UN warns Turkey over rights violations in Syria

Ahrar al-Sharqiya

A spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights warned Oct. 15 that Turkey may be held responsible for executions and civilian casualties that have occurred as a part of its military offensive in northern Syria. Rupert Colville stated that the office has received reports detailing civilian casualties as well as “summary executions carried out by fighters belonging to the Ahrar al-Sharqiya armed group, which is affiliated with Turkey.”

Especially mentioned was an apparent Turkish air-strike on a civilian convoy in which four were killed, including two journalists, and many more injured. The strike took place two days earlier on the  Tel-Tamor-Ras al-Ain highway.

The office also noted videos widely shared on social media that seem to show Ahrar al-Sharqiya fighters executing three Kurdish captives on the al-Hassakeh-Manbij highway. Only one of the captives appeared to be wearing a military uniform.

The office also received reports “indicating that a well-known Kurdish female politician, Hevrin Khalaf, was also executed on the same highway, apparently also by Ahrar al-Sharqiya fighters.” Colville emphasized that civilians and captured fighters “are to be protected” and that summary executions are “serious violations” of international humanitarian law. He warned that the reported executions “may amount to a war crime” and that Turkey may ultimately be held responsible.

From Jurist, 16. Used with permission.

Photo via Twitter

  1. Who killed Hevrin Khalaf?
    The Kuridish ANF News provides background on the life of Hevrin Khalaf, noting her invovlement in administration of Cizîre canton—without mentioning or offering any context on her Future Syria Party. The fact she had her own party, with a name emphasizing Syrian rather than Kurdish identity, may point to a degree of independence (or dissidence?) from the Rojava administration, even while participating in it.

    The New Arab meanwhile reports that the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (which presumably includes Ahrar al-Sharqiya) is claiming that its forces had not reached the point on the highway where Khalaf was killed by the time of the slaying. Is this credible?

    Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (which did truly heroic work reporting from ISIS-occupied Raqqa, but has also opposed the Kurdish militia occupation of the city) reports that Khalaf was indeed killed along with a number of Kurdish fighters following an “ambush” by Ahrar al-Sharqiya. They add that “Ahrar al-Sharqiya group abused the bodies after the execution.”

  2. Turkey bombs peace protesters
    A report in The Independent reveals that the above-cited civilian convoy that was bombed by Turkey Oct. 13 was actually a “peace caravan” filled with young activists headed from Qamishli to the border town of Ras al-Ayn for a demonstration against the Turkish agression. The death toll in the air-strike (or artillery strike) is now put at 12, including two journalists who were along to cover the demonstration. Amnesty International is calling the attack a “war crime.”

  3. Background on Future Syria Party
    From Rudaw:

    Havrin Khalaf was Secretary General of the Future Syria Party, and known for her leadership on women’s rights. ..

    The Future Syria Party was established in March 2018. Its founding congress took place in Raqqa under the slogan “democratic, pluralistic and decentralized Syria.” The party sought to draw membership from across ethnic groups and religions, and build relations with Turkey and Iraq.
    In her role, Khalaf prioritized women’s issues in the autonomous corner of Syria.. Last month, she attended a forum of tribal women in Tabqa, Syria, where she expressed pride in the progress women have made in northeastern Syria under the Kurdish-led administration.

    So a dissident within the Rojava administration, who sought a multi-ethnic Syria, and accommodations with Turkey. Why they had to kill her.