Kurdish think tank director: Torture, forced recruitment rife under PYD

Published 27.04.2016 01:10

Human rights violations and anti-democratic measures have reached new heights in northern Syria under the Democratic Union Party (PYD), according to a leading Kurdish studies researcher.

Eva Savelsberg, chair of the Berlin-based European Center for Kurdish Studies, said the PYD, which is the PKK's affiliate in Syria, was given free rein to recruit in northern Syria by Bashar Assad's regime.

She told Anadolu Agency: "For us there is no difference really between the PKK, on the one hand, and the PYD, on the other; the PYD is simply the Syrian branch of the PKK.

"We should know that since the YPG [People's Protection Units] and PKK are in the end the same group, of course weapons received inside Syria will also be used in Turkey. We shouldn't be naive about that.

"So one day you can be in Turkey and fight there as part of the PKK against the Turkish state; the next day they can call you, they can tell you to go to Syria and fight there as part of the YPG, so I think it's very clear that those weapons given to the PYD by the United States, by Russia, and of course by the Syrian regime will also be used in Turkey, so it's quite clear that Turkey is concerned about this development."

Savelsberg said the Syrian regime had granted the PYD a form of autonomy in Syria's northern territories at the expense of other Kurdish groups.

"What they [PYD] regularly do, for example, is take the party offices of other Syrian Kurdish political parties. They arrest members of these parties, they are imprisoned sometimes only for a couple of days, but sometimes also for weeks or months.

"A lot of human rights organizations, for example Human Rights Watch [HRW] and Amnesty International, they also agree with us that there is torture in those PYD prisons.

"Another real problem is the forced recruitment, which has been done since 2013. I generally think that it's a problem to recruit people into a militia, of course, and they don't have any chance to say: ‘No, I don't want that,' and interestingly the Syrian regime doesn't recruit people anymore in the Kurdish regions, so they really gave up this job to the PYD."

A Scottish member of the European Parliament recently condemned the reported recruitment of child soldiers by the PYD.

In a statement, Alyn Smith called on Kurdish militants to end the recruitment of child fighters in Syria. "War is no excuse for the Kurdish PYD to use underage soldiers on the battlefield," he said in a statement. "The EU is a values-based community and must not turn a blind eye to this, in as much as I have made clear we must condemn all violations regardless of their source," the statement said. The Scottish National Party deputy, who sits on the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, warned there "will be no peace without justice in Syria and the region," and called on the EU to support the vital work of agencies by documenting the abuse of human rights, "including arbitrary detention, ethnic cleansing and the unacceptable use of child soldiers by Kurdish forces."

He added that areas under PYD control in Syria have seen them repress opposition groups through enforced disappearances. Earlier in 2016, the U.K.-based Syrian Network for Human Rights said the PYD was involved in ethnic cleansing, arbitrary arrests and forced conscription in Syria.

In a report in 2015, Amnesty International said the PYD carried out forced removals of Arab and Turkmen populations in northern Syria. The report said that the crimes committed by the YPG amount to war crimes and that non-Kurds, mostly Turkmens and Arabs in villages in the de facto autonomous Kurdish administration, have been forced from their homes.

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