“Peace Spring” areas in July 2022 | Three infightings…one explosion…protests against escalating security chaos • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

“Peace Spring” areas in July 2022 | Three infightings…one explosion…protests against escalating security chaos

SOHR renews its call to the international community to protect civilians from systematic abuse and violations by Turkish-backed factions

Human rights violations 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 wealth, resources and people.

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked all developments and violations committed in “Peace Spring” areas in July 2022.

 

No casualties were documented by SOHR in “Peace Spring” areas in July. However, the area experienced only one on June 19 when an IED exploded in a ferry near Al-Bareed roundabout in Ras Al-Ain city (Sere Kaniye). The explosion injured three people and caused material damage to shops.

 

On the other hand, three infightings and factional rivalries took place in that region in the past month. Here are further details:

 

  • July 7: SOHR sources reported clashes with medium machineguns and RPGs between two groups of Shuhadaa Badr battalion (the Martyrs of Badr) which is affiliated to Al-Hamza Division which operates under the banner of Tha-Eroon Le Al-Tahrir (Uprising for Liberation) in Abu Al-Soun village, west of Ras Al-Ain city.

 

  • July 8: Violent clashes with heavy and medium machineguns and RPGs erupted between two groups of the Turkish-backed “Al-Hamza Division” over revenue-sharing of stolen objects in Ras Al-Ain city centre (Sere Kaniye) in Al-Hasakah countryside. The clashes, which triggered public panic in the city, left four members on both sides injured. Moreover, several members of the military police were injured, while attempting to break up these clashes.

 

  • July 21: An infighting broke out between members of “Malak Shah” faction and “Shohadaa Badr” Brigade in Tel Halaf town in Ras Al-Ain countryside (Sere Kaniye) in “Peace Spring” area in Al-Hasakah countryside over the distribution of bread. The infighting left six people, including four civilians and a child, injured one seriously, as well as the injury of two members on both sides. The injured people were taken to Turkish hospitals and hospitals in Ras Al-Ain city.

 

Ongoing violations

 

In July 2022, SOHR documented the kidnapping of 16 people and only one case of arbitrary arrests in “Peace Spring” area; they are as follows:

 

In mid-July, Turkish-backed “National Army” faction abducted more than 15 young men from Al-Hasakah and Aleppo, who left to Ras Al-Ain area (Sere Kaniye) in Al-Hasakah countryside nearly ten days earlier with the aim of sneaking to Turkey, fleeing poor living conditions.

 

According to Observatory sources, the young men crossed areas controlled by SDF into “Peace Spring” area with the help of smugglers affiliated with “National Army” factions. The communication with these young men was lost once they arrived there. The families of these young men later received calls from members of the “National Army” demanding ransoms ranging from 3,500 USD to 15,000 USD in return for their release. The “National Army” militiamen also threaten to kill the young men if their families refused to pay the ransoms or if they informed the media.

 

Also, in late July, “National Army” militiamen in Tel Abyad area, northern Al-Raqqah countryside, kidnapped a young man from Al-Mayadeen city in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. It is worth noting that the young man was en route to Turkey, and the kidnappers communicated with the young man’s relatives and asked them to pay a ransom of 1,500 USD for his release.

 

While the only case of arbitrary arrests in “Peace Spring” area in July was documented on July 20 when a group of Al-Hamza Division members kidnapped an employee in the national hospital in Ras Al-Ain city over earlier personal disagreements between the employee and the group that arrested him for “trafficking narcotics,” before they handed the employee over to the Turkish-backed police.

 

 

Public protests

 

With the escalating violations and security chaos in “Peace Spring” area, SOHR documented four protests in July. These protests can be summarised as follows:

 

  • July 1: Residents of Tel Halaf town to the west of Ras Al-Ain city (Sere Kaniye) staged a demonstration calling for reopening pharmacies which had been closed by the “Health Committee” and Turkish-backed police a few days earlier. The demonstrators also denounced the escalating security chaos in Ras Al-Ain city and countryside. According to SOHR sources, policemen beat demonstrators, which ignited a state of tension. On the other hand, Turkish forces were put on high alert and blocked several roads with the aim of defusing the growing tension.

 

  • July 1: Shop owners and residents staged a demonstration in Ras Al-Ain city (Sere Kaniye) in Al-Hasakah countryside, where the demonstrators gathered at Al-Jawzah roundabout and headed to a post where Turkish forces are stationed in the city. The demonstration followed the killing of a goldsmith in front of his house by unknown gunmen who also stole a handbag with gold and money in it, where the demonstrators denounced the increasing thefts and deteriorating security situation in Ras Al-Ain city and countryside.

 

  • July 2: Ras Al-Ain city witnessed a general strike by shopkeepers, as well as a public demonstration in protest against the deteriorating security situation and escalation of theft, corruption, murders and kidnappings. The protesters chanted slogans, expressing that the “safe zone” is not safe and demanded the authorities end corruption, thefts, and security chaos in the area.

 

  • July 22: resident in Tel Halaf town in Ras Al-Ain countryside staged a demonstration, demanding the exit of Turkish-backed “National Army” factions from their town and hold accountable the fighters who engaged in the infighting which took place two day earlier between Al-Hamza and Malik Shah factions, which left six people, including two children, injured.

 

 

Military drills

 

Also, in July, Turkish forces and factions of the “National Army” conducted joint military drills with live ammunitions and brought military reinforcement to “Peace Spring” area. On July 3, joint military drills were conducted in Al-Araziyah village in the eastern countryside of Ras Al-Ain, where the participating forces used cannons and machineguns and used abandoned huts as real targets, destroying six.

 

While on July 7, SOHR activists reported seeing a convoy of 12 Turkish armoured vehicles crossing into Bab Al-Faraj area on the Syria border with Turkey, east of Ras Al-Ain. The convoy headed to Um Ishbah village where a military base is located. A group of these armoured vehicles headed to a Turkish base in Al-Dawudiyah village.

 

Similarly, on July 27, Turkish-backed factions conducted military drills, under supervision of Turkish officers, in Ras Al-Ain countryside near frontlines with regime forces and SDF. During the drills, the factions used live ammunition, targeting abandoned huts whose owners had been displaced from the area during the “Peace Spring” operation in 2019. this came as a part of escalating media speculations of potential Turkish operation in SDF-held areas in north and north-east Syria.

 

 

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 appeal 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 abuse and violations committed by lawless factions, including thefts, murders, looting, arrests and kidnappings.