Have the Syrian Kurds Committed War Crimes?

Akcakale, Turkey—The Kurdish militia that supplies the ground troops in the US air war against the Islamic State has been a systematic violator of human rights in the area it controls in northern Syria, causing the displacement of tens of thousands of Arabs and even more massive flight by Kurds from the region.

A six-month investigation shows that the militia, reportedly under the strong influence of Iran and the Assad regime, has evicted Arabs from their homes at gunpoint starting in 2013 and subsequently has blown up, torched, or bulldozed their homes and villages. The Nation interviewed more than 80 Arabs and Syrian Kurdish refugees in the region as well as militia officials, former militia members, former Syrian government officials, political activists, and officials in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The pace of the expulsions picked up dramatically after the United States began joint operations against the Islamic State in Syria in mid-2015, as the Kurdish militia threatened Arabs with air strikes if they didn’t leave their villages. While they slowed in 2016, expulsions continue even as the militia turns on its political rivals and jails, tortures, or expels them.

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