In six years since Turkey’s invasion of Afrin, numerous violations against the indigenous population have been documented

The nineteenth of January marks the anniversary of the military operation by Turkey and its affiliated factions, so-called Syrian National Army, on Afrin, and its countryside in northwestern Syria in 2018. They took control of the area on the eighteenth of March of the same year after bombing and attacks lasted for two months, causing the loss of numerous civilian lives, injuries to others, and extensive destruction in the region.

Six years since the commencement of the attack, various human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Afrin Organization for Human Rights, and the Violations Documentation Center in Afrin, have consistently documented severe human rights abuses. These violations, perpetrated by Turkey and its affiliated factions, include incidents such as killings, torture, enforced disappearances, kidnappings for ransom, property seizures, and forced displacement against the indigenous population in the Afrin region.

More than nine thousand individuals have been abducted

Human Rights Organization in Afrin, documented that Turkey and its backed factions have killed 706 civilians since the beginning of the attack, kidnapped 9,008 others, including 1,200 women and 600 children, they also documented hundreds of sexual assaults cases. The factions cut more than 391,000 fruit trees, selling them as firewood for heating in the occupied areas and Turkish markets. They burned more than 12,000 hectares of agricultural land, seized 7,000 shops and 10,000 residential houses which belong to the indigenous people.

Human Rights Organization in Afrin confirmed that Turkey and its affiliated factions dug most of the archaeological mounds in the Afrin region, which numbered 75 archaeological hills, in search of archaeological finds to sell them outside the Syria, in addition to destroying more than 55 archaeological sites, some of which are listed on UNESCO lists, such as the temple of Ain Dara, Nabi Hori, Al-Dodriya Cave and St. Maroun’s Tomb, and more than 10 religious shrines of various religions and sects, as well as bulldozing many cemeteries, and destroying many historical mosques, including the mosque of the tourist area Kamrok.

Dozens of settlements, thousands of settlers

The Human Rights Organization in Afrin has also reported that Turkey established over 20 settlements in the Afrin region, relocating approximately 700,000 individuals, including members of its factions, their families, settlers, and Palestinians from other Syrian regions. These newcomers were placed in the homes of the indigenous population and in purpose-built settlements. Human rights organizations argue that this constitutes a demographic change plan orchestrated by Ankara in the region. Thousands of indigenous people have been displaced, resulting in a significant reduction in the percentage of Kurds in the area—from 90 percent before the occupation to 25 percent afterward.

Human rights activist Ibrahim Sheikho said in a statement to Target Media Platform: “since six years of the occupation of Afrin. The violations are still continuing, with the death toll reaching more than 700 people, including 86 women, and ten suicide cases due to restrictions.” The prevailing situation in Afrin, in addition to the injury of more than 700 others, including 330 children and 230 women, while the number of those kidnapped, and detained by the Turkish authorities or intelligence, civil and military police, or the so-called National Army, reached more than 9,000 civilians, including over 1,100 women, as well as between 1,500 to 2,000 missing persons whose fate is unknown, whether they are living or dead, also 76 cases of sexual assault and harassment.”

“These ongoing violations against the indigenous people in Afrin persist amidst the silence of the international community and the Syrian government’s inaction. Turkey, by giving its affiliated factions the green light to engage in these violations, is deemed the primary responsible party. It is imperative for Turkey to acknowledge and assume its responsibilities as an occupying power, as stipulated by Article 43 of the Hague Conventions in 1907,” adedded Sheikho.

Following the end of the Turkish attack on Afrin and its subsequent control in March 2018, the United Nations reported the displacement of approximately 150,000 individuals from the city and its surroundings to the northern Aleppo countryside exclusively. In contrast, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recorded a higher figure, documenting the displacement of around 300,000 people from the region. Additionally, the movement of 40,000 settlers from various Syrian regions, notably Eastern Ghouta of Damascus, to Afrin was documented until May 2018.

In mid-June 2018, Human Rights Watch issued a report that Turkish-backed armed groups had seized, looted and destroyed the property of Kurdish civilians, and it housed members of these armed groups and their families in the homes of indigenous people in the Afrin region in northwestern Syria, they looted and destroyed civilian property without compensating their owners, adding that Turkey, as the authority responsible for these groups, must intervene and stop these violations against civilians and provide them with protection.






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