Warfare Regulations, which stipulate that an occupying power must protect civilians, as well as cemeteries. In addition, Turkey's actions also violate the Geneva Convention, he said.

"We want to know what they did to our martyrs"

Ayide Mistefa, daughter of martyr Mihemed Mistefa, who was also buried in the cemetery, explained: "My father worked at the Asayîş. He was killed in a Turkish airstrike on March 11, 2018. Due to the intensity of the attacks and bombardment, we had to bury our martyrs near the hospital. We buried my father's body at a ceremony on March 14, 2018. The funerals of 35 martyrs were held on the same day. As the daughter of martyr Mihemed, I want to know what the Turkish state did to our martyrs. We hope to return to Afrin one day to visit my father's grave. Therefore, I call on the international community to identify the place where the body of my father and all the other martyrs is located."

The father of martyr Ehmed Xanê, Ebdin Xanê, told how Ehmed fell on March 12, 2018 and was buried behind Avrin Hospital under the Turkish bombardment. He also appealed to all human rights institutions to investigate what happened to the bodies of the martyrs.