According to a report published Tuesday, Arab and Turkmen populations in northern Syria have faced human rights abuses in areas controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party's (PYD) armed Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), which is affiliated with the PKK terrorist organization.
In a 22-page report, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said abuses against Arabs, Turkmens and Assyrians have been taking place in the province of Al-Hasakah since February. According to the report, the YPG has killed 47 civilians, including eight women and nine children, in the last six months and detained 612 people, including 19 children. Villages have been destroyed, crops burned or stolen and fields leveled with bulldozers in a bid to force people away from their homes.
The report said the group was attempting to justify its actions as part of the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the same way the Syrian regime described its actions as part of a war on terrorism. Listing more than 70 villages that had been forcibly evacuated, the network said tens of thousands of people, mostly Arabs, had been displaced by the YPG.
It said the YPG had been forcing people away from their homes from the "very first day of its establishment" and said the "forced migration policy" had been recently intensified. The network said 8,000 Turkmens in al-Hasakah had been exposed to human rights abuses.
It added that the YPG prevented people from returning home and looted and destroyed evacuated homes. The report carried detailed interviews with those forced from their homes as well as videos and photographs.
Amnesty International released a report earlier this month, showing human rights violations by the YPG on non-Kurdish inhabitants in areas under their control in northern Syria, including forced displacement and demolishing houses.
The Amnesty report says that the crimes committed by the YPG amount to war crimes and that non-Kurdish, mostly Turkmen and Arab, inhabitants of villages in the de facto autonomous Kurdish administration were forced out of their homes. Amnesty quotes Ciwan Ibrahim, the head of the Kurdish internal security force known as Asayish, in the report admitting there had been forced displacements, but that they were "isolated incidents" and that civilians had been moved "for their own safety." However, the report says that the findings show the forced displacement is mostly against non-Kurdish villages captured by the YPG. Amnesty interviewed 37 individuals who said they had experienced Kurdish abuse in Hasakah and Raqqah provinces.
"Satellite imagery of the village of Husseiniya taken in June 2014 and June 2015 analyzed by Amnesty International reflect that 225 buildings were standing in 2014, but that only 14 remained in 2015, a 93.8 percent reduction in one year. The destruction reflected in the satellite imagery is not consistent with shelling but rather the demolition of the village. Residents said the YPG carried out the demolitions in February 2015, displacing most residents to nearby villages and to the city of Qamishli," the report says.
The report says residents had fled the village due to clashes between the YPG and ISIS in early 2015, but when they came back after the YPG took over, their homes were demolished: "In mid-February we heard that [ISIS] was retreating from the Tel Hamees countryside and the sound of coalition warplanes intensified so we decided to leave to Qamishli. … We left before the YPG entered and returned in the beginning of March 2015. When we came back we saw our homes were demolished. … We don't know who did it, but who else was here other than the YPG?" a villager interviewed by Amnesty researchers on the field said.
In late September, United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria also said in a report that the YPG had committed human rights violations in occupied areas of northern Syria.
"Following the YPG's retaking of the previously ISIS-controlled areas of Tal Abyad in early July and villages in the Tel Tamer region of al-Hasakah, YPG fighters reportedly looted houses belonging to Arab villagers," Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said, presenting the report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, and added that the U.N. has indicated the YPG's human rights violations in its previous reports.
"They [YPG] pulled us out of our homes and began burning them. … Then they brought the bulldozers and they began demolishing the homes. … Every time I tried to come near the house they would push me back. … The people that came were wearing green camouflage uniforms," a woman from Husseiniya interviewed by Amnesty International said.