BATMAN, Turkey — Nearly two years after Turkish forces arrested three Syriac Military Council (Mawthbo Folhoyo Suryoyo, MFS) fighters in the Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ain) area, illegally transporting them across the border into Turkey where they were tried for “undermining the Turkish state” in a clear violation of international law, independent Syriac Member of Parliament in Turkey Tuma Çelik visited the three men detained in Batman Prison. He was briefed on the conditions of detention and their requests.
Turkish law allows deputies to visit any prison within Turkish territory and to meet any prisoner after notifying and receiving approval from the relevant authorities.
The Syriac Military Council has released multiple statements condemning the illegal transfer of its fighters by Turkey and has appealed to the international community to pressure Turkey into releasing the captives.
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 and Tel Abyad in North and East Syria, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Jamil Gerges, Emad Saud, and Muhassan Al Okla, members of the MFS who were taken prisoner while defending North and East Syria from Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring” invasion, were captured by SNA militants and illegally transferred into Turkish custody. They were initially sentenced to 7.5 years in prison in Turkey.
Dr. Amy Austin Holmes, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center who has done extensive research on the composition of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has followed the cases of the three MFS members and spoke via phone with their lawyer in Turkey:
[They] told me that the three men were severely beaten/tortured in Syria by the SNA militias who captured them, then suffered mistreatment again in Turkey while in detention. They were reportedly interrogated without a lawyer, and given Turkish documents to sign, without a written Arabic translation, although none of them speak Turkish. “They had no idea what they were signing. They were already torturing them, then forced to sign documents in Turkish which they did not understand,” their lawyer said.
Despite being Syrian nationals defending Syrian land and never having engaged in armed actions inside Turkey, Gerges, Al Okla, and Al Saud were charged with disrupting the unity of the Turkish state. They were also charged with being members of an armed terrorist group despite being members of the MFS, an official partner force of the U.S.-led International Coalition against the Islamic State.
Member of the SyriacPress newsdesk in Tel Tamr Ahmed Samila met with a lawyer specialized in armed conflict highlighting the illegality of the Turkish trials.
“Turkey claims that the conflict is between the Syrian National Army and the Syrian Democratic Forces,” said the lawyer. “If Turkey is not a party to the conflict, it has no legal right to transfer these prisoners to its territory and trying them.”
“[What Turkey] is doing is contrary to the Geneva Conventions.”
“The United Nations and international organizations should intervene to prevent the illegal transfers of Syrians to Turkey for trial,” the lawyer said. “They should also put an end to the violations of the Turkish state against unarmed civilians and all citizens within the territories that Turkey has invaded.”