Shocking Claims: Kurdish Women Kidnapped, Sold as Sex Slaves

Tulay Hatimogullari, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, filed a parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday, destined to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, over the allegations that hundreds of Kurdish women and girls have been kidnapped in northern Syria by Turkish-backed militias and taken to Libya to be sold as sex slaves.

The shocking claims recently made headlines with the Afrin Report news network, which revealed the testimonies of survivors from the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin about hospitals full of the corpses of kidnapped women and girls who were being accused of supporting terrorism.

Hatimogullari asked Cavusoglu whether the claims that Kurdish women from Afrin were being kidnapped via Turkey were true.

“Are you investigating the claims that girls and women from Afrin were sent to Libya as slaves? Is your ministry aware of the sexual assaults in the camps and prisons in Afrin? Will you take the steps necessary to deal with these violations of rights? Will you conduct coordinated activities with international organizations in this regard?” she inquired.

Hatimogullari, who became the first lawmaker to bring the case to the Turkish domestic agenda, emphasized Turkey’s judicial responsibility and complicity regarding these allegations that concern the criminal acts of Turkey-backed rebels.

While some women witnessed torture in the northern Syrian camps, other women held as prisoners were allegedly abused and raped by the mercenaries.

As the Kurdish women’s cries for help mostly fall on deaf ears, their situation recalled that of the thousands of Yazidi women from Sinjar in Iraqi Kurdistan who were abducted, raped, murdered and enslaved by Daesh six years ago.

The details about the allegations are regularly documented under the Missing Afrin Women Project that is tracking the kidnappings and disappearances of Kurdish women and girls in Afrin since 2018. The project features an interactive map displaying the name of the individual, the date and location of the incident, the armed group responsible and whether the relevant individual has been reported released.

On the basis of testimonials, hundreds of Kurdish girls were kidnapped and taken to Turkey through military crossing points at the Syrian-Turkish border to be sold as sex slaves to Qatari traders and sent back to Libya.

Turkey and Qatar opened this month a hospital for women and children in Afrin.

Since last year, human rights groups have been expressing concerns over the increasing abuses against civilians in Afrin.

In total, more than 1,000 women and girls are believed to be missing only in Afrin following Turkey’s two-month-long Operation Olive Branch two years ago that ousted the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the region.

The operation was criticized by the international community as an attempt at demographic change and forced displacement.

Ankara considers the Kurdish YPG as part of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in a more than three-decade-long war against the Turkish state. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

In February 2019, the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released an assessment report about the human rights situation in Afrin.

“The commission finds there are reasonable grounds to believe that armed group members in Afrin committed the war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment, torture, and pillage,” the report said.

“Numerous cases involving arbitrary arrests and detentions by armed group members also included credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment, often targeting individuals of Kurdish origin, including activists openly critical of armed groups and those perceived to be so,” the UN report added.

In November 2020, the US Department of State Lead Inspector General for Operation Inherent Resolve released a report covering the period between July and September 2020.

The report indicated that the US Department of State is “deeply concerned by reports that Turkish supported opposition groups engaged in ‘gross violations of human rights and violations of the law of armed conflict’ in northeast Syria,” including murder, torture, rape and kidnapping, among others.

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