One winter day, in a detention center at the old school in the city of Afrin – which is occupied by the Turkish military – the mercenary militias hired by Turkey, members of the so-called Syrian National Army (SNA), began to scream and order their prisoners, the Kurds.
They were ordered to leave their cells and gather in a central part of the building. It was a special occasion, something entirely different from the torture, insults, and humiliation that Kurdish prisoners are subjected to on a daily basis.
A girl, a minor, who had been taken prisoner in the Kurdish areas of Syria, was lying on the floor in front of the prisoners. The girl is from Kurdistan. Before the eyes of the prisoners, who had been gathered in the center of the old school, the girl was raped by the guards.
Then the guards raped her again, one after the other, as the Kurdish captives were forced to watch the torture. This incident, of which the French newspaper Le Monde had the opportunity to be informed by the collective report made by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, is just another violation amongst many, many others, identified and recorded by the members of this Commission.
The official report on the human rights situation in Syria was officially presented on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. It keeps track of human rights violations, with documents and figures, by all the protagonists of the Syrian disaster, that is, the government of Damascus, the jihadists, the infamous group “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham” (formerly Al-Qaeda) and, of course, it includes the Kurdish forces and their allies.
However, this report also describes the activity that was hitherto unknown and it is, in fact, described in-depth, regarding the terror, which has been imposed by Turkey on the Kurdish areas of Syria, since the beginning of 2018 and the launch of the operation “Olive Branch” .
The said report not only describes or demonstrates, but mostly proves the responsibility of the Ankara government for all the atrocities taking place in the region.
Systematic policy of human rights violations by the Turkish authorities
The documented violations were committed in two areas that are almost 300 kilometers apart: Afrin and Ras Al-Ain, which were the focus of two Turkish offensives, part of the conflict between Ankara and the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). These two enclaves, which are currently under the control of the Turkish Armed Forces, according to the report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, are subject to these documented human rights violations, which indicate systematic practices of the officials in Ankara.
An obvious feature emerges: The systematic barbarity with which Turkish mercenaries treat the women of Kurdistan. For the first time, the UN report does not settle for just listing individual acts, but presents a reasoned description-recording of how the human rights violations targeting the Kurdish population were organized, coordinated, and planned.
Thus, the investigators document the “systematic looting” carried out by Syrian mercenaries of Ankara. We’re talking about confiscations of property, unreasoned imprisonments, the forced displacement of Kurdish families that are forced to flee in order to escape “killings, threats, blackmail, kidnappings, torture and detention”, always under the watchful eye – or even with the cooperation – of the Turkish armed forces, the Turkish military and political authorities controlling this gray zone.
These areas surrendered to chaos and “the enforcement of the right of the strongest.” In its report, the Commission notes that “the Turkish forces were informed and were present at the facilities controlled by the ANS (UN commission), where detainees were ill-treated, including during interrogation sessions, during which torture took place.
Rape as a “weapon of war”
An obvious feature emerges from the findings of UN investigators: The systematic war waged by the Ankara-backed Syrian militia against Kurdish women in Turkish-controlled areas.
The report, published on Tuesday, confirms the systematic practice of rape and other forms of sexual violence as “weapons of war” in the Afrin region by members of the pro-Turkish armed militias forming the ANS. In addition, in Afrin as well as in Ras Al-Ain, Kurdish women have been intimidated and threatened by members of the ANS brigades. The report highlights a general climate of fear that confines women to their homes.
“The Afrin region has been at a point of no return since Turkish forces took control in 2018,” said an international expert with extensive experience on the matter.
The climate of fear prevailing in the region prevents many residents from sharing their experiences with the UN Commission. They are well aware that if the authorities perceive even the slightest sign that they have communicated with the outside world about the conditions of the occupation, they risk being tortured or killed. In fact, the methods of coercion imposed in these areas are beyond the capabilities of ordinary armed groups. They are supported by the supreme power of a NATO member state, Turkey.
Turkey’s participation “is absolute”
“Syria’s telephone networks have been replaced by Turkish networks. Turkish security forces have set up surveillance cameras and are making joint arrests with mercenary militias. “Their participation is absolute,” said a particular witness. According to information obtained by the Le Monde newspaper and not included in the report, the Turkish gendarmerie, as well as the special forces
of the Turkish police, have permanently occupied two former schools in Afrin.
The Turkish political authorities are also involved in the process of imposing the use of the Turkish lira in trade, banning any other currency. Furthermore, the Turkish State participates in the enforcement of supervision of the governance of these areas by Turkish officials, in the fields of health and education. This incorporation process makes it easy for war crimes to be carried out without punishment. War crimes, such as the forced confiscation of property and goods, in order to propel demographic change in these areas.