Women’s Council calls for Turkey to be brought to justice

The Women's Council in North and East Syria held Turkey responsible for the crimes taking place in the occupied territories and called for action for it to be brought to justice.

The Women's Council in North and East Syria issued a statement on the recent report published by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic on 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. Civilian suffering is a constant and personal feature of this crisis.

In Afrin and surrounding area, the report documents how the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army 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."

In its statement published on Monday, the Women's Council in North and East Syria noted that the report provided documentation of systematic crimes and violations carried out by the Syrian National Army, which amount to war crimes such as murder, torture, kidnapping, rape, forced displacement, looting of property, annihilation of cultural monuments and destruction of places of worship and public life facilities. It deserves attention for documenting cases of violence, killings, and atrocious practices committed in those areas, and in Syria in general, the Council said.

“The crimes committed against women in the areas occupied by Turkey and its mercenaries indicate the systematic targeting of women in general and Kurdish women in particular in order to break their will and eliminate their struggle ongoing for more than ten years. This struggle has crowned many of the gains and achievements made on the ground because these achievements are the right of all women in all parts of the world,” said the statement.

The Council pointed out that they highly value the international efforts exerted to expose the crimes of Turkey and the factions associated with it, adding: “We demand that the Turkish state be held directly responsible for these crimes and it be confirmed that these violations are taking place under the direction of the Turkish occupation state.”

The Council remarked that the Turkish state’s attempts to change the demography of the Kurdish regions became clearly visible with the expulsion of the Kurdish population and the settlement of families of mercenary factions in their homes and lands.

Th Council demanded the international community with all its concerned bodies and institutions to hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable and bring them to international courts to receive a penalty for their crimes.

“We also demand the international community to pressure the Turkish occupation state to withdraw from the Syrian territories it has occupied in flagrant violation of international legitimacy and without any justification. This will enable the IDPs in the displacement camps to return to their homes and lands from which they were forcibly displaced, which will contribute to stopping the Syrian bloodshed that has continued for years and which has produced tragedies and disasters that the Syrian people have suffered from,” the Council added.