Rape, ethnic cleansing and looting: UN exposes Turkey

United Nations and Amnesty International also stated that it had gathered evidence of war crimes and other violations committed by Turkish and Turkey-backed Syrian forces who are said to "have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life, carrying out serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks.

Rape, ethnic cleansing and looting: UN exposes Turkey

Turkish-backed extremists have committed a litany of abuses in northern Syria after Ankara illegally occupied Afrin, Jarabulus, Idlib, and Tel Abyad over the last three years. The allegations have gained exposure in recent years and are now part of a UN Human Rights Council biannual report. This is the year with the clearest and most comprehensive evidence of the massive abuses that run contrary to international humanitarian law, reports indicate.

The abuses have been directed against women and children, and primarily target minorities such as Yazidis, Kurds and Christians, many of whom have been ethnically-cleansed from the Turkish occupied areas of Syria. A report at Al-Monitor by Amberin Zaman tells of a boy who was kidnapped by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army in 2019. “While detained, both Syrian National Army members and Turkish-speaking officials dressed in military fatigues were present.”

The report also details how the Turkish-backed Syrian extremists “forced male detainees to witness the rape of a minor.” This took place in Afrin, an area Turkey invaded in 2018. More than 150,000 Kurds were forced to flee the invasion and Ankara has engaged in demographic change similar to the process of ethnic cleansing that took place in the Balkans in the 1990s. Ankara has brought in settlers from other parts of Syria and replaced indigenous Kurds with groups it considers loyal. These groups have illegally stolen olives from the locals, taken over their homes, attacked religious sites of minorities and kidnapped women and kept them at secret “black site” prisons. 

Turkey invaded Afrin in 2018 claiming to be fighting “terrorism” but there was no evidence of any terrorism there or directed at Turkey from there. Ankara has used its offensives in Syria, and now in Libya, to recruit Syrian refugee to fight its wars abroad. A US report last month accused Turkey of transporting thousands of Syrians to fight in Libya. It sought to hijack the Syrian rebellion and turn it against Kurdish fighters in Syria. Ankara accuses these Kurdish fighters of being members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In 2015, a Turkey-PKK ceasefire broke down and Ankara has used its war with the PKK as an excuse to invade its neighbors.  

As reports of abuses at the hands of pro-Turkey Syrian rebels emerged, Ankara has sought to claim that it is reining them in. Ahrar al-Sharqiyah, one of the most militant, extremist and abusive of the Turkish-backed groups, supposedly had a member sentenced in a “military court martial” for a role in murdering Syrian activist Hevrin Khalaf. Khalaf was hunted down by Turkish-backed extremists and killed in October 2019 during an invasion of Syria that was enabled after Turkey orders US troops to withdraw.

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has reportedly said he agreed to Turkey’s invasion because he admires leaders who are “mean” and “tough” and that Turkey’s far-right ruling party embodies this quality.

The mean and tough approach led to the death of Khalaf, an unarmed woman who was captured by the Turkish-backed group and beaten and machine gunned to death, the men stamping on her face and cheering in video they posted online. Ankara did nothing at the time to condemn the murder; instead its far-right media celebrated the killing as “neutralization of a terrorist.” There was no evidence Khalaf was a “terrorist.”