German resident Syrian Kurdish doctor Akram Naasan has lodged a formal complaint calling for the arrest of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his coming visit to Berlin. Naasan alleges that the Turkish forces under Erdoğan have committed serious violations of international law since seizing Afrin (Efrîn) in northern Syria in 2018.
In a formal criminal complaint lodged with the German Public Prosecutor General Peter Frank on Monday, Naasan said that hundreds of people had lost their lives during the Turkish military campaign in Afrin, and that his family, along with thousands of fellow citizens, were forced to flee and live in dire conditions at the Shahba refugee camp near Aleppo.
He further recounted a personal tragedy, stating that during the Turkish operations, a 28-year-old woman related to him was kidnapped, raped and taken to Turkey.
The doctor also accuses Erdoğan of attempting to manipulate the demography of the region, asserting that only 20 percent of the population of Afrin is now Kurdish, down from 96 percent before 2018. As evidence of alleged international law violations, Naasan cited changes in the names of towns, the closure of schools providing education in the Kurdish language and their replacement by schools educating in Turkish, and the establishment of prisons where systematic torture occurs.
The complaint, endorsed by the Kurdische Gemeinde Deutschland (Kurdish Community Association in Germany) and the Society for Threatened Peoples, implores the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office at the Federal Court of Justice to take action against Erdoğan during his state visit scheduled to Monday, holding him accountable for alleged crimes against international humanitarian law.
Erdoğan’s forthcoming visit has sparked controversy, not only as he has described Hamas as “liberators fighting for their land”, but also because of Turkey’s attacks on Kurdish areas in Syria. While Erdoğan levels accusations of war crimes against Israel in Gaza, Turkey itself has long been under scrutiny for alleged war crimes in its ongoing attacks on Kurdish-led North and East Syria with a focus on civilian infrastructure.
Since Turkey’s takeover of the once peaceful Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin in 2018, various armed groups affiliated to the Turkish army have been running the area. Since then, reports by international human rights organisations have documented serious violations, including the confiscation of crops, the looting of homes, the displacement of people, abductions and the establishment of military facilities on civilian property.
The Turkish authorities are continuously transporting Syrian refugees from Turkey proper and resettling them in newly built housing in Syria, as part of what human rights groups say is a strategy to change the demographics of the area. In particular, this controversial strategy includes the Turkification of place names and consequent alteration of signage in areas formerly under Kurdish control.