The city of Jindires, one of the hardest hit in last month’s deadly earthquakes was shaken once again by a tragedy that left four dead and three wounded Monday night while celebrating Nowruz, a traditional festival marking the Persian new year and celebrated by many Kurdish communities involves the lighting of fires and carrying of torches and is often accompanied by drumming, poetry, singing, dancing, and use of small firecrackers.
According to local sources in northeastern Syria’s Afrin region, of which Jindires is part, the men were killed following disputes with two men from Khasham in the countryside of Deir Zor after the two men told the celebrants not to set fires due to the presence of tents making up one of the camps housing earthquake victims, the men then fired at those celebrating after their refusal to stop, killing four and injuring three others.
While many local outlets and residents claim the perpetrators belong to Ahrar al-Sharqiya (AS), a military faction affiliated with the Syrian National Army (SNA), the group’s leader, Abu Hatem Shaqra, has denied the pair were members of his group and says they were civilians.
The deaths have taken on a highly political nature and tensions are high as those killed and injured were all Syrians of Kurdish descent, and some have accused various groups of increasing tensions by implicating the attacks had racial motivations.
Following the events, the bodies of the victims and the injured were taken to hospitals in Atma, a border town, and the administrative control of the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) and where Hayah Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is the dominant military faction. Kurdish residents and the family of the victims met with representatives of the SSG and HTS leader Abu Muhammad Jolani where they asked requested protection and judicial oversight from the SSG and HTS.
Hassam Ibrahim, a Kurdish resident of Jindires and who works as an aid worker told L24 about the incident: “the Kurdish people of Jindires want justice for those killed, without any regard to which group or faction they belong to.” When asked about why the relatives of those killed brought the bodies of the deceased to Atma under the military control of HTS, he responded by saying: “After the incident, the people had no one to turn to other than the SSG, as for the groups in these areas no faction will get involved in crimes committed by the other. As for the Turks here, this doesn’t concern them thus they will not interfere.” Ibrahim added the reason why certain Kurdish residents of the area requested the interference of Idlib authorities in the affairs of their region: ” In Idlib, you have one governing party, unlike here where we have hundreds of groups governing. We have heard about the situation in Idlib and that’s what we want.”
A large demonstration occurred in Jindires in the wake of the funeral procession today where local residents, mostly Kurdish raised the flags of Kurdistan, and the families of the victims demanded accountability for those responsible for the crime and an end to the violations against civilians. Demonstrators displayed placards and banners calling for the expulsion of “military factions” and entry into the region of various groups such as HTS, Kurdish Peshmerga, and the International Coalition.
Ahmed Hassan a member of both the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Kurdish National Council (KNC) demanded, “the removal of all factions from Kurdish cities and villages, and their return to their military headquarters,” and the “fair retribution from the criminals who committed the crime.”
At the time of writing the Military Police in Jindires reportedly arrested 3 suspects implicated in the murder, while talks are ongoing regarding the future of the region and its administration.