Turkey’s response to Syria rights abuses ‘unsatisfying’ - U.S. watchdog report

The United States remains “deeply concerned” by reports of rights violations in the Turkish-controlled regions of northern Syria, according to a quarterly report by the lead inspector of the U.S. mission against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq.

Despite assurances from Turkish officials that they take the allegations seriously and support investigations of such claims, the report covering Oct.-Dec.said, the State Department found the outcomes “have not been fully satisfying.’’

Turkey, supported by Turkish-backed rebel forces, gained military control over northeast Syria, including the Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn regions, following a military incursion in Oct. 2019. The operation, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, targeted Kurdish forces Ankara sees as an existential threat due to their ties to an insurgency on Turkish soil.

The Syrian National Army (SNA), a collection of Islamist factions under Turkish control in the region, have been accused of hostage-taking, cruel treatment and torture, rape and looting of civilian property, according to a U.N. report issued in August. Turkey has rejected the claims.

The self-proclaimed SNA is a rebel force Turkey has trained and allowed to cross the border into Syria to seize territory in a conflict against Damascus forces.

U.S. officials received reports of “killings, torture, kidnapping, extortion, arbitrary detentions and denial of water access to half a million civilians” in areas under the control of Turkey-backed Syrian opposition groups, the report said, highlighting documented violence against displaced Kurds as well as Yazidis in Afrin and Christians in Ras al Ayn.

In September, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the human rights situation in Syrian territories controlled by Turkish and Turkey-backed forces was “grim, with violence and criminality rife.”

The report also voiced concerned about “multiple reports of violence targeting Kurds, Yazidis, and Christians that kept them from returning safely to their homes in areas controlled by TSO [Turkey-supported opposition] groups.’’