Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International Lama Fakih told Radio Sputnik that the Syrian Kurdish political party Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (PYD) may be perpetrating crimes against residents in northern villages of Syria.
The conclusion is based on the evidence by local residents from Syrian provinces of Hasakeh and Raqqa which Amnesty experts visited this summer.
“We conducted an investigation in July and August as well as investigations in neighboring…and the individuals that we spoke with came from different towns and villages in both Afghan and Iraq so we know we are not talking just about isolated incidents,” Fakih reported.
According to their report, the fighters of the People’s Protection Units, also known as the YPG, have forced thousands of people from their homes in those areas.
“And what we’ve seen is that in territories once occupied by ISIS and now taken over by YPG with assistance of the US-led coalition forces, that civilians have been displaced and in some cases have been demolished,” senior adviser added.
Amongst the most shocking revelations was the extent of the destruction in the village of Husseiniya, Fakih cited residents as saying, while adding that civilians were threatened with airstrikes from the US-led coalition, if they did not leave.
“When we visited it (the village), it was clear that every home in the village except for one has been destroyed. And the destruction was apparent from the site of the damage that we saw and that was not done from shelling,” Fakih outlined.
“We were able to speak with some residents who remain behind in the local school and they explained to us what they saw happen, and in some cases residents were in the village when the YPG came in and forced them out and then began burning the village,” she stressed.
Amnesty International asked YPG to comment on the allegations, but have not yet received a response.
While discussing how the civilians can be protected, Fakih said “We are calling on the YPG to stop all forcible displacements and demolitions of civilian properties."
“Individuals that ordered or carried out such demolitions should be held accountable for perpetrating those crimes… civilians should be compensated for what they have lost,” she said.
Amnesty International has called on the US-led coalition to ensure that future assistance is used not against the civilian population.
The group is also accused of razing entire villages after recapturing them from the Islamic State. Amnesty researchers suggest that it could have been done in retaliation for the residents’ perceived ties and sympathies with ISIL.
“Residents told us that in some cases the YPD used the threat of US-led coalition airstrikes to get them to leave their homes. Clearly, this is the misuse of any kind of coordination of the US coalition. These individuals should not be forced to leave their homes in retaliation,” Fakih said.
However, the YPG dismissed these allegations, stating that civilians were moved out of areas for their own protection.
Amnesty quoted many residents as saying that their villages had not been close to the front lines.
The senior adviser said that perpetrators could be brought to justice very soon.
“In many cases civilians that we spoke to know the individuals…the commanders that were members of YPD or PPU and we are happy to share that information with authorities so they can begin their investigation,” said Fakih.
The probability the YPG will be brought to justice is considered quite high.
“We do have previous experience in working with a few PYD-led governments in which they have taken allegations of rights abuse seriously,” stated Fakih.
The organization has already called on the Kurds to stop demolishing civilian homes and compensate those who lost their property.
Fakih expressed hope that unlawful demolition of civilian homes would not be repeated, and that those who are responsible would be taken into account and all civilians would be compensated.