ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Turkish-backed Sultan Murad Brigade on Monday released media activist Bilal Srewel in Afrin, who is originally from East Ghouta, after subjecting him to intense torture, according to Srewel.
The Sultan Murad Brigade reportedly arrested Srewel for taking pictures without permission in Afrin. Bilal is a survivor of the siege of Ghouta, during which he was severely injured by Syrian government shelling.
Elizabeth Tsurkov, a Research Fellow who specializes in Syria at the Forum for Regional Thinking, an Israeli think-tank, wrote on Twitter that “this is how Sultan Murad Brigade, a Free Syrian Army faction backed by Turkey, treats journalists.”
She also told Kurdistan 24 this was not the first time armed Syrian opposition factions have arrested activists.
“It’s not the first time at all. I tweeted about previous cases,” she added.
The Sultan Murad Brigade, a Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army faction, arrested media activist Bilal Srewel for taking photos in Efrin. Bilal is a survivor of the siege of Ghouta, during which he was severely injured by Assad regime shelling. pic.twitter.com/uivOrwbgUi— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) November 11, 2018
“Kurdish activists are, of course, treated similarly, and even worse,” she told Kurdistan 24.
Mohammed Bilo, a Kurdish journalist from Afrin who fled to Erbil after the Turkish army and its allied factions took control of the northwestern Kurdish canton, told Kurdistan 24 that the Syrian opposition media normally ignores instances of Syrian Kurds from Afrin being tortured by rebel factions backed by Turkey.
“Dozens of pictures of this type have emerged, and even the most severe ones, which showed that Kurdish citizens in Afrin were subjected to the most extreme types of torture in the camps of the Islamic militias of Turkey (Free Syrian Army), but the opposition media did not pay attention to these atrocities until Bilal,” he told Kurdistan 24.
A report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for the month of June detailed large-scale human rights abuses in areas under Turkish control, such as Afrin, which was taken in March by Turkey from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“With civilians falling victim to robberies, harassment, abductions, and murder, the OHCHR continues to receive allegations of discrimination against civilians perceived to hold sympathies or affiliations to Kurdish forces,” the report said.
According to an Amnesty International report in August, Turkish forces occupying the Kurdish city of Afrin were giving allied Syrian armed groups free rein to commit serious human rights abuses against civilians.
“Research released reveals that residents in Afrin are enduring a wide range of violations, mostly at the hands of Syrian armed groups that have been equipped and armed by Turkey,” Amnesty said.
Editing by Nadia Riva