Afrin’s Torment – Turkey’s War Crimes

by editor | 5th September 2020 6:54 pm

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“For over a year, the Turkish army has illegally occupied the city and region of Afrin. This has particularly impacted the women of the region, with rape, kidnapping and gendered violence systematically used as weapons. The Turkish army and the jihadist militias they fund and support work together in these aims, and have forcibly imposed Sharia law on women of all different beliefs.” Kongra Star[1]


As part of its destructive policy for the region, Turkey invaded[2] and occupied the NE[3] Syrian and Kurdish area of Afrin on March 18, 2018, having been given a green light by the so-called super-powers, Russia and the USA, after 58 days of heavy aerial and artillery bombardment and despite the courageous resistance of its poorly armed defenders.


Turkey, a prominent member of NATO[4] with its second largest armed forces, has used its influence in the region not as a positive source of encouragement towards peace but in a belligerent and short-sighted way that is used to enhance the political prestige of the authoritarian leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AK Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) and arguably, as part of its neo-Ottoman[5] expansionist strategy in a world with enough problems already heading over the horizon.


Since March 2018, when the city was occupied by both Turkish military and their jihadist allies, ongoing reports[6] of human rights abuses, violence and criminal behaviour (including “arbitrary  arrests,  detention  and  pillaging” UN)[7] has constantly being reported to a ‘world’ with apparently little interest and even less capacity to encourage respect for human rights among its business partners and allies.


The Kurds, it seems, being “sub-state actors” are not very important[8] in the scheme of things when it comes to picking over the bones of a catastrophe such as Syria, where the vultures of the international ‘order’ push each other` around the schoolyard with little concern for either the Syrian people, the Kurds or the many minorities (such as the Yazidis,[9]) that have suffered terribly in recent years, in this ongoing human-made tragedy.


Now Kongra Star  (“founded in Rojava in 2005 to organise women and develop their political consciousness)

– despite the difficulties in obtaining information from the occupied areas

– has issued an updated report on the scale of the abuses by Turkey and its now apparently gangster/Jihadist paramilitary[10] gangs[11] that represent government and governance in this tragically neglected region.


“Increasing Violence in Occupied Afrin – Statistics from the month of August after two and a half years of Turkish Occupation”


Over two years of Turkish rule in what was one of the safest places in Syria for so many years of civil war and unrest has turned the region into a hell on earth. Along with the scenes of violence and looting that occurred at the invasion and during the occupation of the city, the years since then, instead of security and stability, have witnessed only ongoing violence perpetrated upon its helpless civilians in an area which Turkey continues to exclude independent human rights observers and organisations from.


You might wonder why…


“There are almost daily reports of kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and murder in the occupied territories. The cases are increasing from month to month and are becoming more and more brutal as the activities of the jihadists become part of everyday life.” Kongra Star tells us.


Crimes Documented


This report was compiled with information collected by the Afrin Human Rights Organization. The difficulties in obtaining information from the occupied areas means that the documented cases recorded in the report are probably much lower than the actual abuses ongoing.




Kidnappings and abductions in the Afrin region has become a part of a ‘Jihadist economy’ supported by the Turkish military, along with the fear and terror created as a means of controlling a population that these groups have obviously enormous fear of. Just last month, August 2020, at least 58 civilians were abducted. Other than the cash incentive, civilians who are perceived as different or a threat to the occupation also disappear, this includes Christians as in the situation of the situation of[12] the 40-year-old Christian Radwan Muhammad from the village of Jaqmaq Kibir in Rajo, “who was arrested and convicted of blasphemy by the Islamist and pro-Turkish group Failaq Al-Sham.”


Since the invasion it is estimated that a total of 6,000 abductions of civilians have been documented, 1000 of them women. “Of the 6,000 abducted, the fate of 3,500 civilians is unknown. It is unknown whether they are in one of the prisons of the mercenary groups supported by Turkey or whether they were murdered.”


Alongside ransom and terrorising the population, the goal of these abductions, in the case of the abducted women[13],  is rape.


In May 2020, video footage was released of the Al Hamza Division headquarters (“prisons and basements[14] of Al-Hamzeh Division”) in Afrin where at least 8 women from Afrin, identified as women whose disappearances had been reported between June 2018 and February 2020, are visible, “who were brought from one place to another after internal conflicts within the different armed groups. Some of them had already been abducted during the Turkish invasion in spring 2018, others only this year. The women were in a wretched state that no laws, customs and social values would accept.”


Kurdistan24[15] reported: “According to Human Rights Organization Afrin Syria, these women were held “captive and naked at the headquarters and prison of the Al-Hamza Division. But this is just the tip of iceberg.”


“The captive women were all naked, as part of the normal abuse of Kurdish women by Turkey and its terrorist thugs through sex slavery and physical exploitation. This incident has created a state of shock, anger and condemnation everywhere.”


As of August 2020, seven of the women seen in the video are still missing. “Some reports allege that they are held in another unofficial detention site in Afrin, while others claim that they may have been transferred to Turkey.” (Missing Afrin Women Project)[16]




The figures for August 2020 along with the other details of life and death[17] now organised daily by Turkey and its mercenaries make shocking reading:


“17 people were murdered, including four women and four children. Two minors were shot dead on the border of Afrin while trying to escape. Two children were thrown from high-rise buildings by a person of unknown origin. For several months, children, especially infants, have been abducted in Afrin by an unidentified people and have been thrown from tall buildings.”


Since 2018, the report tells us: “a total of 565 civilians have been murdered. 500 have been killed during the invasion by Turkey and its mercenary groups, 65 have been killed by torture or extrajudicial executions. Among the 565 murdered are 55 children and 65 women.”


These figures exclude the estimated 1600 Kurdish and Arab fighters killed in their defence of the region as well as an estimated 680 civilians injured, including 325 children and 203 women.


There were also 700 documented cases of torture “in captivity and also during attacks”.




65 cases of rape have been documented, though the figure is assumed to be much higher:


“Therefore, through further news, reports and stories it can be assumed that the number of women raped is much higher. For example, in the Euphrates region in north-eastern Syria, the security service arrested an agent trained by the Turkish secret service MIT who was working with the jihadist mercenaries and MIT. After his arrest, he confessed that he was ordered to kidnap women and children because he knew the area well. He confessed to kidnapping 20-50 women…These were then distributed among different groups of mercenaries and raped. He himself raped 20 Kurdish women.”


“Raping of women in Afrin is a norm, for the Free Syrian Army,” Mr. Mahmoud Khalaf, a former Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA) mercenary in Afrin told journalist Lindsey Snell. During the video interview[18] he had his face covered with a black mask.


Again, you might wonder why…




5 suicides have been documented since 2018. “It seems important to include them here as well, since the occupation and the violence associated with it strongly influence and traumatize the society. In this respect, suicides are a consequence of the prevailing repressive power structures.”


The Report concludes:


“This dossier deals only with murder, kidnapping and physical and sexual violence, but the list of crimes committed by the Turkish state and its mercenary groups in the occupied regions is much broader.


“For example, no mention has been made of:



“In addition, the water supply to the entire Heseke region, whose water station is located in the occupied territory of Serekaniye and under Turkish control, is being cut off. The Turkish State also turns water into a weapon of war against the population in Northern and Eastern Syria.”


Lest we Forget


We have seen the international response to the barbarity and cruelty of the so-called Islamic State/Daesh that resulted in its being crushed, if only militarily.


However it appears that if you want to engage in similar atrocities, having strategic importance in this post-cold-war era, as well as membership in a powerful military alliance, to say nothing of the lucrative business partnerships[19] that seem to extend across the different borders, makes these crimes against humanity something to be tolerated if not completely ignored?


While the Kurds may have “no friends but the mountains” the history both of empire and colonialism, as well as the limited life span of belligerent warlords, dictators and politicians, should offer light at the end of this dark tunnel to a people who have been abandoned and oppressed for over 100 years… to say nothing of their own courageous and ongoing resistance to occupation and barbarism.


On September 1st, World Peace Day, and in a time of endless war for too many of the world’s people, Kongra Star[20], the authors of this short but disturbing Report[21] issued this Declaration:


“Many wars are raging in the world today, in which the rights of others are violated. Peace is the water that puts out the flames of war. It must be taken into account that peace is one of the most important areas of life and is not only a political issue, but also starts from inner peace. Everyone must carry spiritual peace within themself because it has a positive effect on society and the nation, because it is not only a word but an action, living together in the understanding of love and peace.”


…alongside this enormous darkness that the people of Afrin currently suffer…alongside our many struggles … this too, we should not forget


séamas carraher


Image: Turkish Army in the Center of Afrin  – VOA / Public domain



Report: Increasing Violence in Occupied Afrin – Statistics from the month of August after two and a half years of Turkish Occupation[22]


Kongra Star[23][24]


The Missing Afrin Women Project

(…compiles reports of kidnappings and disappearances of women and girls in Afrin, Syria since the region was attacked and subsequently occupied by Turkey and affiliated Syrian armed groups in January 2018)[25]



  1. Kongra Star:
  2. invaded:
  3. NE:
  4. member of NATO:
  5. neo-Ottoman:
  6. ongoing reports:
  7. UN):
  8. not very important:
  9. Yazidis,:
  10. paramilitary:
  11. gangs:
  12. the situation of:
  13. abducted women:
  14. prisons and basements:
  15. Kurdistan24:
  16. (Missing Afrin Women Project):
  17. death:
  18. video interview:
  19. business partnerships:
  20. Kongra Star:
  21. Report:

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