Afrin Kurds … horrific testimonies from inside the Turkish cellars.
It was only a few days ago that the Turkish army, and the armed groups affiliated with it, took control of the Kurdish region of Afrin in northwestern Syria in March 2018, until news of violations against the indigenous people and their properties began to spread through the media and social media platforms, as these violations did not exclude women and different ages.
Zahida (not her real name), a Kurdish woman in her fifties, says, “Just because you are a Kurdish woman, it is enough charge to arrest, kidnap and even murder.”
With feelings of sorrow and sadness, Zahida spoke to Al-Hurra website about the most accurate details of her arrest, which took place a month and a half after the Turkish army and its armed groups entered Afrin. “I know him well, that young man who came with the“ Ahrar al-Sham ”faction to arrest me, was our neighbor in The same building, a displaced person came to Afrin two years ago, and on the first day of the occupation of Al-Madinah, he joined the militants.
And she continues, “I was initially taken to the headquarters of one of the armed groups in Afrin, and after several hours they took me to the city of Kilis in Turkey. We were three women out of 37 detainees who were taken there, and they put me in a cell that was an underground basement containing about 150 women. All of them are Kurds from Afrin. “
The fate of 400 women remains unknown
The Human Rights Organization in Afrin documented the killing of 69 women, in addition to more than a thousand women being kidnapped or arbitrarily arrested since the Turkish-Turkish army and the pro-Ankara factions began controlling the area. Part of them were released after mock courts or a ransom payment amounting, in some cases, to $ 10,000, while the fate of 400 women remains unknown.
Ibrahim Sheikho, spokesperson for the human rights organization, says, “Each faction of the armed groups affiliated with Turkey has several detention centers in which the kidnapped women are held, in addition to a number of prisons in Maratah, al-Ra’i and Marea, where the detained women are imprisoned. There are prisons in Turkey as well. They are also detained. In which”.
Several months ago, platforms on social media reported video footage of a group of women who were being held in the headquarters of the “Hamzat Division”, and they were revealed when gunmen from Damascus countryside stormed the headquarters of the “Turkmani” faction, after an armed clash broke out between them. It is reported that all the women who were detained were kidnapped nearly two years ago, without their families knowing their fate.
Although the detained women were handed over to the so-called “military police” of the “Syrian National Army” after the storming, where they were supposed to be brought before the judiciary, the “Military Police” returned and handed over the detainees to the “Hamzat Division” which transferred them to An unknown location, according to a report issued by Syrians for Truth and Justice.
Grave violations suffered by women detainees
The Afrin region is witnessing widespread violations against women, practiced by most of the armed groups present in the area that are part of the so-called “Syrian National Army”, and these entities are affiliated with the Syrian Interim Government and the Syrian National Coalition.
About this, Bassam Al-Ahmad, Executive Director of Syrians for Truth and Justice, says, “We have many reports documenting violations against women, including arrests, and in many cases the Turkish intelligence services are responsible for them, as joint patrols between Turkish intelligence and armed groups make arrests. Including those that affect women as well. “
Several reports issued by human rights organizations indicated the precarious situation faced by women in the Afrin region, and the exposure of Kurdish women detained in detention centers and prisons to ill-treatment and torture.
Sherine (a pseudonym), a former detainee with the “Sultan Murad” faction, says that she was kept for a week in solitary confinement, before she was transferred to another prison. “We were more than thirty women in the same cell, and some of the women were accompanied by their young children, the armed men. They constantly insulted us, insulted us, and used profanity. Most of us were beaten, either by slaps or water pipes, and several girls were also tortured with electric shocks, and one of them tried to commit suicide. “
Sherine, who was detained for four months and was released after her family managed to pay the sum of two thousand dollars in ransom money, continues, “Turkish and Syrian investigators were interrogating us, and the ready accusation was the relationship with the People’s Protection Units or dealing with the Autonomous Administration.”
Torture is a way to intimidate women
A report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, issued last September, documented the detention of women and girls by the “Syrian National Army”, who were subjected to rape and sexual violence, which inflicted severe physical and psychological harm on them at the individual level, as well as at the societal level, due to stigmatization And cultural norms related to the idea of ”female honor,” according to the report.
According to the human rights organization in Afrin, 67 rape cases have been recorded since Turkey took control of the region, in addition to five documented suicides. Numerous cases of forced marriage were recorded in which girls were coerced into marrying members of armed groups under pressure and threats to their families.
The process of documenting violations and obtaining testimonies of victims suffers from great difficulties, especially those committed against women. On this, Bassam Al-Ahmad says, “In normal cases, people are afraid to talk about violations, so what is the matter when it comes to women? There are social considerations and the fear of parents talking, not to mention the fear of revenge and being arrested again when talking.”
A researcher at Georgetown University in the US, Megan Bodit, attributes the violations of Turkish armed groups against women in Afrin, to their desire to push the remaining Kurdish residents to leave, in addition to collecting money through ransoms paid by those with the kidnappers.
In addition, Bodit, who runs an online platform called (The Missing Women of Afrin), believes that armed groups, through kidnappings and arrests, send a message to Kurdish women, stating that they are not welcome in public life in the occupied territories, unless they are subject to strict social norms. Applied by the extremist factions. “
Kurdish women have assumed higher political and military positions, and have succeeded in implementing stronger legal protection for women’s rights more than any other political entity in the Syrian conflict, “However, all these developments have been destroyed since the Turkish invasion and occupation, as women now face discrimination and harassment. Assault and other violations, “Bodette said.
War crimes, who bears responsibility?
According to the International Investigation Commission, the violations committed against women in Afrin are war crimes. Ibrahim Sheikho confirms this by saying, “According to the international criminal law and the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest, seizing freedoms, and demanding ransoms, during armed conflicts, all fall under war crimes, which we witness daily in Afrin.”
Regarding the legal responsibility for these violations, Sheikho said, “Turkey as the de facto ruler of the region, as well as the Syrian National Coalition as the political umbrella of the armed groups within the Syrian National Army, in addition to the leaders of these groups, all of them bear responsibility for the crimes and violations in Afrin.”
Bassam Al-Ahmad agrees about Turkey’s responsibility for these violations, explaining its goal by saying, “Turkey has effective control over the region and is supposed to stop the violations, but it does not move a finger in this regard. There is a systematic targeting of the Kurds and there is an intention to crush the Kurdish presence in the region and pay the rest. Migration to bring about a demographic change. “
“What is needed to stop the violations is an end to the Turkish occupation, the expulsion of the armed groups affiliated with it from Afrin, and the handover of the area to its people,” Al-Ahmad added.
On her part, Megan Bodit believes that the international community should condemn the deterioration of women’s rights, safety, and freedoms in the areas occupied by Turkey, and demanded that sanctions be imposed on all individuals and entities responsible for these crimes in Afrin. “The United States, for example, has the authority to punish these groups, but it She has repeatedly chosen not to do this. The culture of impunity should end, “Bodette says.
Reports issued by Syrian and Kurdish human rights organizations, in addition to those issued by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria of the United Nations Human Rights Council, were able to document part of the human rights violations in the Afrin region, and describe them as war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is despite the security grip, the media blackout and the lack of access to independent media, as well as the absence of the concerned human rights organizations, and the restriction and pursuit of activists, which leads to believe that the violations that have been revealed are only a small part of the reality of the deteriorating human rights situation in Afrin. .
(Nawruoz Rasho – northern Syria