A YPG fighter in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava). Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Displacements of local populations at the hands of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was done out of “military necessity” and are not cases of ethnic cleansing, the UN stated.
“Though allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’ continued to be received during the period under review, the Commission found no evidence to substantiate claims that YPG or SDF forces ever targeted Arab communities on the basis of ethnicity, nor that YPG cantonal authorities systematically sought to change the demographic composition of territories under their control through the commission of violations directed against any particular ethnic group,” reads a report published by the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria on Monday.
The report covers human rights abuses in Syria between July 21, 2016 and February 28, 2017.
The Commission notes in its report that mass numbers of people were displaced during SDF offensives to oust ISIS from Manbij city in the summer of 2016 and Tishreen Dam in December 2015 and that some continue to remain unable to return to their homes, “living under dire humanitarian conditions.”
However, “the presence of concealed bombs laid by ISIL justifies ordering the temporary displacement of civilians,” the Commission stated, using an alternate acronym for ISIS.
While the displacement was justified, the Commission noted that the SDF and YPG failed to provide adequate assistance to the displaced families in the form of basics like shelter, food, and health care.
The UN’s report contradicts media and NGO reports of human rights violations being committed by Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
The journal The Nation published a report in February describing reports of YPG attempts to ‘Kurdify’ towns that are traditionally Arab, destroying Arab homes.
The Nation also reported on the suppression of political opposition by the ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD) through arrests of rival political leaders and suppression of independent media.
In February 2016, Al Jazeera spoke with Yasin Aktay of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who claimed that the “PYD goes to territories where there is no or a small Kurdish population, and works to deport non-Kurdish ethnic population out of these areas.”
In October 2015, Amnesty International published a report saying that PYD destruction of villages and forced displacement “amounts to war crimes.” The report focused on incidents in Hasakah and Raqqa provinces in the summer of 2015.
Redur Xelil, YPG spokesperson, said that the UN’s findings brought an end to the smear campaign against the YPG. “The safety of civilians is a humanitarian and national responsibility for the YPG and SDF forces,” he told ANHA news agency.