Kurds in Conflict-Ridden Northeastern Syria Turn to Kidnapping, Conscription, ISIS-like Tactics
Independent journalist Sarah Abed speaks with Assyrian Christians
about the systematic discrimination and human rights violations they
often face in the Kurdish enclaves of northern Syria.
TRADUZIONE SU VIETATOPARLARE.IT
AL QAMISHLI, SYRIA (War Report) —
Over the past few weeks, multiple independent on-the-ground sources
have provided and corroborated information regarding disturbing events
taking place in and around the Al Hassakah governorate in northeastern
One of the most startling allegations made is that the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
have been arresting and kidnapping men aged 18 to 40 in the Al Hassakah
governorate, which includes Al Qamishli and other towns under their
control. They are taking these men against their will to Kurdish militia
training camps, where they will stay for some time and receive training
before being forced to fight in the so-called “New Syrian Army” or
“North Syrian Army.” I was told that some of these men are being taken
to the front lines to fight in Afrin as well.
According to RT, in late December:
Russia’s Reconciliation Center for Syria
issued a statement accusing the U.S.-led coalition of creating the
so-called ‘New Syrian Army.’ The group comprises remnants of Islamic
State (IS, formerly ISIS), the Al-Nusra Front and others, and is based
at a refugee camp in north-east Syria, which is located 20 kilometers
from Al-Shaddadah town. Local refugees, returning to areas freed from
IS, say the refugee camp has been used by the coalition as a training
ground for militants for over six months.”
Surge in kidnapping by Kurdish YPG and Asayesh
Eddie Gaboro Hanna — founder of Patriarchal Relief Care Australia, a
group that provides aid to Christian families impacted by wars in Syria
and Iraq — stated on January 20th, that a few days prior:
The Kurds started a new operation [whereby] they are
taking young Christian boys by force to sign them up for the Kurdish
military & send them to the front line at Afrin where a new battle
has just commenced with Turkey on the border. … I’m with Sootoro now. That’s who I stay with — the good Sootoro
of course, not the Kurdish one (Sutoro). Pretty much the Christians are
treated as second-class citizens [here] in their own land. … Just like
how ISIS has the Islamic tax they have their own Kurdish one. They’ve
In late January I was able to question Eddie in detail about his role and his view of these events:
Sarah Abed (SA): Can you tell me about yourself, your mission, and why you are in Syria?
Eddie Gaboro Hanna (EGH): I’m the founder of
Patriarchal Relief Care Australia. For the past five years I’ve been
organizing fundraising events and sending funds to our Patriarchal
diocese in Damascus, to be dispersed to the most needy Christians
suffering in war zones in Syria and Iraq.
I’m now on my second aid mission to Syria and am working on projects
such as repairing damaged and bombed homes of displaced families, in
hopes they can return to their homes. I’m also aiding over 400 orphans
and over 160 widows, as well as purchasing and supplying medical
equipment, allowances and supplies to ill and disabled children.
I made a documentary called “Tears of Another Genocide” to help raise
awareness and show the world the persecution and genocide against
Christians in the Syrian war.
Watch | Tears of Another Genocide – Official Trailer
SA: How long have you been in Syria during this trip?
EGH: I’ve been in Syria for exactly five weeks now.
SA: What areas have you visited during your trip thus far?
EGH: I visited Damascus, Saydnaya, Maloula, Homs and
villages in the province of Homs, Sadad, Aleppo, Qamishli, Hassakeh,
SA: Did you receive protection from Sootoro or the SAA? If so in what areas? What type of protection?
EGH: Sootoro, as in the Christian Sootoro not the
pro-Kurdish fake Sutoro, picked me up and accommodated me for a week in
northern Syria. In every other part of Syria I was in, which were all
under the control of the SAA (Syrian Arab Army), I didn’t need any
protection — only in the Kurdish (controlled) areas of Northern Syria I
SA: Have you received any threats while in Syria?
EGH: No, I haven’t received any threats.
SA: Has your life ever been in danger while in Syria? If so where, why, and by whom?
EGH: Yes, my life was in serious danger New Year’s
Eve in the Christian town of Bab Toma. I was outside among thousands in a
crowd celebrating New Year’s Eve and at exactly 12:02, just past
midnight, the Free Syrian Army started firing mortar shells and one
landed approximately 30 to 50 meters from me killing two Christians that
Watch | Civilians flee mortar fire, video provided by Eddie Hanna
SA: What do Syrians want foreigners to know about the war in Syria?
EGH: Syrians want the
foreigners to know that it was never a revolution nor a peaceful
protest, because in 2009, two years before the war, the terrorists
started digging tunnels and stashing massive arms preparing for this
SA: What are some of the complaints you’ve heard from Syrians?
EGH: Non-Kurds are
treated as second-class citizens by the Kurds. They are forced to pay
special taxes simply because they are non-Kurds. Christian homes have been confiscated.
Kurds write on the homes that this property now belongs to the Kurds,
exactly like how ISIS writes on homes they take. Syrians complain more
about America and the Kurds than anything else. America funded the
opposition who started the war and destroyed over a hundred thousand
Christian homes, and they’ve also funded the Kurds, who are oppressing
the non-Kurds and even some Kurds who disagree with their political
Eddie told me that he had “recorded a video of the writing they wrote
on the wall of an Armenian home, exactly like how ISIS writes on the
properties of Christians when they confiscate them.”
Watch | Christian property in Qamishlis seized by Kurdish forces, video provided by Eddie Hanna
In a more official rendering of the experiences Eddie recounted a World Council of Arameans press release, titled “Kurdish YPG / Asayesh Forces Kidnapped More Aramean Christians in Northeast Syria,” which states:
Local Christian sources, fearing for their lives and
speaking on condition of anonymity to the World Council of Arameans
(WCA), report that they are facing more and more harassments from the
Kurdish YPG and Asayesh (security forces).
On Friday, 19 January, the first grave human rights violations of the
new year included the abduction of seven Christians — four Armenians
and three Arameans (otherwise known as Syriacs). Nevertheless, following
intense negotiations, all of them were released except for the 20-year
young Aramean, Saliba A., who was snatched in daylight out of his shop
in Qamishli by the Asayesh.
After the threat of ISIS, the current wish of the Arameans is for the
nationalist Kurds to leave them, their organizations, schools, churches
and their self-defense of Sootoro in peace. The Aramean-led Sootoro
even includes Arabs, who are also being seized by the Asayesh and
enrolled by the YPG.”
Deteriorating conditions in “controlled” Kurdish areas
from Kurdish popular defense units YPJ (women) and YPG (men) gather
during a short break before heading out to fight for new positions in
Syria. According to Amnesty International, U.S.-backed Kurdish forces
have forcefully displaced thousands of Syrian civilians, mostly Arabs,
and demolished villages in northern Syria, often in retaliation for the
residents’ perceived sympathies for ISIS and other militants, Oct. 13,
2015. (AP/Jake Simkin)
Eddie and Qamishli resident Samer, a
reliable local source, provided me with further insight into
on-the-ground conditions and human rights violations they witnessed in
Syria. These included soaring real-estate prices as wealthy Kurds buy up
as much property that they can get their hands on, often paying the
owners double the property’s value.
Read the Amnesty International Report on Kurdish war crimes in northern Syria
Kurds are able to offer more for these properties due to illegal
control of Syrian industry – including the oil, transportation,
financial sectors — imposing unlawful taxes, and charging fees for
everyday things such as renewing licenses or carrying out normal
business activities. If one wants to sell a certain good, they are
directed to a Kurd who is in charge of collecting a tax on that
particular good. They are doing this for almost everything and the local
population is suffering as a result.
Eddie went on to say:
YPG, PYD, SDF, MSF, they
are all the same. The SDF have aligned themselves with the Free Syrian
Army who openly work side by side with Jabhat Al Nusra [Al Qaeda]. The
Kurd[ish militias] have recruited ex-ISIS members.”
I explained that when I had written about the connections between Daesh/ISIS and Kurdish militias, some people were shocked by the association, he responded: “It’s not shocking when you remember the Kurds were the ISIS of 1915, except they slaughtered Christians on a much larger scale then.”
Much of Kurdish culture is borrowed
from Assyrians, Armenians, and Aramean culture. In fact, much of the
land in Eastern Turkey that the Kurds now claim once belonged to
Armenians. It is hardly surprising, then, that the Kurds assisted in the
Turkish genocide of Assyrians and the 1915 genocide of Armenians.
Eddie told me that the taxes being
charged are similar to what ISIS was forcing civilians to pay in areas
it controlled. Samer stated that the prices of food, clothing, etc., are
about 25 percent higher than in other governorates in the country, such
as in Damascus. Electricity is scarce; people are using generators and
have noticed a lot of cars without licence plates. He said it has become
a “military society.” Education is also being negatively affected.
Samer went on to say “guns are everywhere; people are buying guns like
Property theft by Kurdish militias persists
who fled ISIS cook next to a trench created by Kurdish forces to
demarcate their border, as they wait to cross to the Kurdish areas, in
the Nineveh plain, northeast of Mosul. The sand berms and trenches snake
across northern Iraq into Syria, alongside newly paved roads and
sprawling checkpoints decked with Kurdish flags, in what increasingly
resembles an international border. (AP/Hussein Malla)
Eddie Gaboro Hanna told me: “They [the Kurdish militias] are still taking land and property from Christians by force and charging the Christian businesses a tax.” They are also destroying historical sites and claiming Assyrian artifacts
to be Kurdish in origin. Historical revisionism is taking place, and
the indigenous people are crying out for the world to stop these
An article by reporter Paul Antonopoulos, originally published by the website Fort Russ and republished by AINA, states:
Reports of ethnic cleansing have been consistent in areas
controlled by the SDF/YPG, with Arab villages entirely evacuated and
re-inhabited by Kurdish settlers.
In the most recent case, … Tabqa, a
city made up primarily of Arab Sunnis and a small Christian Assyrian
minority, has seen SDF tyranny continue since they captured the site
from ISIS in May 2017. Houses that were emptied by people escaping the
fighting and SDF rule have seen their houses confiscated and taken over
by the SDF-controlled Tabqa Council.
The Tabqa Council says that the newly vacant homes are to be given to the families of SDF fighters who have died in battle.”
Kurdish independence has been falsely
portrayed as an ethno-religious, democratic, feminist, revolutionary
cause by mainstream and even some alternative media outlets. However,
these media sources completely ignore facts and realities that
contradict the romanticized version being publicly displayed. A point
they often disregard is that the Kurds are not the original inhabitants
of the lands that they now claim. Assyrians, Aramaeans,
Armenians and other Christian minority groups are indigenous to the
Levant. Aramaic, the language spoken by Arameans, dates back 3,000 years
and is the language that Jesus Christ spoke. Many members of the Syriac
Orthodox church still speak Aramaic and it’s an important component of
their religious liturgy.
Read more by Sarah Abed
War Report: An Interview With War Correspondent Ali Musawi On The Kurdish Referendum
Amidst Universal Opposition To KRG Referendum, Israel Stands By Kurds
A History Of Violence – The Myth Of The Moderate Kurdish Rebel
The Kurdish Connection: Israel, ISIS And U.S. Efforts To Destabilize Iran
A popular misconception that is
regularly touted by Kurdish sources is that they are the largest
stateless group of people in the world. However, that title belongs to
the Tamil people, an ancient ethnic group in South Asia who mainly
reside in India and Sri Lanka. With a population of over 79 million, the Tamils are double the size of the Kurdish population. Their written history dates back 2,000 years.
Adam Garrie writes in his Eurasia Future article:
The conflict in Syria has brought to light the reality
that Kurdish terrorists threaten the sovereignty and territorial unity
of both Turkey and the Syrian Arab Republic. It has been well documented
that on Syrian territory, [in] the illegal Kurdish regime of “Rojava,” Arabs are particularly discriminated against. Arabs are often forced to pay extremely high prices for basic goods, which are sold cheaply to local Kurds.
Kurdish authorities have illegally changed the names of Arab towns,
villages, and cities in an attempt to acculturate Arab culture from
locations in an internationally recognized Arab state. The most infamous
instance of this acculturation is the unilateral refusal of Kurdish
extremists to use the name Ayn al-Arab for the city they pushed the
world to call “Kobani.”
Human rights violations
and blatant discrimination against non-Kurds and even some Kurds by
Kurdish militias and Kurdish security forces need to end. Samer told me
that his best friend is a Syrian Kurd and is staunchly opposed to the
notion of a Kurdish federation or autonomy in Syria. Due to his repeated
vocal opposition to any plans to weaken and divide Syria, Samer’s
friend has received threats to immediately cease his public opposition
or he will be forced to leave Al Qamishli. His family received visitors
that relayed the same message. Speaking up against Kurdish militias has
become a very dangerous act for Kurds and non-Kurds alike.
Syrians will not accept the formation of a federalization and are
patiently awaiting political negotiations to take place. As I stated in a
Kurds throughout the Middle East have vigorously pursued their goals
through a multitude of groups. While some Kurds established legitimate
political parties and organizations in efforts to promote Kurdish rights
and freedom, others have waged armed struggles. Some, like the Turkish
PKK, have employed guerrilla tactics and terror attacks that have
targeted civilians, including their fellow Kurds.
For the United States, the Kurdish cause has always been a ploy in
order to carry out its formidable foreign interventionist strategy.
Without its Kurdish “allies” the United States would not be able to
establish its illegal military bases and thereby have a presence in the
region. The northeastern region of Syria is the most oil/gas and
agriculturally rich region in the country, which adds to its
significance and geopolitical importance.
In addition to fueling perpetual war and conflict in the Middle East,
the U.S. is using its strategic presence to assist its number one
regional ally, “Israel,” and to keep an eye on its proclaimed adversary,
Iran. With its plans exposed, anyone who still believes the U.S.’s
claims of foreign intervention due to humanitarian motives is being
willfully ignorant of the hard facts.
Top Photo | Kurdish fighters move to a secured point in northern Syria. (Photo: Jake Simkin/AP)
Sarah Abed is an independent journalist and
political commentator, covering a broad range of issues relating to the
Syrian war, Kurdish issues in Iraq and Syria, as well as U.S policy in
the Middle East. She appears frequently in international media and
speaks at universities. See more of her work at her personal blog: The Rabbit Hole.