SYRIA: More civilians abducted and released for ransom by Turkish-backed factions in Afrin

AFRIN, Syria — The Turkish-backed factions of the Syrian National Army (SNA) continue to abduct civilians in occupied Afrin.

Qaziqli Jamil Maho was kidnapped from the village of Heikja in the district of Shih, Afrin under the pretext that he previously worked in the institutions of the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria.

A number of previously kidnapped people from the same village were released after paying a ransom of 1,000 Turkish liras per person.

Maho remains in the custody of the SNA.

Criminality in areas under Turkish population is rampant, especially against women and girls. Cases of kidnapping, imprisonment, rapesexual trafficking, and murder have become commonplace.

In mid-August, the SNA kidnapped 14 Kurdish youth from occupied Afrin after they converted to Christianity.

The Turkish invasion of Afrin Region, launched 20 January 2018, saw the mass displacement of the local population — estimated at anywhere between 150,000 and 300,000 people at the time — and widespread criminality in what used to be the safest region in a country ripped apart by civil war.

Shortly after the occupation took control, and even in the middle of the offense to take the region, looting and extrajudicial killing was endemic. As the occupation dragged on, the crimes became more systematic and better documented. The destruction of Yazidi holy sites, the routine abduction, torture, and extortion of Afrin’s ethnic and religious minorities, mass theft of public and private property – especially of the region’s famous olive harvest. The city’s rich cultural heritage stolen and sold on the black market for profit.

During a recent spate of in-fighting amongst the Turkish-backed factions occupying Afrin, dozens of women, many of them naked, were freed from a detention center run by the Hamza Division out of their headquarters.

On 1 June, in response to the incident and video showing the enslaved women being removed from the Hamza Division’s headquarters, the Syriac Women’s Union, alongside several other women’s organizations demanded the United Nations and international human rights organizations form a fact finding committee in order to hold the perpetrators of violence against women in Afrin accountable.

According to local human rights monitors, the SNA have also reportedly trafficked women and girls from Afrin to Libya where they are being held in sexual slavery, subjected to mass rape and forced abortion.