Kurds in Afrin are the indigenous residents of the region that lies in the remote north-western corner of Syria. According to various sources, including the United Nations Syrian Commission of Inquiry, the Kurds and other residents of Afrin have been subjected to war crimes, in which armed groups belonging to the so-called ‘Syrian National Army’ and with direct support from the Turkish state, have been perpetrating crimes that include premeditated murder, rape, threatening families of raped women with death, seizing property, burning farms and cutting down trees.
Several reports and local investigative sources that follow-up closely on the nature of violations taking place in Afrin confirm that the main goal of these armed terrorist groups and their supporters in Ankara is to instil fear and terror in the hearts of the people through these war crimes and other hostile acts. The aim is to force residents to leave so that it will be easier to settle families, mainly from Turkmen ethnicity, into the homes of the displaced people. Human rights violations include the kidnapping of women, the prohibition of the use of the Kurdish language, destroying historical sites and stealing their antiquities. This all began after the Turkish army and the Syrian groups aligned with it occupied Afrin in March 2018.
It is regrettable that these war crimes continue – accompanied by a terrifying and alarming international silence – despite all that has been written and published, despite all the supportive documents and evidence such as videos, photos and audio recordings documenting the terrorism the Kurds in Afrin are being subjected to, and despite the cooperation of international human rights institutions in uncovering these crimes.
On the first day of 2021, the ‘Hamzat’ brigade abducted a Kurdish family from Afrin city centre, and took the family members to an unknown destination without any charges being formally levelled against them.
The family members are:
– Adnan Jammo bin Rahim, father, 50.
– Fatma Mahmoud Hunik, mother, 50.
– Alya Adnan Jammo, daughter, 13.
– Rizkar Adnan Jammo, son.
The whereabouts or the family is still unknown. Nothing further has been heard from them.
Groups have also abducted dozens of citizens from different villages and towns in Afrin for ‘unknown’ reasons.
Here are some of the people who have been abducted:
– Laila, the daughter of Mahmoud Jaafar, Mercan village – Maabatli.
– Muhammad, the son of Aamer Hanan (16), a minor, Merkan – Maabatli.
– Suleiman Muhammad Rashad Hamo (18), Mirkan – Maabatli.
– Bahri, son of Abdul Qader Aliko.
– Safqan, son of Ahmed Mustafa.
– Joan, son of Taher Hamdi.
– Muhammad Rashad, son of Khalil Hamo.
Many others have been abducted.
The Kurds in Afrin recently have been suffering on a daily basis from a terrifying campaign of arrests. It has reached its most intense level since the occupation of the city. Afrin Media Network has also reported that the so-called Civilian Police in Raju abducted the citizen Jikar Rasoul from the village of Kafr Safra, west of Afrin, and demanded a ransom of 4,000 Turkish liras in exchange for his release. Masked groups have also launched a campaign of arrests and raids in the centre of Maabatli district and the villages of Qantara, Mirkan, Sherkan, Aranda and Mastko.
On 30 December 2020, the Afrin Activists Network reported that a child was shot in Afrin during a struggle that was taking place between terrorists from the Syrian National Army. The villages and towns of Afrin region, since its occupation, have also been subjected to these types of ‘clashes’ on a daily basis, for reasons related to looting and robbery, as the terrorists have disagreed amongst themselves about who takes what ‘shares’.
On 20 December 2020, members of the “Hamzat Brigade”, which is one of the terrorist groups within the ‘Syrian National Army’, supported by Ankara, reportedly cut down 900 olive trees in the Mabatli district. These trees were owned by Muhammad Sheikh Hammoud (300 trees) and Ahmed Kefo (600 trees).
According to ‘The tragedy of Afrin in 2020’ report, which was presented by the Afrin Activists Network, the abduction cases for the year 2020 in the occupied city of Afrin amounted to more than 942 people, including 79 female citizens and ten children. As for the victims of torture, there were more than 65 cases, including two children.
Turkey’s support for the ‘Syrian National Army’ gangs has led to more crimes being committed. On 2 January 2020, the body of 50 year old Saeed Rashid Majid, an olive oil merchant from the village of Atmana, was found dumped in one of the hills surrounding the village of Mirkan. His body displayed signs of brutal torture. He was kidnapped on 13 November 2019 by the Hamzat Brigade. Later, the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of US $500,000.
On 3 January 2020, in the village of Kharabat Sharran, Khalil Ali was murdered after a settler attempted to rob his house. On 23 March 2020, members of the Sultan Suleiman Shah division kidnapped the 53 year old Kurdish citizen Shaheen Latif Baghdadi and killed him after brutally torturing him. Zuhair, an Al-Amshat group fighter, confirmed that Shaheen Latif Baghdadi was killed by Muhammad Al-Jasim Abu Amsha, the leader of the Al-Amshat group. Muhammad Izzat Shabab and his five year old son, Roni, were reportedly killed in the village of Dalo by drowning them in the waters of the Till Silor river. Their bodies was found two days later.
On 19 April 2020, the Samarkand terrorist group killed the elderly 80-year-old lady Fatima Kenna, from the village of Sannara, by suffocation in order to steal her jewellery and in order to keep her family silent, the armed group launched a kidnapping campaign for the sons of the deceased (Muhammad, Fawzi, Hanan) and her grandson Fawzi, in addition to a number women and elderly people in the village.
On 22 April 2020, three Turkmen settlers in the town of Maidanaki reportedly killed an elderly 74-year-old Kurdish man called Ali Muhammad Ahmad because he asked them not to graze their livestock in his field.
On 5 February 2020, the citizen Muhammad Izzat Chilo, from the village of Sariya, was killed after he was set on fire inside his car.
On 19 May 2020, the dead body of the 78-year-old elderly citizen Muslim Ahmed Ammik, who is from the village of Kura, was found.
Armed settlers also reportedly killed the 40-year-old citizen, Mustafa Muhammad Abd Al-Rahman Al-Shawakh, from the village of Yalanquzeh.
The list of other murder victims includes:
– Aref Abdo Khalil.
– Muhammad Mustafa Manan Yusef.
– Abd al-Rahman Ibish Baku, from village of Korzelah.
– Ibrahim Chirtu, 65-years-old, from Maamla village.
– Walid Hasso, 26-years-old.
– Nuri Jammo Omar Sharaf, 63-years-old, a Yazidi.
– Lawrence Hamid, 37-years-old, an Arab.
I have not been able to mention the names of all the people who have been killed, whose names I have in my possession, passed on by investigative rights groups on the ground. Hundreds of reports would not be enough to list all the crimes that have been perpetrated.
Meanwhile, the killing of the 16-year-old minor, Malak Nabih Jumah Khalil, from the village of Darwish, remains unclear. She was kidnapped on 23 May 2020, despite the girl’s family announcing her engagement to one of their relatives in order to protect her from abduction and forced marriage. Later, on 6 July 2020, the corpse of a girl in the village of Al-Furiziyah- Azaz was recovered.
On 28 May 2020, following clashes that broke out between gunmen (settlers from Ghouta and the Hamza Division), Ghouta gunmen took over control of the headquarters of the Hamza Division and the prison that was under its control (that is located in the centre of Afrin city). Subsequent footage that was taken shows a number of Kurdish women in that prison. Apparently, they were abducted earlier by the Hamza Division. Yet, no further information has been obtained about them.
These terrorist brigades have been responsible for perpetrating terror and oppression of all kinds. It has been observed that many Kurdish citizens have died in agony following the seizure of their properties and homes, and following their ejection from their properties. In more than fifteen cases, relatives of Kurdish citizens have linked the death of their loved ones to these types of heart-breaking practices. Some of the names of the dead include Abd al-Rahman Aref Alloush, Rifaat Yassin Khalil, Rifaat Sido, Nazmi Rashid Akash, Ismail Allou Ismail from the village of Khaziana Tahtani and Mannan Krru from Janders.
Systematic demographic change
The Turkish authorities have been exercising their historical hatred towards the Kurdish people by eliminating the ‘Kurdishness’ of Afrin by using their most brutal methods. The Afrin Activists Network published an unofficial census which suggested that the number of the indigenous Kurds in the Afrin region dropped down to 34.80% of the total population during January 2020 (According to Syrian official sources, the number of Kurds had previously represented approximately 97% of the population). The Afrin Activists Network’s unofficial census places the percentage of settlers brought in by Turkey at 65.20% of the total population. As it was stated, in the census, the total remaining Kurds in the villages and towns of Afrin are approximately 265,000 citizens, and the number of those who were forcibly displaced amounts to 300,500.
In the city centre, 53,300 of the original population remains, and 110,900 others were displaced with the majority of them living in the areas of al-Shahba and Aleppo in addition to the Syrian Jazeera region. In total the current population of the Kurds in Afrin region is approx 298,700 while the number of the brought in settlers is approx 458,100. Terrorist groups, under the cover of the Turkish state, are still practicing all methods of crimes in order to force the remaining Kurdish population to leave.
The operations of looting the historical and cultural heritage of Afrin region continues in a systematic manner by targeting archaeological sites. Among these archaeological sites the fortress of Nabi Hori (Syros) is located 30 kilometers from the city centre of Afrin and dates back to the Hellenistic period 280 BC. The site was subjected to arbitrary crude excavations and destruction of archaeological layers as a result of using many inappropriate light and heavy excavation tools and vehicles,.
The looters were searching mostly for valuable artifacts and statues dating back dozens of centuries, in addition to glass, pottery and mosaic artworks, all under the eyes of the Turkish intelligence and in association with it.
The Roman temple, famous for its pyramidal minaret, which dates back to the B.C. times, was also destroyed.
It was stated in the report of Afrin activists that on 3.6.2020 the Turkish occupation forces removed the old wall of the shrine to hide any traces of looting and digging. The images we obtained show the excavation and destruction operations are evident in the vicinity of the Roman amphitheater from the eastern side, as it appears in several pictures of the northern door of the Roman amphitheater and the images show scenes of vandalizing excavations with heavy machinery that destruction of the ancient walls of architectural constructions.
The Human Rights Organisation in Afrin had previously confirmed that Turkey’s armed groups and intelligence officials had looted the relics of the saints Kuzma, Damianus and Al-Ghyuri and extracted two coffins full of artifacts, coins, mosaic panels and statues.
According to the Human Rights Organisation in Afrin also, the looting and theft of antiquities included the archaeological amphitheater located in the castle, bulldozed and completely destroyed, as well as the castle wall, the Roman theater, the church, gates, towers, and the amphitheater, which is one of the largest theaters of the ancient East and includes 24 rows of seats divided into two floors.
Tel Jandrees, which is officially registered as an archaeological mound in Aleppo Governorate under No. 266, has also been subjected to looting and theft, especially at the southern end of it.
Tel Zravkeh, registered under decision (244 / A). Pictures that reached us on 3/9/2020 showed that the Turkish occupation carried out excavations and destruction of the hill.
Tal Jarnas, Tel Qibar village, Bish Buraq site, Tell Sarikar have all been subjected to bulldozing works, at the same time excavations continue in a disgraceful disregard by the Turkish state to all UN conventions and treaties on human rights and the protection of the historical heritage of peoples.