Amnesty accuses Turkey of tolerating Syrian rebel abuses in Afrin

AFP , Thursday 2 Aug 2018

Amnesty International on Thursday accused Turkish forces of allowing Syrian armed groups to commit major rights abuses in the northern region of Afrin, urging Ankara to immediately end the violations.

Turkey and allied Syrian rebels seized control of Afrin earlier this year after a military operation which ousted a Kurdish militia that is an ally of the United States but Ankara regards as a terror group.

Amnesty said that, since the takeover, residents in Afrin had been "enduring a wide range of violations" which Turkish armed forces "turned a blind eye" to.

"These violations include arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and confiscation of property and looting to which Turkey's armed forces have turned a blind eye," Amnesty said.

Some of the Syrian groups as well as Turkish armed forces have taken over schools, Amnesty claimed, which it said disrupted education for thousands of children.

Amnesty said residents told them that Afrin University was "completely shut down after it was destroyed and looted", adding only one school in Afrin city was accessible.

The rights group said that when contacted for comment, the Turkish government questioned its impartiality for using the terminology of Kurdish-dominated forces to describe regions.

Turkey says the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia it ousted from Afrin is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency in Turkey since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.

In the case of one woman, her uncle has been missing since an armed group escorted him to his house after he returned to his village three months earlier.

"They wouldn't tell his wife where they took him," the unnamed woman told Amnesty, denying the man, head of a local committee, had any links to the YPG.

Amnesty said some homes have been "occupied" by displaced families from the central Homs province and the southern area of Eastern Ghouta which was recently recaptured by the Syrian regime.

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty's Middle East research director, said the Syrian armed groups continued to "wreak havoc on civilians, unchecked by Turkish forces".

She argued Turkey was responsible for the welfare of civilians as well as maintaining law and order since it was the "occupying power" in Afrin.

"Without further delay, Turkey must end violations by pro-Turkish armed groups, hold perpetrators accountable, and commit to helping Afrin residents rebuild their lives," she added.

Turkish officials insist that the takeover has proved popular, with Afrin residents tired of YPG rule and Turkey able to improve utilities services after similar operations in towns like Jarabulus and Al-Bab east of Afrin.

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