Pro-Turkish Militias Accused of Atrocities in Northern Syria

(Hasan Kirmizitas/DHA-Depo Photos via AP)

A recent report by the German magazine “Der Spiegel” reveals that individuals claiming to be victims of pro-Turkish militias in northern Syria have filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor in Karlsruhe, Germany, accusing these militias of committing crimes against humanity. The complainants allege systematic harassment of the Kurdish population in the Afrin region by Arab militias financially supported by Turkey. The reported atrocities include looting, violence against civilians, extortion, arbitrary arrests, and appalling conditions in militia-run prisons.

According to the complainants, the Arab militias, backed by Turkish funding, have been engaged in a campaign of terror against the Kurdish population in Afrin. Incidents of looting, violence, extortion, and arbitrary arrests have become commonplace, leading to a climate of fear and insecurity. The victims claim that those detained in militia-run prisons are subjected to physical abuse, humiliation, and sexual violence, with systematic denial of adequate food.

The alleged victims have turned to the German legal system, hoping that the Federal Prosecutor’s Office will initiate an investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice. Notably, Germany has previously prosecuted individuals connected to the Syrian regime and ISIS for their roles in human rights abuses and genocide.

Independent on-site investigations by “Der Spiegel” corroborate the victims’ claims. The magazine’s findings suggest that the Turkish military, in a position to intervene and stop the marauding militias, has refrained from doing so. Moreover, some Arab residents in the Afrin province suspect that the harassment against the civilian population is carried out with the tacit approval of Turkey.

Sabiha Khalil, a Syrian-Kurdish activist, asserted that Kurds are deliberately being displaced from their territories, while Syrian refugees, Arabs, and Turkmen are strategically resettled. Khalil contends that the tactics employed by Turkey today are less overtly violent than in the past, focusing more on ethnic cleansing and demographic manipulations.

The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), collaborating with the Kurdish victims, filed the complaint. Patrick Kroker, a jurist from the ECCHR, emphasized the importance of applying international criminal law uniformly. He stated that the legal proceedings against state torturers linked to the Assad regime in Germany demonstrate progress in addressing crimes committed in Syria, insisting that the same standard should be applied to groups associated with allied countries, including Turkey.


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