Turkey-backed armed groups ramp up arrests and kidnappings, fueling violence and human rights violations in Northern Syria, according to human rights watchdog

CAFRIN, Syria — Arrests and kidnappings of civilians by Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) armed groups persist in the Cafrin (Afrin) region and other areas controlled by Turkish forces in northern Syria, leading to a surge in violence, crime, explosions, assassinations, and unidentified bodies, according to the Violations Documentation Center in Northern Syria (VDC-NSY).

Despite numerous calls to cease their actions, Turkish forces and the SNA groups supported by, continue to commit violations with impunity. Daily raids, arbitrary arrests, and kidnappings for ransom are carried out, denying the detainees’ families any knowledge of their whereabouts or the reasons for their detention. Moreover, these individuals are denied the right to a fair trial and prevented from hiring legal representation.

The VDC-NSY team has been in contact with families and close associates of the detainees and their findings reveal that the arrests in areas controlled by the SNA and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in northwestern and northern Syria are not based on judicial warrants from the Public Prosecutor. Most of these arrests are conducted unlawfully and arbitrarily, accompanied by severe human rights violations. Furthermore, after their detention, the majority of detainees are unable to be contacted or ascertain their fate.

In many cases, the accusations leveled against the detainees lack evidence and appear to be driven by malicious intent.

Since the beginning of 2023, the Cafrin region and other areas have witnessed over 180 cases of arrest. In 2022, there were more than 702 documented cases of arrest, although the actual number is likely higher. Some families choose not to disclose the names of their detained relatives, and there are cases that remain inaccessible and unaccounted for. Tragically, instances of torture resulting in civilian deaths and numerous human rights violations have been carefully monitored and documented.

This region has become plagued by daily organized looting, property seizures, olive grove destruction, and other forms of exploitation, in addition to arbitrary arrests, hostage-taking for financial gain, and harassment of the local population.

The deliberate policy of unleashing military chaos and empowering various terrorist groups is being carried out by the SNA with the full knowledge and participation of Turkish forces.

Since the Turkish incursion into Syria, a staggering total of 10,270 individuals have been killed or injured, with 2,792 fatalities. The number of detainees has reached 9,021 since the initial Turkish incursion into northern Syria, with approximately 6,935 individuals having been released. Unfortunately, the fate of the remaining detainees remains unknown. The number of individuals killed under torture in prisons stands at 181, while the number of Syrian refugees killed by Turkish soldiers’ gunfire has risen to 558, including 103 children under the age of 18 and 67 women.

In June, 36 citizens were arrested by Turkish-backed armed militias.