Sultan Murad Division
The Sultan Murad Division is a Turkmen opposition faction formed in March 2013 that has very close ties to Turkey. The group claims to have 9,000 members who fight against “the Baath Regime and the ISIS-PYD/PKK terrorist organizations.”*“Sultan Murad Division,” Sultan Murad Division, accessed April 10, 2022, http://sultanmurattumeni.com/about.x In 2021, the Syrian National Army (SNA), the broader structure within which all Turkish-backed factions reside, formed a committee to investigate crimes committed by member groups. The final report found that most accusations of torture, theft, and kidnapping were leveled at the Sultan Murad Division and the Hamza Division.*Wladimir van Wilgenburg, “Turkish-backed groups continue looting Afrin: UN report,” Kurdistan 24, March 12, 2022, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/story/27586-Turkish-backed-groups-continue-looting-Afrin:-UN-report.x The Sultan Murad Division operates within Afrin’s Shera and Bilbile districts and at a base in Qurne village.*“Two successful operations against Turkish-backed Sultan Murad Division terrorists in Afrin,” YPGROJAVA.ORG, December 11, 2018, https://www.ypgrojava.org/Two-successful-operations-against-Turkish-backed-Sultan-Murad-Division-terrorists-in-Afrin.x Members of the group have also been deployed to Libya.*Ragip Soylu, Harun al-Aswad, “Turkey to send Syrian rebel fighters to battle Haftar in Libya,” Middle East Eye, December 27, 2019, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/turkey-send-syrian-rebel-fighters-fight-haftar-libya.x
LeadershipAhmed al-Uthman acted as commander until 2018.*Mohammad Dirania, “Rivalry Between al-Jabha al-Shamiya and Sultan Murad,” Atlantic Council, January 4, 2018, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/syriasource/rivalry-between-al-jabha-al-shamiya-and-sultan-murad/.x Fahim Issa is the current commander as well as the deputy commander in the Azm joint operations center, a formation within the SNA that includes most major groups. Azm was established in July 2021 as a mechanism to facilitate coordination and cooperation between SNA factions.*Walid Al Nofal, “Mergers and tensions within the Syrian National Army: A ‘struggle for existence,’” Syria Direct, April 19, 2022, https://syriadirect.org/mergers-and-tensions-within-the-syrian-national-army-a-struggle-for-existence/; “Syrian National Army Report,” Carter Center, March 2022, 8-9, https://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/peace/conflict_resolution/syria-conflict/2022/state-of-the-syrian-national-army-march-2022.pdf.x
Base of OperationsAleppo countryside in Syria*Wladimir van Wilgenburg, “Turkish-backed groups continue looting Afrin: UN report,” Kurdistan 24, March 12, 2022, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/story/27586-Turkish-backed-groups-continue-looting-Afrin:-UN-report. x
Membership Size and Relevance
Recruitment and Propaganda
NATO placed Turkey on the Child Soldier Prevention Act list for their support of the Sultan Murad Division, which is known to recruit and deploy child soldiers.*“Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,” U.N. General Assembly, October 2, 2020, 10, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G20/210/90/PDF/G2021090.pdf?OpenElement.x The Division shares responsibility for recruitment to the Second and Third Corps with two other armed groups, Faylaq al-Sham and Faylaq al-Majd. All played important roles in recruiting fighters for Turkey’s operations in Libya and Azerbaijan.*“Syrian National Army Report,” Carter Center, March 2022, 18, https://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/peace/conflict_resolution/syria-conflict/2022/state-of-the-syrian-national-army-march-2022.pdf.x
Violent ActivitiesAccording to a recent report by the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the group continues to loot Afrin, including the “harvest from thousands of olive trees.”*Wladimir van Wilgenburg, “Turkish-backed groups continue looting Afrin: UN report,” Kurdistan 24, March 12, 2022, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/story/27586-Turkish-backed-groups-continue-looting-Afrin:-UN-report.x The report attributed most of the violations to the Sultan Murad Division and the Hamza Division, including violence against locals who complained or resisted attempts to take their property.*Wladimir van Wilgenburg, “Turkish-backed groups continue looting Afrin: UN report,” Kurdistan 24, March 12, 2022, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/story/27586-Turkish-backed-groups-continue-looting-Afrin:-UN-report.x According to a witness interviewed by Al-Monitor, the Sultan Murad Division has a policy of rape at the prison in al Rai and has detained more than 100 women over accusations that they are associated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).*Dan Wilkofsky, Amberin Zaman, Mohammed Hardan, “Turkish-backed rebels leave trail of abuse, criminality in Syria’s Afrin,” Al-Monitor, July 22, 2021, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/07/turkish-backed-rebels-leave-trail-abuse-and-criminality-syrias-afrin#ixzz722Qf5uX5.x The group has also been accused of kidnapping and forced marriage.*Wladimir van Wilgenburg, “Allegations of forced marriages emerge in Turkish-controlled Afrin in Syria,” Kurdistan 24, May 1, 2020, https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/e4f46875-59ff-48fd-b15e-63df5f198311.x In 2016, the Fatah Halab military coalition, of which the Sultan Murad Division is a member, used indiscriminate shelling in Sheikh Maqsoud, which, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, killed 23 civilians. *“Syria: armed opposition group committing war crimes in Aleppo - new evidence,” Amnesty International UK, May 13, 2016, https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/syria-armed-opposition-group-committing-war-crimes-aleppo-new-evidence.x
Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.
On June 6, 2021, the Taliban attacked a complex in Ghor province, killing nine and injuring seven. That same day, the Taliban launched similar attacks on the police headquarters in Faryab province, killing 28 security forces, and in Balkh province, killing 19 and injuring 69 others.
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Social MediaTwitter*@fehimisa1, Twitter account, accessed March 28, 2023, https://twitter.com/fehimisa1?lang=en.x