Afrin Human Rights Organisation has demanded that an international delegation hold an inquiry into the desecration of a graveyard in the city.
The move by Turkish officials to remove corpses buried in an Afrin graveyard and the Turkish state news agency’s claim on 14 July that it was “a discovery of a mass grave” for “the victims of the People’s Protections Units,” were met with reactions both in Kurdish communities and on an international scale.
The spokesperson for the People’s Protections Units (YPG) instantly responded to the “mass grave” claim, sharing the coordinates of the “Avesta graveyard” in Syria where he said 71 fighters, killed during the resistance to the Turkish occupation, were buried. The YPG spokesperson condemned Turkey for desecrating the graveyard and its attempt to cover its crime by circulating false information.
Ibrahim Şêxo, the head of the Afrin Human Rights Organisation, spoke to MA, and confirmed that the bodies in the desecrated graveyard belonged to resistance fighters from YPG, the Women’s Protections Units (YPJ) and civilians killed during the Turkish assault that ended only after the fall of the city on 20 January 2018.
“Occupying Turkey desecrated the graveyard and removed the bodies on 14 July 2021,” he said.
“On 20 January 2018, the bodies were buried in that graveyard near Avrin Hospital due to the heavy assault on the city. The number of bodies is reported to be over 80, as the Council of Afrin Martrys’ Families has confirmed. The first group of burials consisted entirely of the bodies of YPG and YPJ fighters. The second group consisted of 45-46 bodies consisting both of fighters and civilians.”
Şêxo stated that it was likely that the funerals were first taken to Ferzende Hospital, then either to the Halal Cemetery by the Afrin-Aleppo road, or the Fersanê Cemetery in the centre of the city.
Avesta was not the first graveyard desecrated, he noted, adding that more than 35 graveyards were targeted before that. “The Habur graveyard was destroyed and turned into a cattle market. Some other graveyards have started to be used as camping fields. They have respect neither for the living nor the dead. These are crimes against humanity: they are violations of conventions ratified by international human rights institutions. Turkey, in front of the whole world, desecrates graveyards and says it’s a mass grave, trying to smear Kurds as criminals, as ‘terrorists.'”
Şêxo called for the intervention of international human rights organisations: “All must react to this and an international delegation must visit Afrin as soon as possible. They must find out where the bodies are and all perpetrators of the desecration must be punished in international courts.”