Report: Turkey continues illegal transfer of Syrians after 2019 invasion
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - A report released on Friday by two local Syrian human rights organizations document how Ankara continues to illegally transfer dozens of Syrians arrested in areas occupied during its so-called “Peace Spring” operation in October 2019 for arbitrary trails in Turkey.
In a joint report, the Kurdish Committee for Human Rights-observer and Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) said a total of 170 to 180 Syrian detainees were transferred from Syria to Turkey since Ankara launched its campaign which displaced hundreds of thousands and the death of at least dozens of civilians.
“Most of them did not participate in hostilities and some of them worked in the Autonomous Administration institutions on a daily-paid basis or as temporary service providers. In Hilvan Prison (in Urfa) there are also 17 to 20 fighters of the YPG (People’s Protection Units) affiliated to the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces),” Bassam al-Ahmad, the executive director of Syrians for Truth and Justice, told Kurdistan 24.
Furthermore, the arrests did not only target Kurds, but also Arabs in the towns of Tal Abyad and Serekaniye that Turkey occupied in October 2019 after a major offensive against the Kurdish-led SDF.
“The arrests were made mainly in the suburbs of Tell Abiad and Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê in the days immediately following Operation Peace Spring. Those targeted were indigenous population of the region; Kurds and Arabs, including people who did labor work for the institutions of the Autonomous Administration and others who had no military or political links with it at all,” al-Ahmad added.
An example are Abdeljelil Mouallash (26) and his relative Jihad Mouallash and others, who were arrested in the village of Abu Shekhat – belonging to the Mabrouka town in Serekaniye on 22 October 2019 by the Turkish-backed 20th Division group.
“Abdeljelil and Jihad used to do labor work; like porterage and pastoralism. They were arrested wearing civilian clothes; they didn’t involve in the military operation in any way and had no links with the SDF, actually our village did not witness any hostilities,” a relative of Abdeljelil and Jihad stated in the report.
“Like many others Abdeljelil and Jihad worked for the Autonomous Administration on a daily-paid basis in cleaning and digging. They haven’t been heard of three months after their arrest, until we heard from a lawyer that they are held in a prison in Turkey,” he added.
“We are so intimidated that Turkey would pass unjust sentences on them. We are Arab tribesmen and have nothing to do with what’s happening.”
Basem Azez Younis, from the village of Abu Sheikhat in Mabrouka area, was detained on 14 October 2019 by the 20th Division and brought to Turkey. This although he had no links to the SDF or the local administration.
Basem was detained for no reason. We are afraid that he and other detainees would face unfair and long-term prison sentences. There were people arrested in the same way, but they were released after they paid bribes to the armed groups and before being transferred to Turkey,” a relative said in the report.
The report concluded that according to the Geneva Conventions it’s forbidden for Turkey as an occupying power to transfer “protected persons from Syrian occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power.”
In late April 2020, 41 organizations issued a joint statement calling for intervention to stop potential arbitrary trials against more than 90 Syrian detainees who were transferred to Hilvan Prison in the Turkish province of Urfa.
Furthermore, Turkey-backed groups have arrested Kurds in Turkish-occupied Afrin and transferred them to Turkey for arbitrary trials.
Recently on 2 July, three elderly people were arrested by a Turkish-backed group and transported to Turkey on allegedly killing a Turkish border guard thirty years ago, the pro-Kurdish news website ARK news reported. The site said the charges were fabricated.
Editing by John J. Catherine