Since 18 March, the northern Syrian canton of Afrin remains occupied by the Turkish military and jihadist militias. For months, reports of victims of torture, looting, robbery, kidnapping and violent repression have not stopped. Many people who did not want to leave Afrin during the evacuation in March had to flee later due to the atrocities of the occupying forces. One of them is R.C. He has experienced the complete disempowerment of the people under the occupation for months. Then he too had to leave Afrin and, like hundreds of thousands before him, went to the nearby canton of Şehba. He told ANF about his experiences.

When the Turkish military invasion began in Afrin, R.C. was with his family in their village. Due to the continued bombing, the family then moved to the city centre. “At that time we could not imagine that the city center would also be bombed. When we got there it got even worse than in the village. We had to spend days in a basement. Finally, we returned to the village,” he tells.

Children forced to torture the prisoners

But even in the village, people were under constant pressure from the occupying forces. People were kidnapped and ransom was demanded for their release. A shopkeeper from the village was arrested as a supposed “member of the organization”. “He was tortured for days. Later he was released in return for a ransom payment. When he returned, he was a living corpse. His ribs were broken. He told us that he had been tortured blindfolded. The torture was carried out by children. The prisoners had to watch the children torturing other prisoners.”

One of the prisons they made was in Rajo. Whoever was taken there went out as a corpse, says R.C.

“There was also a prison in Basûtê. They called it the ‘Fortress Prison’. (In the Ottoman Empire, this name belonged to a dungeon on an island in Latakia. It was known that nobody could leave that prison alive for it was quite notorious with torture and cruelty.)

R.C. tells the following about the present “Fortress Prison” in Afrin: “The prisoners were hung in the form of Palestinian hanging. One man lost consciousness. He was reportedly taken to Turkey for medical treatment, but he has never been heard from again.”

Abductions and ransom pressures

“My cousin was ordered to either give his car or money. He gave them a million Syrian Lira. My aunt’s husband has been in Turkey for 15 years. The occupiers said he was certainly an organization member and had therefore fled, so they confiscated his taxi too. They have a pretext for any atrocity. For example, they came to the village and said they had to control all the phones. Of course nobody got his phone back.

They go into the houses and take everything that is movable. If the inhabitants are not at home, they say that they ran away because they belonged to the organization, and then everything belonging to them is confiscated. Once they arrested a civilian in the village. The man said, ‘I’ve done nothing, I have nothing to do with the organization.’ The occupiers responded, ‘You are Kurd, that’s enough for us’.”

Another common method works, according to R.C. on mobile phones: “They arrest someone and confiscate his phone. Then they save a photo of Abdullah Öcalan on the phone and claim that the owner is from the PKK. With this reason, they take people along and torture them. Anyone who has relatives in Germany is abducted and the relatives are then demanded to pay a ransom.”

Jihadists kill each other in the dispute over the spoils

“When we went to Afrin, we took all our things with us and put them in a basement. Later I went back to get the things, but it was all gone. Everything is looted. Especially with wealthy people they invent some crime and confiscate their belongings. In the village they took a man with them and trickled molten hose on him. A woman who used to work in the commune was abducted and detained for 45 days. There is no torture they did not do to that woman. She is still ill.”

For months, villagers İsmet Mahmut Henan and Bekir Neşad are also missing, says R.C. and continues: “Their children are desperate. The civilian population is being tortured in every possible way. A man went to Germany 15 years ago. His entire property in Afrin has also been confiscated on the grounds that he is a member of the organization. During the day the occupiers walk around and explore the houses. In the evening they go in and plunder everything. It happens more often that the jihadists kill each other in the dispute over the stolen spoils.”

ENKS members support the occupiers

Some people from Afrin, who are close to the Kurdish National Council (ENKS), work for the occupiers, says R.C.

“The ENKS people have done a lot for the occupiers, but they are not much better than the rest of the population. After all, they are also Kurds and so they are viewed by the occupiers. Nevertheless, there are still people from the ENKS who are leading the occupiers in the villages. They take the laundry from the jihadists and have them washed by their wives and daughters. They claim that they are our soldiers whom we should serve. They are also mistreated by the occupiers, but they still serve them.”

Children are forced into Turkish school

For women, the situation in Afrin is particularly bad, about which R.C. tells the following; “They have to stay home and can barely go shopping themselves. In Afrin, the Turkish state opened a school and decorated it with Turkish flags. The children are forced to go to this school. They do not want it, but they are scared. The families are threatened to send their children to this school.

Sometimes the families are also forced to attend some events. Then the people are given Turkish flags in the hand and that then appears in the media. Erdogan’s claim that he provided peace and security in Afrin is a complete lie. Afrin has become a ghost town. People hardly dare to leave the house. The Turkish state has had IDs issued, but this is only aimed at collecting the personal data of the population.”