The Kurdish population remaining in northeast Syria’s Afrin (Efrîn) since Turkey took control of the city in 2018 are under constant threat from Turkish forces and allied paramilitary factions, warned Evîn Cuma, director of a human rights organisation operating in the region, during a recent interview with Mezopotamya Agency. “People can’t access fuel due to the blockade. Last winter, a child died from the cold. Life in Efrîn is extremely difficult,” Cuma explained.
Data from the Afrin-based watchdog indicates that 62 people were kidnapped, including six women, during the month of August alone. Over the past five years, 99 women have been killed and 74 sexually assaulted by the paramilitary groups. A blockade imposed by Turkish forces further exacerbates the situation, hindering residents from accessing essential goods.
Cuma’s comments corroborate a statement made by a woman, known by the initials FM, who recently fled Afrin. In a 30 August interview with Jinha Women’s News Agency, FM disclosed that her daughter had been held captive for the past five years in Marate Prison by groups affiliated with Turkish forces. “We were captured twice. My son was also tortured. I couldn’t afford a lawyer to get my daughter out, the fees were too high,” she said. The woman also mentioned that Turkish forces and affiliates targeted Kurdish homes for looting and imposed high rents, further oppressing the Kurdish population in the region.
Cuma drew particular attention to the vulnerability of women in Afrin. “Hundreds of women have been arrested, kidnapped, and killed. Many have been sexually assaulted by these groups. Some were even sold as slaves,” she warned.
According to Cuma, Turkey deliberately alters the demographic composition of Afrin. “They want to attach Afrin to Turkey; it’s currently governed by a Turkish governor,” Cuma added.
Cuma criticised the inaction of international human rights organisations’ who have shown little to no initiative to intervene despite well-documented violations. She stated that it remains imperative for human rights bodies to break the silence and address these atrocities.
A recent analysis by Dr. Hawzhin Azeez’s from the Kurdish Centre for Studies corroborates the firsthand accounts provided by Evîn Cuma and FM, adding academic weight to the urgent calls for international intervention. Dr. Azeez’s work emphasises the multi-faceted nature of the physical and psychological abuse designed by the Turkish-backed forces to ‘break the will’ of the Kurdish community. This perspective aligns with Cuma and FM’s accounts, who also highlighted the atmosphere of terror instilled by the factions. Additionally, Kurdish woman in the diaspora were also targeted, the doctor said, pointing out that ramifications of the abuse reach far beyond Afrin itself.