ANKARA: The killing of a female Kurdish party official during a Turkish offensive on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria has been condemned as a “war crime” by a former US special envoy.
Hevrin Khalaf, secretary general of the Future Syria Party, was one of nine civilians killed by Ankara-backed fighters on Oct. 12 on a highway outside Raqqa.
Khalaf and her driver are believed to have been forced from their car and summarily executed by a rebel group named Ahrar Al-Sharqiya fighting alongside Turkish forces in Syria.
Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh, condemned the execution as a “war crime.” The US State Department also issued a statement calling the news of Khalaf’s death “troubling.”
Local and international observers also criticized the killings.
In a statement on Oct 18, Amnesty International cited a medical report listing Khalaf’s injuries, including gunshot wounds to her head, face and back.
“Killing defenseless people in cold blood is utterly reprehensible and a blatant war crime,” the statement said. “The murder of Khalaf and others must be independently investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.”
The human rights group said Ankara has a responsibility to halt violations carried out by forces under its control.
“Unless Turkey reins in its proxy forces and ends impunity for violations, it will encourage further atrocities,” the statement said.
Turkish troops and allied fighters launched a military offensive on Oct 9 to push Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing Democratic Union Party (PYD) away from Turkey’s border with Syria. Ankara accuses the PYD of having links with Kurdish PKK militants who have been waging a decades-long insurgency inside Turkey.
The Future Syria Party is considered by the Turkish government as a branch of the PYD.
Khalaf, a resident of the northeastern Syrian town of Malikiyah, was known for her efforts to unite religious groups in northeastern Syria and replace the Assad regime with a multi-ethnic democracy.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights, a nongovernment group that monitors fighting in the country, told Arab News that its investigations into the incident were hampered by the lack of a strong network in the area.
“The incident seems to have taken place on a road, not in a residential zone. We are unable to verify how she was killed or who killed her,” the group said.