Civilian dies in northeast Syria prison amid allegations of torture

Amin Issa Amin's family repeatedly told authorities that the 35-year-old needed medication, his cousin said.
author_image Kurdistan 24
Amin Issa Amin died in prison in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria under unclear conditions. (Photo: Social media).
Amin Issa Amin died in prison in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria under unclear conditions. (Photo: Social media).

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Amin Issa Amin, a 35-year-old father of two, died in a Hasakah prison 13 days after being arrested by security forces from the autonomous administration in northeast Syria, his family said.

Relatives said Amin suffered from unspecified medical conditions and was not given medication during his detention.

His cousin Hajar Amin told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday that Amin, who was from the village of Birike in Derbisiye, was initially arrested after witnessing an incident. He said the family repeatedly told authorities that Amin needed medical treatment.

Some local media outlets and commentators have reported that Amin was arrested for Facebook posts critical of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and its dominant Democratic Union Party (PYD). Kurdistan 24 was unable to confirm claims that Amin was a member of a rival political party.

“We said his arrest was not because of [social media posts],” his cousin Hajar told Kurdistan 24. “Our relative went to testify for one or two days,” he explained, and thought “they will ask him some questions and send him home. But actually they did sent him home – but his body. Our relative was tortured to death.”

On Tuesday freelance journalist Himbervan Kousa published leaked photographs and video showing Amin's body. The young man's face and torso appear to be badly beaten and burned. In one shot, blood is visible on his face. Kurdistan 24 has chosen to include some of the photographs at the end of this story.

Syria-based Hawar News Agency, which is close to the PYD, said Amin was detained by the military’s public prosecution on charges of bribery, and died of a heart attack.

The AANES itself published a statement from a forensic doctor and the public prosecution’s tripartite medical committee that said Amin died from a stroke and was not subjected to torture. The administration’s Office of Justice and Reform Affairs released a statement expressing condolences to his family and said they were prepared to form a committee to investigate the circumstances around Amin’s death. 

North Press Agency, also close to the autonomous administration, reported that activists have urged the AANES to reveal Amin’s “jailers” and “murderers,” and hold them accountable for the “crime.”

“Very disturbing news that requires a full and independent investigation,” Amy Austin Holmes, a Public Policy Fellow at the Wilson Center and an expert on northeast Syria, tweeted on Wednesday.

She added that Amin was the nephew of Bashar Amin, one of the leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party – Syria.

Ark News, which has ties to the KDPS, detailed what it said were signs that Amin was tortured, including multiple broken bones, oil and boiling hot water burns, and the "clear effects" of a Taser used on the man's abdomen and genitals. 

The KDPS is part of the Kurdish National Committee, which has an often adversarial relationship with the PYD. Tensions between the two parties rose following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, with the PYD later playing a significant role in the establishment of the self-administration that now rules much of northeastern Syria. 

The two sides have not successfully cooperated as had been hoped, in part because agreements they reached in Duhok and Erbil between 2012 and 2014 were never effectively implemented.

The parties have held several rounds of so-called unity talks with support from the United States in a bid to foster intra-Kurdish unity in Syria, although negotiations have stalled following the US presidential election last November.

Graphic images follow.


Still from a leaked video of the body of Amin Issa Amin who died in custody in Syria in June 2021. (Photo: Himbervan Kousa)
Still from a leaked video reported to show the body of Amin Issa Amin who died in custody in Syria in June 2021. (Photo: Himbervan Kousa)
Still from a leaked video reported to show the body of Amin Issa Amin, who died in custody in Syria in June 2021. (Photo: Himbervan Kousa)