Amnesty International has called on Turkey and Syria’s rebels to halt serious human rights abuses against civilians in Afrin in the northwest of the country.

In March, a two-month Turkish-rebel offensive took over most of the Kurdish canton of Afrin, including Afrin city and all major towns. The advanced ended the hopes of some Syrian Kurdish groups for an autonomous region linking Afrin with the cantons of Kobani and Cezire in the north and northeast.

In a report published Wednesday, Amnesty said Afrin residents are enduring arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, confiscation of property, and looting. The organization claims some rebels and Turkish armed forces have taken over schools.

The report is based on interviews with 32 people, some still in Afrin and others who have fled, between May and July.
The sources cited at least 86 instances of arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearance.

On 16 July, Amnesty gave the Turkish Government a summary of its preliminary findings, requesting a response. Nine days later, Ankara questioned the impartiality of the report but did not provide “a concrete response”, Amnesty says.

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East Research Director, said:

All parties to Syria’s conflict, including the YPG, Turkey’s armed forces and local armed groups, should facilitate the safe and voluntary return of people to Afrin.

As the occupying power, Turkey must provide full reparation to those whose homes have been confiscated, destroyed, or looted by security forces or by their allies. It is Turkey’s duty to ensure that displaced civilians are able to return to their homes in Afrin and are afforded restitution, or where this is not possible, compensation.

The report also casts blame on the Assad regime and Kurdish militia YPG over the situation of at least 140,000 people who fled to the al-Shahba region. It says that about 300 injured and chronically ill, living in camps and houses which have been damaged and are without proper services, must wait for regime permission to be allowed access into Aleppo city for medical care. Only about 50 have been processed since mid-March.

Others are prevented by the regime from moving to areas of Syria with better living conditions.

Amnesty said the YPG have blocked roads from the al-Shahba region to Afrin, preventing displaced people from returning to their homes. Hundreds have instead gone back to the city by walking through a long and arduous mountain route.

Maalouf said:

The Syrian government and YPG are exacerbating the suffering of people who have been displaced from Afrin, by trapping them in the al-Shahba region for no apparent reason and depriving them of adequate access to education, food, and medical care. People, especially the sick and the injured, should be allowed immediate safe passage to wherever they wish to go.