Turkish-backed forces arrested 52 persons in northern Syria in September: Rights group
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) arrested at least 52 individuals in the Turkish-occupied regions of Afrin, Serekaniye, and Tal Abyad in September 2021, according to a report by the human rights organization Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) on Friday.
The detainees reportedly included five women and five children. “In its pursuit on the fate of the detainees, STJ discovered that one detainee died under torture. Additionally, STJ registered the release of only seven detainees, while the remaining 45 continue to be unaccounted for, including the women and children,” the report said.
In Ras al-Ayn (Serekaniye), field researchers verified with STJ the arrests of eight people. One detainee died under torture, only two were released, and five others remain unaccounted for.
In Tal Abyad, the STJ documented the arrests of 13 people, including three women and three children, by Turkish-backed militants operating in the area. All 13 detainees remain unaccounted for.
In the Afrin region, SNA-affiliated factions arrested at least 31 persons, including two women, across six of the area’s districts. “Only five detainees were released, while the remaining 62 continue to be unaccounted for,” the STJ said.
An SNA source told STJ that the arrests were perpetrated by several of the SNA-affiliated factions, each targeting persons in the districts they control.
The source added that while some factions surrendered several of the people they arrested to the Military Police, they kept the remaining detainees in their custody. Those who were not surrendered continue to be unaccounted for.
“We cannot define the exact day a person was arrested, nor the period detainees spent in the hold of a certain faction before they are transferred to other places,” the SNA military source told STJ.
“On several occasions, the detainees, who were relocated from one detention center to another, displayed marks of excessive beating and torture, and had their clothes torn.”
Turkish-backed factions have controlled Afrin since March 2018, when the Turkish army launched a cross-border offensive to target the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which held the area from 2012 till then.
In October 2019, the Turkish army and their affiliated Syrian rebel groups, known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), now renamed the Syrian National Army (SNA), launched a military operation and pushed the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the border towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.
A report issued in September by the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria also stated that the Turkish-supported SNA continues to unlawfully arrest Kurdish citizens in areas under their control in northern Syria, such as in Tal Abyad, Afrin, and Ras al-Ain (Serekaniye).
In September, four Syrian organizations called on the United Nations to pressure Turkey to put an end to the systematic practice of arbitrary arrests in northern Syria by Turkish-backed armed groups.