An Open Letter :
Your Excellency, Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, President of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Your Excellency, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
“We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person.”
With these words of the United Nations Charter’s preamble, we would like to start our letter, knowing too well how important such words are to you and that your goodwill and efforts rest upon such principles to highlight and promote human rights and the dignity of mankind.
Starting from the trust all people have invested in you, we appeal to you to stand against the most heinous crimes and atrocities committed against the peaceful people in the Syrian city and region of Afrin. The plethora of reprehensible practices committed in Afrin are example of tragedies people around the world have endured, as we realise that the human civilisation can never be based or built on injustice and indignity, rather the opposite.
Yes, Your Excellency, Mrs. Khanand Mr. Pinheiro…all evidence is clear and obvious, and documented live on the ground.
On January 20, we mark the fifth year of the invasion of the predominantly-Kurdish area of Afrin by Turkish forces and its affiliated mercenaries of the “National Army”, a military formation comprising armed factions affiliated with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, where they imposed full control on the area on March 18, 2018.
This invasion can only be described as occupation by Turkey, a member of the United Nations, and a violation of the sovereignty of a neighbouring country, Syria which is also a member of the United Nations. This is a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter, namely the 4th item of Article 2 which states “all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
Four full years of the Turkish occupation of Afrin have passed, during which Afrin’s residents experienced nothing but terror, crimes and the pillaging of the region’s resources, amid deafening silence by decision makers around the world, which, to us, is unjustified and inexplicable.
For four years, Turkey has been proceeding with its dangerous plans and plots for Afrin and its indigenous population, attempting by whatever method available to obliterate the Kurdish identity of the region (people, believes, culture, heritage and etc.), starting with displacing civilians and taking over their land, then genocide and demographic change, as well as Turkification through changing the names of streets and squares into Turkish names, imposing Turkish language at schools and centres and adopting the Turkish currency. At least 96 percent of the indigenous inhabitants of the occupied region had been Kurdish, before they were forced to displace. This percentage shrunk to merely 25 percent. Moreover, thousands of militiamen and their families have been brought from different areas across Syria and settled in the houses of forcibly displaced Kurds and in “settlements” established and funded by Kuwaiti, Qatari and Palestinian charitable associations affiliated with the global “Muslim Brotherhood”, all of that with Turkey’s blessing and consent. The violations also include arbitrary arrests, murders, death under torture, looting, thefts, imposition of levies and taxes, the burning down of thousands of hectares of farmlands and felling of olive trees.
These are just few of the many violations taking place in Afrin. We have documented some of these atrocities and provided them to the International Commission of Inquiry for Syria, which confirmed the authenticity of these practices in its recent reports. However, Turkey continues to censor and mislead as far as its Afrin violations are concerned. This is done with the help of its intelligence service which intimidate and terrorise the region’s residents; information about Turkey’s atrocities in Afrin may cost whoever dares to report it their life.
Based on what mentioned above, and with Turkey fitting the description of an occupying power, according to the accurate definition of occupation mentioned in Article 42 of the Hague Regulations of 1907, which states “territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised,” we, the signatories, human rights, civil and media organisations, appeal to you to:
- Dispatch a team of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria or a panel of inquiry and a fact-finding mission to Afrin with facilitations and guarantees to enable them to closely investigate and document the crimes committed there.
- Demand Turkey fulfil all its obligations and comply with all legal commitments, as an occupying power, especially securing of services and facilities in the occupied area, as well as maintaining of security and peace in accordance with the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, until the occupation of the region comes to an end.
- Hold Turkey fully responsible for the crimes committed by Turkish soldiers and militiamen of Turkish-backed factions against civilians in Afrin, based on the terms and articles of the Hague Regulations of 1907-1899, the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and work on referring the file of these crimes to the International Criminal Court through the UN Security Council.
- Demand Turkey comply with the United Nations Charter and end its occupation of Afrin and other Syrian areas and hand over these areas to a civil administration under supervision and guarantee by the United Nations until a political settlement based on the UN Resolution No. 2254 is reached in Syria.
- Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)
- The Kurdish Legal Commission (DYK)
- Lekolin Center for Legal Studies and Research – Germany
- Violations Documentation Center in North and East Syria
- Kurdish Committee for Human Rights (observer)
- Adel Center for Human Rights
- Ezdina Foundation
- Society for Threatened Peoples – Germany
- Kurds without Borders
- Human Rights Organization in Syria (MAF)
- Human Rights Organization – Afrin Syria
- Kurdish Civil Society in Europe
- Syrian Center for Human Rights
- Hevi Kurdish Association in Belgium
- Kurdish antenna network
- German-Kurdish Forum
- Kurdische Gemeinde Stuttgart e.V
- Afrin Media Center
- Efrin News Network