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Report: Enforced disappearance, detentions rising under Syria YPG

Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) head a convoy of US military vehicles in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border, Syria April 28, 2017 [Rodi Said / Reuters]
Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) head a convoy of US military vehicles in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border, Syria 28 April, 2017 [Rodi Said/Reuters]

The number of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions are increasing in areas under the administration of the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has confirmed in a report published earlier this week.

Highlighting growing tensions in areas administered by Kurdish militias, the report estimates that 107 people, including six women and four children, have been arrested since the beginning of 2019.  Most of those arrested are internally displaced Syrians living in refugee camps, who are detained on the charges that members of their family belong to armed opposition groups or Daesh.

SNHR also believes that almost half of the detainees in the group’s prisons are made of up individuals who have been forcibly disappeared, with the militias denying that they are in their detention, and prohibiting them from accessing legal representation.

The four-page report cites multiple violations committed by Kurdish Self-Management Forces, including forced conscription, the drafting of children into militias, and the torture of those in detention. It specifically mentions the case of two people who died under torture and medical negligence in the Self-Management Forces’ detention centres, whose bodies were later returned to their families.

The report also documents several incidents in which Kurdish forces targeted individuals participating in protests against their policies, including local tribal leaders, who refused to support policies like the imposition of conscription. Some residents have also received threats that their properties will be burnt down and their families arrested if they do not comply with the YPG’s demands.

It stresses that Kurdish Self-Management Forces have repeatedly violated international human rights law in employing such tactics as a broad strategic policy. It also condemns the use of children in conflict zones, an YPG tactic that has been condemned by Amnesty International as a war crime.

READ: US-backed SDF hand Daesh foreign fighters to Iraq

“Kurdish Self-Management Forces have repeatedly violated this prohibition by abducting children and taking advantage of their vulnerability and poor living and psychological conditions to force them into military service with their forces,” the report read.

The SNHR called on the YPG to respect the principles of international human rights law and end all forms of arbitrary arrest, disclose the fate of detainees and allow them to communicate with their families to receive a fair trial. It also reiterated the importance of supporting a democratic political process in the areas of eastern Syria, so that a representative government could be formed.

Tensions in the north of Syria have been rising in the aftermath of US President Donald Trump’s announcement that American soldiers would withdraw from the country, amid Turkish plans to expand its troops east of the Euphrates river. Ankara considers the YPG, an offshoot of the designated terror organisation the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which have launched a 30-year insurgency against Turkey.

US President Donald Trump during his speech to the nation, announcing military action against Syria for the recent apparent gas attack on its civilians, at the White House, in Washington, US on 13 April 2018 [Mike Theiler/Pool/Getty Images]

US President Donald Trump during his speech to the nation, announcing military action against Syria for the recent apparent gas attack on its civilians, at the White House, in Washington, US on 13 April 2018 [Mike Theiler/Pool/Getty Images]

In October Erdogan issued what he said was a “final warning” to those who would endanger Turkey’s borders, stating Turkey would focus its attention on the east of the Euphrates, rather solely the Manbij area just west of the river. Whilst the threat of an imminent attack seems to have dissipated, talks of a joint Turkish and US administered safe zone in the region are ongoing.

The Kurdish militias have also been met with resistance from local Arab tribes in the north of the country, who reject the calls for autonomy under a Kurdish-led administration. Inspired by the founder of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, the YPG seeks to establish a federalist state in the northern territory under its control.

Yesterday, two car bombings in the neighbouring Turkish-administered areas in northwest Syria killed at least six people, including a ten-year-old girl, with suspicion falling on the YPG. Arab opposition groups backed by Turkey that secure the area have said their goal is to allow tens of thousands of their kin displaced by Kurdish-led forces backed by Washington to return to their towns and villages.

READ: US commander: US cannot back Syrian forces who align with Assad

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