Hevrin Khalaf

UN Blasts Turkey for Executions, Possible War Crimes

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By Fazel Hawramy

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Rudaw.net) – The United Nations Human Rights Office said Tuesday, October 15,  that Turkey could be held accountable for possible war crimes, including the execution of captives and a female Kurdish politician, attacks on medical facilities, and the bombing a convoy of civilians and journalists during its now week-long offensive in northeast Syria. The United States defense chief has also said Washington could hold Turkey to account for possible war crimes.

Turkey launched an extensive bombing campaign on October 7 followed by a land invasion a few days later, which has forced more than 275,000 people from their homes and killed at least 45 civilians, including a popular female Kurdish politician and several journalists.

“We have received reports and viewed two separate pieces of video footage showing what appear to be summary executions carried out by fighters belonging to the Ahrar al-Sharqiya armed group, which is affiliated with Turkey,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “On the same day, we received reports indicating that a well-known Kurdish female politician, Hevrin Khalaf, was also executed on the same highway, apparently also by Ahrar al-Sharqiya fighters.”

“Turkey could be deemed responsible as a State for violations committed by their affiliated armed groups, as long as Turkey exercises effective control over these groups, or the operations in the course of which those violations occurred,” the human rights body said.

Turkish-backed proxy forces are accused of serious human rights abuses during the invasion of the enclave of Afrin early last year in which thousands of civilians were displaced.

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Earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish-backed forces had killed “an elderly man with severe visual impairment in Afrin’s countryside in northwest Aleppo.”

The same forces have been involved in fierce fighting in several border towns since last Wednesday, backed by Turkish warplanes and artillery batteries.

“Turkey’s unilateral action was unnecessary and impulsive. President Erdogan bears full responsibility for its consequences, to include a potential ISIS resurgence, possible war crimes, and a growing humanitarian crisis,” US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper tweeted on Tuesday.

The UN Human Rights Office said ambulances, health facilities, and a medical point belonging to the Kurdish Red Crescent were attacked by either Turkish forces or their proxies in  Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain), Kobane (Ain al-Arab), Geri Spi (Tel Abyad) and Derik (al-Malikya). “We are also receiving reports of other attacks on civilian infrastructure, including power lines, water supplies and bakeries,” the statement read.

Kurdish sources said on Tuesday that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has regained control of the strategic town of Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain) on the border, which has been under constant Turkish bombardment since October 7.

In Manbij, on the western edge of territories controlled by the SDF and their allies, Syrian regime forces have moved into the city as part of a deal to see the Syrian Arab Army secure the borders against Turkey’s incursion.

“We are out of Manbij,” the coalition tweeted on Tuesday.

“They Syrian government has full control over the city of Manbij and nearby settlements,” the Russian defense ministry announced in a statement on Tuesday, AFP reported.

Syrian Kurds Appeal for Aid

In related news, the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria has appealed for urgent humanitarian aid after the withdrawal of international NGOs amid a worsening humanitarian crisis sparked by Turkey’s military incursion into the territory.

In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, officials appealed for assistance in an effort to “avoid exacerbating the humanitarian crisis caused by the barbaric Turkish attack.”

Local schools are now hosting families displaced from the border towns of Tal Abyad, Ras al-Ain, and surrounding villages as camps reach full capacity. Over 275,000 have been displaced since the start of the Turkish incursion, 70,000 of whom are children, according to the administration, the Syrian Democratic Council.

According to International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports, approximately 180 families have arrived in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in the past two days.

The Kurdish Red Crescent (KRC), a local charity, said it is running low on supplies. In a statement published to Facebook on Sunday, it lamented the “extremely limited support” for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and accused the Turkish government of breaking international law in obstructing the delivery of aid to local civilians.

KRC said many international aid organizations made the decision to leave northern Syria as fighting wages between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkish-backed militias, a deal was reached between the SDF and Damascus that will see regime forces move to protect the borders, and the “unpredictable” actions of Turkey.

The Kurdish charity is now reportedly the only aid organization providing emergency services in northern Syria and faces severe difficulties following the withdrawal of “essential expat staff” over the past two days.

Several NGO’s have gone public with their decision to withdraw from the area, citing security concerns and logistical difficulties arising from heavy fighting across the region.

Some United Nations agencies are still operating. UNICEF said on Monday it was stepping in to deliver water to over eight locations after other agencies suspended their activities. In the past ten days, the organization had delivered 95,000 liters to collective shelters across the northeast.

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