The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a London-based NGO tracking abuses in the country, published a video Tuesday showing jihadis allied with Turkey shouting “Allahu Akbar” and kicking around the dead body of a Kurdish woman fighting the Turkish invasion.
In the video, reproduced by the Kurdish outlet Rudaw, a man apparently holding a cell phone films himself celebrating over the bodies of several Kurdish “pigs” and introduced the body of the woman by shouting “this is one of your prostitutes you sent us.” Several others join him in circling the woman’s body, apparently kicked around and bloodied, and shouting “Allahu akbar,” the common jihadi battle cry that roughly translates to “Allah is superior.”
“The corpses of PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) and PYD (Democratic Union Party) pigs under the feet of the Mujahideen of Faylaq (Corps) al-Majd,” the jihadist says in the video. The PKK is a U.S.-designated Marxist terrorist organization; the PYD is the civilian political Kurdish party running Syrian Kurdistan, or Rojava.
The female fighter is believed to have been a member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella coalition of mostly-Kurdish forces allied with the United States before President Donald Trump withdrew U.S. forces from the region this month. The SDF includes members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ).
The YPG includes soldiers of both sexes; the YPJ is an all-female unit.
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The man filming the video reportedly identifies himself and his peers as members of the “Mujahideen of Faylaq al-Majd,” a jihadist group now allied with Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an invasion of Syria named “Operation Peace Spring” this month aimed at eradicating the indigenous Kurdish presence of northern Syria (Rojava) and replacing it with mostly Arab refugees currently in Turkey. Erdogan openly stated that Turkish soldiers would fight alongside the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a coalition of mostly Sunni fighters created during the height of the Syrian Civil War to take down dictator Bashar al-Assad. The FSA includes several jihadist elements, including the al-Mahdy fighters seen in the video.
The SOHR did not offer a definitive date for when the video was taken, only that the events recorded occurred amid the “Operation Peace Spring” invasion. Rudaw sites the Kurdish Hawar news agency as dating the woman’s death to Tuesday and the location of the video to be somewhere outside Kobani, a Syrian-Kurdish border town that Erdogan had agreed to leave untouched in his invasion.
Rudaw reported Wednesday that other videos of jihadist desecrating the bodies of women fighting on the front lines have surfaced from “Operation Peace Spring.”
In another video obtained by Rudaw, another YPJ fighter seems to have been captured in Tuesday’s attack by the 3rd Corps of the Faylaq al-Majd, by the Ahrar Dar Ta’azah battalions.
“I took this female pig prisoner!” a fighter is heard saying, as they surround a confused female, with indistinct shouts of “beautiful” being heard in the background. It is not clear if they are referring to the captured YPJ fighter.
Rudaw also highlighted the killing, confirmed by the SDF this week, of Hevrin Khalaf, a woman’s rights advocate and Secretary General of the Future Syria Party, a party active in Rojava.
“She was taken out of her car during a Turkish-backed attack and executed by Turkish backed mercenary factions on the International Road between Qamishlo and Manbij, where her driver who was also martyred,” the Syrian Democratic Council, the civilian organization tied to the SDF, said in a statement in which it accused the Turkish government of targeting and killing “unarmed civilians.”
“Professor Hevrin Khalaf, was the Secretary General of the Future Syria Party, a party with a political orientation towards Syria in general, is far from military agendas, equally approaches all Syrian parties since the past one and a half years to establish a pluralistic society that Syria lacked;” the SDF said.
Kurds in both Syria and Iraq have long accepted women among their rank and file soldiers and have sent the YPJ to the front lines. Kurdish women were particularly effective fighters against the Islamic State at the height of its “caliphate” in 2014-2016, as ISIS jihadis feared that being killed by a woman would deny them the full rewards of martyrdom in Heaven.
“They are so scared of us! If we kill them they can’t go to heaven,” Haveen, a 22-year-old YPJ fighter, told the Independent in 2016. “We make loud calls of happiness when we see them to let them know we are coming. That’s when they become cowards.”
The YPJ have for years been among the most effective anti-jihadist militias on the ground in Syria. Erdogan, an avowed Islamist, is seeking to destroy the YPJ and its co-ed fellow Kurdish militia, the YPG, because he claims they are indistinguishable from the PKK. The Syrian Kurdish fighters have not publicly disavowed the largely Turkish-Kurdish PKK, but have also not openly aided any terrorist PKK activity within Turkish borders, focusing primarily on fighting ISIS.
Erdogan’s government has, in contrast, done little to prevent ISIS sympathizers from entering the Syrian fray through the Turkish border.
“Turkey has been hosting ISIS for years,” Can Dündar, a Turkish journalist forced into exile in Germany for exposing Erdogan’s ties to jihadist militias in Syria, said this week. “Everyone knows it in the region.”
The Free Syrian Army responsible for the video posted by the SOHR was a U.S. ally under President Barack Obama. According to Obama’s former special envoy against ISIS, Brett McGurk, the Obama administration “invested significant amounts of time, significant American resources, to build a force that was known as the Free Syrian Army.”