A new dossier issued by Kurdish women’s organisations has documented incidents of violence against women carried out by Turkish soldiers and jihadist groups supported by the Turkish state in occupied Afrin in north-west Syria.
Women Defend Rojava issued the report, Women under Turkish occupation: Femicide and gender-based violence as systematic practice of the Turkish occupation in Afrin, on July 8.
According to evidence gathered, since Turkey invaded the north-western region of Syria at the beginning of 2018, the population, especially women, have repeatedly been subjected to abduction and violence, including sexual violence and murder. According to the dossier, this violence in general, and the gender violence in particular, are consequences of the occupation and the mentality of the Turkish state and its jihadist groups.
Following Turkey’s invasion, about 300,000 people, half of the total population of Afrin, were displaced and forced to leave their homes. The majority of them, about 157,000 people, chose to stay near Afrin and now live in the Shehba region, mostly in Internally Displaced Person camps and shelters.
The aim of the Turkish state, said the report, is to establish cultural and ethnic hegemony “by subjugating, expelling and replacing local ethnic groups”, thus enforcing demographic change.
Kurdish women’s movement, Kongra Star, which is located in Rojava (northern Syria) and the Women Defend Rojava campaign collected and compiled the data.
Introducing the dossier, they write it is likely the prevalence of gender violence is much higher than they were able to document, because “access to information in the occupied territories is very difficult because of Turkey’s tyranny and the fear of the population”.
“The documented crimes and violations of the rights of women and girls in Afrin show the inhuman and brutal extent of the systematic violence to which women and the population in this region are exposed on a daily basis.”
The dossier states that, for women in Afrin, “life is like a prison, they are oppressed, humiliated, abused, forced to marry, including many underage girls, subjected to torture as well as physical and sexual violence, culminating in rape and femicide.
“Many women no longer leave the home for fear of punishment and violence. The women are deprived of all their previously acquired rights.”
The report underlines how "these acts of violence are clearly evident in recent events. At the end of May, it was revealed that many local Kurdish women are being detained, abused and tortured under the most inhuman conditions in the prisons of the pro-Turkish militias. There are reports of abducted or murdered girls and women almost every day."
The dossier, which is only “a sample” recorded that, as of June 25, 30 women have been kidnapped, 13 released and 5 killed this year alone. Since the invasion in 2018, 99 women have been kidnapped, 18 released and 14 murdered, according to data collected.
Following the establishment of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) in October 2014, a new women’s law was introduced, which established certain rights for women and prohibited practices considered oppressive. The law was adopted in the Afrin, Kobane and Cizîrê regions of AANES. One of the most important rights and freedoms enshrined in the law is the prohibition of forced marriage of minors.
However, in the course of the occupation of Afrin, these rights were denied “and the forced marriage of minors is yet again one of the common misogynistic practices of the jihadist mercenaries”, said the report.
Kongra Star is calling on international institutions, including the United Nations to take responsibility and act to prevent further genocide and femicide in Afrin and across North and East Syria and has raised the following demands:
• An immediate no-fly zone to be established over North and East Syria
• Serious steps for the immediate withdrawal of the Turkish occupying armed forces and all related armed groups from the territory of Syria
• The establishment of an international community peacekeeping force on the Turkish-Syrian border
• Immediate economic sanctions to be implemented against Turkey and the cessation of all arms trade with Turkey
• Immediate humanitarian assistance to the AANES region
• Human rights organisations must be given immediate access to the regions occupied by Turkey in order to monitor the situation on the ground
• The practices of genocide and femicide must be stopped immediately and the Turkish state and its allied jihadist groups must be held accountable and be brought to justice
• Establishment of an international criminal court to prosecute human rights violations and war crimes in North and East Syria