2020 Report

88 women and girls whose identities are known were reportedly kidnapped by Turkish-backed armed groups in Afrin, Syria in 2020, a rate of approximately one incident every four days.

As of January 1, 2021, 51 remained missing. 35 were reported to have been released. One had allegedly been murdered.

17 of the 35 individuals who have been released were reportedly freed after the payment of a ransom. Ransoms were paid in US dollars, Syrian pounds, or Turkish lira.

The months with the highest number of incidents were January, April, August and November, with 11 cases each; followed by December, with 10 cases. 

Armed Groups Implicated

The Syrian National Army (SNA) factions implicated in kidnappings in 2020 were Ahrar al Sham, Ahrar al Sharqiyah, Failaq al Sham, Hamza Division, Jabhat al Shamiyah, Jaish al Islam, Jaish al Nukhba, Jaish al Sharqiyah, Liwa al Waqqas, Liwa Samarkand, Liwa Sultan Mehmed Fatih, and Sultan Murad Division.

The Military Police and Civil Police, which are security forces made up of armed group members but directly organized by Turkey, were implicated as well, along with Turkish security forces themselves.

Some incidents involved more than one armed group.

The three SNA factions responsible for the most reported incidents—Ahrar al Sharqiyah, the Hamza Division, and the Sultan Murad Division—have all been implicated in reports of torture or sexual and gender-based violence since taking control of Afrin in 2018.

Of the SNA factions that were implicated in kidnappings this year, six— the Sultan Murad Division, the Hamza Division, Failaq al Sham, Jabhat al Shamiyah, Failaq al Sham, Jaish al Islam, and Jaish al Nukhba—had received some form of US support at some point in their history.

Abductions of Minors

Six minor girls were abducted in Afrin in 2020. Five of them remained missing as of January 1, 2021, while one had been released. Jaish al Nukhba, the Hamza Division, the Sultan Murad Division, Ahrar al Sharqiyah, and the Military Police kidnapped girls in 2021.

Allegations of Torture

14 cases, or about 15% of the incidents, included direct allegations of torture. Three of these individuals remained missing as of January 1, 2021, while 11 had been released. The Hamza Division, Failaq al Sham, Jabhat al Shamiyah, Jaish al Nukhba, Political Security, and the Military Police were all implicated in allegations of torture in 2021.

Allegations of Sexual Violence

Three cases included direct allegations of sexual violence. Two of these cases involved forced marriages, while the remaining case included an allegation of rape in detention. Two of these individuals remained missing as of January 1, 2021, while one had been released. The Hamza Division and the Sultan Murad Division were implicated in allegations of sexual violence in 2021.

Religious Minorities

Seven cases targeted women specifically identified as members of religious minority communities. Five Yezidi women and two Alevi women were reportedly abducted.Several of these kidnappings took place during broader raids by armed groups on certain villages historically home to religious minorities.

Five of the seven individuals were reportedly tortured in custody— a higher rate of allegations of torture than seen in general.

Interactive Map

Click below to view an interactive map with detailed information and sources on all reported 2020 incidents.