Turkish-backed paramilitary groups, working with the Syrian rebel Ahrar al-Sham militia, have reportedly taken to attacking and torturing Kurdish civilians in northern Afrin, Syria, witnesses alleged this week.
Sami Haj Khalil, 40, was reportedly attacked on July 15 at his home in the Haj Hasna village of Jindiris; a town located in northwestern Syria’s Afrin district, according to the outlet Kurdistan 24 on Monday.
Afrin is a Syrian Kurdish province previously under the control of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), America’s most reliable allies against the Islamic State in the country. The Turkish government considers the YPG a terrorist organization and has demanded their removal from Afrin, invading the region and expelling the militia.
Militants tied to the Turkish government reportedly raided Khalil’s home and attacked him and his brother Ibrahim. According to the Kurdistan 24 News, the attackers looted $2,000 of their property from their private home after they tied Sami to a tree outside his home and tortured him for their amusement. He was reportedly taken to a hospital a day after he was discovered tied to the tree but succumbed to his injuries.
Kurdistan 24 highlighted a similar case involving Ahrar al-Sharqiya, another Turkish-backed rebel group, who admitted on Monday that they are responsible for the murder of Hussein Abdulrahman Sagher, 25, and Walid Jamil Sourani, 19, both Kurds killed four months ago in Afrin.
The family of the victims reportedly refused to take an offer of financial compensation from the armed group.
According to Aleppo 24, “Ahrar Al Sharqiya affiliates are locals from Deir Ezzor province who allied with Nusra Front during the fighting against Daesh in the province in 2014.”
Turkey launched an offensive in Afrin in January, which it claimed was meant to clear its southern border of the threat posed by the YPG. Turkey claims the YPG is tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey has banned and has labeled both groups as “terrorists.” The United States has designated the Marxist PKK group a terrorist organization but regularly cooperates with the YPG, which has also taken in Western volunteers and trained them to fight ISIS.
In March, Turkey launched a full-scale invasion of Afrin known as Operation Olive Branch.
The Stockholm Center for Freedom reported: “pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF) claimed on Wednesday that civilians who remained in Afrin after the invasion of Turkey-backed rebel groups have been savagely tortured, abducted, sexually abused or murdered. As many as 3,000 people are estimated to have been kidnapped in the Afrin region since March, and the fate of 7,000 people from Afrin and its surroundings remains unknown since the illegal invasion started amidst silence by the world, according to ANF.”