Download the full report here.

In July of 2021, the US treasury sanctioned Turkish-backed SNA faction Ahrar al-Sharqiya and two of its leaders, Ahmad Ihsan Fayyad (Abu Hatem Shaqra) and Raed Jassim Al-Hayes (Abu Jaafer Shaqra) under Executive Order 13894. According to the US treasury , “Ahrar al-Sharqiya has committed numerous crimes against civilians, particularly Syrian Kurds, including unlawful killings, abductions, torture, and seizures of private property. The group has also incorporated former Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) members into its ranks.” Furthermore, the sanction notice asserted that the group is responsible for the, “unlawful killing of Hevrin Khalaf, a Kurdish politician and Secretary General of the political party Future Syria, as well as her bodyguard in October 2019.” The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has identified these two murders as a possible war crime, but to date there has been no international criminal accountability.

Ahrar al-Sharqiya, is one of Turkey’s key proxies on the ground in the areas they occupy in Northern Syria, operating under the banner of the ‘Syrian National Army’ (SNA). This report provides a closer look at Ahrar al-Sharqiya’s conduct and will illustrate how Turkey uses its proxy SNA forces against the civilian population in the regions it has occupied, while keeping responsibility for crimes at arms length.

The report highlights:

– Ahrar al-Sharqiya’s origin story and detailed information about it’s leadership including the persons of Ahmad Ihsan Fayyad (Abu Hatem Shaqra) and Raed Jassim Al-Hayes (Abu Jaafer Shaqra) as well as their camera man al-Hareth Raba
– Ahrar al-Sharqiya’s intimate relationship with Turkey as a part of the SNA structure, as well as the faction’s relationships with other SNA militias
– Crimes committed by Ahrar al-Sharqiya against the civilian population, including murder, kidnapping (including of women and children), displacement, extortion and the recruitment of minors.

The international community can play a role in redressing the human rights abuses committed in the occupied regions by Ahrar al-Sharqiya and other SNA militias, at the behest of the Turkish military and government. Concretely, this would mean:

– Formally acknowledging Turkish occupation of Syrian territory
– Working to prevent Turkey from conducting further attacks on NES
– Seeking criminal accountability for the conduct of occupying forces through the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, especially in regards to the murder of Hevrin Khalaf
– And finally, investigating Turkish command and control of SNA factions for criminal accountability