A BBC Arabic investigation based on new findings suggests that the Syrian-Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf was executed by a faction of the so-called Syrian National Army (SNA) which is backed by Turkey.
The opposition group Ahrar Al-Sharqiya, which fights under the umbrella of the SNA, is accused of murdering the 34-year-old who served as the Future Syria Party's secretary-general when her SUV was ambushed by gunmen on 12 October, seeking to take control of a section of the international M4 highway in northern Syria. Khalaf was travelling from the Jazeera area to Ain Issa and then to Raqqa before the vehicle was stopped by the gunmen. After her driver Farhad Ramadan was killed, she was dragged out of the vehicle, tortured and then killed and mutilated.
A spokesman for the SNA at the time denied its fighters killed her, arguing that they had not yet advanced as far as the M4. However, a new investigation carried out by BBC Arabic using "open source investigation tools" and speaking to members of Ahrar Al-Sharqiya, Khalaf's relatives and colleagues and eyewitnesses, found "compelling evidence" that the Turkish-backed group were responsible for her death.
Following her murder, a statement by the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (YPG/PKK), released a statement saying: "She was taken out of her car during a Turkish-backed attack and executed by Turkish backed mercenary factions on the International Road between Qamishlo and Manbij, where her driver was also martyred."
Medical examinations showed that both Hevrin's legs were broken and that she was subjected to severe physical assault, indicating she was dragged from the car alive, physically attacked and executed outside the car.
To grasp the extent of the crimes the Arab militias fighting for Turkey are carrying out in Syria, read the autopsy of the Kurdish politician executed a few days ago. Her legs & jaw were broken, she was dragged by her hair until the skin of her scalp came out & repeatedly shot: pic.twitter.com/LOnJHhxo4W
— Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) October 16, 2019
According to TRTWorld, the Future Syria Party was launched in YPG/PKK-occupied territory as part of a US initiative. Khalaf campaigned to unite Arabs and Kurds and was vocally opposed to Turkish military intervention in Syria. In early October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a cross-border offensive into Syria, codenamed Operation Peace Spring to counter threats posed by the PKK and its Kurdish offshoot the YPG, which is deemed by Ankara as a terrorist organisation, and to enable the return of Syrian refugees, most of whom are residing in Turkey.