ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A representative of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) in the United States has welcomed the latest report the United Nations’ Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released on Thursday that described the practices by Turkish-backed groups in Afrin as war crimes.
Sinam Mohamad, an SDC representative in the US, said the UN report is “a good sign and start” to shed light on the violations in Afrin, but emphasized that more had to be done.
According to Mohamad, the Turkish occupation in Afrin must end, and the Turkish-backed groups need to leave. Turkey and its armed groups occupiedthe former Kurdish-held region on March 18, 2018.
“Nobody mentioned anything about the violation of human rights, the kidnapping of women, the taking of lands of people, the selling of Afrin’s olive oil by Turkey to Europe, and the demographic change, which is the most dangerous,” she stated.
In its report, the UN said that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that armed group members in Afrin committed the war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment, torture, and pillage.”
“Due to the glaring absence of the rule of law, it similarly remains unclear whether Turkish forces were capable of exercising overall control over any armed groups present in the district,” it added.
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Several civilians from Afrin who were displaced to the Kurdish city of Kobani confirmed to Kurdistan 24 that many human rights violations had taken place, including torture, kidnapping, and the pillaging of Afrin’s olives.
According to one civilian, Turkish-backed rebel groups arrested him on several occasions.
“I was arrested. They tied my leg with a rope, hanged it on the roof, and beat me with cables,” the civilian, who identified as the pseudonym Ali, recounted.
One Turkish-backed group detained Ali for two months before eventually releasing him.
After this, he attempted to flee from Afrin by going to Idlib and tried to cross the border to Turkey. However, groups in control of the border arrested Ali and brought him back to Afrin.
He eventually paid $1,100 to a Kurdish member of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to bring him to Ain Dadat, close to Manbij. From there, Ali was able to reach areas the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control and now lives in Kobani.
Mohamad underlined that the return of Afrin civilians to their original homes, and the departure of Turkish-backed groups is of paramount significance.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Turkish attack on Afrin resulted in the collapse of the local health system and displaced 167,000 people. Local Kurdish officials say the number is even higher.
“We need a solution,” the SDC official said. “The war crimes are ongoing there, and they have not stopped.”
Furthermore, Turkey has settled thousands of families and fighters from areas like Eastern Ghouta, Douma, Homs, Idlib, and Deir al-Zor to replace the local population.
Mohamad called on the Turkish army to leave Afrin and end its violations, so “the people in the camps can go back to their city and villages.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany