One woman held in an SNA black site in Afrin has been reported released. Others are still missing.

A still from a video of women held in a newly discovered detention site in Afrin.

On May 29th, video footage revealed the presence of several women in a secret prison operated by the Hamza Division, a Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) militia.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the women were initially found naked. The site was discovered after clashes erupted between SNA groups after a dispute over payment in a shop.

It is clear that these women, and others known to be in similar situations across Turkish-occupied Syria, have suffered inhumane and degrading treatment— and are at further risk as long as they remain in detention.

Reports of kidnappings, torture, and sexual violence, including rape and forced marriages, are pervasive in occupied Afrin. There has only been one known trial conducted for any SNA member related to conduct during the invasion and occupation of northern Syria.

For this reason, it is important that their cases not be ignored. Local human rights monitors have identified several of the women alleged to have been among the group detained at that site. Among these, one has been reported released, while the location of four others is still unknown.

Haifa al-Jasim (Ezdina).

Haifa al-Jasim, an Arab woman who worked as a nurse at Afrin Hospital prior to the occupation, was identified by Ezdina as one of the detainees on May 29th.

The report alleged that her father had filed a complaint with Turkish authorities about her detention, but they had denied any knowledge of her case.

Armed groups “charged” al-Jasim with “dealing with the Autonomous Administration” because of her position at the hospital, which was bombed by Turkish forces during the course of Operation Olive Branch.

Afrin Post, a local human rights monitor, quoted a relative of al-Jasim who noted that her family attempted to pay a ransom for her release:

“Haifa was kidnapped two years ago, only because she was working as a nurse in the Afrin hospital and treating patients…her father was searching for her everywhere, in Al-Ra’i, Jarablus, Azaz, and Afrin…he and her mother paid everything they had to release her…

…[The] al-Hamza militia said to her father that she was killed, but the father and mother did not believe that…the father had sold his house for four million Syrian pounds and paid it in order to find his daughter, and then he sold his cars and paid two million to the gunmen…her mother…sold her gold for two and a half million and…paid it to the gunmen, but to no [avail].”

Arin Dali Hassan (Ezdina).

Arin Dali Hassan, a Yezidi woman, was reportedly kidnapped from the village of Kimar on February 27th by a member of Hamza Division known as Abu Shaher. Ezdina identified her as one of the detainees on May 29th.

In an April interview, her brother told Rudaw that “the group that has taken her demands a ransom, a sum that we cannot afford to pay.” She has still not been reported released.

Yezidi women and girls who have been kidnapped by armed groups in Afrin this year have reportedly been tortured in custody and forced to renounce their religion.

Nadia Murad, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy for Yezidi survivors of genocide, warned in a Tweet that Yezidi women were being kidnapped by armed groups there as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Ruken Manla Tahir (Afrin Post).
A woman seen in the video of the Hamza Division black site, alleged to be Tahir.

Ruken Manla Tahir was reportedly kidnapped from Ciwêqê/Juwayq village by members of Hamza Division along with her husband, brother, and father in September of 2018. Afrin Post identified her as one of the detainees on May 31st.

Nadia Hassan Suleiman and Ahmed Rashid (Afrin Post).

Nadia Hassan Suleiman was reportedly kidnapped in 2018 along with the family she was staying with, shortly after the disappearance of her husband.

Afrin Post reported on June 10th that she was among the detainees found in Hamza Division custody.

The monitor also published a video of her mother, Zeenat Hassan Suleiman, who was displaced from Afrin to Tel Rifaat. She claimed that she had not heard anything about her daughter for two years.

“We got out of Afrin and came here to Tel Rifaat. We haven’t known anything about our daughter for two years…we do not know either about her or her husband. At first she went to her maternal uncle’s house to stay in his house until her husband Ahmed was released, but her uncle went to Aleppo and she had to go to her friend’s house to stay with her. However, an armed patrol raided the house…I hope she will be released, as I am longing to see her.”

Lonjin and Rojin Mohammed (Afrin Post).

Lonjin Mohammed and Rojin Mohammed, sisters living in Afrin city, were reported kidnapped in early summer 2018. According to the Afrin Activists Network, Lonjin was kidnapped along with her father Mohammed Khalil Abdo in June of that year. Rojin reportedly disappeared days later. The “charges” against Lonjin included possession of a driver’s license issued by the Autonomous Administration.

The Afrin Activists Network reported in November of 2018 that all three were still missing, and that nothing had been revealed about their location for four months.

On June 15th, Afrin Post reported that members of their family had identified the two women from the video of the prison. The report revealed that members of Hamza Division had previously asked the family for a ransom of 10,000 euros for the release of both women and their father.

A Rudaw interview with a relative of the two women, who is now living in Europe, noted that they have likely been transferred to Hamza Division headquarters in Basuta village. The fate of their father is still unknown.

Roshin Amouna Mohamed Amin and Abdul Aziz Hajji Mustafa (Human Rights Organization — Afrin).

Roshin Amouna Mohamed Amin was reported to to have been kidnapped kidnapped from the village of Dargirê/Dar Kabir in September 2018, along with her husband and several relatives.

The Human Rights Organization — Afrin noted in the report that she was one of the detainees seen in the video from the Hamza Division prison.

Afrin Post mentioned a woman named Roshin from that village in a list of detainees published May 31st.

Dar Kabir is located directly next to Juwayq, where Ruken Manla Tahir, also reported to have been held in the prison, was kidnapped along with several members of her family around the same time.

Two women, Khadija Hamo and Aida Jamal Zeno, were kidnapped by Hamza Division from the village in January 2020. Each was released days later on a ransom of 100,00 Syrian pounds. Syrians for Truth and Justice, a human rights monitor, noted in a report on these incidents that Hamza Division controls this area.

Newroz Anwar Bakr (Afrin Activists Network)

Newroz Anwar Bakr, a seventeen-year-old girl from Reca village in Mabata, was identified as one of the detainees by Afrin Post on May 31st. Afrin Activists Network reported that she was released in early June.