Five women were reported to have been kidnapped by armed groups in occupied Afrin in the month of July. One was allegedly released.
On July 9th, Jaish al Islam announced that they had captured two women in Afrin city, accusing them of terrorism and connections with the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Such false charges are a common pretext for kidnappings and disappearances of both men and women in occupied Afrin, including those with no political affiliation or military background.
On July 14th, the Afrin Post documented the identities of both women: Nisreen Walid and Sevin Ahmed Sadiq Ibo. They reported that both were civilians, and that the mother and siblings of one woman were attacked in their home after the arrests.
Neither has been reported released. Both the Afrin Post report and a later report from the Afrin Activists Network alleged that they were handed over to Turkish authorities.
Malak, the mother of Sevin Ahmed Sadiq Ibo, was reportedly kidnapped on July 10th, according to the July 14th Afrin Post report. She was beaten along with her fifteen-year-old son, and their house in the Ashrafiyah neighborhood of Afrin city was confiscated by the Turkish-backed Civil Police.
On July 13th, members of Sultan Murad Division kidnapped a woman named Rojin, the wife of Jamal Ahmed Khaled, from Babak Ushaghi village, according to the Human Rights Organization – Afrin.
According to the Human Rights Organization – Afrin report, as well as reports from the Violations Documentation Center in Northeast Syria and the Afrin Activists Network, she had been kidnapped before on charges of affiliation with the Autonomous Adminstration of North and East Syria.
A fighter known as Abu Ammar is allegedly responsible for the Sultan Murad Division units in the region.
On July 31st, a woman named Hidayat Tahir Omar, from Bulbul, was kidnapped by members of Sultan Murad Division after a relative living outside of Afrin had transferred a sum of money to her. She was released two days later. Armed groups confiscated the money that had been transferred.
Gender-Based Violence Increasing
A report from the Violations Documentation Center in Northeast Syria noted that there had been an increase in forced marriages and child marriages in occupied Afrin in recent months. Families have forced their daughters to marry relatives to “protect” them from being kidnapped by armed groups, or accepted demands from the groups themselves.
A video that appears to first have been posted on July 22nd by an individual known as Sarok Omar allegedly shows a man from Afrin beating his wife after her refusal to marry their daughter to a member of Sultan Murad Division.
Kongra Star, a coalition of women’s organizations in North and East Syria, shared the video and confirmed the details of the case.
Sultan Murad members have been implicated in many allegations of sexual violence and forced marriages reported from Afrin in recent months, including two cases documented in the Missing Afrin Women project database.
Sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriages, and child marriages were all criminalized in Afrin Canton prior to the Turkish occupation. Women and girls were able to access institutions to protect them from violence and resolve disputes. Today, under the Turkish-backed government, no such legal and civil society protections exist.
Testimonies Describe Torture, Sexual Violence, Threats in SNA Custody
Three video testimonies published this month of women kidnapped or interrogated by SNA factions describe torture, sexual violence, and other cruel and degrading treatment in interrogations and in detention facilities run by the groups.
In June 2020, the Afrin Human Rights Organization reported that a woman who had been working as a hairdresser in Afrin city was accused of witchcraft by Ahrar al Sharqiya. Militia members threatened to rape her during the interrogation, demanded money, and threatened to kidnap her husband.
A video interview with the woman, conducted by the Human Rights Organization – Afrin and shared with the Missing Afrin Women Project, was published by the Rojava Information Center on July 4th, 2020.
On July 29th, Hawar News published an interview with a woman from Afrin who was allegedly kidnapped by the Military Police in June 2019, identified only as E. A. for her safety. Her parents, husband, and three-year-old daughter were all detained with her.
E. A. described being repeatedly beaten and accused of collaborating with the SDF, and claimed that her interrogators threatened to rape her, distribute explicit photos of her, and kill her daughter. She claimed that she knew of many civilians who had died in custody as a result of torture.
She was reportedly released on a ransom of 17 million Syrian pounds, and is now in Shahba region with her daughter.
Hawar News also published an interview with E. A.’s mother, a 50-year-old woman identified as M. A, on July 31st. M. A. was also detained in June 2019, and was in SNA custody for 26 days. She reportedly did not know that other members of her family had been detained, and was shocked to find her daughter and granddaughter in the same prison.
She described being beaten every day and accused of working in a village commune— the smallest political unit under the Autonomous Administration, which worked to settle disputes, distribute goods, and manage other local affairs.
She claimed that women were raped by militia members in prison, and that even children and the elderly were tortured on a daily basis.