Turkish-backed militia releases leader of pro-Barzani faction in Syria’s Afrin
An armed group backed by Turkey in Syria’s northwestern city of Afrin released the head of the local Kurdish National Council (KNC) on Tuesday after detaining him for a month.
Hussein Ibesh is also a member of the Central Committee of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Syria (KDP-S), the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed by Masoud Barzani over the Iraqi border in Erbil.
Ibesh was arrested on March 31 by Turkish-backed police in Afrin.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), his arrest came “amid popular dissatisfaction” over the arrest and kidnapping of hundreds of civilians in Afrin by the Turkish-backed forces.
Amnesty International said in a report released in August that Turkish forces occupying the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin since March 2018 have been giving allied Syrian armed groups free rein to commit serious human rights abuses against civilians.
The PDK-S condemned the arrest in April, calling for the release of Ibesh, plus all other “detainees in the prisons and cells of the ruling authorities.”
In January, Turkey’s Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin claimed it was “irrational to say that Turkey targets Kurds [in Syria].”
He contended that it was instead Ankara’s aim in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian branches “to rescue Kurds from the tyranny and oppression of this terror group and to ensure their safety of life and property.”
However, last month’s arrest of the local KNC leader does more to demonstrate that the Turkish-backed groups in Afrin target all Kurdish factions, not only those it claims are affiliated to the PKK, such as the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Unity Party (PYD).
According to a February report by the United Nations’ Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, “there are reasonable grounds to believe that armed group members in Afrin committed the war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment, torture, and pillage.”
“Due to the glaring absence of the rule of law, it similarly remains unclear whether Turkish forces were capable of exercising overall control over any armed groups present in the district,” it added.
Diana Semaan, Amnesty International’s Syria researcher, previously told Kurdistan 24, “Turkey is supporting these groups which are committing violations under Turkey’s watchful eye.”
“Turkey must pressure these groups to end violations and abuses against civilians in Afrin,” she continued.
“Turkey, itself, has an obligation as a military occupier to abide by international law.”