Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s human rights violations against Syrian civilians come amid increased indications that Turkey is stepping up its involvement in the civil war in Libya. According to some reports, Erdogan continues to assist “mercenaries” and Syrian militiamen heading to Libya to participate in the fighting between the warring parties there. Pictured: Erdogan (right) meets with Fayez al-Sarraj, the leader of one the two rival governments that control Libya, on June 4, 2020 in Ankara, Turkey. (Photo by Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is committing “horrific violations” against civilians in northern Syria, according to a report in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al-Roeya on August 30.
As a result of these violations, a million civilians living in the area, parts of which are controlled by Turkey, are facing “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”
Arab political analysts and human rights advocates who spoke to Al-Roeya said that the Turkish regime, about a month ago, cut off the water supply to the residents of the region, where the temperature in August easily reaches more than 39° Celsius (103° Fahrenheit). It is a move, they said, that “amounts to crimes against humanity.” They called for launching an international investigation into Erdogan’s violations and “crimes.”
Syrian political activists said that Erdogan’s “filthy war” comes as a punishment for the residents of the city because they live under the administration of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which Ankara considers its enemy.
According to Hawar News Agency (headquartered in Al-Hasakah, Syria), the Turkish authorities have been in control of the areas of Ras Al-Ayn and Tell Abyad since last October. The area includes the Alouk water station, which used to supply the city of Al-Hasakah and its environs with water.
Since the occupation of Ras Al-Ayn, the Turkish authorities have stopped pumping water from the Alouk station eight times, depriving more than a million people of water and threatening a humanitarian catastrophe there, especially in wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Syrian lawyer and human rights activist Khaled Ibrahim said that cutting water to nearly a million people in the city of Al-Hasakah comes as a continuation of Ankara’s hostile policies in northeastern Syria.
Ibrahim pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic requires hygiene measures to prevent it from spreading. “The civilians are being punished by Turkey, which is fighting the aspirations of the Syrian people and committing war crimes against humanity,” he said.
Human rights activists in the region, Ibrahim added, have been documenting Turkish crimes against civilians in order to hold the Turkish authorities to account for their crimes.
Political analyst Mayyar Shehadeh said that Turkey is “pouring gasoline on the fire and exploiting the state of weakness in the Middle East to extend its influence.”
Shehadeh added that the Erdogan regime is trying to “flirt with the Sunni Muslims in the region to have them submit to its control and use them in the war against the Shiites and the Kurds.”
He pointed out that although the European Union has objected to Erdogan’s “provocations”, it has not taken any effective action to stop him from pursuing his violations against the civilians in northern Syria.
Egyptian lawyer and human rights expert Saeed Abdel Hafez said that the occupying Turkish authorities “continue to blackmail about a million citizens (of Al-Hasakah) by cutting off the water supply — a crime against humanity that requires an urgent investigation by the United Nations bodies to protect civilians.”
Another report in the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi about the situation along the Turkey-Syria border revealed that Turkish troops in recent years have killed 464 Syrian civilians, including 59 women and 87 children under the age of 18.
“Ankara has switched from a pledge to return the Syrians to their country to the shooting of any Syrian trying to approach the border separation wall between Turkey and Syria,” according to the report.
“In recent months, incidents of violations, including beatings, insults, and racial discrimination, outside the framework of the law and international treaties on the rights of the displaced, have increased almost daily… The Syrians are subjected to beating and insults, and at the end of their detention period they are deported to Syria, with the revocation of temporary protection cards for refugees.”
The report also revealed that Syrian refugees held in Turkish detention centers do not get any meal within two days of their detention and are forced to drink water from bathrooms.
“Prison guards take turns insulting the detainees as they enter the prison. The detainees are beaten for trivial reasons, such as looking at the guards. In addition, there are recurring reports that the Turkish soldiers steal the belongings and money of the displaced Syrians caught at the border.”
Erdogan’s human rights violations against Syrian civilians come amid increased indications that Turkey is stepping up its involvement in the civil war in Libya. According to some reports, Erdogan continues to assist “mercenaries” and Syrian militiamen heading to Libya to participate in the fighting between the warring parties there. Ankara deliberately attracted elements from the Syrian border into Turkish territory and then to Libya to fight alongside the militia of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Maj. Gen. Ahmad Al-Mismari, spokesman of the Libyan National Army (which is fighting against the Turkish-backed GNA), said last week that the Turkish armed forces are using four military bases in Libya:
“Turkey has both air and naval bases in Misrata. One of the largest naval military bases in Libya-Khoms – is also under control of Turkey, as well as the Al-Watiya airbase, where the Turkish air forces are deployed with its personnel and equipment.”
In July, Al-Mismari disclosed that Turkey was also involved in smuggling mercenaries from Libya to Europe, specifically Italy. “There are about a thousand Syrians who fled via Zuwara and Sabratha towards Europe,” he said. He warned Europe against the escalation of illegal immigration across the Mediterranean, and indicated that this migration may not be innocent: there may be terrorist elements among them that cause unrest in Europe.
Recently, Al-Mismari accused Erdogan of “exploiting the poverty of some Syrian youths” to recruit them as mercenaries in the civil war in Libya.
On September 5, Egyptian journalist Mohammed Musa revealed that intelligence reports suggest that Erdogan is involved with the Islamic terror group Al-Qaeda “as part of a scheme to destroy the region and control its resources.” Intelligence documents obtained by Musa showed that Erdogan was in contact with the Al-Qaeda-linked Ben Ali terror group, headed by Abdel Azim Musa Ben Ali.
After the announcement of the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Erdogan threatened to pull back his ambassador from Abu Dhabi in protest of the deal. “The move against Palestine is not a step that can be stomached,” Erdogan said. The thirst-ravaged Syrian civilians near the border with Turkey and the victims of the civil war in Libya, however, do not seem to be worried about the Israel-UAE deal. Erdogan’s victims want to see him held to account for his crimes against innocent civilians.
According to Costas Mavrides, a Cypriot member of the European Parliament and committee chair at The Union for the Mediterranean:
“In modern neo-Ottoman Turkey, government officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ministers, make statements with complete contempt for international and European Union law while dissenting voices are silenced or persecuted… The spirit of conquest is dominant in the modern Turkish political scene and their regional interventions. Rooted in the Ottoman ‘law of the sword’ – or the idea that the conqueror can rule a conquered country or territory according to his desires – Turkey has returned to its Ottoman ambitions.”
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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