YPG fighters in the outskirts of the Kurdish canton of Afrin. Photo: YPG media/File
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Looting, killing, use of torture, and efforts towards demographic change continue in Afrin almost one month after the Kurdish canton was seized by Turkish forces and their allied Syrian militias, according to a conflict monitor.
Some eighty people have been arrested in Afrin since March 18, when the city fell to Turkey, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Friday, adding that “the fate of dozens of them remain unknown.”
International agencies estimate that 50,000 to 70,000 people remained in Afrin.
The UK-based Observatory described the reported arrests as a “trade” business for the Syrian militias. Civilians and members of the Kurdish armed forces YPG are arrested and then demanded to pay for their release.
The Observatory reported that some civilians have been killed, stating that the latest victim was “a young man who… was suffering from mental disorders.” He was arrested on the pretext of having links to the PKK.
The monitor published photos showing the man had been severely beaten.
Media with ties to the Kurdish groups in Rojava reported that the man had been tortured by Syrian militias after he voiced objections to their actions in Afrin.
ANF identified the victim as Fereh El Din Mihemed Osman from the Jandaris region of southwestern Afrin. His home had reportedly been looted and he was tortured and killed when he asked for the return of his property.
Turkey has repeatedly denied it targets civilians throughout its military campaign and has vowed to punish those who have looted Kurdish homes and businesses.
Turkish leaders have also denied Kurdish claims that they want to bring demographic change to the Kurdish-majority canton.
Kurds, however, have complained about the Turkish flag and images of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that have appeared in canton. A photo recently shared on social media appears to show Kurdish signage at Afrin’s main hospital has been removed and replaced with Turkish alongside Arabic.
Turkey considers the YPG and the ruling political party, PYD, in Rojava as branches of the PKK, a named terror organization. Ankara characterized its military operation in Afrin as a counter-terror one.
The YPG and PYD groups deny the terror charge and insist they are distinct from the PKK.
More than 137,000 civilians from Afrin are currently displaced, most living in the Tal Rifaat area where conditions are difficult. Many families are sleeping in the open, restricted from entering regime-held territory in Aleppo and unable to return to their homes.