Elderly Kurdish civilian dies after assault by Turkish-backed group in Syria’s Afrin

Suleyman Hamko, a 73-year-old man from a village in northern Syria, died on Tuesday from injuries sustained while being assaulted by members of a Turkish-backed militia.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Suleyman Hamko, a 73-year-old man from a village in northern Syria, died on Tuesday from injuries sustained while being assaulted by members of a Turkish-backed militia.

Hamko was from the Kanî Gewirkê village, on the road between the city of Afrin and Jindiris, and had no reported affiliation to any Kurdish parties. A local source who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons told Kurdistan 24 that Hamko was a “communist who was very critical of Turkey and the FSA [Free Syrian Army].”

Kanî Gewirkê is under the control of the Suleyman Shah Brigade, led by Mohammad al-Jassim, who is also known as Abu Amsha.

Earlier in August, Hamko was previously assaulted by three masked men in his house. He claimed at the time that his attackers stole all his possessions and cash savings. 

On Nov. 1, he was attacked again by militia members. The news site Afrin Post claimed the attack was allegedly carried out by members of Ahrar al-Sharqiya and the Suleyman Shah Brigade, but which group or groups were actually responsible could not be independently verified.

Unlike the August attack, the circumstances suggest that it was a targeted assault rather than a violent act of theft.

“They didn’t break in to steal money because everything in the house was intact and untouched. He even had money is his pocket,” said the source. “They attacked him to kill him.”

He was reportedly hit on the head with a metal canister of cooking gas. After family members later found him unconscious on the floor, he was transported to a hospital in nearby Marea where he died from his injuries.

A religious decree by the Turkish-backed Syrian Islamic Council released in February banned fighters backed by Ankara from taking “houses, furniture or property” from Kurdish or non-Kurdish civilians, but armed groups continue to violently raid houses of often elderly civilians, beating them and stealing their money.   

A report published by the Rojava Information Centre (RIC) on Thursday documents cases of civilians being killed while trying to defend themselves “against looting by armed gangs.”

In early October, an elderly man named Adnan Rashid was shot dead in the Midanki village outside Afrin after members of a Turkish-backed faction tried to rob his shop, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

Both 74-year-old Houria Mohammed Bakr and her 78-year-old husband Muhyiddin Ose died after being assaulted by the Jabhbat al-Shamiya group on Aug. 25, reported SOHR and the news website Xeber 24. In mid-September, the 3rd Legion, which includes Jabhat al-Shamiya, claimed on social media to have arrested individuals involved in the incident.

Independent human rights organizations and the United Nations have, on multiple occasions, confirmed a sustained campaign of human rights violations by Turkish-backed groups in Afrin. 

Read More: UN: Turkish-backed forces continue to commit war crimes in Afrin 

Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in late October that there have been several reports “of intimidation, ill-treatment, killing, kidnapping, looting and seizure of civilians’ houses by the Turkish-backed armed groups in these areas.” 

Civilians were “seized by members of these groups from their homes or at checkpoints, accused of affiliation with specific Kurdish armed or political groups. The fate and whereabouts of many of those civilians remain unknown,” he added.

Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said in a report released last month that Turkey has given these armed groups “free rein to commit serious violations in Afrin and elsewhere.”

“We call on Turkey again to end violations, hold perpetrators accountable, and protect civilians living under their control.”

Editing by John J. Catherine