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2.4. Members of and persons perceived to be collaborating with the SDF and YPG

Last update: September 2020

This profile refers to members of the SDF and the YPG, as well as to other individuals perceived to be collaborating with them.

See also the profile 2.11.2. Kurds.

COI summary

The COI summary focuses on targeting of such individuals by the SNA and by ISIL.

a. Targeting by the SNA

[Main COI reference: Targeting, 6.1]

The UN and other human rights organisations documented kidnappings, abductions, torture, extortion and assassinations of civilians at the hands of armed groups operating under the SNA umbrella. Looting, theft and expropriation of Kurdish properties by SNA factions, such as in the aftermath of the capture of Afrin and in the areas of al-Bab, Jarablus and Azaz, were also reported. Armed groups and criminal gangs in Afrin abducted civilians of Kurdish origin, wealthy individuals including doctors, businesspersons and merchants for economic, political and security reasons. Perceived supporters of the Kurdish administration were regularly arrested, detained, tortured and extorted by armed groups. Those suspected of affiliation with Kurdish authorities were reportedly arrested and asked to pay fines of USD 400 for their release. Abductions were carried out primarily at checkpoints or at the victim’s home during the night.

In April 2019, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on the arrest of the president and members of the Kurdish National Council in Afrin, as well as 2 600 Kurdish citizens. At the time of reporting, around 1 100 were still in detention while the rest were released upon paying a ransom that in some cases reached 10 million Syrian pounds (approximately EUR 17 600). In October 2019, Hevrin Khalaf, a Kurdish female politician who was secretary general of the Kurdish Future Syria Party, was summarily killed by members of SNA.

IDPs who returned to Afrin found their properties confiscated or destroyed and some homes redistributed to Sunni Arab IDPs. Returnees were precluded from living in the area due to their real or perceived affiliation to YPG, while killings of returnees have been also reported. The CoI noted that it ‘finds that there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of the armed groups in Afrin continued to commit war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment and torture’.

During the Turkish-led incursion into the north-east Syria in October 2019, Turkish forces and affiliated armed groups including SNA reportedly committed attacks on residential areas, summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians, and targeted civilian infrastructure, such as the main water station in Hasaka governorate [Security 2020, 2.7.3].

UN sources also reported that armed groups supported by Turkey carried out arbitrary arrests for the purpose of ransom to punish people for requesting to recover stolen property, or for alleged affiliation to the PYD or YPG [Security 2020, 2.7.3]. Moreover, arrests by SNA-affiliated armed groups of Arab men who had previously served the SDF, have been reported.

In and around the so called ‘safe zone’ established by SNA and the Turkish armed forces between Tall Abyad (Raqqa governorate) and Ras al Ain (Hasaka governorate), sources indicate that persons of Kurdish ethnicity - especially those affiliated to, or with attributed affiliation to, SDF/YPG or any part of the Kurdish forces, have been at risk of denied returns, arbitrarily arrested or had their property confiscated [Security 2020, 2.7.3].

b. Targeting by ISIL

[Targeting, 6.2]

ISIL continued to conduct small-scale operations, like ambushes, assassinations, and IED attacks against GoS forces and SDF and their civilian affiliates in the Middle Euphrates River Valley and Hasaka governorate [Security 2020, 2.7.3].

Attacks such as roadside bombs, drive-by shootings and assassinations of local SDF collaborators by ISIL have been documented in Kurdish-controlled areas that were previously under the ISIL control. Arab men who joined the SDF were also targeted. ISIL also maintained a steady low-level violence in Deir Ez-Zor’s eastern countryside, including roadside bombs, assassinations and drive-by shootings. Lists of SDF recruits and civilian employees were posted by ISIL on several mosques in the city of Deir Ez-Zor demanding that they ‘repent’ [Targeting, 6.2].

Assassinations of governance officials, village elders, people perceived as informants against ISIL, collaborators with the SDF, as well as attacks on local security forces, were reported. ISIL were also reported to target political and military figures associated with the SDF, members of the SDF security apparatus and prisons where ISIL detainees were held [Targeting, 6.2].

In February 2020, the UN Security Council noted an increase in attacks targeting the international counter-ISIL coalition and local non-State armed groups in Deir Ez-Zor and Hasaka governorates [Security 2020, 2.7.3]. An increase in ISIL attacks aimed at SDF military targets, such as headquarters, vehicles, and fighters, was also reported in Raqqa governorate [Security 2020,].

Risk analysis

The acts to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. arbitrary arrest, abduction, killing).

For members of and persons perceived to be collaborating with SDF/YPG in areas where the SNA operates, a well-founded fear of persecution would in general be substantiated.

In Kurdish-controlled areas that were previously under the ISIL control, the threat posed by ISIL to individuals under this profile has decreased compared to previous years. Nevertheless, ISIL continues to be capable of attacks in those areas and members of and persons perceived to be collaborating with the SDF/YPG are viewed by ISIL as a priority target. Not all individuals under this sub-profile would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: regional specifics (areas where ISIL continues to operate), visibility of the applicant, position within the community, nature of activities undertaken by the individual, public expression of support for SDF/YPG or condemnation of ISIL’s actions, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile is highly likely to be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion. In the case of persecution by SNA, it may also be for reasons of race/nationality.


   Exclusion considerations could be relevant to this profile (see the chapter 6. Exclusion).