Fighting in northwest Syria is in a tailspin, as Turkish forces shoot at fleeing civilians and mutilate US-backed forces

  • Fighting between Turkish forces and US-backed SDF fighters in Syria’s Afrin province is getting more dire.
  • Reports and videos have emerged of Turkish forces mutilating YPG fighters and shooting at fleeing civilians.
  • YPG fighters have also taken out multiple Turkish tanks and armoured vehicles.

The war between Turkish forces and US-backed SDF fighters in northwest Syria’s Afrin province appears to be in a tailspin.

Turkish forces have reportedly killed more than a hundred civilians, mutilated US-backed SDF fighters, and even indiscriminately shot at displaced civilians attempting to flee into Turkey.

Ankara launched a massive ground and air campaign, codenamed “Olive Branch,” against the US-backed SDF forces in Afrin on January 20 in response to the US’s announcement that it would train and maintain a 30,000-strong, predominately Kurdish force in the region.

Turkey views the Kurdish YPG as a terrorist organisation and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a deadly, decades-long insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

But in the last two weeks, Turkish forces have made only limited gains in Afrin, as SDF fighters, including the YPG and all-women YPJ, appear to have put up rather stiff resistance.

At least 20 videos have surfaced showing YPG forces targeting, and in many instances destroying, invading Turkish tanks and armoured vehicles with anti-tank guided missile systems. Freelance journalist Aris Roussinos compiled a Twitter thread of those videos here.

Gains made by Turkish forces in Syria's Afrin in first two weeks of campaign.Force AnalysisGains made by Turkish forces in Syria’s Afrin in first two weeks of campaign.

On Saturday, YPG fighters killed seven Turkish soldiers, including five in one attack on a tank, according to The Guardian.

SDF fighters have also responded with occasional rocket fire across the border into Turkey, according to The Washington Post. Last week, one of those attacks killed a teenage girl and wounded another civilian in Turkish town of Reyhanli.

But these attacks appear to have only incensed Turkish forces.

A number of graphic videos have appeared on social media showing Turkish-backed rebels mutilating dead YPG fighters.

On Thursday, videos emerged showing Turkish-backed rebels kicking the dead corpse of a female YPG fighter named Barin Kobani and discussing whether she was attractive after stripping off her clothes and cutting off her breasts.

A YPJ spokeswoman told AFP that Kobani three other female fighters were battling Turkish-backed forces, refused to withdraw, and “fought until death.”

“I swear to God, we’ll avenge you,” Kobani’s brother, 30-year-old Aref Mustafa Omar, cried out at her funeral on Saturday, AFP reported.

Barin Kobane YPJ SyriaYPGBarin Kobane.

Another incredibly graphic video appeared on Twitter on Monday apparently showing Turkish forces kicking and stepping on the body of a dead male YPG fighter.

These disturbing instances have coincided with a Human Rights Watch report released on Saturday saying that Turkish border guards are indiscriminately shooting at civilians trying to flee Afrin and returning the asylum-seekers.

Turkish border guards are also reportedly beating detained asylum-seekers and refusing them medical care, Human Rights Watch reported. Between December 15 and January 22, more than 247,000 Syrians in Afrin were displaced to the border, according to the UN.

On Sunday, thousands of people reportedly gathered in the Afrin town of Kobane and are currently travelling to the city of Afrin in support.

Kurds in other countries around the world, such as Lebanon and Germany, are also protesting Turkey’s operations in Afrin.

Turkey itself has even detained nearly 600 people for social-media posts criticising the invasion, according to Reuters.

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