Arabs receive residency in Syria’s Afrin, leading to demographic change  

Arab families who relocated to Syria’s previously Kurdish-majority northwestern district of Afrin after Turkish troops captured it in March last year are being granted residency and the area is losing its Kurdish identity, Iraqi Kurdish news network Rudaw reported.

Some 1,000 Arab families moved from the town of Sharqia in al-Bab district to Afrin after Turkish troops and their Syrian militia allies captured it from Syrian Kurdish forces last year, Rudaw said.

“After the people of Sharqiya region fled to liberated areas in the north, their identity cards were lost, they left them behind, or they were burnt due to shelling. They have no alternative papers,” it quoted Anas al-Tabn, who supervises the registration of al-Bab’s displaced, as telling Syrian pro-opposition newspaper Enab Baladi.

Al-Tabn said local chieftains, or mukhtars, appointed by local government have been assigned the task of issuing new identity cards, as well as marriage and birth certificates.

However, a lawyer from Afrin told Rudaw the cards were invalid, as Afrin was part of Syria and the government had control over issuing official documentation.

The Arab population is likely to form a majority in the city’s local council elections, the lawyer said, pointing to a transformation in demography of the region.

Turkey ‘s military offensive into Afrin, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, was aimed at the removal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the Turkish border.

Ankara believes the YPG is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group fighting for autonomy in Turkey for more than 30 years. Turkey, the United States and the European Union designate the PKK as a terrorist organisation.