In 2018, Turkey launched military operations in Afrin (Efrîn) and Turkish armed forces and Turkish-backed militias have been present in the region since March of that year. Since then, various war crimes and rights abuses, also reflected in UN reports, have been occurring in the city.
More than 1,000 women have been abducted to date in the city, which has become a focal point of kidnapping, rape, ethnic cleansing and Turkification, according to United Nations reports. The fate of most of the women abducted is unknown.
In a press statement released in Afrin on 25 October, a group of NGOs listed crimes committed against women by the Turkish army and its affiliated militias in the region. According to the report, 84 women have been killed in Afrin since 18 March 2018. Of these, six women committed suicide. In the same period, 71 women were raped. According to the report, over a thousand women were abducted by the Turkish proxies and the fate of most of these is still unknown.
Nayele Mihemed, a member of the Afrin Human Rights Organisation, has made an assessment of the “war crimes” in question, and the experiences of women since the beginning of the attacks on Afrin by the Turkish armed forces and the paramilitary groups it supports, MA reported.
“These are definitely war crimes, and they are committed deliberately against women,” she said.
“Since the invasion, all possible wrongs have been perpetrated against women. They have been murdered, harassed, raped, forcibly married. They have been stripped of all the rights they had acquired in the Rojava Revolution, and they have been imprisoned in houses. We as Afrin NGOs identified 84 women who were murdered, but the actual numbers are much higher than that. Six women were driven to commit suicide because they couldn’t cope with what they were going through. Every day, there’s news of abductions. There have been more than a thousand. We reported sexual assault against 71 women”
Nayele Mihemed believes that the ulterior motive of these rapes and abductions is to drive other locals out of Afrin, to assist with the success of the Turkification policy.
Afrin was a women’s city
Mihemed says that under the rule of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) the women in the city had gained their rights, they were powerful, and she defined Afrin as having been a women’s city at that time.
“The women’s city has been turned into a hell. Women haused to stand on their feet, they used to show the world what they could do. They were active in every aspect of life, whether military or economic, political or diplomatic. Women’s institutions had been established, their efforts had become visible.”
Nayele Mihemed urged international women’s organisations advocating for women’s rights not to remain silent about Afrin.
“International conventions protect women’s rights. They include the requirement to stand together in defence against all crimes against women. The conventions state that rape, harassment, and torture are crimes. Turkey has been committing all of these crimes for many years. We call out to all women, defend the rights of the women in Afrin. All women should put pressure on their states against the crimes committed in Afrin. Turkey should be tried in the international courts for its crimes and convicted for every crime it commits.”