There are more than five hundred kilometres between Dersim and Afrin, but this distance is purely physical. Women escaped from Dersim to Afrin during the 1938 Dersim Massacre; now women face the threat of being killed or kidnapped in Afrin.
Hicran Urun wrote about the story of these women in the Yeni Yasam Newsletter.
“Women who escaped murder in 1938 are now facing the same threat 83 years later”, writes Urun. “The fate of dozens of women who were kidnapped by Turkish-backed mercenaries is still unknown. This has been also reported by international organisations, but no international institution has yet taken any action.
“More importantly, Kurdish women, who were applauded by the whole world for their struggle against ISIS, are now left alone”.
Zelüş Ala from the Maabatli region in Afrin is a member of a family who migrated from Dersim in 1938. In a statement she gave to the Mesopotamia News Agency, Ala explained the current situation in Afrin: “In the past we came here to escape from massacres, but they are trying to destroy us again here in Afrin”.
The United Nations Syrian Commission of Inquiry report confirms that the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) has been committing war crimes in Afrin including abductions, disappearances, and gender-based sexual violence. The 25-page report states that violations continue in the region, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture, and deaths in custody.
The report states: “Since 2019, Kurdish women throughout the Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn (Serêkaniyê) regions have faced acts of intimidation by Syrian National Army brigade members, engendering a pervasive climate of fear which in effect confined them to their homes.
“Women and girls have also been detained by Syrian National Army fighters, and subjected to rape and sexual violence – causing severe physical and psychological harm at the individual level, as well as at the community level, owing to stigma and cultural norms related to ideations of ‘female honor'”.
Mizgin Hesen from the Syrian Women’s Rights Protection and Research Centre said that they are also working on a report on crimes against women across Northern and Eastern Syria, but they could not recover the names of all the women. “We have only been able to document some of the crimes against women because reaching women in these regions is very difficult”, said Hesen.
85 women killed
According to a report they prepared, 85 women were killed, 123 women were abducted or tortured, and 175 women were injured in the attacks on the cities of North and East Syria.
“These figures are just the tip of the iceberg since it is almost impossible to collect information from cities occupied by paramilitary troops”, said Hesen. “We cannot to reach women who live there”.
An international initiative called the Missing Afrin Women Project is also working on monitoring the kidnapping of women in Afrin. The association shares information on victims and perpetrators of kidnapping via https://missingafrinwomen.org/
According to a report by the Missing Afrin Women Project, 88 women and girls whose identities are known were reportedly kidnapped by Turkish-backed armed groups in Afrin, Syria in 2020, a rate of approximately one incident every four days. As of 1 January 2021, 51 remained missing. 35 were reported to have been released. One had allegedly been murdered. Seventeen of the 35 individuals who have been released were reportedly freed after the payment of a ransom. Ransoms were paid in US dollars, Syrian pounds, or Turkish lira.
While the fate of those women and girls is still unknown, international organisations continue to remain silent about these murders and kidnappings.