US concerned over Turkey-backed fighters in Syria, human rights abuses

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Fri, 07 Aug 2020 - 07:33 GMT

FILE: Turkish-backed Syrian opposition armed groups in northern Syria

FILE: Turkish-backed Syrian opposition armed groups in northern Syria

CAIRO – 7 August 2020: The US State Department has expressed concern over reports that Turkey-backed fighters have committed human rights abuses in northeast Syria, according to a new inspector general's report.
 
The State Department said it had received reports that Turkish-backed forces implemented arbitrary detentions and carried out extrajudicial killings in the Kurdish-majority region after Ankara's incursion in October.
 
The reports also added that Turkish-backed militias have also seized lands and shit of water access to around half a million citizens.
 
Some of those arbitrarily detained had reportedly been moved "across an international border into Turkey", which analysts say would be a violation of international humanitarian law.
 
"We have reiterated our expectation that Turkey, and the Syrian opposition, investigate alleged violations and abuses and promote accountability where appropriate," the State Department said.
 
FILE - Turkish-backed Syrian opposition armed groups in northern Syria FILE - Turkish-backed Syrian opposition armed groups in northern Syria
 
The State Department told investigators that the Syrian Interim Government, a political body that operates in Turkish-controlled areas of Northern Syria had not "consistently arrested, prosecuted, or otherwise held accountable any members implicated in human rights abuses or violations of the law of armed conflict". 
 
The State Department said it was specifically concerned over "reports of human rights abuses in Afrin", including desecration of several Yazidi shrines, kidnapping for ransom of Yazidi and Kurdish women, and looting and vandalizing of homes and archaeological sites. 
 
The department told the Inspector General's office that it was unable to confirm such reports because it does not have "a presence on the ground",  but added that many of the allegations "appear to be credible". 
 
At least 150 of the missing women from Afrin have been identified by the Missing Afrin Women Project. 
 
Yazda, a group advocating for the long-persecuted religious Yazidi minority, says nearly 80 percent of the Yazidi religious sites in Syria have been looted, desecrated or destroyed, including 18 sites in Afrin. 
 
Turkey has launched an offensive into north-eastern Syria, unleashing air strikes and artillery barrages aimed at US-backed Kurdish forces who control the region.
 
Video footage showed civilians fleeing towns with columns of smoke rising in the background and jet trails visible in the sky.
 
Trump issued a statement mildly criticizing the offensive aimed at Kurdish forces which for nearly five years fought alongside the US against Daesh.
 
“This morning, Turkey, a Nato member, invaded Syria. The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea,” the statement said, before noting: “There are no American soldiers in the area.”
 
Turkey's campaign — in which a NATO member is raining down bombs on an area where hundreds of U.S. troops are stationed — drew immediate criticism and calls for restraint from Europe.

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