Amnesty’s New Report and the Situation in Northern Syria
The latest report by Amnesty International about a new wave of the forced displacement of the people in PYD-controlled areas reveals the lack of human security in the region.
Last June, in the aftermath of clashes between the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), there were reports from the region about the forced removal of Turkmen and Arabs from these areas by YPG forces. At that time, the primary geographical source for these allegations was the key border town of Tal Abyad. In mid-June, it was possible to see these reports in Western news outlets. For instance, the Telegraph reported: “Sunni Arabs of hundreds of northeastern villages and towns captured by ISIL [ISIS] in a surge in the last two months have complained of violence and threats. Some claim their houses have been burned or looted to prevent them returning.”
During this period, government officials raised these allegations and expressed their concerns about the situation in northern Syria and the actions of the YPG. According to Turkish officials, the displacement of Turkmen and Arabs from their villages was a serious violation of the rights of the residents of these villages in and around Tal Abyad. There were signs of a more systematic policy of “ethnic cleansing” committed by the YPG. This “demographic adjustment” threatened the already fragile fault lines between different ethnic groups in this part of Syria and was considered as a possible triggering event for the emergence of another refugee crisis on the borders of Turkey. U.S. officials during this period expressed their concerns and stated that they were seeking more information about the incidents.
Later, more grim pictures about the situation emerged when rights groups, such as the Syrian Network For Human Rights, revealed significant human rights violations by different groups in the region. Among other groups, the YPG was pointed out for being involved in serious violations, such as torture. Later, Amnesty International revealed some other forms of rights violations in the region, such as arbitrary detentions and unfair trials.
Last week, Amnesty International released another major report about the allegations that were raised in June during the Tal Abyad crisis about the forced displacement of people in Democratic Union Party (PYD)-controlled areas. According to a fact-finding mission by Amnesty International to northern Syria, researchers uncovered “a wave of forced displacement and home demolitions amounting to war crimes carried out by the Autonomous Administration led by the Syrian Kurdish Political party, Partiya Yekitiya Demokrat (PYD) controlling the area.” The abuses include the seizure and destruction of property.
In two months, July and August, Amnesty International visited 14 towns and villages in the al-Hasakeh and al-Raqqa governorates and brought together eyewitness accounts through interviews with local people and satellite images. Amnesty International Senior Crisis Advisor Lama Fakih said, “By deliberately demolishing civilian homes, in some cases razing and burning entire villages, displacing their inhabitants with no justifiable military grounds, the Autonomous Administration is abusing its authority and brazenly flouting international humanitarian law, in attacks that amount to war crimes.”
This extensive report about the situation in northern Syria one more time raised the significance of the situation in the region for human security in Syria. At such a critical juncture in the conflict in Syria, these types of actions won’t just generate a new fault line that could create more communal conflicts in the region, but also may result in the emergence of a new dimension of the humanitarian tragedy as a result of the “war crimes.” Because of that, the international community needs to act to pressure the PYD to stop these actions before it is too late.
This article was first published in the Daily Sabah on October 17, 2015.