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Who is… Hevrin Khalaf

2021-07-24
- She is the youngest female leader in Syria. And the second party leader in modern Syrian history, after Marah al-Buqai. Hevrin Khalaf became a leader of the Future Syria Party (FSP) in 2018 and was brutally assassinated in 2019 at the age of 34 years.

- Career and Political Path :
This young Kurdish leader was born in 1984 in the city of Malikiyah/Derik - northeastern Syria. She graduated in Civil Engineering at the University of Aleppo in 2009. She is also, considered a vital model for making a societal change in Syria and the region as a whole.

Khalaf devoted her short life to bringing about comprehensive societal change and building a democratic political system based on political pluralism and gender justice. As a result, she worked on the organization of social and political events within the NES. Also, the meeting with different social and clanic layers of different ethnic and religious civil groups. She was keen to strengthen women's leadership in establishing political and social decision-making, through her position as a political leader. This was widely accepted by the whole society, in spite of her young age.

Hevrin Khalaf was selected as one of the feminist figures in the list of "Feminist Archive of Hope" prepared by the Association for Women's Rights of Development and Equality (AWID), titled: "In honor and homage to the women who have changed the world and left, leaving behind a living archive of hope."

According to this organisation, Hevrin's murder was "a turning point in Syria's modern history." It should be noted that the list compiled by this association comprises over 450 feminist and human rights activists from 88 countries.

Despite the Syrian civil war, her political project focused on civil peace, which is why the global media called her a “peacemaker”. She used to constantly assert that she addresses all the ethnic and religious components in Syria, from Kurds, Arabs, Armenians, Druze and Circassians ... etc. She has been calling for a Syrian state to be the country of all and has stressed that the unity of the Syrian people resides in the richness of their diversity.

- Career :
Khalaf has been active in the political corps, since the outbreak of the popular movement in Syria in March 2011 and has also worked in civil organizations since 2014. She became a co-chair of the energy authority and then head of the Economic Council in the AANES.

Later, she was completely committed to political work and was elected Secretary General of the Future Syria Party after its formation on March 18, 2018.

- Assasination :
Khalaf was extrajudicially assassinated on 12 October by the Turkish-backed Syrian Jihadi National Army on the M4 international highway south of Tel Abyad during the 2019 Turkish offensive on the NES.

- How was Khalaf Assassinated and by Whom ?
Two investigative reports showed irrefutable evidence that the Turkish faction "Ahrar al-Sharqiya" committed the assasination of the Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf. The first investigation was conducted by the BBC and the second was conducted by Al-Arabiya agency. Both investigations reached similar results, specifying the location and timing of the assassination, the militia that implemented it and the video footage published by one of the photographers accompanying that militia, whose name is "Al-Harith Rabah." In addition to the testimony of one of the participants in the assassination crime, the testimony of the people living in villages near the area of the mass execution and bodies mutilation of Hevrin, her driver, and her bodyguards.

Hevrin's car departed Al-Hasaka at 5:30 am on October 12, 2019, on the M4 highway, heading for the party headquarters in Raqqa, which is 3 hours away, and that was just three days after U.S. forces withdrew from the region.

That morning, eyewitnesses reported seeing a military convoy crossing the Syrian border from Turkey southbound to the M4 motorway.

The same morning, a video was uploaded to the Telegram messenger app by the faction that identified itself as Ahrar al-Sharqiya, and told their followers that they were "the first moments of the Ahrar al-Sharqiya Mujahideen arriving at Al-Hasaka and the Manbij highway." Then, several videos of field executions, were uploaded, all of which refer to the same geographical location of the incident, "the Tirwaziya checkpoint".

The video documents that were published in the media investigations, and which were posted by the "Ahrar al-Sharqiya" militia itself, clearly explain the assassination and how it was implemented brutally. In the attached video footage, their fighters can be seen surrounding Hevrin's car. There is a body on the ground believed to be that of her driver, Farhad Ramadan. Also, in this part of the video, we hear a faint female voice coming from inside the car, in addition to Hevrin's mother confirming the authenticity of the video footage, saying when watching it, "It is Hevrin's voice, I can distinguish it from among 5000 voices."

Asharq al-Awsat newspaper spoke to Al-Harith Rabah, a photographer working with the Ahrar al-Sharqiya faction and is the one who filmed one of those footages. He says that it was elements of different factions that killed the politician Hevrin with bullets, however he confirmed that they set up ambushes on the international road. Rabah explained the incident, saying that members of the Free Syrian National Army stopped the cars and arrested the occupants. As for those who refused to stop and attempted to escape, they were shot at. By then, it happened that The car Hevrin was in had paassed by and they refused to stop, and fled. It was at this point that fighters began shooting at the tires of the car, which caused it to veer of the highway. «At the time, no one knew there was a female inside the car, and heavy bullets were fired, because they were certain that an important official was inside the armoured car, as civilians do not ride such cars.”

In a separate investigation by Al-Arabiya agency, one of the participants in the assassination speaks, confirming the assassination of Hevrin on the M4 highway, and confirming that the Ahrar al-Sharqiya faction carried out the operation with the participation of a group of other factions, which are affiliated with the so-called "Syrian National Army."

- Coroner’s Report :
The forensic report revealed that Hevrin was not only shot; rather, it appears that she was dragged from her hair, causing detachment of skin from her skull and loss of hair, and both her head and left leg were beaten with a solid object, and her body was exposed in various areas to fractures, the lower jaw of her mouth was fractured too, and the temporal bone of the skull was punctured.

- Why Hevrin Khalaf was Eliminated:
- Hevrin opposed Turkish interference in Syrian affairs and considered it a factor in the disintegration of the Syrian people and its transformation into belligerent civilian groups. She has also repeatedly criticized Turkey's use of the Syrian jihadist militias to fight against other Syrian groups. And was constantly referring to what happened in the Kurdish city of Afrin, which Turkey has occupied since 2018.

Hevrin has worked to establish a legal and international front against the violations committed by Turkey and its loyal Syrian armed factions against the Kurds in Syria. Confirming what was mentioned, during the Turkish attack on NES, she stated in an interview with Jin News that, ‘’this is a criminal act, and a violation of international laws. We will not accept any kind of occupation.’’

Khalaf's mother stated in an interview with the North-Press Agency that Turkish intelligence had been threatening her daughter with death for seven months prior to her assasination.

- Reactions :
1- UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria demanded Turkey in its report in September 2020, an independent investigation into the assassination of Hevrin Khalaf. This was after the Commission confirmed the veracity of the videos and investigations carried out by the Investigation Committee on Syrian ground. It stated in its report that the forces loyal to Turkey and affiliated with the "Syrian National Army" carried out the assassination.
2- “A blatant war crime,” Amnesty International said in a report on the assassination of Khalaf. The Amnesty International demanded a report saying that ‘’Ahrar’s al-Sharqiya’s murder of Hevrin Khalaf and others must be independently investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.’’ It held Turkey responsibile to stop war crimes and violations committed by forces under its control.
3- Later, a statement to the BBC was issued by the Ahrar al-Sharqiya faction of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army; the official perpetrator of the assassination according to all the evidence received, in which they said that ‘’the group that was at the checkpoint on the highway on that day acted without permission, and that those who violated the orders of the leadership have been sent to trial.’’ This was despite the faction had previously denied the results of the various investigations appeared, that they were the perpetrators of the assassination!

- Seeking Justice :
1- The Kurds formed a special investigation committee to collect evidence in the assassination of Khalaf and present it to the European Court of Human Rights, as well as work to motivate international public opinion in order to achieve justice.
2- Khalaf's mother gave her testimony about the assassination in the European Parliament, and is also working with international human rights organizations to hold accountable the parties responsible for the assassination of her daughter.

References :
1- The report of the "Feminist Archive of Hope" prepared by the AWID:
https://www.awid.org/whrd/hevrin-khalaf
2- A report by Al-Hurra website on Hevrin Khalaf, containing general information about her:
https://2u.pw/c2VpQ
3- Statement from the Future Syria Party website about the assassination of their General-Secretary Hevrin Khalaf:
http://fs-party.com/?p=11922
4- Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which carries a condemnation, regarding Havrin:
https://2u.pw/rPqRk
5- Report of Amnesty International on the execution of Hevrin Khalaf:
https://2u.pw/xd9sI
6- The BBC investigation into the assassination of Hevrin (When, Where, and Who committed the Assassination)
https://www.bbc.com/arabic/middleeast-51036989
7- An investigation by Al-Arabiya agency refuting, through its show (Special Mission), the assassination that was committed against Hevrin, in which an interview is conducted with an eyewitness and a member of the faction executing the crime:
https://2u.pw/D0fLw
8- A report by Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that shows the forensic report. Also, an interview is conducted with the crime photographer and other information about Hevrin's assassination:
https://2u.pw/OebVW
9- North-Press Agency interviews the mother of the politician, Hevrin Khalaf, in which she talks about the assassination of her daughter, and explains what happened and how the Turkish intelligence services had been threatening her daughter for months before her assassination:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNhijwOrtYE
10- A video footage of Hevrin Khalaf, at the meeting of tribal leaders, making a speech and confirming ‘’we will not accept any kind of occupation,’’ by which she meant Turkey’s occupation of Kurdish cities.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8zjQneRBfE
11- The Secretary-General of the Future Syria Party, Hevrin Khalaf’s speech during the celebration of Nowruz in the city of Manbij, where she speaks in the spirit of unity, all the languages of the Syrian nationalities and sects :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBPn8wiPh00&t=10s

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