ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) has summarily executed civilians and failed to account for aid workers who disappeared while working in the “safe zone,” the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report on Wednesday.
HRW also accused Turkey and the SNA of indiscriminately shelling civilian areas, carrying out at least seven summary killings, unlawfully occupying private civilian homes and shops and looting the owners’ property, and not accounting for aid workers who may have been forcibly disappeared while working in their zones following Turkey’s military assault on northeastern Syria on Oct. 9.
The armed group had refused to allow the return of Kurdish families displaced by Turkey’s military operations, the report added.
“Executing individuals, pillaging property, and blocking displaced people from returning to their homes is damning evidence of why Turkey’s proposed ‘safe zones’ will not be safe,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director, said.
“Contrary to Turkey’s narrative that their operation will establish a safe zone, the groups they are using to administer the territory are themselves committing abuses against civilians and discriminating on ethnic grounds.”
On Oct. 11, videos and images – including some the SNA posted itself – emerged on social media showing its members shooting a person who was lying down without moving and appeared to pose no threat, and standing atop the dead body of another person in a degrading manner.
HRW also documented the execution of a Kurdish political activist, Hevrin Khalaf, and researched what happened to three Kurdish Red Crescent aid workers who disappeared in SNA-controlled territory, including the apparent unlawful killing of at least one of them. The rights group interviewed three relatives and colleagues who verified the victims’ identities and the circumstances of their deaths.
HRW interviewed five Kurdish civilians who said the armed group’s forces were occupying their homes and other property and had arbitrarily prevented them or their relatives from returning.
A Reuters journalist of Kurdish origin posted pictures of his house on Oct. 30, claiming the group had occupied it.
In another case, the group’s forces killed three Kurdish men who had tried to return to the city of Serekaniye, witnesses and relatives said, and prevented another Kurdish man from returning while allowing Arab residents to return.
1-— Rodi Said (@RodiSad) October 29, 2019
Turkey backed Syrian armed factions have seized my house because am Kurdish, since Turkey sees any Kurd like me as a threat to its national security, while the presence of someone terrorist and dangerous like ISIS leader (Baghdadi) next to Turkish borders and in an area under
HRW said the de facto authorities in the areas where these abuses took place should “ensure that those responsible are held to account, that it is safe for people to return if they wish and that no one is refused the right to return on the basis of their ethnicity or identity.”
It also called on the Turkish government to end its military assistance to SNA factions responsible for these abuses.
“Turkey is turning a blind eye to the reprehensible behavior displayed by the factions it arms,” Whitson said. “So long as Turkey is in control of these areas, it has a responsibility to investigate and end these violations.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany