May 16 2019

600 Kurdish prisoners transferred in Turkish-controlled Afrin - report

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Wednesday reported that Turkish intelligence units and Turkish-backed Syrian armed groups have transferred more than 600 Kurdish prisoners in northwestern Syrian city of Afrin since last week. 

The prisoners were arrested in Afrin, which was seized by Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters last year, SOHR said. Afrin was previously controlled by Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). 

“The transfer took place from Sejju prison (al-Ma’sara prison) in Azaz area in the northern countryside of Aleppo, and they were transported to a destination that (is) still unknown until now,” SOHR said, citing unnamed sources. 

The transfer of the prisoners began last week, according to the same sources, while the health of a large number of these detainees has recently deteriorated as a result of torture and the notorious conditions of al-Ma’sara Prison.

SOHR said it had also received information that several prisoners had been transferred to Turkish prisons on charges of “belonging to the former Kurdish self-administration in Afrin”. The fate of those detainees is unknown, as Turkish intelligence and their loyal factions prohibit visits unless huge bribes are paid, SOHR said.  

The observatory said that the Turkish-backed factions had demanded ransom for many of those it arrested,  a practice that has become widespread in the city since it was captured by Turkish military and its allies, according to a United Nations inquiry published in March. 

According to SOHR, 2,682 people have so far been arrested in Afrin, with 1,087 still in detention and the rest released after paying a ransom. The ransom demands range from a few hundred dollars to $100,000, the U.N. inquiry said.