The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

“Peace Spring” areas in March 2021 | Ras Al Ain (Sere Kaniye) tops the list with grave violations, explosions and infightings in full sight of Turkish forces

Violations against human rights have been escalating in areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions in Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah, known as “Peace Spring” areas since they were captured in October 2019. These forces’ aim is to accomplish specific economic and political objectives through exploiting the region’s bounties, resources and people.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked all developments and violations committed in “Peace Spring” areas in March 2021.

In March, 16 people were killed in “Peace Spring” areas, and they were as follows:

  • An unidentified person whose body was found buried in an abandoned building near al-Jawzeh roundabout in Ras al-Ain.
  • Two fighters of “Suleiman Shah” were killed in booby-trapped motorcycle explosion in the village of al-Salhiya, south-west of Ras al-Ain.
  • One fighter of the “al-Hamza Division” faction was killed in an IED explosion in a car in Ras al-Ain.
  • One person was killed in a car-bomb explosion, while he was driving it on Al-Sina’a road, east of Ras al-Ain.
  • 11 people were killed, and they are as follows:  Five members of “Sultan Murad”, four children and two women, all of whom are from Deir ez-Zor and Aleppo provinces, and were killed in an ammunition explosion at a fighter’s house on Al-Sijin street near the civilian police headquarters in Ras al-Ain.

Ras al-Ain: Seven explosions and infighting

“Peace Spring” areas experienced five explosions in March, 2021, three of which took place in the city of Ras al-Ain (Sere Kaniye) and its countryside, which left 15 people dead and 21 others injured of civilians and military personnel, and the explosions were as follows:

  • On 8 March, two members were killed of “Malik Shah” faction and three others were injured, some seriously, in a booby-trapped motorcycle explosion, while a car of Turkish-backed factions was passing in the village of al-Salihiya near Al-Alia, south-west of Ras al-Ain.
  • On March 9, a car-bomb exploded at the Turkish-backed “National Army” al-Mabrouka checkpoint in the countryside of Ras al-Ain (Sere Kaniye), injuring at least eight members of the “National Army” as well as some civilians while they were at the checkpoint.
  • On March 22, 11 people were killed, and they are as follows: five members of Sultan Murad, four children and two women, while six others sustained various injuries. All of whom are residents from Ras al-Ain and hail from Deir ez-Zor and Aleppo provinces, and were killed in an ammunition explosion at a fighter’s house on Al-Sijin street near the civilian police headquarters in Ras al-Ain.
  • On March 23, a car-bomb exploded in Ras al-Ain on Al-Sinaa road, east of Ras al-Ain, killing the driver and injuring others.
  • The last explosion took place on March 29, when a fighter of the Ankara-backed al-Hamzat Division was killed in a car-bomb explosion in the city of Ras al-Ain (Sere Kaniye.)

On the other hand, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored two incidents of armed clashes between Turkish-backed factions. The first was between two groups of the “al-Hamza Division” faction inside the city of Ras al-Ain (Sere Kaniye) in countryside of al-Hasaka, where a dispute took place between the members and then evolved into violent clashes, which triggered panic among the people. According to SOHR sources, the clashes erupted due to their differences over positions and handing over houses and checkpoints. The clashes left five members injured.

The second infighting was between a group of “Al-Mualli Battalion” and the security force of the “al-Hamza Division” inside the Turkish-controlled town of Ras al-Ain (Sere Kaniye) in countryside of al-Hasaka. No information was reported on the causes of the clashes.

Ongoing violations with Turkish consent

On March 3, members of Al-Hamza Division in Al-Hammamat village looted the contents of three houses belonging to civilians living in Turkey.

On the other hand, SOHR sources in Ras Al-Ain city confirmed that the military powers controlling the city will grant ownership documents to every family living in a house, while the real owners of these houses will lost the possession of their houses unless they are not living in them.

On March 12, SOHR sources said that members of the “Sultan Murad” faction arrested a civilian from his home after being assaulted by the members.

According to Syrian Observatory sources, the arrest came after a dispute with the members over the statistics carried out by the local council for nearly 20 days.

Meanwhile, the local council is counting houses in Ras al-Ain, and granting residents documents proving a locally recognized right of ownership.

On March 8, the “Wali” of Urfa, escorted by commanders of the Turkish border guard forces “Jandarma” and other Turkish officials, paid a visit to Ras Al-Ain city (Sere Kaniye) in “Peace Spring” areas in the north-western countryside of Al-Hasakah.

SOHR activists reported seeing the “Wali” of Urfa and Turkish officials touring Ras Al-Ain city’s markets and talking to a large number of the city’s residents. This visit coincided with abroad deployment of militiamen of the Turkish-backed “National Army” throughout Ras Al-Ain city, as well as blocking the highways to the city.

SOHR sources said, in a report published at the end of March, the change of military forces controlling the city of Ras al-Ain (Sere Kaniye), located on the Syrian-Turkish border in al-Hasakeh countryside, had a major impact on the Christians in the city. There were more than 210 Christian families living in the city before 2012, and after the Al-Nusra Front and factions took control of the city in 2013, most Christian families fled the city, while some of them returned after the SDF took control of the city.

The number of Christian families in Ras al-Ain during the SDF control of the city was about 40. However, the attack of Turkish forces with their proxy factions on the city as part of the military operation “Peace Spring” in October 2019, forced the families to flee again.

After the Turkish control of the city, only 14 Christians remained in the city to protect their holy places and properties, while the rest of the Christian families from Ras Al Ain are now in various places such as al-Qamishli, al-Hasakeh, Tal Tamer, while a large part of them migrated to America, Canada, Sweden and other European countries.

After the tour of the head of the Syrian Opposition Coalition Nasr al-Hariri in Afrin and then in the Region of Iraqi Kurdistan to exploit the Kurdish issue, claiming that the Coalition is protecting the Kurds and their properties and giving unreal guarantees.

A few days ago, Nasr al-Hariri met with some Christian figures from the region in the St. Thomas Syriac Orthodox Church in Ras al-Ain, in a new attempt to show the West that the Coalition and its armed factions are taking care of Christian civilians. Apparently Dr. Nasr al-Hariri forgot the theft of the church by these factions in November 2020. SOHR sources reported at the time that Turkish-backed factions stole the belongings of the “Mar Touma” Orthodox Church in the Churches neighborhood. The stolen items included metal and copper equipment and electrical devices, according to local sources. While members of Turkish-backed factions accused local thieves of stealing church belongings.

Overall, this bleak picture remains in place with the widespread corruption and tyranny of the Turkish-backed factions without any deterrent preventing them from committing further humanitarian crimes against Syrian civilians in the “Peace Spring” areas.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights therefore renews its call to the international community not to abandon its responsibility and obligations and find a lasting solution to the tragedy of the region’s civilians that are plagued with systematic practices and violations committed by lawless factions, including thefts, murders, looting, arrests and kidnappings.