“Peace Spring” areas in April 2023 | Public uprising against Turkish forces…ongoing violations by Turkish-backed factions…nearly 55 cases of arbitrary arrests
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 April 2023.
In April, five combatants were killed in “Peace Spring” areas, and here are further details:
- Four members of the “National Army”: three assassinated by unknown gunmen and one killed by a landmine explosion.
- Turkish police officer was killed by a landmine explosion.
In April, “Peace Spring” areas experienced one explosion and two infightings which left no fatalities. Further details can be summarised as follows:
- April 30: A police officer of the Turkish forces was killed and seven others were injured, while a Syrian member of the Civil Police was killed and four others were injured due to the explosion of a landmine in Tel Abyad area within “Peace Spring” areas in Al-Raqqa countryside.
- April 9: An infighting erupted with white weapons between members of the Military Police and the Civil Police in the centre of Ras Al-Ain market within areas held by the Turkish forces within “Peace Spring” areas north western of Al-Hasakah, due to disputes in front of a sweets shop “Al-Awama.”
- April 15: Armed clashes erupted between two members of the “Civil Police” of the Turkish-backed “National Army”, in Ras Al-Ain within “Peace Spring” area, to prevent the entry of one of them to the market of the city with a motorbike, following a resolution the prohibits the entry of motorbikes, where owners of commercial stores closed their stores in fear of the escalation of clashes.
Meanwhile, members of the military police blocked the roads leading to the major market in Ras Al-Ain city on April 19, attempting to prevent civilians from entering the market of the city with motorbikes and cars, after a resolution was issued that prevents the entry of motorbikes, cars and weapons during the period of Eid Al-Fitr.
In this context, a group of Al-Sultan Murad tried entering the area by force, while the Military Police intercepted them and shooting took place in order to disperse members of Al-Sultan Murad. However, no casualties were reported.
“Peace Spring” area also experienced ongoing violations by Turkish-backed militiamen in April, where SOHR documented the arrest of 35 people, including six women, and kidnapping of a civilian; they are distributed as follows:
- April 2: Members of “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah” faction of Turkish-backed “National Army” arrested a young man in the western countryside of Ras Al-Ain within “Peace Spring” area, where his fate remains unknown. According to SOHR sources, the young man tried to cross into the Turkish territory three times in Ras Al-Ain countryside within “Peace Spring” area with the help of smugglers of the armed factions to immigrate to Europe searching of safe haven.
- April 3: members of “Al-Hasakah Shield” faction of Turkish-backed “Al-Sultan Murad” Division raided several houses in Alok and Al-Jahfah in Ras Al-Ain countryside in the northern countryside of Al-Hasakah, searching for suspects following the killing of three military commanders in the faction. The raid campaign resulted in the arrest of five civilians and their fate is still unknown.
- April 18: Turkish-backed military police arrested seven people, including six women and a civilian, while crossing the Turkish-Syrian border, through smuggling roads in Ras Al-Ain city within “Peace Spring” area in the northern countryside of Al-Hasakah, with the aim of immigration searching for safe haven. According to SOHR sources, the women are from Homs province, and the civilian is from Al-Derbasiyah countryside in Al-Hasakah, where they entered the area in two batches with the help of smugglers from “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah” faction who directly supervise the smuggling operations and in agreement with military police members who launch an arrest campaign against people searching for safe heaven, in order to obtain ransoms.
- April 29: The Turkish-backed Civil Police, supported by Al-Sultan Murad faction, arrested 40 civilians and gunmen in Ras Al-Ain city within “Peace Spring” area north western of Al-Hasakah. According to reliable SOHR sources, the factions accuse them of “drug dealing and participating in smuggling operations”, while local sources denied these accusations against most of the detainees and accused the factions of “arresting people to obtain ransoms”. Sources confirmed that the factions arrested smugglers that work individually without paying ransoms to the police and Turkish-backed factions.
- April 2: Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah members kidnapped a young man in Al-Hasakah countryside and asked his relatives to pay 2,000 USD dollar in return for his release. The requested sum of money was paid on the following day, April 3, and the young man was released, where the faction’s members left the young man behind the soil barriers separating “Peace Spring” area from SDF-controlled areas in Ain Issa in northern Al-Raqqah.
On the other hand, Turkish forces brought in heavy diggers to “Peace Spring” area on April 22 to dig an entrench in a farmland belonging to residents in Al-Rawiyah village in the west of Ras Al-Ain in north-western Al-Hasakah. In this context, tens of the village’s residents gathered and expressed their rejection of the digging work by Turkish forces on their land, amid growing tension between Turkish forces and the residents. Turkish forces asked the commanders of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah and Sultan Murad factions to keep the residents away from the area where digging work was underway by force.
Meanwhile, residents of Ras Al-Ain countryside within “Peace Spring” areas threw stones at Turkish forces and their machineries to prevent them from continuing digging the trench which would form an exclusion zone, amid concerns by the residents of losing parts of their land.
On the following day, April 23, residents from Rawiyah and Al-Aziziyah villages in north-western Al-Hasakah staged a protest, denouncing the practice of the Turkish forces over digging ditches in agricultural lands which are 300 miters far from the Turkish border and belong to residents of the two villages. The protesters considered digging the ditches a project of dividing the lands, imposing their control and seizing wide spaces for the Turkish forces, and as a response of that, the protesters attacked the Turkish vehicles and threw stones at them to stop the digging operation, while the Turkish forces demanded military support to break up the protest.
On that day, protests against Turkish forces and their proxies expanded after Turkish forces dug a trench to establish a prohibited area in “Peace Spring” areas, where protests took place in five villages (Al-Dohamaa, Rowaya, Al-Aziza, Al-Adwaniya and Mabroka) near the borders with Turkey in western Ras Al-Ain countryside north western of Al-Hasakah.
Dozens of men, women and children gathered in front of Turkish digging machineries that are digging trenches in the villages on borders, where residents threw stones at the Turkish soldiers and chanted slogans against them such as “the occupier must leave”, despite threats by Turkish forces to kill them if they keep intercepting the digging machines, while residents believe that the digging operations that Turkish forces carry out are aimed to steal their lands.
On April 24, Turkish forces temporarily suspended the digging of entrenches near the border strip between Syria and Turkey in Ras Al-Ain countryside in “Peace Spring” area over the broad public rejection of establishing an “exclusion zone,” which manifested in demonstrations by the residents of five villages. According to SOHR sources, Turkish forces assigned a faction to resume digging work, so that the residents will not block it.
On April 3, unidentified gunmen intercepted a car carrying commanders of “Al-Hasakah Shield” factions, which belongs to the Turkish-backed National Army, and opened fire on them killing three commanders in the car in the vicinity of “Al-Alouk” village eastern of Ras Al-Ain in north western Al-Hasakah countryside within “Peace Spring” area, where the gunmen fled to an unknown destination.
While on April 30, a police officer of the Turkish forces was killed and seven others were injured, while a Syrian member of the Civil Police was killed and four others were injured due to the explosion of a landmine in Tel Abyad area within “Peace Spring” areas in Al-Raqqa countryside.
In the meantime, tens of oil trucks headed towards Al-Terwaziyah line in the eastern countryside of Ain Eissa, which the line that separates SDF-held areas from areas held by Turkish-backed factions within “Peace Spring” area, for providing Tel Abiad area with fuels through smuggling roads.
On April 14, The Ministry of Defence of the Syrian Interim Government issued a resolution to establish a prohibited military position at depth of 300 metres on the frontlines with SDF between the area of Tel Abyad in northern Al-Raqqa countryside and Ras Al-Ain area in northern Al-Hasakah countryside within “Peace Spring” area. The region witnessed reinforcement of security following the resolution, where the Military Police were appointed to keep the area secure and farmers would be given entry permits to enter their lands, where the permits are issued by the local councils.
The Syrian Interim aims to control operations of smuggling of humans and fuels, where operations of smuggling humans and fuels from SDF-held areas through the earthen berms between both sides increased significantly. Groups of smugglers work independently for their own benefits without coordinating with the factions. It is believed that this resolution would increase the suffering of civilians because of preventing them from working in their agricultural lands near the earthen berms unless they obtain permits.
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.