Syrian watchdog says PYD committed human rights violations

UK-based Syrian rights group indicates that PKK’s Syrian wing PYD has committed various human rights violations including ethnic cleansing, arbitrary arrests, unaccountable disappearances in northern Syria

Photo by: Syrian Network for Human Rights
Photo by: Syrian Network for Human Rights

An image that depicts the displacement of families in the western suburbs of Raes Al Ein city in northern Syria

Updated Jan 21, 2016

The PKK’s Syrian affiliate PYD has committed significant human rights violations in northern Syria, including "ethnic cleansing massacres" since the withdrawal of Syrian regime forces in 2012, according to a report published Monday by the London-based Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and the US.

Since its takeover of the northern Syrian territories, PYD and its subgroup KSM forces have committed major human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, enforced displacement, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances, along with other violations against women, children and media personnel, according to the report.

The KSM was established in January 2014 by the YPG which is the armed wing of the PYD.

Ethnic cleansing

The report claims that the PYD has sought to ethnically cleanse towns under its control that were mostly inhabited by Arabs.

Three massacres that took place in the Al Hasakah governorate, resulting in the death of 91 civilians, including 17 children and seven women, the report asserted.

The first massacre was committed on Nov. 21, 2013 in the town of Al Aghbiesh, where six people - including one child - were killed by the PYD-affiliated forces, the report stated.

The second, committed three months after the first one in the town of Tal Brak, resulted in 43 civilian deaths, including one child and four women.

A third massacre took place on Sep. 13, 2014, when 42 people - including 15 children and three women - were killed in the towns of Al Hajiya and Tal Khalil.

An image depicts displaced families from Al Jabour tribe in al Hasakah suburbs due to KSM actions

Arbitrary arrests, unaccountable disappearances

KSM forces arbitrarily arrested no fewer than 1,651 people, including 111 children, since the beginning of the uprising in Syria in early 2011, said the SNHR.

"Further, we recorded the death of not less than 16 individuals under torture at the hands of KSM forces since it [the KSM] was established and until the end of December 2015," the network added.

Among them was 16-year-old Affan Jomaa al Aboush, whose tortured body was found near a KSM military checkpoint on Dec. 17, 2014, only five days after he was arrested from his home by KSM forces.

Violations against women and children

According to the report, 42 women - including 33 adults and nine adolescents - have died at the hands of PYD forces since March 2011, mostly as a result of "random shelling or through direct firing during raiding campaigns or sniping."

The SNHR also documented the arrest of 88 women, including 34 girls under the age of 18, between January 2014 and October 2015. The arrests, the network said, had been aimed at forcibly recruiting women.

At least 51 children were reportedly killed by KSM forces from January 2014 until the end of 2015, while 111 others were subject to arbitrary arrest between January 2014 and November 2015, the report said.

The SNHR also documented the forced recruitment of no less than 1,876 children in different parts of Aleppo and the al Hasakah suburbs.

"Children were forced to participate in battles, fights and searching checkpoints. Children have been forced to use… guns since 2012," the report asserted.

The report also documented 24 cases of the arrest or abduction of media activists, all of whom were subsequently released.

Forced displacements

Rights breaches committed by KSM forces had also led to the displacement of tens of thousands of  al Hasakah residents, mostly Arabs, leading dozens of towns to be void of inhabitants, according to the report.

"We also recorded robbery cases and the almost complete destruction and incineration of entire towns. Crops were also confiscated or burned; properties and lands were flattened. All these actions forcibly displaced tens of thousands of residents," the report stated.

"According to Article VIII of the Rome Statute, all these violations amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity and constitute breaches to the Customary International Humanitarian Law," it added.

The report further claimed, "These incidents entail a pattern of killing, burning and arrests based on ethnic backgrounds."

Violations against ethnic Turkmen communities

While most violations were reportedly committed against Arabs, other ethnic groups in al Hasakah have also been targeted by PYD-affiliated groups, according to the SNHR.

"For instance, in February 2015, nearly 100 Turkmen families were subjected to cruelty, injustice and oppression," the report stated.

"Some of these residents also told us that they were forced to… leave the city due to arbitrary arrests and armed clashes," it recounted.

Previous reports on PYD actions

United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria found out in its latest report that the YPG has committed human rights violations in occupied areas of northern Syria.

The UN report presented by its chair Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in late September indicated that, “Following the YPG’s retaking of previously ISIS-controlled areas of Tal Abyad in early July and villages in the Tal Tamer region of al Hasakah, YPG fighters reportedly looted houses belonging to Arab villagers.”

In early October, the PYD was accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes in northern Syria by forcing thousands of non-Kurdish civilians out of their homes and demolishing entire villages.

According to the report, some civilians were threatened by YPG militants with US air strikes if they failed to leave their homes.

TRTWorld, AA