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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Reality of Ethnic Cleansing and Kurdish displacement in Syria.

The Reality of Ethnic Cleansing and Kurdish State in Syria.(Yadaliyya).

In the past weeks several Syrian,Arab media outlets reported charges of ethnic cleansing against Arab and Turkmen residents of Tell Abyad on the hands of Kurdish militias. These charges were later picked up and circulated by various international media outlets and have now come to be accepted as fact despite a lack of a full investigation and dubious evidence. The result has been further cementing the idea that there is a zero-sum conflict between Kurds and Arabs in Syria.

While charges of ethnic cleansing should be taken seriously and an independent investigation should verify these accounts, this article will shed some light on what took place in Tell Abyad to provide an alternative account to the charges of ethnic cleansing, and then place these debates within a larger context of Kurdish political struggles in the Syrian conflict as well as the desire by the current Turkish leadership to exacerbate Arab-Kurdish divisions.

What the current charges of ethnic cleansing of Arabs and Turkmen at the hands of Kurds miss is the actually documented ethnic cleansing of Kurds in Tell Abyad at the hands of some elements of the Free Syrian Army which continued at the hands of ISIS.

Since July 2013 Kurds as well as the Armenians, were forced to leave their houses in Tell Abyad and its vicinity towards the Turkish border, and their properties were looted. The Armenian Church in the city was destroyed by groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army during the offensive and the destruction continued at the hands of ISIS. The city and its rural districts were mostly cleansed of the Kurdish population.

The deliberate displacement of the Kurdish population has been documented in a report presented to the United Nations on February 12, 2014. This report titled, “Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,[i]” A/HRC/25/65 actually shows how ethnic cleansing of Kurds took place not just by ISIS but also by groups affiliated by the FSA frequently labeled as ‘moderate’ or ‘revolutionary’ by the media. According to the Independent Commission of Inquiry’s report[ii], which documented the violations against the Kurds in Tell Abyad, Raqqa, Tell Aran and Tell Hassel (in Aleppo):

The pattern of conduct perpetrated by non-State armed groups in Ar Raqqah and Aleppo in July [2013] indicates a coordinated and planned campaign to forcibly displace Kurdish civilians. The methods employed, the threat of violence and subsequent abductions demonstrate the deliberate displacement of a population on the basis of its ethnic identity. Such conduct amounts to the war crime of forcible displacement. Hmmmm.......Ethnic cleansing is a Turkish specialty......just ask the Armenians. Read the full story here.

[i] The Independent Commission of Inquiry provided detailed account about the violations against the Kurdish population:

E. Arbitrary and forcible displacement

1. Government forces and pro-government militia

144. By launching indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombardment and shelling, the Government has caused large-scale arbitrary displacement. In doing so, it has failed in its obligations under international human rights law to protect civilians from such displacement. It has failed to comply with its duties under international humanitarian law to provide displaced civilians with shelter, hygiene, health, safety and nutrition and to ensure that members of the same family are not separated.

2. Non-State armed groups

145. Two instances of forcible displacement by armed groups, as defined under international humanitarian law, were documented.

146. On 20 July, ISIS, Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Al-Sakhana Brigades, Saw’aiq Al-Rahman, the Ibn Taimia Brigades and Ahrar Al-Sham clashed with YPG forces in Tal Abyad (Ar Raqqah).

147. On 21 July, when YPG forces withdrew, armed groups broadcast orders from mosques in Al-Jisr, Harat Al-Leil and Hay Al Shallala neighbourhoods, instructing Kurdish civilians to leave the town or face immediate attack. Thousands of Kurdish civilians subsequently fled. Many were abducted at checkpoints encircling the area. The property of those who fled was looted and burned.

148. In Aleppo, on 28 July, clashes erupted in the Kurdish enclaves of Tal Aran and Tal Hasel between Jabhat Al-Akrad and YPG forces on the one side, and affiliated groups of Jabhat Al-Nusra, ISIS and FSA on the other. The latter groups seized control of Tal Aran, setting up checkpoints and sniper positions. Using mosque loudspeakers, armed group fighters ordered the Kurdish population to leave, under threat of violence. Thousands fled the following day.

149. On 29 July, the fighting spread to Tal Hasel, with the YPG engaging in hostilities with the above-mentioned armed groups. After short, intensive clashes, the armed groups encircled the town and conducted raids on Kurdish houses, abducting fighting-age men. Using mosque loudspeakers, the groups called Kurds “unbelievers”, declaring that “swords are between us and those who decide to stay in Tal Hasel”. Specific threats were directed against Kurdish women and children, saying that those who remained would be considered “halal for the mujahideen”.

UN Human Rights Council, Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, 12 February 2014, A/HRC/25/65, available at: [accessed 21 July 2015]

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