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Report details scores of women missing in northern Syria after kidnap by Turkish-backed jihadists

MORE than 160 women and girls have been kidnapped by Turkish-backed jihadists since the invasion of Afrin, northern Syria, in 2018, according to a report released by the Missing Afrin Women Project today.

According to the report, which draws on reports from media and human rights organisations, the women are subjected to torture and sexual violence after being accused of working with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

This includes participating and voting in elections held in the semi-autonomous region known as Rojava and documenting information about the situation in Afrin or sharing such information with outside sources.

The Missing Afrin Women Project believes that about a third of the 161 kidnapped have been released from captivity, with the whereabouts of the others unknown.

Reports from the region and interviews with survivors suggest that torture, cruel and degrading treatment as well as sexual and gender-based violence are pervasive and systemic.

“We were dozens of kidnapped women of different ages, among us were minor girls, who were always raped; one of them, named Zaloukh, died from heavy bleeding after being raped,” one survivor said.

She explained how the women were transported blindfolded in the night, with the jihadists threatening to execute them. 

“Many of the abductees committed suicide, and others were killed in cold blood, their bodies thrown in the forests near the villages in Azaz, Al-Bab, Afrin and Jarabulus,” she said. 

Others have been accused of witchcraft or collusion with the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), with jihadists demanding large ransoms from their families.

As reported in the Morning Star in May a “torture camp” was discovered in Afrin, where mainly Kurdish and Yazidi women were held by militia from the Hamza Division.

Footage circulating on social media appeared to show the women being tortured and stripped naked in the camps, amid allegations of rape and sexual abuse.

The international community, including the United Nations, has been accused of complicity in the war crimes committed in northern Syria due to inaction.

Europe-wide Kurdish women’s rights organisation TJK-E argued that “the international institutions which remain silent on the atrocities committed in front of the world are as responsible for this brutality as Turkey.”

As many as 300,000 people have been internally displaced since Turkey’s invasion and subsequent occupation of Afrin. Nato’s second-largest army launched its assault in January 2018, allied with multiple jihadist organisations.

Syrian Democratic Council spokeswoman Ilham Ahmed warned of a Turkish project to change the demography of the region and obliterate its historical Kurdish identity.

The Missing Afrin Women Project map and database will be updated with new cases as they occur and as information about earlier incidents is published.  Please click here to view the data.

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