Genocidal Attack On Kurdish People: Four Kurds Killed by Turkish-Backed Militants in Syria during Kurdish New Year Celebrations

BRIEF – Updated March 24, 2023

In a horrifying act of genocide by Turkish-backed militants, four members of the same Kurdish family were shot to death as they celebrated the Newroz Kurdish New Year holiday on Monday, March 20, 2023. The Kurdish family was living in a tent in the Jenderes district of the Afrin region because they were displaced by the devastating February 6 earthquake in Syria. Much of the Jenderes district was flattened by the earthquake. The family members were unarmed civilians. The murders occurred during the lighting of a small ceremonial flame outside their refugee tent.

The four family members were unarmed civilians who had been displaced by the earthquake of February 6, which hit Turkey and Syria, and were living in a tent.

The slain family members are as follows: Mr. Nazmi Mohammed Othman, 53 years old; Mr. Farah alDeen Mohamed Othman, 45 years old; Mr. Mohamed Mohamed Othman, 38 years old and Mr. Mohamed Farah al Deen Mohamed Othman, 19 years old. The three older family members were brothers. The youngest was a son and nephew.

The deadly act was witnessed by Ms. Rosheen Othman, the sister of the three brothers who were killed and the mother of the younger man killed, and witnessed by other family members and neighbors as well. Ms. Othman was hiding inside the tent during the attack. The militia members with Jaish Al-Sharqiya, accused of the murders, get stipends and weapons from the government of Turkey, and conduct operations in the Turkish-occupied region of Syria including in the Afrin region.

According to Ms. Othman, Turkish-backed militants from Jaish Al-Sharqiya approached the family’s tent due to the lighting of the ceremonial Newroz fire, a ceremony to mark the Spring equinox, which is considered the first day of the year in Kurdish tradition. Newroz is an important Kurdish holiday and the ceremony is akin to the decorating and lighting of the Christmas tree in the Western tradition of Christmas. The family’s fire was a small and humble campfire because their refugee status did not allow for a full ceremony. Several militia members opened fire on the family members, who were unarmed, killing four.

Jaish al-Sharqiya is one of main Turkish-backed terrorist groups controlling the Syrian district of Afrin, which has been occupied by Turkey since 2018. The group has been accused of other human rights violations as a result of its presence in the Afrin region. These militants benefit from training and equipment provided by the Turkish government. The militants are given money, weapons, and the authority to conduct activities by Turkish officials.

“They are killing us because we are Kurds,” said Ms. Othman, in a public statement following the unprovoked attack. “If they want to kill us, let them kill us. We are not afraid anymore. God has created us as Kurds, what can we do?”

According to an emotional video of the attack made by Ms. Othman following the attack, her son was still inside the tent when the terrorists began shooting at it. She tried to prevent her son from exiting the tent, but couldn’t prevent him from trying to come to the aid of his father and other relatives. He ran out and was shot in the heart. He died instantly.

The Syrian Democratic Council demands a response to this deadly attack. We call on the Biden Administration, the United Nations, and the international community to respond accordingly:

1. Declare Afrin a demilitarized humanitarian zone, expelling all military forces and militant factions, and allowing the safe return of its original inhabitants, provided that the process is under the supervision of the international community.

2. Hold accountable those responsible for committing crimes against humanity and daily violations of international law.

3. Hand over the administration and security of the Afrin region to its original local population and support the building of a fair and transparent judicial system in the region.

4. Call on all guilty parties to release all detainees and abductees, clarify the fate of the forcibly disappeared, and compensate those affected.

5. Ensure that international human rights organizations and the media are allowed to enter Afrin and report freely.

6. Call on the UN Security Council to hold a special session on the humanitarian situation in Afrin, Syria.

Prepared by: The US Mission of the Syrian Democratic Council
Updated March 24, 2023