NORTH AND EAST SYRIA — At the end of November, officials of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces met with leaders of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) in the cities of Cafrin (Afrin) and Azaz. Among the SNA leadership was Ahmad Hassan al-Hayes (Hatem Abu Shakra), leader of Ahrar al-Sharqiya, members of which murdered Hevrin Khalaf and her two bodyguards in October 2019 near a village along the M4 highway, north of Al-Raqqa city.
No one has been held accountable for Khalaf’s murder, despite it being videotaped and the perpetrators identified.
In regards to the meeting, the Foreign Relations Commissions of the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria sent a letter to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Verónica Michelle Bachelet, U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen, and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
In the letter, the DAA indicated that the Syrian National Coalition constitutes a political cover for the perpetrators of war crimes against humanity and called on the concerned authorities to hand over Ahmed Hassan al-Hayes for trial for the murder of Khalaf, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes.
In October 2019, Turkey and its proxies in the SNA, a coalition of militias, several of them with extremist ideologies, formed and funded by Turkey, invaded the cities of Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ayn) and Tel Abyad in North and East Syria, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Since the invasion, dozens of Turkish military bases have been established in those areas. The bases are guarded by the SNA who are equipped with armored vehicles and heavy weapons. Additionally, a large number of Turkish commandos are reportedly stationed in the region.
Demographic change and the Turkification of the area continue, with residents being forced to learn the Turkish language, the names of public facilities being replaced with Turkish ones and the hoisting of the Turkish flag over them.
Other human rights abuses continue as well. Turkish-backed factions continue to burn agricultural crops, kidnap civilians for ransom, extort business and families for large sums of money, and engage in torture, murder, and sexual assault.
In September, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a 25-page report calling on Turkey to put an end to wide-spread war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by its proxy forces, the Syrian National Army (SNA), in the areas under its occupation.
According to the report, there is significant evidence that the Turkish-backed SNA has committed, and continue to commit torture, murder, displacement, rape, and the looting of property.
Researcher Amy Austin Holmes, found that Turkey and the Turkish-backed SNA violated the ceasefire agreement signed in late October 2019 over 800 times as of October 2020.