Syrian Kurdish politician blames Turkey for crimes in Afrin

Turkey as an occupying power is responsible for all rights violations in the northeastern Syrian town of Afrin in the Aleppo province, Redwan Seydo of the Kurdish National Council (ENKS) said in an interview, Kurdish news network Kurdistan24 reported on Wednesday.

Turkey-backed militias have “committed numerous violations, from war crimes to crimes against humanity,” Seydo told K24, adding that the ENKS reported the “many violations” it observed to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other international organisations.

Turkish troops, along with militia groups like the Free Syrian Army, took control of Afrin in March 2018, following several months of intense clashes with Syrian Kurdish forces, who had at the time carved out an enclave in northeast Syria relatively isolated from Syria’s ongoing civil war, save for attacks by the Islamic State (ISIS).

Officials from the de facto autonomous region, called Rojava in Kurdish, have long accused Turkey and the militia it supports of serious crimes, including assimilation, forced displacement, as well as kidnappings and murders. The women’s commission of Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) recently sent open letters to the United Nations detailing the treatment of Kurds other ethnic and religious minorities in the town.

Redwan Seydo, whose organization is an opposition group that is not part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which controlled the region before Turkey’s military incursion into Afrin, called on international organisations to facilitate a path for the alleged criminals in Afrin to face trial in international courts.

“According to The Hague Convention, Turkey is responsible for crimes committed by the armed factions in Afrin,” Seydo told K24. However, he said, “There are shortcomings from the EU and the U.N. when it comes to dealing with the occupation state of Turkey.”

ENKS is part of the Syrian National Coalition, which Turkey supports, and has worked with the coalition to allow for safe return of civilians to their homelands. However, Seydo said, “The Syrian opposition has been negligent, and they are also responsible for these crimes.”

As Kurdish political factions in northeast Syria, ENKS and Kurdish National Unity Parties (PYNK) recently reached a first-stage agreement, and hope to eventually achieve unity on political, military and diplomatic affairs among Syrian Kurds.

Turkey considers PYNK constituent Democratic Unity Party (PYD), as well as the SDF, to be terrorist organisations over their alleged ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since the 1980’s.

“We can see the occupation state of Turkey having influence over the Syrian opposition, especially a section of them,” K24 cited Seydo as saying. The ENKS official said Syrian opposition groups could be indifferent to violations in Turkish-occupied parts of northeast Syria because of this influence.

ENKS leader Fuad Aliko had accused Turkish-backed groups of looting and stealing from the people last year as well, according to K24.

A report by the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic published in March found “reasonable ground” that Turkey-backed fighters committed the war crimes of murder and pillaging.

The report said these crimes and violations “may entail criminal responsibility” for Turkish commanders, “if any armed group members were shown to be acting under the effective command and control of Turkish forces.” Such a connection had not been proven at the time of the report’s release.