Women in Afrin (Efrin), a predominantly Kurdish town in northern Syria, live in constant fear of torture, kidnapping and death, since the launch in 2018 of Turkey’s military operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring”, to take the town and the surrounding province.
Turkish and Free Syrian Army forces have held control of the town ever since, and hundreds of women in Afrin have been targets of an increasing wave of violence, that includes abduction, physical and psychological abuse, torture and forced disappearances.
On 7 June 2020 a Kurdish woman by the name of Zelîxe Welîd Omer was abducted in Afrin with her husband and child by a paramilitary group called Jabhat al-Shamiyah.
Jabhat al-Shamiyah is also known as the northern branch of the Levant Front, which is part of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army, and was declared to be a terrorist organisation by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service in 2018.
Zelîxe (30), then living in the Rîta village, in Mabêta, Afrin, was imprisoned for over a year. During the time she spent in the militia’s prison, she was not only subjected to various acts of torture, but also forced to witness the torture of her child, leading to serious damage to her mental health.
At the time when Zelîxe and her family were abducted by the Turkish-backed militias, Zelîxe’s relatives Zeyneb Ebdo (60), her husband Osman Mejîd Nasan (65), their son Mihemed (28) and his wife and child were also abducted, on the “grounds” that they supported the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.
In August 2021, the two women Zelîxe and Zeyneb were released, but Zelîxe came out of that place of torture in a state of total breakdown, Jin News reported.
Local sources told Jin News that Zelîxe’s child was tortured in front of her. Being forced to witness the torture of her child completely destroyed Zelîxe psychologically.
The whereabouts of Zelîxe’s husband and child are still unknown.
More than 1,000 women have been abducted to date in Afrin, which has become a focal point of kidnapping, rape, ethnic cleansing and Turkification, according to United Nations reports. The fate of most of the abducted women 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. Over a thousand women were abducted by the Turkish-backed militias and the fate of most of these is still unknown, the report said.