More teachers arrested in SDF raids on homes in Hasaka governorate

Feb 07, 2021

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) carried out raids on homes in Amouda city in the northern suburbs of Hasaka governorate on Saturday (February 6), arresting five teachers over their use of educational curricula which differed from that forcibly imposed by the SDF in the areas under the group’s control.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that the arrested teachers were taken to an undisclosed location, with their phones being confiscated, preventing them from contacting their families. SNHR expressed concern that the teachers would be “subjected to torture and ultimately forcibly ‘disappeared’” like many others abducted by the group, adding that at least 3,398 Syrian citizens are still detained or forcibly disappeared in the SDF’s detention centres.

The latest SDF arrests of teachers over their departure from its educational curriculum, which is centered on support for the PKK, comes after SDF personnel violently arrested dozens of teachers and students in al Derbasiya city in Hasaka governorate on January 20 for their participation in protests against the SDF’s recent arrest of other teachers for the same reason; many of the other teachers and students were brutally beaten by SDF personnel breaking up the peaceful demonstration. All those detained were taken to an undisclosed location, with their families unable to contact them due to the SDF confiscating their phones.

Saturday’s arrests also came two days after SDF personnel arrested another Syrian media activist, identified as Ali Saleh Al Wakaa from Abu Hamam city in eastern Deir Ez-Zour governorate. Al Wakka was detained for unknown reasons while he was reporting on a visit by a delegation of officials from the International Coalition to Hajin Hospital in the eastern suburbs of Deir Ezzor governorate, where the officials were inspecting the SDF’s rehabilitation operations in the hospital.
The SDF has also arrested a number of journalists and media activists, as well as members of other Kurdish parties, over their condemnation of SDF policies. As with the teachers, students and other civilians detained by the group, human rights groups and activists have expressed grave concerns for these detainees’ wellbeing, fearing that they may be subject to torture and ‘disappeared’.

The predominantly Kurdish SDF, the military wing of the PYD (Democratic Union Party or, in Kurdish, Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat), was originally known as the YPG, but underwent ‘rebranding’ in 2017 at the suggestion of U.S. Army General Raymond Thomas, then the head of Special Operations Command. in an effort to distance it from the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey and the international community. The PYD was established as a Syrian branch of the PKK in 2003, with both organizations still closely affiliated through the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).
Interviewed in 2017, General Thomas recalled, “We literally played back to them: ‘You have got to change your brand. What do you want to call yourselves besides the YPG?’ With about a day’s notice they declared that they are the Syrian Democratic Forces,” adding, “I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put democracy in there somewhere. But it gave them a little bit of credibility.”

Whilst US officials have expressed no support for the SDF’s repression and targeting of dissidents, neither have they condemned these activities, with many of the raids on homes reportedly carried out with support from US forces, including from USAF helicopter gunships.

Photo: SDF personnel patrolling Al Darbasiya, 2018 (AFP)