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Update on the human rights situation in Afrin--first quarter of 2021

A detailed report on the human rights situation in the first quarter of 2021, which was worked on by Armang and TEVN.

Syria | Erbil | Brussels | May 25, 2021


The Afrin Region suffers from security instability after three years of its occupation by the Turkish and Syrian National Armies, where the original inhabitants of the Kurds (i.e., Muslims, Yazidis, and Alawites) are regularly subjected to varying degrees of violations- with current authorities taking no measures or action (i.e., trials, reports, judicial rulings, etc.) to hold perpetrators of these crimes accountable.

In the first quarter of 2021, 7 bombings were documented, which killed 8 civilians, injured dozens, and destroyed a considerable amount of private civilian property. Additionally, the occurrence of many conflicts between factions led to a state of panic and fear among the population; while the causes of the violations varied, they were largely related to controlling economic resources and smuggling routes among the regions of the Syrian National Army, regime areas, as well as self -administration.

Looting and destruction of popular heritage sites continue, evidenced by a January 18 incident, where members of the Suleiman Shah Band demolished two old bathrooms and a mill dating back more than 100 years in the Sheikh Hadid District; the site was remodeled into a cafeteria for the Band’s leader, Mohammed al-Jassem Abu Amsha, and was named Erdogan's cafeteria.

On December 30, 2020, a masked group cut down 50 olive trees-belonging to a forcibly displaced citizen by the name of Hanif Primo (from the Village of Cobra, in Raju District)- and sold them as firewood. The arbitrary imposition of royalties remains one of the tools that factions use. For instance, Fatima Mohammed, a resident of the village of Kolya Fawqani (in Raju district), was forced to pay 2,000 Turkish liras to the military police for grazing their livestock on agricultural land owned by her forcibly displaced brother.

Many of the charges were used as a pretext for arresting civilians, including an instance (involving self-administration) where the arrest of 59 citizens was documented in the first quarter; some were interrogated and others were fatally tortured, such as Sheikhmus Qasim, (a resident of the village of Kusa Medano/Raju) who died on March 6 after being transferred to Afrin Hospital for brutal torture. Some detainees are still in detention and have had to pay ransom for their release; other detainees are still unknown.

Demographic changes and the destruction of the social fabric continue through a range of violations, such as the destruction of popular heritage areas and the change of the Kurdish identity of Afrin. For example, in the village of Kusa (in Raju District) a masked group of the National Army destroyed the tomb of the Kurdish poet Aref Khalil Shekho because of the presence of a poem written in Kurdish on his grave. In a new development of demographic change, settlement construction has begun, with a 240-apartment apartment complex being built by the Turkish Charity Association in Jabal Sheikh Mohammed, located at the top of the village of Kafr Safra, which extends to the Qazgli Mountains in Hajj Hassanou, Junders district.

The majority of residents contacted believe that the state of insecurity, arrests, and looting of property are systematic operations by Turkey, Turkmen, and Islamist groups in order to diminish the Kurdish identity of Afrin.

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