On Monday, a group of women displaced from Afrin, northwestern Syria, and their supporters gathered in front of the UN headquarters to demand that the United Nations take action regarding the Turkish state’s violations against women in Afrin.
The Turkish state and its affiliated armed opposition groups invaded Afrin in October 2018, and have been occupying the region since the time. Turkish armed forces and opposition militants loyal to Turkey have been accused of carrying out various types of violations, including theft, kidnapping, torture, and murder, against the indigenous Kurdish population of the region.
The women gathered in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters in Qamishli, northeastern Syria, and read out their demands to the UN in Kurdish and Arabic.
The crowd held up pictures of victims of Turkish violations in Afrin, including that of Hevrin Khalaf, who was murdered and had her body mutilated by Turkish-backed militants on the M4 highway in October last year. Participants also raised signs in Kurdish Arabic, English, and French, which included the phrases “UN, where are you?”, and “UN stop Turkish crime”, in addition to olive branches, which are a commonly-used symbol of the olive-rich Afrin region. After the letter was read, the crowd chanted “Long live the Afrin resistance” and “Without Afrin, there is no life” in Kurdish.
Gulistan Sido, chair of Public Relations for Rojava University and herself a former resident of Afrin, discussed the women’s demands for the UN, stating that “we want international powers to put pressure on Turkey to leave Afrin, along with their armed groups, and we also demand that these [armed opposition groups] are placed on the international terror list.”
The letter demanded information about and the release of women detained by the Turkish occupation, the formation of an international committee to investigate the violations and prosecute the perpetrators, and the allowance of media organizations to enter the Afrin region and document the reality of the occupation. The letter also called for the expulsion of extremist groups and their classification as terrorist organizations as well as the return of displaced people to their homes.
After the reading of the letter, Emina Sido, a displaced former resident of Afrin, strongly condemned the silence of humanitarian organizations to North-Press, saying, “You say, ‘we are humanitarian organizations’…where are your human rights? What have you done for Afrin?”
After the letter, which was addressed to the Secretary-General of the UN, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the chair of the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, was read, it was handed over to the UN offices.