ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iranian court added twelve additional months to the eleven-year prison sentences of two individuals who reportedly fought alongside Kurdish militia groups in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava), a rights group reported this week.
Rahim Mahmoudi Azar and Mostafa Ghader Zeinab are from Urmia, a city in Iran with a significant Kurdish population. Both had traveled to Syria to join the ranks of the armed group, a source close to the two men told Iran-based HRANA rights group, without specifying the Kurdish group.
Both detainees were interrogated in March for approximately one week and shortly afterward were moved to a separate detention center where they were questioned for a month. In July, Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court of Urmia handed both Zeinab and Azar 11 years in prison for "membership in anti-regime groups... collusion and conspiracy... [and] propaganda against the regime."
On Sunday, the term of the two men was prolonged by the extra year for "crossing the border illegally," landing them a total sentence of 12 years in prison.
Azar is currently detained in Urmia and Zeinab is free on bail.
In early 2018, Turkish military forces launched an operation into Afrin, then controlled by US-backed Syrian Defence Forces' (SDF). The offensive targeted the People's Protection Units (YPG) which Ankara sees as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), a group recognized by the US, NATO, and Turkey as a terrorist organization.
Turkey also claimed that it was fighting Islamic State (IS) fighters but the group's fighters were not known to be operating in the area. The region is currently under the control of Turkish troops and allied Syrian forces against whom multiple allegations of human rights violations have been made.
The YPG is fighting an insurgency-style resistance against those forces in Afrin.
During the offensive on Afrin, Zeinab and Azar sustained injuries and were transferred to a hospital in Aleppo. "Upon realizing their nationalities, Syrian authorities handed them over to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)," according to the rights group's report.
Editing by John J. Catherine