Home Thematic Reports The Documentation of 79 Arrests in “Peace Spring” and “Olive Branch” Strips in July 2022

The Documentation of 79 Arrests in “Peace Spring” and “Olive Branch” Strips in July 2022


63 persons, including four women, from Afrin region and 16 from Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê and Tall Abyad regions were subjected to detention and deprivation of liberty. 13 of them were released, among them two women while the fate of the rest 66 persons is still unaccounted for.

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Introduction

In July 2022, Hevdesti-Synergy Association for the Victims in Northeast Syria documented the arrest of at least 79 persons, including four women, in the areas of Afrin, Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê and Tall Abyad, where Turkish forces and factions affiliated with the opposition Syrian National Army/SNA are in control.

Detention and deprivation of liberty included 63 persons in Afrin region, which has been occupied by Turkey since March 2018 in Operation Olive Branch, and further 16 persons in Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê and Tall Abyad regions, which have been occupied by Turkey since October 2019 in Operation Peace Spring. Only 13 out of the total toll of the detainees, among them two women, have been released so far, while the fate of the other 66, including two women, remains unknown.

The majority of the detained persons were arbitrarily arrested. Causes and charges behind their arrest varied. Some were accused of dealing with the Autonomous Administration or formerly working in its institutions. Others were accused of trying to cross to Turkey illegally. Some others were arrested merely because they belong to the Kurdish community or to extort their families and get a ransom.

In one single case, Hevdesti-Synergy Association documented that a young man was arrested in Afrin countryside after he refused to abandon his house to an armed group to seize it. In another case, a person in Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê was arrested for chanting anti-SNA slogans in a peaceful demonstration denouncing the deteriorating security and living conditions in “Peace Spring” territory.

Hevdesti-Synergy Association relied in its documentation process on the information collected in its database provided by a network of field researchers scattered in the region, and on accounts, they obtained from the detainees and eyewitnesses. Furthermore, it verified the information from publicly available sources (open sources).

Hevdesti-Synergy Association notes that violations committed by Turkey and the SNA-affiliated factions in Afrin, Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê and Tall Abyad regions are far more than what have been documented and verified by name, surname, date and place of arrest. As the Association believes that the actual number of arrest cases is significantly higher than the figure given in this report.

Legal Liability

The SNA did not respect prisoners’ rights in accordance with international legal obligations. Various factions affiliated with the SNA have arbitrarily arrested individuals. Turkey, in the context of detention, has supported these factions directly which amounts to violation of Turkey’s obligations to Common Article 1 to the Geneva Conventions (secure respect for the conventions).

Since factions of the Turkish-backed SNA controlled Afrin in March 2018 and Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê and Tall Abyad in October 2019, they have engaged in practicing widespread and systematic arbitrary and illegal arrests and detention. The armed groups were liable for violations of the right to life and other violations to human rights in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights/ICCPR (para 7, 9, 10, 14, and 26), the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (Articles 2, 3, 37, and 40), and the UN Convention Against Torture (Articles 1, 2, 4, 6, 11, 12, 13, and 15).

The SNA-affiliated factions continue practicing cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment towards relatives of the detainees and the disappeared in various ways. One way is the deliberate concealment of the fate and whereabouts of the detainees and the disappeared persons in violation to the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and fundamental human rights principles.[1] Furthermore, the effective removal of these persons from the protection of the law, if protection is found originally, and the failure to establish their fate constitutes a violation to the right to life.[2]

Apart from arbitrary arrest and detention, Hevdesti-Synergy Association has documented, since at least 2018, practices of torture in detention centers under the control of the SNA, where such practices were commonly conducted as a means of extracting information from detainees, such as those arrested for racial affiliation, their exercise of freedom of expression or their explicit criticism of these forces. In the light of the continuous documented use of torture against detainees and the failure of the factions’ commanders as well as leaders of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG)/the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) to take effective steps to prevent such practices, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the SNA may be practicing such conduct in pursuance of an organizational policy. Therefore, such conduct may be part of a systematic attack against the detainees in its custody, amounting to the crimes against humanity of torture.

Turkey is under obligation, in the areas under its control, to ensure public order and safety and afford special protection for women and children.[3] Turkey remains bound by applicable human rights obligations vis-à-vis all individuals present in these territories. If Turkish forces do not intervene to stop torture, when they are present at the time of torture or when they are informed about, they may be violating Turkey’s obligations to the Fourth Geneva Convention.[4]

As the SNA forces are under effective command and control of the Turkish forces, the Turkish military commanders are held criminally responsible for violations committed by these parties [the SNA forces] in instances where the Turkish leaders knew or should have known about such crimes or failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent their commission.[5]

Arrests in Afrin

Hevdesti-Synergy Association documented in July 2022, the arrest of 63 persons, including four women in the Kurdish-majority region of Afrin. Five of them were released, among them two women. However, the fate of the other 58 persons, including two women, is still unaccounted for. (Hevdesti-Synergy Association did not get reliable information documenting the release of the others).

The biggest toll of arrests in July was felt in Jindires District in which 27 arrests took place. In Maabatli/Mabeta district, 19 persons, including three women, were arrested, and in Sharran district, eight persons were arrested, including a woman. Five arrests took place in Sherawa district. Only two persons were arrested in Rajo district and two in Afrin city center.

Forces of the Military Police, affiliated with the SNA, was exclusively in charge of 29 arrests in Afrin area in July. Together with the Civil Police, it arrested seven persons, and together with the Sultan Muhammad al-Fateh Brigade/Liwa Sultan Muhammad al-Fateh, it arrested two persons. Finally, it arrested one person along with the Turkish Intelligence forces.

Liwa Sultan Muhammad al-Fateh, in turn, was responsible for five arrests. The Levant Front/al-Jabha al-Shamiya, the Sham Legion/Faylaq al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham Movement were responsible each for at least three arrests. The Turkish intelligence forces conducted two arrests. The Civil Police and the Eastern Army/Jaysh al-Sharqiya were responsible each for at least one arrest. Other SNA-affiliated factions conducted nine arrests.

The SNA-affiliated factions charged the crime of dealing with the Autonomous Administration or formerly working with its institutions to 16 detainees in Afrin. Two of them were released after their families each paid 2,200 Turkish Liras to the Military Police which had arrested them. Two other persons were arrested in order to extort their families and ask them to pay ransoms. The Military Police and Liwa Sultan Muhammad al-Fateh asked their families each to pay $200 for their release.

In one single case, Hevdesti-Synergy Association documented the arrest of one young man in Afrin countryside as he refused to give up his house to an armed group that tried to seize it. On 28 July 2022, fighters of Jaysh al-Sharqiya faction arrested Nabi Fawzi Nasero (25 years old), from his house located in Jindires district because he refused the evacuation order by Abu al-Hareth Boqres, a commander in Jaysh al-Sharqiya. The house originally belongs to a displaced family from Afrin who currently reside in Turkey. More than five years ago, Nasero and his family rented the house. The next day, Nasero was released after he was forced to sign a document in which he pledged to move from the house and hand it over to the mentioned faction.

 

The following table shows detailed data of the total toll of the arrets conducted in Afrin region in July 2022 :

#

Name Place of arrest Date of arrest The party that carried out the arrest Status

1

Nihad Muhammed Bakko Maabatli/Mabeta 03/07/2022 Liwa Sultan Muhammad al-Fateh and the Military Police together

unknown

2 Mustafa Abdeen Faris Maabatli/Mabeta 03/07/2022 Liwa Sultan Muhammad al-Fateh and the Military Police together

unknown

3

Ali Hussein Walid Jindires 03/07/2022 The Military Police unknown
4 Akram Zuheir Hussein Jindires 03/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

5

Sharvan Khalil Abdo Jindires 05/07/2022 The Military Police unknown
6 Mahmoud Hussein Hamo Jindires 05/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

7

Nawras Darwish Mahmoud Jindires 05/07/2022 The Military Police unknown

8

Najeeb Farid Muhammed Jindires 05/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

9 Ali Nizar Jameel Jindires 05/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

10

Rukia Mustaf Maabatli/Mabeta 06/07/2022 Liwa Sultan Muhammad al-Fateh Released later
11 Heveen Hameed Altono Maabatli/Mabeta 06/07/2022 Liwa Sultan Muhammad al-Fateh

Released later

12

Hanifa Ibrahim Maabatli/Mabeta 06/07/2022 Liwa Sultan Muhammad al-Fateh unknown

13

Diab Haj Ibrahim Jindires 07/07/2022 al-Jabha al-Shamiya unknown
14 Muhammed Hasan Jindires 07/07/2022 The SNA

unknown

15

Muhammed Hameed Naser Sherawa 09/07/2022 Ahrar al-Sham Movement unknown
16 Hussein Aboud Hamo Sherawa 09/07/2022 Ahrar al-Sham Movement

unknown

17

Ahmed Abdo Sitaf Sherawa 09/07/2022 Ahrar al-Sham Movement unknown
18 Walid Barakat Salmo Sherawa 09/07/2022 Faylaq al-Sham

unknown

19

Ali Sher Mahmoud Jindires 13/07/2022 The Military Police and the Civil Police together unknown
20 Mahmoud Ahmed al-Ali Jindires 13/07/2022 The Military Police and the Civil Police together

unknown

21

Nawras Khalil Ali Jindires 13/07/2022 The military Police unknown
22 Omar Hussein Abdo Jindires 13/07/2022 The Military Police and the Civil Police together

unknown

23

Khalil Hussein Muhammed Jindires 13/07/2022 The Military Police and the Civil Police together unknown
24 Ali Ahmed Rasho Jindires 14/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

25

Hussein Hidek “Sagher” Sharran 14/07/2022 The Military Police unknown

26

Najati Wahid Lotfi Sharran 14/07/2022 The Military Police unknown
27 Walid Barakat Salmo Sherawa 15/07/2022 Faylaq al-Sham

unknown

28

Othman Hanan Maabatli/Mabeta 15/07/2022 Faylaq al-Sham unknown
29 Athom Aliko Muhammed Maabatli/Mabeta 16/07/2022 The Turkish intelligence

unknown

30

Mustafa Muhammed Sharran 16/07/2022 The Military Police unknown
31 Mahmoud Ali Hussein Jindires 16/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

32

Farzat Ahmed Mahmoud Jindires 16/07/2022 The Military Police unknown
33 Midhat Murad Saweek Maabatli/Mabeta 16/07/2022 The Turkish intelligence and the Military Police together

unknown

34

Ahmed Beram Maabatli/Mabeta 16/07/2022 The SNA unknown
35 Adel Beram Maabatli/Mabeta 17/07/2022 The SNA

unknown

36

Ahmed Brimko Maabatli/Mabeta 17/07/2022 The SNA unknown
37 Jameel Muhammed Maabatli/Mabeta 17/07/2022 The SNA

unknown

38

Mustafa Jamal Maabatli/Mabeta 17/07/2022 The SNA unknown
39 Medhat Muhammed Maabatli/Mabeta 17/07/2022 The SNA

unknown

40

Hasan Muhammed Maabatli/Mabeta 18/07/2022 The Military Police unknown
41 Muhammed Rasoul Maabatli/Mabeta 18/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

42

Bahri Hussein Salim Jindires 19/07/2022 The Military Police unknown
43 Fawzi Mahmoud Ali Jindires 19/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

44

Ali Abdo Hasan Jindires 20/07/2022 The Civil Police unknown
45 Mustafa Seleem Hussein Sharran 21/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

46

Manan Seleem Hussein Sharran 21/07/2022 The Military Police unknown
47 Muhammed Riyad Khalil Jindires 23/07/2022 The SNA

unknown

48

Abdo Mahmoud Darwish Jindires 23/07/2022 The SNA unknown
49 Horik Dawood Rajo 23/07/2022 The Military Police

Released later

50

Ali Sheikho Ahmed Rajo 23/07/2022 The Military Police Released later

51

Khalil Ismael Hakim Maabatli/Mabeta 24/07/2022 The Military Police unknown
52 Rif’at Ahmed Zenki Maabatli/Mabeta 24/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

53

Mustaf Kamal Kurdi Maabatli/Mabeta 24/07/2022 The Military Police unknown
54 Abdulhadi al-Omar Afrin 25/07/2022 al-Jabha al-Shamiya

unknown

55

Muhammed Amin Afrin 25/07/2022 al-Jabha al-Shamiya unknown
56 Aisha Ni’esan Sharran 28/07/2022 The Military Police and the Civil Police together

unknown

57

Muhammed Kinjo Sharran 28/07/2022 The Military Police and the Civil Police together unknown
58 Hosni Seleem Hasan Sharran 28/07/2022 The Military Police and the Civil Police together

unknown

59

Nabi Fawzi Nasero Jindires 28/07/2022 Jaysh al-Sharqiya Released later
60 Fawzi Sheikh Muhammed Jindires 29/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

61

Abdo Sobhi Yousef Jindires 29/07/2022 The Military Police unknown
62 Najeeb Jiwan Sheikho Jindires 29/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

63

Rasheed Ismael Hamid Jindires 29/07/2022 The Military Police

unknown

 

 “Peace Spring” Arrests

Hevdesti-Synergy Association documented, in July 2022, the arrest of at least 16 persons by the SNA-affiliated factions in Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê and Tall Abyad regions. Only eight detainees were released while the fate of the rest remains unknown.

Like Afrin, the Military Police conducted the majority of the arrests in Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê and Tall Abyad regions as it was responsible for at least eight arrests. The Civil Police conducted four arrests and other SNA-affiliated factions were responsible for the other cases of arrests.

Reasons and motives behind the arrest and the accusations the detainees faced varied. Nine persons were arrested for trying to cross to Turkey illegally. One person was arrested on the way back to Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê after he had displaced to areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration during Operation Peace Spring. While another person from Ras al-Ayn was arrested for chanting anti-SNA slogans in a peaceful demonstration condemning the worsening security and living conditions in “Peace Spring” strip.

On 1 July 2022, Khalid Def, a shopkeeper in Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê, was detained for his participation in a demonstration in Tell Halaf town west of Ras al-Ayn. Def condemned the worsening security and living conditions in “Peace Spring” territory and was arbitrarily arrested by a patrol of the Civil Police. He was released the next day after he signed a document in which he pledged not to participate in anti-SNA protests again.

Despite the variety of reasons for the arrest, families of at least six detainees who were released said they paid ransoms for the release of their loved sons from detention centers run by the SNA-affiliated factions in Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê.

A witness whose four members of his family were arrested in Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê told Hevdesti-Synergy Association that forces of the Military Police asked them to pay ransom for the release of the detained ones. He recounted: [6]

“Four individuals of our relatives were arrested by the Military Police in Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê while trying to cross to Turkey illegally. They were released on 5 August 2022 after we paid $2,500 to the Military Police. One of the detained persons has yet to be released under the pretense that the prosecutors are on vacation.”

The witness said that the detainees underwent severe physical and psychological torture, adding they have no information regarding the proceeding of the prosecution or the mechanism of their release in terms of the legal aspect.

Another witness[7] told Hevdesti-Synergy Association that his brother along with three other detainees were brought before a military court prior to their release. He narrated the details of his brother’s arrest as following:

“On 5 July 2022, my brother along with three other young men were heading to Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê coming from the direction of the Autonomous Administration-controlled areas. The Military Police forces arrested them on the M4 Highway, interrogated them and kept them in a custody in Mabrouka town for 25 days. The imprisonment situation was bad. The detainees were subject to verbal abuse, mental pressure and shortage of food.  In early August 2022, they were released after they were brought before a military court.”

The accounts and information collected by Hevdesti-Synergy Association infer that some factions and leaders of the opposition SNA are running human trafficking operations and transport people illegally to Turkey in exchange for money. Intra-factional fighting repeatedly breaks out between members of the SNA-affiliated factions over disputes on dividing smuggling profits. On 7 August 2022, Hevdesti-Synergy Association published a detailed report on the internal fighting between the SNA-affiliated factions in Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê and Tall Abyad over the first half of 2022. The report was titled:  Armed Chaos and Insecurity in the “Peace Spring” Strip.

The arrests documented by Hevdesti-Synergy Association for the Victims in the regions of Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê and Tall Abyad since the onset of Operation Peace Spring on 9 October 2019 until the end of July 2022, has reached up to more than 478 detainees, including 64 women and 36 children, where the arrests were carried out by Turkish forces and factions affiliated with the Turkish-backed SNA. Moreover, at least 293 cases of torture of detainees in the prisons of those factions have been documented. Five persons at least have died under torture.

[1] ICRC Rule 98. Enforced disappearance are also characterized as a composite war crime by ICRC; See Rule 156.

[2] UN Human Rights Committee, general comment no. 36 (2018), para 58.

[3] “Human rights abuses and international humanitarian law violations in the Syrian Arab Republic, 21 July 2016–28 February 2017”, para. 103.

[4] The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, 14 August 2020, Document NO A/HRC/45/31. Para (69-67).

[5] Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, Article 28.

[6]  The interview was conducted via the Internet on 6 August 2022. The identity of the witness is withheld for his family members’ safety. One of his family members is still detained by the Military Police in Ras al-Ayn/Serê Kaniyê.

[7] The interview was conducted via the Internet on 5 August 2022. The witness’s identity is withheld according to his request.

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