TEL ABYAD and CAFRIN, Syria — Last week, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MİT) together with the Al-Amashat Faction, raided Al-Doganieh and other villages in the countryside of Suluk town in Tel Abyad. In the raids, civilians and deserters of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) were abducted.
Turkish intelligence agents seized weapons that were in the possession of the deserters and transferred them to Turkey. Civilians that were arrested were reportedly taken to the ‘anti-terror’ center in Tel Abyad.
Recently there has been an increase in deserters amongst the Turkish backed mercenary groups in the occupied areas due to unpaid salaries. As a result, Ankara has had to employ more enforcement actions, as seen in the villages surrounding Suluk, to discourage desertion.
Cafrin (Afrin) continues to be plagued by human rights violations, large-scale environmental damage, and the destruction of cultural heritage. Spokesperson for the Human Rights Organisation in Cafrin Ibrahim Sheikho stated that four other civilians from villages around Cafrin were abducted by Turkish intelligence agents.
The areas under Turkish occupation since the country’s direct involvement in the Syrian conflict in 2016 have witnessed widespread looting and destruction of archaeological and cultural heritage sites. Gravesites and places of worship are desecrated and ravaged in the hunt for artifacts or precious metals.
In April, members of the Turkish-backed and Syrian Coalition affiliated Syrian National Army (SNA) desecrated a Yezidi holy place, the Sheikh Ali shrine, in the village of Basoufan, south of Cafrin. The dome of the shrine was destroyed, and the tomb of Sheikh Ali exhumed in search of gold and artifacts. According to a local Yezidi, the shrine dates back to the first century A.D.
Yezidis are often targeted by extremists for their religious practices. It is often believed that the Yazidis bury their dead adorned with gold, though no such custom exists.
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a 25-page report on Tuesday calling on Turkey to put an end to wide-spread war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by its proxy forces, the 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.