ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday said Turkish-backed rebels in Syrian Kurdistan’s (Rojava) Afrin continue to violate the human rights of civilians by destroying and looting property.
Turkey and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels began a military campaign into the formerly-held Kurdish region in northwestern Syria on Jan. 20.
Ankara claimed the operation was meant to clear its southern border of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters who it ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), thus labeling them “terrorists.”
After months of bombardment where hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands more displaced, the enclave was eventually overrun by Turkish and FSA forces on March 18.
Reports quickly emerged of the Turkish-backed rebels looting, seizing, and destroying the property of Kurdish civilians.
“Destroying or moving into the property of people who have had to flee the fighting is not what the [FSA] fighters should be doing when they move into an area,” HRW’s acting emergencies director Priyanka Motaparthy said in a report.
“Instead of protecting vulnerable civilians’ rights, these fighters are perpetuating a cycle of abuse,” she added.
Motaparthy also called on Turkey, who she said “made the decision to take over Afrin,” to ensure displaced residents “have basic shelter.”
In the report, HRW said the rights of victims should be guaranteed, and they should be compensated for the use and damage of their property.
According to Reuters, the FSA had stated on March 9 asking residents in the enclave to come forward with complaints at the military headquarters in Azaz “to claim their property.”
Kurdistan 24 was unable to reach the rebel group for immediate comment.
Turkish officials have also said they are investigating allegations of looting and property damage but, according to displaced residents interviewed by HRW, no such progress has been made.