21/08/2023

Turkish-backed Syrian National Army arrests civilians for refusing to participate in protests against US sanctions, pressures administrators of Mar Toma Church in Rish Ayno to denounce sanctions

CAFRIN, Syria / NORTH AND EAST SYRIA — The Syrian Interim Government (SIG), representing the political wing of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), has criticized the US decision to impose sanctions on several militant groups supported by Turkey.

The SIG argued that these sanctions stem from unjustified accusations based on biased reports, labeling them as “unacceptable”. They affirmed their commitment to upholding human rights within the SNA and urged the US Treasury Department to reconsider the decision and collaborate on the allegations.

The Suleiman Shah Brigade and Hamza Division, part of the Turkish-backed SNA, were sanctioned for human rights abuses against Kurds and Yezidis, including torture, abductions, sexual abuse, and extortion.

In the wake of the US decision, the Suleiman Shah Brigade carried out raids on Kurdish households in in occupied Cafrin (Afrin), northwestern Syria. The group arrested 18 individuals who refused to participate in protests against the US sanctions. Additionally, they evacuated families from 10 houses whose relatives had been detained.

The SNA factions compelled locals to join protests against the sanctions and accused detainees of supporting the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES). In a separate incident in Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ayn / Serêkaniyê), SNA factions detained 16 administrative employees linked to the SIG on similar charges.

The SNA also reportedly pressured administrators of the Syriac Orthodox Mar Toma Church in Rish Ayno to denounce the sanctions.

Read Also: SYRIA: Only 50 Kurds, 7 Christians left in occupied Rish Ayno, Yezidis, Armenians, and Chechens have entirely left, according to monitors

Bedran Ciya Kurd, Co-Chair of the AANES External Relations Commission, welcomed the decision to impose sanctions. However, he stated that the decision falls short of adequately addressing the rights of the people of Cafrin and fails to alleviate the dire situation faced by its legitimate inhabitants.

He called for the urgent establishment of an international commission of inquiry in territories occupied by Turkey, especially Cafrin, to hold those responsible accountable before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Media Centre also welcomed the decision, emphasizing that the US has the capacity to enhance accountability and tracking of these groups. The SDF highlighted that the human rights abuses perpetrated by the SNA are not isolated incidents but rather strategic crimes carried out with the consent of Turkey.