Several civilians were arrested on Saturday by militants of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), the North Press Agency reported.
The Kurdish civilians were apprehended at a checkpoint en route to the town of Jindires, 20 km west of Afrin (Efrîn), where they planned to join a demonstration to protest against the killing of five other Kurdish civilians by an SNA faction on Monday, the agency said.
Militants of the SNA’s Islamist “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah” faction opened fire on Kurdish civilians from the village of Haykaja in Jindires as they were lighting fires to celebrate Newroz, the Kurdish new year on 20 March, the eve of Newroz, killing the five.
Newroz, which for Kurds symbolises the rekindling of the fire of resistance against tyrants, marks the arrival of the new year on the spring equinox.
After the killing of the five civilians, mass protests started in Jindires, with residents demanding the withdrawal of all Turkish-backed factions from the region.
The arrests came after the Kurdish National Council, an ally of Ankara, called on the residents of Jindires to end the protests.
The Turkish authorities had exerted pressure on the leaders of the Council and the Turkish intelligence service threatened to arrest anyone participating in the protests, the war watchdog Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
SNA loyalists also called for a demonstration to be held on Sunday under the slogan, “our flag and our revolution are our honour”, as a response to the flags and posters raised in relation to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq during the Jindires protests, the observatory said.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council on Wednesday called for the establishment of a demilitarised humanitarian zone in Afrin, which has been controlled by Turkish-backed Syrian militants since 2018.
As the protests continued, 155 Syrian organisations signed a petition condemning the killing of Kurdish people in SNA-controlled Afrin and called on the United Nations to take necessary measures to protect civilians.