Amnesty slams Turkey's 'disregard for civilian life' in Syria

Amnesty finds ‘damning evidence’ of alleged Turkey war crimes in Syria
3 min read
18 October, 2019
Amnesty International says it has found evidence that Turkey and Turkish-backed Syrian forces have indiscriminately bombed civilian areas and captured fighters in northeastern Syria.
Amnesty accused Turkey and Turkish-based forces of showing “a shameful disregard for civilian life” [Getty]

Amnesty International has said that it has found “damning evidence” that Turkish forces and Turkish-backed Syrian armed groups have committed war crimes and violations during their recent assault on Kurdish-held northeastern Syria.

In a press release, the human rights watchdog accused Turkey and Turkish-based forces of showing “a shameful disregard for civilian life”.

Amnesty International quoted the Kurdish Autonomous Administration’s health authority as saying that 218 civilians, including 18 children had been killed since the Turkish offensive began.

Syrian Kurdish forces, meanwhile, have been accused of kiling 18 civilians in Turkey and injuring 150 in mortar attacks.

Witness testimony

Amnesty’s accusations against Turkey and Turkish-backed forces were based on witness testimony from 17 people, including medical and humanitarian workers and journalists, as well as analysis and verification of video footage and medical reports.

They are also accused of having carried out indiscriminate attacks on residential areas and civilian facilities, including a bakery and a school.

“The Turkish military offensive into northeast Syria has wreaked havoc on the lives of Syrian civilians who once again have been forced to flee their homes and are living in constant fear of indiscriminate bombardment, abductions and summary killings,” said Kumi Naidoo, the Secretary General of Amnesty International.

A Turkish airstrike near a school on 12 October killed four people and injured six. “Everything happened so fast. In total, there were six injured and four killed, including two children. I couldn’t tell if they were boys or girls because their corpses were black. They looked like charcoal. The other two people killed were older men, they looked older than 50. Honestly, I am still in shock,” a Kurdish Red Crescent worker told Amnesty.

Read more: A chronicle of deaths foretold in Syria

In another incident, a Turkish air strike on a market struck a civilian convoy, which included several journalists travelling between Qamishli and Ras al-Ain. Six civilians including one journalist were killed and 59 people were injured.

Killing 'in cold blood'

On 12 October, Hevrin Khalaf, the Secretary-General of the Future Syria party, was ambushed by fighters from the Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sharqiya group, who dragged her out of her car, beat her, and then shot her dead. They also killed her bodyguard.

In other incidents at the same time and place, Ahrar al-Sharqiya captured and summarily executed two Kurdish fighters, and kidnapped two civilian medical workers whose whereabouts remain unknown.

A friend of Khalaf’s called her phone, which was reportedly answered by a Syrian fighter from a Turkish-backed group who said, "You Kurds are traitors, all of you in the party are [foreign] agents".

Khalaf’s party was politically opposed to the Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria and worked for harmony between Syrian Arabs and Kurds, as well as good relations with Turkey.

"Killing defenseless people in cold blood is utterly reprehensible and a blatant war crime. Ahrar’s al-Sharqiya’s murder of Hevrin Khalaf and others must be independently investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice," Naidoo said.

On Thursday, Turkey agreed to “completely end” its offensive in northeastern Syria, provided that Kurdish forces pull out of a planned “safe zone” along the Syrian-Turkish border.

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