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‘My daughter is not a murderer’: mother of YPJ fighter sentenced to life in prison by Turkey

The mother of a Syrian Kurdish female fighter has slammed a Turkish court for sentencing her daughter to life in prison on Wednesday, saying she is not a murderer.

A Turkish court in Sanliurfa (Riha) province handed Dozgin Temo, known as Cicek Kobane, a life sentence for “harming the integrity of Turkish state” and 10 years and 10 months for murder, her lawyer Hidayet Enmek told Rudaw English on Wednesday.

“The sentence is aggravated. She was arrested on Syrian land, so Turkey does not have the right to sentence her. We want rights groups and international community to hear us out. It is not true that she has killed people. My daughter is not a murderer,” Kobane’s mother, Wahida Osman, told Rudaw English late Wednesday.

Kobane, 26, was a fighter for the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) and fell into the hands of Turkish-backed militias during Operation Peace Spring in Ain Issa, northern Syria in October 2019, when Turkey captured a swathe of northeast Syria from Kurdish Syrian forces.

Photos of her capture went viral on social media and prompted fears for her safety, with many other YPJ fighters killed during the offensive.

She was later taken to Turkey and imprisoned.

Kobane’s story

Kobane was born in Raqqa, northern Syria in 1994.

She and her family fled to Turkey in 2013 due to unrest caused by the Syrian uprising, with Kobane returning to Raqqa in 2014.

She joined the YPJ – the all-women version of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) – in 2015, according to her mother.

Ankara considers both YPG and YPJ Syrian offshoots of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – an armed group struggling for the increased rights of Kurds in Turkey – “a terrorist organization”. It sees all of them as a threat to its national security.

The YPG is the backbone of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main coalition ally fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

She fell into the hands of the opposition Syrian National Army (SNA), when she was apparently “severely” tortured.

Her mother recounted a prison visit in which Kobane told her of mistreatment.

Kobane was called a pig, a hostage, and was forced to take photographs with fighters, she told her mother in a March 2020 visit.

Osman said her daughter pretended to be Arab to avoid torture.

In a video published on Syrian militia Telegram channels following Kobane’s capture, militants can be heard calling her a “pig” that will be taken to slaughter.

“They [SNA fighters] shot her in the leg and injured her with two bullets. Her injury hasn’t healed,” her mother said, denying that her daughter was a killer.

“She was aiding people in Syria.”

Her family has now returned to the town of Kobane. The family were able to last see the YPJ fighter in prison on March 5 of last year, before the Turkish government “tortured” and deported her father and two brothers, Osman said.

Kobane speaks with her family on the phone every Thursday, but calls abruptly stopped two weeks ago.

“We are waiting to see if we will be able to talk to her this Thursday,” her mother said sadly, calling on Kurds to speak out against her daughter’s sentencing.

Kobane was not armed: lawyer

Enmek told Rudaw English that Kobane admitted to the court that she was a YPJ member, but is not guilty of the charges against her.

“There is nothing to prove that she was armed when arrested,” Enmek said, claiming his client “had a humanitarian role [within the YPJ], not a military one.”

“It is against international law for my client to be arrested in Syria but held and tried here, when she has not done anything against this country,” the lawyer said, adding that they will appeal the decision.

“If this does not work, we will take it to the European Court [of Human Rights].”

Kobane attended Tuesday’s trial via video link, but Enmek’s client, who he says is need of medical treatment, is still suffering from leg injuries.

“Her health was not good.”

Ayse Surucu, a lawmaker for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), condemned the court’s decision, claiming “national and international laws have been violated.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report in February that at least 63 Syrians have been transferred to Turkey to face trial and possible life imprisonment for their alleged links to the YPG.

“Turkish authorities, as an occupying power, are required to respect people’s rights under the law of occupation in northeastern Syria, including the prohibition on arbitrary detention and on the transfer of people to their territory,” said Michael Page, HRW’s deputy Middle East director.

Source: RUDAW