State Department spokesman Mark Toner. Photo: Rudaw.
WASHINGTON DC – The United States has expressed concern about allegations of human rights violations by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) against non-Kurdish minorities in northern Syria.
Amnesty International published a report Monday claiming that YPG forces displaced non-Kurdish residents in some villages and demolished their houses. It said the acts were “amounting to war crimes.”
“We take these allegations quite seriously and we’ve made clear to all the actors that these – such behavior, frankly, is unacceptable,” Mark Toner, deputy spokesman for the State Department, said in a briefing on Tuesday.
“We’ll look closely at all these accusations to determine whether there’s any veracity to the claims,” he added.
“We call on those who actually are or will participate in administering these areas to do so inclusively and with respect for all groups regardless of ethnicity, and we’ve been very clear about that for the past five, six months in speaking about the YPG and its actions in northern Syria as well as the case of Syrian Arabs and other groups and Turkmen who are fighting to – against ISIL there,” Toner said.
The YPG, a key US ally in the fight against the Islamic State group (ISIS) has won international respect for its fighting capabilities against the militants. The Kurdish force categorically rejected previous reports by some Syrian Arab groups claiming it was involved in displacing non-Kurds in its self- declared autonomous cantons.
Amnesty said its findings were based on investigation by a “fact finding mission” in the provinces of Hasaka and Raqqa. It said that satellite images and eyewitness accounts also told of forced displacement and the demolishing of some homes.
The People’s Democratic Union (PYD), the political wing of the YPG, declared three governing cantons in northern Syria that includes Arabs, Christians and other minorities in some top positions.
The State Department official said that the Amnesty allegations are under scrutiny to determine their credibility.
“Certainly we take them seriously and we want to be able to make sure that they’re true or whether they have any credibility,” Toner said.
Despite declaring the YPG as a reliable force on the ground, Washington has refused to recognize the PYD-declared cantons.
“We’ve also been very clear that we don’t recognize any kind of PYD semi- autonomous zone or self-rule in that area. We remain committed to the unity and territorial integrity of Syria,” Toner reiterated.
The Pentagon announced last week that it will supply the anti-ISIS forces in Syria, including the Kurds, with arms and ammunition, after its $600 million program to equip and train Syrian moderate groups fell apart.