The Kurdish-dominated Syrian city of Afrin, jointly controlled by the Turkish army and the National Army of the Syrian Interim Government/Opposition Coalition, saw a significant increase in the number of arbitrary arrests and detentions in August 2019. At least 80 people were arrested or detained, including three women and members of local councils. Only 29 of them released, while others were transferred to central prisons in the cities of Afrin and Azaz, and the remainder are still unaccounted for.
STJ notes that the actual number of arrest and detention cases, exceeded the 80 it has managed to document.
According to STJ field researchers based in more than five districts in Afrin, the Civil Police made up the bulk of arrests with support from the Turkish forces. While the rest arrests conducted by the Military Police, the Military Security, the Suleiman Shah Brigade (also known as al-Amshat), the Mountain Hawks Brigade, the Sultan Murad Division, the Levant Front the Northern Democratic Brigade the Sultan Othman Brigade and the Men of War Brigade.
STJ field researchers confirmed that the detentions and arrests were made arbitrarily and did not respect due process. Besides, neither the arrested nor their families were given oral or written notifications of reasons for the arrests.
Contrary to statements made by the former national army spokesman, that the arrests are carried out within the legal framework.
STJ documented at least 56 arrests in June 2019, made by groups affiliated with the National Army alongside the Turkish forces, the civilian police and the Military Police. It also documented more 63 arrest in July 2019. In addition 13 kidnappings were carried out by unknown perpetrators in the same region since early 2019 till the end of its July.
1. Arrests in Afrin:
Nine arrests against civilians, including a woman, were reported in Afrin by STJ field researchers during August 2019. They were carried out by the Levant Front, the Military Police and the military security:
- On August 3, Haval Mohammad Na’san was arrested from his home in al-Ashrafiea neighborhood, Afrin, by members of the Levant Front.
- On August 5, Sheikh Saed Zada, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and a member of the executive of Sharran local council, was arrested from his home in Afrin near the highway (villas street) by a patrol of the Military Police. A friend of Zada told STJ that the latter was arrested for an alleged unpaid debt, but was freed on August 18 because of lack of evidence.
However, on August 22, the military security rearrested Sheikh Saed Zada for unknown reasons and has concealed his fate as of the date of this report, September 2019.
- On August 17, Kawa Omar, 32, from the village of Darker (Gundî Dargirê) in Afrin was arrested by the Military Police and taken to an unknown destination.
- On August 20, the Military Police arrested arbitrarily Hanan Amen Eibo, from the village of al-Basouta and living in Afrin. STJ field researcher confirmed that Hanan is a civilian works as a pastry chef in a bakery.
- On August 19, the Civil Police arrested Zaynab Ahmed Battal 34, at a checkpoint at the entrance to her village, al-Basouta, while on her way to the city of Manbij, and her fate is still unknown.
- The Military Police raided the village of Juwayq two times; the first was in early August and the second on its 7th, arresting Maher Rashid bin Adel, Bakr Bakir bin Wahid, Nihad Rasho bin Bashir, Mustafa Nashaat, Adel Ebo and Mohammad Othman bin Jameel, the mayor of the village who was released later, while the four others are still unaccounted for.
2. Arrests in Shaykh Hadid:
The Shaykh Hadid district witnessed the arrest of 21 people, including a woman, by the Turkish intelligence forces and the Suleiman Shah Brigade, as reported by field researchers and local sources.
A local of Qarmutlouq village said to STJ that on August 3rd Turkish forces and members of the Suleiman Shah Brigade surrounded the village, prevented residents from entering or leaving and conducted house-to-house searches for certain persons. He added:
“Arrests are usually carried out by the National Army at the behest of the Turkish forces, but this time the latter made detentions directly against Mohammad Rashid Kirrow, Haitham Sheikh Hassan, Mustafa Bakliro, Khushnaf Kirrow, and Abdin Hassan Omar, who was a former military leader during the period of the Autonomous Administration control.”
The witness pointed out that the Turkish forces released all those mentioned after they conducted an investigation with each of them separately, which lasted for about two hours.
Further, on August 25, the Suleiman Shah Brigade conducted a wave of arrests in the center of Shaykh Hadid; its victims were ten family members of the activist Mustafa Sheikho (residing in Lebanon) and one another person. They all were released the following day after the activist, Mustafa, pledged to close his Facebook account and not to publish abuses committed in Afrin by the Syrian armed opposition groups.
According to a witness, the detainees were Nuri Darwish, 80, Mustafa Suleiman Sheikho, 41, Mustafa Khalil Sheikho, 57, Mustafa Mahmoud Sheikho, 40, (nicknamed Kafno), Mustafa Mahmoud Sheikho, 40, Ahmed Mahmoud Sheikho, 53, Mustafa Mustafa Sheikho, 60, Mustafa Mohammed Sheikho, 60, (nicknamed Kafno), Jamil Mustafa Jamil Sheikho, 40, Mustafa Mustafa Jamil Sheikho, 37 and Mohammed Mustafa Jamil Sheikho, 40.
On August 27, the Suleiman Shah Brigade raided the village of Jaqli Wastani (Çeqelê Ortê) and arrested an unknown number of locals; STJ could identify of them only; Ali Saed Khalnoulak, Mohammad Bairam Hamou, Ahmed Bairam Hamou, Salam Ahmed Ali and Mohammad Mohammad Izzo’s wife.
3. Arrests in Jindires:
The Civil Police and Military Police conducted house raids in Jindires district arresting 16 people; some of them were later released.
According to a local, among those arrested was Emad Sha’aban, who owns a generator which powers one of Jindires’ neighborhoods. The Military Police arrested Emad on August 6, for unknown reasons and took him to an undisclosed location.
On August 15, a Civilian Police patrol arrested Shero Shukri Kalkal, 22, who has forcibly deported from Istanbul by the Turkish authorities recently. A friend of Shero said that his accusation is harassing girls on the street. He was released, however, on August 22.
On August 6, field researchers reported the arrest of the young man Jihid Ruzki by the Civil Police, which released him the same evening, without giving further details on the reason for the arrest and whether the detainee paid a bail.
A local of the Fireria village said that the Military Police raided several houses in the village and searched about 20 houses for weapons. It also arrested 4 people and released them the same day. The witness added:
“People of this village are mostly from the Bani Zayd tribe. The campaign resulted in the arrest of Omar Abdo Hussein, Haidar Al Ammo, Muhannad Mohammad Hasida and Mahmoud Hussein Obaid. During house searches, the Military Police found quantities of personal arms and a PK/PKS machine gun.”
On August 26, the Military Police raided the village of Deir Ballout, arresting six people and taking them to the Military Police station in the city of Afrin. These arrests were reportedly in response to an attack made ten days before -by persons unknown- on a checkpoint run jointly by the Turkish forces and the National Army in the village of Till Silor. The charges against the detainees were having contact and sharing intelligence with the People’s Protection Units, the Kurdish militia, the arrested were Ismail Yemilikhi, a 23-year-old civilian, Ahmed Waheid Shawqi, who used to guard the village in the period of the Autonomous Administration’s control and he was arrested for three months in Afrin Central Prison about a year ago, Mohammad Manan, 45, and his son who had served in the ranks of the People’s Protection Units and were previously arrested and bailed out, Baker Mohammad Hassan a 26-year-old civilian and Luqman Mohammad Abdou, 30.
On August 4, the civilian police raided the village of Jekli Jouma (Çeqelê Cûmê) and arrested Mustafa Aslan Abdo, who was a member of the People’s Protection Units, and Hussein Abdul Rahman Ouso, who was a member of the Asayish (the internal security forces). However, no more information provided on their fate and place of detention.
On August 22, the al-Sharqiya Army arrested As’ad Yusuf, a member of the Jindires local council, for preventing agents of the Army from stealing items from the house of a pro-Kurdish person, as he stood in front of the house and prevented them from entering it. He was released on August 25.
4. Arrests in Maabatli/ Mabeta:
The Suleiman Shah Brigade along with the Northern Democratic Brigade arrested seven people in the Maabatli district during August. Only two of those arrested were released, while the others are still unaccounted for.
In the village of Yakhour, a witness confirmed seeing a patrol of the Suleiman Shah Brigade arresting Abdo Hiso Khaleel and Mohammad Homrosh, on August 15. In response, women of the village protested in front of the Suleiman Shah Brigade’s headquarters, and the arrestees were released as a result, under the order of a Turkish officer, who happened to be present there then.
On August 21, the Northern Democratic Brigade raided the village of the Kuliku and arrested Mohammad Ali Khalil Hammou, Luqman Mohammad Hammou, Rifai Hikmat Ibrahim Hammou, Hassan Rashad Hammou, and Fawzi Abdelkader Hammou, as reported by a villager who noted that those arrested are elderly men, previously joined the “Core Forces” that were set up to patrol the village during the Autonomous Administration control. He added:
“I think the real reason for the arrest of those men was preventing the group members from installing Internet networks on the houses’ rooftops. They are still unaccounted for.”
5. Arrests in Sharran/Şera area:
Sharran locals along with field researchers and local activists reported that the Mountain Hawks Brigade, the Sultan Murad Division and the Civil Police arrested 15 people from the Sharran district during August, some on charges of former affiliation to the People’s Protection Units and others for unknown reasons.
On August 8, the Sultan Murad Division arrested Mohammad Refaat Hammou and Farhad Abdul Hanan from their home in the village of Elkah. A villager recounted the incident in details saying:
“Mohammad and Firhad were arrested because of Mounir; Mohammad’s brother who has special needs. Without realizing, Mounir went to his uncle’s house-as he used to do- which had been seized by the Sultan Murad Division and given to another family. He entered the house without asking, so the house occupants beat him severely and he was taken, as a result, to a hospital in the city of Antakya. The news of his assault was been circulated on the social media, which led the Sultan Murad Division to arrest Mohammad and Firhad on charges of getting the incident out. They were taken to the Division’s headquarters in the village of Qirt Qilaq and released the same evening.”
In Sharran, the civilian police arrested Joan Mohammad and sent a patrol to search his home, while he was attending a teacher rehabilitation at the school of Sharan. Joan joined the People’s Protection Units, but he resolved his status after the National Army took control. However, he was released bailed out by paying SP100.000.
On august 5, the Civil Police alongside the Turkish forces arrested Salah Ali, Basil Ali and Daleel Hasan from their houses. The field researcher noted that the three arrestees served in the ranks of the Self-Defense Forces of the Autonomous Administration.
The Civil Police in the village of Oumar arrested; Nouri Ali Hawari, Ramadan Hassinou, Kawa Omar Ebou and Mohammad Ahmed Dawood for unknown reasons. While in the village of Naza Mohammad Abdou Ali and Mohammad Zakaria Tamer were also arrested by the Civil Police.
In the village of Sa’aeryenjakeh, the Mountain Hawks Brigade stormed a number of houses arresting Jamal Mustafa and Mustafa Kamal.
6. Arrests in Rajo and Bulbul districts:
STJ field researcher said that a patrol of the Civil Police arrested Salah Hussein, a member of the village’s local council, for undisclosed reasons.
In the village of Bulbul, 20 people, at least, were arrested by the Civil Police, Men of War Brigade, the Mountain Hawks Brigade and the Sultan Othman Brigade. Some of those arrested were taken to the Military Police Prison in Bulbul, and one of them took to the Azaz Hospital later suffering a severe head injury caused by beat and torture.
In Ubaidan village, on August 18, the Mountain Hawks Brigade arrested Alan Ali Ibrahim, Mohammad Ali Ibrahim and Shero Ahmed al-Ibrahim, accused of dealings with the Autonomous Administration, since the three young men served in the ranks of the Self-Defense Forces during the period of the Autonomous Administration control.
According to a detainee’s relative, those arrested were taken to the Military Police Prison in Bulbul and the family of each of them was asked to pay SP.200.000 in exchange to its son’s release and to obtain a non-arrest guarantee paper. Knowing that those young men already has such paper issued to them by the Levant Front, which had arrested them before for the same reason and took 150.000 for the release of each.
In the village of Khalalka (Gundî Xilalka) Men of War Brigade arrested Rinas Balo Murad, Mohammad Qunbur and Baker Mustafa Dawood on August 18, in dispute over the distribution of food aid baskets, without knowing the specifics.
On August 18, the Civil Police alongside the Turkish forces, arrested three people in the village of Qastal Khodraia on charges of collaborating with the Autonomous Administration. The arrested were; Sabri Abeesh, 70, Abdullah Hanan, 60, Khabat Hanan, 34, and Farid Risho, 45. The family of each was asked to pay SP250.00 to release its son.
In the village of Bulbul, the Sultan Othman Brigade arrested Mohammad Qurra Mousa, a worker at the village’s local council, without disclosing the reason. According to witnesses, the arrested was beaten and tortured brutally and was subsequently released and transferred to a hospital in Azaz, and he is still there as of the date of the present report.
On August 27, the same group arrested Abdulrahman Ramadan, Sameer Bakir, Izzat Hisso and Waleed Mohammad, accused of dealings with the Autonomous Administration and serving in the ranks of its Self-Defense Forces. According to the field researcher, the aforementioned detainees have already been arrested, some for three times, for the same reason. Some have already been questioned by the three corps.
On August 20, the Civil Police raided the village of Qota, arresting Abdo Abdo on charges of being a former member of one of the neighborhood committees, and Shareif Ahmed Sheikho under accusation of membership of the Asayish. The Civil Police also arrested Basheer Sedo and Abdelkader Ramzi Sedo on charges of being affiliated to the People’s Protection Units, and the teacher Nareman Haji, for having collaborated with the Autonomous Administration. However, Nareman and Abdo were released the same day.
 In a report released on August 2, 2018, Amnesty International described the Turkish presence in the Syria’s Afrin as an ‘occupation’. See: “Syria: Turkey must stop serious violations by allied groups and its own forces in Afrin”, Amnesty International, August 2, 2018. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/08/syria-turkey-must-stop-serious-violations-by-allied-groups-and-its-own-forces-in-afrin/.
 Also known as the “National Police” or “the Police and Public Security Forces in Afrin”. It was formed by the Turkish government who trained its personnel on its territory. The General Command of the body was assigned to the Major General Abdul Razak Aslan Alaz, while Lt. Col. Rami Tlass / Abu Yusuf was appointed as a commander of the Free Police in Afrin. The latter comes from the Rastan area in Homs suburbs and was a member of one of the opposition’s military formations, who had fought in Eastern Ghouta before the Syrian regime forces took control of it, supported directly by Russia.
 “Acts of the Syrian armed groups between the jurists and the military”, Fi al-Omq (In Depth) program, Radio Watan, July 8, 2019. https://soundcloud.com/watanfm/08-07-2019fil3omq?fbclid=IwAR0IxzkTXeXuGXzlDEVr4Fkc3HlXhC_xx6nvU8BsG8lyPeYwwaY-_G7RrmQ.
 “Syria: 56 Persons Arrested by the “National Army” in Afrin”, STJ, July 4, 2019 https://stj-sy.org/en/syria-56-persons-arrested-by-the-national-army-in-afrin/.
 “63 arrests in Afrin during July 2019”, STJ, August 2, 2019 https://stj-sy.org/en/63-arrests-in-afrin-during-july-2019/.
 “Syria: At Least 13 Kidnappings Recorded Recently in Afrin”, STJ, July 25, 2019 https://stj-sy.org/en/syria-at-least-13-kidnappings-recorded-recently-in-afrin/.