ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Wednesday reported that Turkish intelligence units and Turkish-backed Syrian armed groups began moving 600 Kurdish prisoners originally from Afrin to an unknown detention facility.
“The transfer took place from Sejju [al-Ma’sara] Prison in Azaz area in the northern countryside of Aleppo, and they were transported to a destination that [is] still unknown until now,” SOHR said, adding that the transfer commenced during the past week in multiple batches after the detainees were put through a screening process.
According to SOHR sources, the health of a large number of these detainees has recently deteriorated as a result of torture and the notorious conditions of al-Ma’sara Prison.
In the past, other detainees were transferred to Turkish prisons on charges of belonging to the Kurdish administration that administered Afrin before Turkey occupied it in March 2018.
On Monday, international human rights group Amnesty International called on UN Security Council member states to address the widespread detentions, kidnapping, torture, and other ill-treatment of thousands of Syrians by the Islamic State, the Syrian government, and various Syrian rebel groups.
“Local sources in Afrin reported at least 110 abuses that appear to amount to instances of arbitrary detention, torture and abductions of civilians by pro-Turkey armed groups,” Amnesty said.
In February, the United Nations’ Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a statement charging that armed groups in Afrin were guilty of war crimes, such as “hostage-taking, cruel treatment, torture, and pillage.”
The UN report stated that “the most common violations perpetrated in Afrin involved frequent abductions by armed groups and criminal gangs.”
Even non-Kurdish pro-Syrian opposition activists such as Bilal Srewel who fled from eastern Ghouta to Afrin couldn’t escape being detained and tortured in the past year.
Forces on the ground continue to make arrests on a regular basis. In early May, the al-Jabha al-Shamiyyah group captured six people, including one woman, in the village of Maabatli in the outskirts of Afrin who they accused of “dealing with YPG [People’s Protection Units],” SOHR said.
Moreover, the Ahrar al-Sharqiyah faction reportedly beat local Kurds in al-Amara village after accusing them of cooperating with the “self-administration.”
They also forcefully removed a family from a house of their relatives, despite having legal documents showing they had permission to be there that had been issued by the local council in Afrin.
According to SOHR, 2,682 citizens have so far been arrested in Afrin, with 1,087 still being detained. Many of those no longer in custody were released only after their families paid ransom to the Turkish-backed groups, who would send audio or video clips of them to loved ones along with demands for payment.
A report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) from July estimated that most such instances of ransom paid in Afrin have ranged between $1,000 to $3,000.
For more than 100,000 residents still estimated to be living in Afrin, the worsening economic conditions they have faced after Turkey took the area are a considerable hardship.
The average wage in Syria is roughly $100 for the public sector and anywhere between $200 and $300 for the private sector, as reported by the Asia Times.
Sinam Mohamad, an SDC representative in the US, previously told Kurdistan 24 that Turkey is “taking advantage of international silence and the silence of the Syrian government,” and noted that its actions in Afrin are a violation of civilians' human rights and of international law.
Editing by John J. Catherine