The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

SDF-controlled areas in January 2022 | Nearly 527 deaths in acts of violence…ongoing military escalation by Turkish forces…growing protests…and Ghuwayran attack tops the agenda

SOHR calls for protecting civilians, guaranteeing their rights and putting an end to violations by “Al-Shabiba Al-Thawriyah”

Areas under the control of the “Autonomous Administration in northern and north-eastern Syria, AANES” (SDF-held areas) experienced in January 2022 scores of incidents of security disorder and violations against human rights. In this context, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked all key developments in SDF-held areas in the past month.



Acts of violence leave hundreds dead


SOHR documented the death of 527 people in January 2022 in light of the ongoing acts of violence in SDF-held areas. Here is a breakdown of fatalities:


  • 19 civilians: 11 civilians were killed by ISIS members and affiliates, six civilians were killed in Turkish bombardment, a little boy was killed by Asayish Forces and a little girl was “slaughtered” by her family.


  • 162 members of SDF and their military formations operating in the region: 158 members were killed by ISIS and its cells, three members were killed in attacks by Turkish drones and a fighter was killed in Turkish bombardment.


  • 346 ISIS members: 140 members were killed in attacks by Coalition aircraft, 205 were killed in Ghuwayran events and a commander killed in a security campaign by SDF and Coalition.



Alarming escalation of ISIS operations and attacks, while Ghuwayran attack tops the events


ISIS carried out its most daring, violent and deadliest attack in the past three years, since it had been eliminated in populated areas, when its fighters unleashed a systematic attack on “Ghuwayran/Al-Sina’a prison”, which hosted at least 3,500 ISIS prisoners in SDF-held areas in Al-Hasakah city. ISIS fighters initiated their attack on Thursday evening, January 20, by detonating a car-bomb and  managing to impose full control on the prison in a few hours and take tens of the prison’s employees and guards as hostages. SDF-backed Counter-Terrorism Forces and Internal Security Forces (Asayish), backed by International Coalition Forces, launched a counter operation, especially after a large number of prisoners managed to escape and ISIS fighters deployed in several neighbourhoods nearby the prison. SDF military forces, with full support by the International Coalition managed to regain control of the entire prison in nine days


The operation of Ghuwayran prison left 508 people dead; they are as follows:


  • Four civilians.


  • Three “collaborators” with the Self-Defence Forces.


  • 156 members of military forces participating in the counter operation.


  • 345 ISIS members, including 140 members were killed in attacks by Coalition aircraft.


The death toll is expected to rise further, as tens of people sustained various injuries, some seriously, while many others have  gone missing and their fate remains unknown.


Moreover, ISIS and its sleeper cells continued attacks in areas under the control of Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) in north and north-east Syria in January, carrying out several attacks and attempted assassinations using various methods, including shooting, using sharp tools and planting IEDs and landmines throughout SDF-held areas.

SOHR activists documented over 21 attacks in January 2022 carried out by ISIS cells in SDF-held areas in Deir Ezzor, Al-Hasakah, and Al-Raqqah, including armed attacks and explosions. According to SOHR statistics, the number of people killed in these attacks reached 169: 11 civilians, and 158 members of SDF, Asayish Forces, and other SDF-backed military formations.


On the other hand, Syria Democratic Forces, backed by the International Coalition, continued their security campaigns throughout SDF-held areas, with the largest number of campaigns being carried out in Deir Ezzor and Al-Hasakah. The frequent security campaigns in January led to the arrest of 119 people for “dealing, belonging to and communicating with ISIS cells”.



Casualties and material losses in considerable military escalation by Turkish forces


Different areas controlled by SDF in north and north-east Syria experienced ongoing military escalation by Turkish forces through almost-daily bombardment on populated towns and villages in the countryside of Aleppo, Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah. According to SOHR sources, Turkish bombardment in January 2022 was concentrated in Abu Rasin countryside and Tel Tamr in Al-Hasakah province, where the Turkish shells and rockets hit Tel Tawil, Tel Jimaa, Um Al-Kaif, Al-Tawilah, Al-Derdarah, Rubay’at, Tel Ward and Kherbet Sha’ir. The heavy bombardment led to a new wave of displacement of civilians from these areas.


Besides, several areas in Ain Al-Arab city and countryside (Kobani) in Aleppo province came under Turkish attacks.


In Al-Raqqah province, however, Turkish bombardment targeted Ain Issa district, surrounding villages and areas on the highway between Al-Raqqah and Tel Abyad. It is worth noting that Turkish artillery fire hit Al-Hiesha water station on two occasions on the 12th and 23rd of January, putting it out of service.


It is worth noting that the station provides water supplies for irrigating wide swath of farmlands, nearly 130,000 dunams, in the villages of Al-Hiesha, Al-Fatsha, Sakiro, Al-Sharkeraq and Hamam Al-Turkman via underground pipeline networks. The station also feeds Al-Hiesha town and nearly 50 surrounding villages with drinking water.


Furthermore, the Turkish intensive bombardment in January killed six civilians: five were killed in a massacre in Hudayrat village to the east of Ain Issa in Al-Raqqah province and a man was killed in Ain Al-Arab (Kobani). In addition, an SDF fighter was killed in Turkish bombardment on Ain Issa.


In the meantime, Turkish drones carried out three attacks in January, killing three people and injuring 13 others. Further details on Turkish drone attacks can be summarised as follows:


  • January 9: A Turkish drone struck two positions in Ain Al-Arab countryside in the eastern countryside of Aleppo. The first position is located in Tarmek village, nearly three kilometres away from Ain Al-Arab city centre. No details were reported on the second position.


  • January 20: A Turkish drone targeted a group of SDF fighters escorting technicians in the power plant in the Assyrian village of Tel Jimaa in the northern countryside of Tel Tamr, killing an SDF fighter.


  • January 21: Two members of “Tel Tamr Military Council Forces” were killed and an attack by a Turkish drone on their military vehicle in Al-Hasakah countryside.



Ongoing crises ignite public anger


Areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration in Al-Raqqah, Al-Hasakah, Aleppo and Deir Ezzor experienced ongoing protests and demonstrations in January, criticising the poor administration of these areas by the employees, as well as mishandling of already deteriorating crises. The protestors’ demands were about the provision of basic essentials, release of detainees, control of prices, increase of fuel allocations and securing job opportunities. Here are the most prominent protests in SDF-held areas in January:


On January 4, SOHR activists monitored broad public discontent in areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration over the increase in the price of sugar which reached about 4,000 Syrian pounds per kilogram due to the closure of the border crossings connecting the Autonomous Administration-control areas to the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Meanwhile, residents in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor suffered from almost-complete shortage of sugar in shops. Local sources told SOHR that residents in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor had to travel more than ten kilometres to get only two kilograms of sugar at some shop whose owners had brought it from areas outside SDF control. A few days earlier, amounts of Egyptian sugar entered the Autonomous Administration-controlled areas, but they did not meet the needs of residents.


On the other hand,  50-kilogram flour bags are sold in SDF-held areas for nearly 100,000 SYL each, while a bag of lower quality is sold for 85,000 SYL. Also, the price of one kilogram of wheat is 2,200 Syrian pounds. This led to congestion in front of bread bakeries, as the Autonomous Administration could not secure enough supplies of flours to the bakeries. Moreover, residents complained of the bad quality of bread due to mixing flour with corn, which spurred residents to attacked some bakeries and threaten others in the case that the quality of the bread was not improved. Reacting to the residents, threats, owners of bread bakeries threatened to close their bakeries if they were attacked, holding the Autonomous Administration, the holder of power in the area, responsible for their lives and the safety of their properties.


While on January 10, the area of Al-Suwaidiya in Al-Raqqah countryside experienced broad popular protests over the deteriorating living conditions, where the security services opened fire to disperse the protesters, which resulted in the death of a child and injuries to others. Also, tens of civilians had been arrested, but were released later.


Similarly, on January 11, residents of Al-Shaddadi city, south of Al-Hasakah, staged a demonstration, demanding improvement of living conditions and services and distribution of diesel to the region’s residents, where protesters set fire to rubber tires and blocked roads. In this context, a delegation of the town’s Civil Council met with protesters, listened to their demands and promised them to speed up the distribution of diesel. The delegation asked the Fuel Directorate in Al-Hasakah province to increase the city’s allocation of diesel, as well as exerting pressure on the owners of bread bakeries to produce larger amounts of bread and improve its quality.


On January 13, residents staged a demonstration in SDF-held areas in north Deir Ezzor countryside, protesting the hike of fuel prices and bread poor quality. The protestors set fire to rubber tyres, blocking the road in Al-Mazad area in Al-Shohabat in northern Deir Ezzor and another road to Al-Ma’amel region and Al-Salhiyah crossings, expressing their anger over the high price of diesel which reached 1,000 SYL per litre.



“Al-Shabiba Al-Thawriyah”: Blatant violations of children’s rights


Reprehensible practices by “Al-Shabiba Al-Thawriyah” (the Revolutionary Youth), which manifested themselves in the luring and recruiting of minors in their military camps, continued to top the events in SDF-held areas in January. These practices represented blatant violations of human rights and international charters signed by the Autonomous Administration and Syria Democratic Forces.

Despite the many calls of families for putting an end to the recruitment of their children, “Al-Shabiba Al-Thawriyah” continued recruiting and involving children in armed conflict in areas controlled by the “Autonomous Administration” and SDF, disregarding the laws and international covenants that prohibit the exploitation of children.


In early January, SOHR activists reported that “Al-Shabibah Al-Thawriyah” members kidnapped a 16-year-old girl who had been displaced from Manbij to Al-Raqqah city, and took her to their camps. Meanwhile, the girl’s relatives demanded Al-Shabibah Al-Thawriyah release her, but received no responses to their demand.


While on January 6, “Al-Shabiba Al-Thawriyah” kidnapped a 16-year-old girl known by her initials as A. M. from Al-Darbasiyyah city on the Syria-Turkey border in order to drive her to its military camp in Al-Qamishli city. According to SOHR sources, the girl was kidnapped while she was attending a nursing course in Al-Darbasiyyah city.


Also, on January 28, a family from Al-Hasakah city accused “Al-Shabiba Al-Thawriyah” of kidnapping their 14-year-old son, where a woman appeared in a video footage on social media calling for bringing back her child, showing a family document proving his real age.


The woman, who was speaking in Kurdish, said that her son and his friends volunteered to guard Al-Mufti neighbourhood during the dramatic developments in Ghuwayran prison in Al-Hasakah city, before he went missing three days earlier. Local sources confirmed that the boy was kidnapped in front of the headquarters of “Al-Shabiba Al-Thawriyah” by unknown individuals travelling in a car.


We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), call upon the authorities in SDF-held areas to fulfil people’s demands that call for development of social and living conditions and not punishing them for demanding their rights. We also call on the International Coalition and SDF to intensify their security campaigns against active and sleeping ISIS cells in various areas in east Euphrates to prevent the revival of ISIS which poses a threat to  local, regional and international security.

SOHR calls upon the Autonomous Administration in north and east Syria, Syria Democratic Forces and all relevant authorities to put an end to the ongoing violations by “Al-Shabiba Al-Thawriyah” (the Revolutionary Youth) in the east Euphrates region.