Secret prisons in Afrin

Yazidi women abused by Islamist militias (Press Release)

The Yazidi community worldwide is concerned about the fate of the members of the religious community in the Afrin region, which Turkey occupied in March 2018. In the course of last week's clashes between rivaling pro-Turkish Islamist groups, it became known that the Arab Sunni Hamzat militia is running secret prisons for women in Afrin. "Images of naked women who are being held there can be found on several social media channels. Five Kurdish women, including a Yazidi woman, have been identified in the videos and pictures," stated Dr. Kamal Sido, Middle East Consultant of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP).

Nadia Murad, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and UN Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, condemned the mistreatment. Further, she called for an international inquiry into the inhuman treatment of women in the formerly autonomous region of Afrin: "The pro-Turkish Syrian Islamists are trying to drive the Yazidi people out of Afrin," Sido added. "They abduct women, kill civilians, and destroy houses and religious sites." Murad, who survived the genocide crimes committed by the so-called "Islamic State" in 2014, criticized the international community for failing to draw attention to these crimes.

Following the occupation by Turkey and Syrian Islamist groups, the entire Armenian population and about 1,200 members of the Kurdish-Christian community were forced to flee from Afrin. The proportion of Kurds in the region – including the Yazidis, Alevis, and Christians – dropped from 96 to under 35 percent. At least 300,000 Kurds from Afrin are on the run. Many of them are living in the refugee camps to the north of Aleppo, where they are almost completely cut off from the outside world. Many religious sites of the Yazidi and Alevi communities as well as Kurdish-Muslim cemeteries and historical ruins have been destroyed or looted. "All this is part of a Turkish initiative to assimilate and forcefully Islamize the region," Sido explained. "The fact that their economic base was destroyed will make it even harder for the refugees to return home."

Meanwhile, Yazidi associations all over the world are calling for more pressure on Turkey, to ensure that the Turkish troops and all armed Islamist factions will be withdrawn from Afrin and other regions in northern Syria. "The ongoing ethnic cleansing against the Yazidis and other ethnic groups in the region must end," Sido demanded. "The United Nations must send investigative teams to Afrin and other regions occupied by Turkey." It will be necessary to assess the situation and to adequately document the atrocities against the civilian population. In addition, the affected areas and the camps for internally displaced persons are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.