The US Treasury Department announced sanctions on Thursday against two Turkish-backed armed groups in northern Syria, in response to serious human rights abuses perpetrated against Kurdish residents of the Afrin (Efrîn) region.
One of the sanctioned entities is the Suleiman Shah Brigade, which exercises considerable control over the Kurdish population of Afrin in particular. The group has been accused of abduction and extortion of civilians, according to the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
The other designated group, the Hamza Division, has been accused of abduction, theft, and torture. The faction operates detention facilities where captives are reportedly held for prolonged periods, often facing ransom demands and instances of sexual abuse.
Both groups are part of the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), an Islamist coalition of various armed opposition groups. SNA violations against Kurdish, Yazidi and other local ethnic and religious groups are extensively documented by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria and the US State Department.
Throughout the first years of the Syrian civil war, Afrin remained a relatively peaceful enclave controlled by Kurdish forces. However, since Turkey’s invasion in 2018, the region has come to be dominated by various armed factions affiliated with Turkish forces. These groups that continue to fight among themselves as well employ violent tactics to exert control over the movement of people and goods within their respective territories.
Sanctions further extend to key leaders of the two groups.
The OFAC action requires the blocking and reporting of assets and interests in the United States connected to the individuals and entities. Citizens and entities from the United States are barred from engaging in transactions involving property or interests related to sanctioned individuals.