Abuses against Kurdish women in Afrin under Turkish Parliament radar

While some Kurdish women witnessed torture in the northern Syrian camps, other women held as prisoners were allegedly abused and raped by the mercenaries. (Reuters/File Photo)
While some Kurdish women witnessed torture in the northern Syrian camps, other women held as prisoners were allegedly abused and raped by the mercenaries. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 31 December 2020

Abuses against Kurdish women in Afrin under Turkish Parliament radar

While some Kurdish women witnessed torture in the northern Syrian camps, other women held as prisoners were allegedly abused and raped by the mercenaries. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • The shocking claims recently made headlines with the Afrin Report news network

JEDDAH: Tulay Hatimogullari, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, filed a parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday, destined to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, over the allegations that hundreds of Kurdish women and girls have been kidnapped in northern Syria by Turkish-backed militias and taken to Libya to be sold as sex slaves.

The shocking claims recently made headlines with the Afrin Report news network, which revealed the testimonies of survivors from the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin about hospitals full of the corpses of kidnapped women and girls who were being accused of supporting terrorism.

Hatimogullari asked Cavusoglu whether the claims that Kurdish women from Afrin were being kidnapped via Turkey were true.

“Are you investigating the claims that girls and women from Afrin were sent to Libya as slaves? Is your ministry aware of the sexual assaults in the camps and prisons in Afrin? Will you take the steps necessary to deal with these violations of rights? Will you conduct coordinated activities with international organizations in this regard?” she inquired.

Hatimogullari, who became the first lawmaker to bring the case to the Turkish domestic agenda, emphasized Turkey’s judicial responsibility and complicity regarding these allegations that concern the criminal acts of Turkey-backed rebels.

While some women witnessed torture in the northern Syrian camps, other women held as prisoners were allegedly abused and raped by the mercenaries.

As the Kurdish women’s cries for help mostly fall on deaf ears, their situation recalled that of the thousands of Yazidi women from Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan who were abducted, raped, murdered and enslaved by Daesh six years ago.

The details about the allegations are regularly documented under the Missing Afrin Women Project that is tracking the kidnappings and disappearances of Kurdish women and girls in Afrin since 2018. The project features an interactive map displaying the name of the individual, the date and location of the incident, the armed group responsible and whether the relevant individual has been reported released.

On the basis of testimonials, hundreds of Kurdish girls were kidnapped and taken to Turkey through military crossing points at the Syrian-Turkish border to be sold as sex slaves to Qatari traders and sent back to Libya.

Turkey and Qatar opened this month a hospital for women and children in Afrin.

Since last year, human rights groups have been expressing concerns over the increasing abuses against civilians in Afrin.

In total, more than 1,000 women and girls are believed to be missing only in Afrin following Turkey’s two-month-long Operation Olive Branch two years ago that ousted the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the region.

The operation was criticized by the international community as an attempt at demographic change and forced displacement.

Ankara considers the Kurdish YPG as part of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in a more than three-decade-long war against the Turkish state. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

In February 2019, the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released an assessment report about the human rights situation in Afrin.

“The commission finds there are reasonable grounds to believe that armed group members in Afrin committed the war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment, torture, and pillage,” the report said.

“Numerous cases involving arbitrary arrests and detentions by armed group members also included credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment, often targeting individuals of Kurdish origin, including activists openly critical of armed groups and those perceived to be so,” the UN report added.

In November 2020, the US Department of State Lead Inspector General for Operation Inherent Resolve released a report covering the period between July and September 2020.

The report indicated that the US Department of State is “deeply concerned by reports that Turkish supported opposition groups engaged in ‘gross violations of human rights and violations of the law of armed conflict’ in northeast Syria,” including murder, torture, rape and kidnapping, among others.


Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
Updated 30 min 40 sec ago

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
  • More than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out
  • The orders came after twin suicide attacks claimed by Daesh killed 32 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Rights defenders fear Iraq may give the green light to a spree of executions of convicted militants in a show of strength, days after a deadly suicide attack in Baghdad.
On Sunday, an official from Iraq’s presidency told AFP more than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out.
“We are continuing to sign off on more,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The orders were disclosed to AFP after twin suicide attacks claimed by the Daesh group on Thursday killed at least 32 people in a crowded open-air Baghdad market.
The blasts were a jolting reminder of the persistent threat posed by the jihadists, despite the government declaring victory over them in late 2017.
The official, along with judicial sources contacted by AFP, could not provide additional details on when the executions may take place or if they included foreigners convicted of belonging to IS.
A 2005 law carries the death penalty for anyone convicted of “terrorism,” which can include membership of an extremist group even if they are not convicted of any specific acts.
Rights groups have warned that executions were being used for political reasons.
“Leaders resort to announcements of mass executions simply to signal to the public that they’re taking... (these issues) seriously,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The death penalty is used as a political tool more than anything else,” she told AFP on Sunday.
In mid-2018, outgoing Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced 13 executions under the Counter-Terror Law, and for the first time authorities published pictures of the hangings.
That came after Daesh killed eight civilians.


Since the official declaration of victory over Daesh, Iraq’s courts have sentenced hundreds to death for crimes perpetrated during the jihadists’ 2014 seizure of around a third of the country and their brutal three-year hold over cities including Mosul.
But only a small proportion of the sentences have been carried out, as they must be approved by the president.
Barham Saleh, who has held the post since 2018, is known to be personally against capital punishment, and has resisted signing execution orders in the past.
Some Iraqis took to social media to demand tougher action from Saleh after Thursday’s attack, accusing him of “not carrying out the sentences” and risking a prison break.
Despite Saleh’s moderating influence, Iraq in 2019 carried out the fourth highest number of executions among nations worldwide, after China and Iran, according to Amnesty International.
Iraq carried out 100 executions that year — one out of every seven worldwide.
Judicial sources told AFP at least 30 executions took place in 2020.
They include 21 men convicted of “terrorism” and executed at the notorious Nasiriyah prison in November.
The move sparked condemnations from the United Nations, which described the news as “deeply troubling” and called on Iraq to halt any further planned executions.


Rights groups accuse Iraq’s justice system of corruption, carrying out rushed trials on circumstantial evidence and failing to allow the accused a proper defense.
They also condemn cramped conditions in detention centers, saying those arrested for petty crimes are often held with hardened jihadists, facilitating radicalization.
Iraq’s government has declined to provide figures on detention centers or prisoners, including how many are facing terrorism-related charges, although some studies estimate 20,000 are being held for purported Daesh links.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said late last year that given such gaps in Iraq’s legal system, implementing capital punishment “may amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life by the State.”
Ali Bayati, a leading member of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, told AFP the country had “limited options.”
“Capital punishment is part of the Iraqi legal system — and we do not have real rehabilitation centers,” he said.
“We lack clear guarantees and real transparency in the interrogation and ruling sessions, and in allowing human rights organizations to play their role.”