Syria: Thousands mourn four civilian Kurds killed while celebrating Nowruz
Thousands of angry Kurdish mourners on Tuesday rallied in rebel-held northwestern Syria after pro-Turkish fighters killed four members of a Kurdish family as they celebrated the Nowruz new year festival.
Local sources told Middle East Eye that brothers Farhan Din, Mohammed, Ismail Othman, and Ismail's 18-year-old son were killed on Monday evening when fighters from the Sharqiya Army opened fire on people who had lit fires for Nowruz in the town of Jindayris.
'Celebrating the Nowruz holiday is not a crime for which Kurdish citizens should be killed'
- Sharaf al-Din Jaqal, relative
Three people were also wounded, one of them seriously.
"My brothers and my nephew were killed at the door of the house because they were lighting a fire. They shot them dead in cold blood," Roshin Othman told Middle East Eye.
The Sharqiya Army, a splinter group of Ahrar al-Sharqiya, operates within the ranks of the Syrian National Army, a coalition of Ankara-backed rebel groups, in the Jindayris district, in the northern countryside of Aleppo.
"My brothers and my nephew died while they were defending themselves. Should we go and bury ourselves because we were created Kurds?" Roshin Othman said.
"Our sin is that we are Kurds. Those who killed my brothers and my brother's son are criminals and must all be held accountable."
Turkey and the Syrian National Army captured Jindayris in a 2018 offensive, known as Operation Olive Branch, which drove Kurdish-led fighters - and much of the resident Kurdish civilian population - from the nearby Afrin area.
The Syrian National Army condemned in "the strongest possible terms" the killing of the Kurdish men and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice.
On Tuesday evening, the defence ministry in the opposition-led Syrian Interim Government in the north said that the military police, in coordination with the Harakat al-Tahrir wal-Binaa, a faction within the Syrian National Army, have arrested the suspects in the killing.
"[The ministry] will deal firmly and forcefully with all perpetrators of crimes and violations against innocent people," it said in a statement.
Thousands at funeral
The killings have caused widespread anger among Kurdish people in the region, prompting thousands to attend the funeral demanding justice.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighters from the militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) deployed around Jindayris on Tuesday at the request of Kurdish residents and were heavily present during the funeral.
The Observatory added that HTS had also taken over the headquarters of the Ahrar Sharqiya group after the faction's fighters withdrew from the base without a fight.
"I saw my four cousins on the ground and they were dead. One of my cousins was taking his last breaths," said Sharaf al-Din Jaqal, a relative of the victims, who had rushed to his cousins' nearby house immediately after the shooting.
"My cousins used to sit in front of the house every day and light a fire, and yesterday was the Nowruz holiday for the Kurds, and they had lit the fire as a small celebration.
"Celebrating the Nowruz holiday is not a crime for which Kurdish citizens should be killed."