A humanitarian disaster in Afrin

On the 20th of January 2018, Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies launched a massive military offensive  against the Syrian Kurdish province of Afrin, which is located in northwest Syria. Afrin province enjoyed a relatively calm environment compared to other Syrian cities; it was a haven for hundreds of thousands of Syrians who fled from the war.

According to a report published on Al-Hall website (19/3/2018), Samir is a Syrian mercenary who participated in the invasion of Afrin. He stated that, “from the first moment of entering Afrin, the Free Army factions spread out and began looting commercial stores, civil institutions and different vital facilities”.

For the last two years, the Turkish forces have given Syrian armed groups effectively a green light to commit serious human rights abuses against Kurdish civilians in Afrin. Furthermore, the silence of the international community encourages Turkish forces and their mercenaries to continue their abuse of Kurdish civilians. The radical Islamist groups backed by Turkey are behaving akin to criminals towards civilians through kidnappings, rapes and forced disappearances of Kurdish people. Since the occupation of Afrin, Turkey backed occupation forces have systematically terrorized the population through demographic changes,  economic pressure ( as they cut olive trees, which are the only source of income for many residents of Afrin), burning crops, and destroying and stealing antiquities.

Trafficking organs 

Recently there has been a noticeable increase in the number of crimes in Afrin, which prevent many Kurdish citizens from leaving their homes. The Turkish occupation forces and their mercenaries are randomly arresting Kurdish citizens, even for simply speaking Kurdish or talking with their relatives outside Afrin.  It is imperative to mention that stealing human organs in Afrin has also become a frequent occurrence.

Nazli Haji Rashid is a Kurdish citizen from the village of Qushu in Afrin. She was suffering from a normal disease when she was admitted to a hospital run by Turkish intelligence, according to Nazli's family. She was then killed in the hospital. After the family received her body, they noticed  that most of her organs were stolen. Human organ trafficking has become one of the activities systematically practiced by the Turkish occupation forces and their mercenaries. There are a huge number of different cases with some examples below.

·       On 10th of October 2020, Nidal Barakat (38 years) from Jenderes had all his organs stolen.

·       A child, Khalil Sheikho, was killed by the Turkish border guards and his organs were stolen.

·       Othman Ahmed (70 years), from the village of Burj Abdalo, died in a terrorist bombing that hit the al-Hal market in Afrin on 31 October 2019 and all his organs were stolen.

·       Abd al-Hanan Muhammad Hassan from the village of Kafr Safra in Afrin, died in the same bombing and had all his organs stolen.

·       Muhammad Mahmoud Abu from the village of Korzila died in the terrorist al-Hal bombing and had all his organs stolen.

Arresting and kidnapping

Despite the tragic situation in Afrin, the Turkish occupation forces and their mercenaries have stepped up pressure on Kurdish families, with the aim of forcing residents to leave and stealing their homes for their own families

The Afrin Activists Network stated in a report published in December 2020 that “For the last two weeks of December, there were many cases of shooting Kurdish citizens, with the aim of terrorizing the population and forcing them to leave their homes. Furthermore, there are many detailed documents that prove the involvement of the Turkish occupation forces and Syrian mercenaries in the kidnapping of 100 Kurdish citizens, including many women and children, 25 of them were from the village of Maabatlı”. 

The villages of Jebel Liloun also witnessed many attacks as a result of not paying protection money to the militias. The Turkish occupation forces and their mercenaries have escalated the harassment, and many Kurdish residents were insulted or beaten. Additionally, there is a terrifying increase in the number of cases of raping women in front of their families.

Imposing taxes

An extremist group called the Sultan Suleiman Shah faction in the village of Kakhur imposed a tax on the olive harvest, and forced olive presses in the village of Bahdina to sell leftover olives after squeezing at a price of  $30 per ton, which is $10 less than the market price.

Confiscation of civilian property

Confiscation of civilian property has become a normal activity in Afrin with the occupiers trading Kurdish property after stealing it. For example, a settler confiscated the house of the Kurdish citizen “Hassan Qanbar” from the village of Ailka, then sold it to another settler for $ 1,200. Another house owned by the Kurdish citizen, "Khalil Ahmad," from the village of Basuta, was sold for $ 800.

The Turkish-backed extremists in Afrin confiscated the homes of citizens “Seydou Ahmed Mustafa and Aslan Zyad Qadour” and transformed them to two military headquarters in the Ashrafieh neighborhood in the center of the city. Additionally, the house of the two brothers, Sheikho and Othman Ahmed Kushan, was also plundered.

According to Afrin network media report, which is published by the Egyptian Al-Shams News website, another jihadi group called Sham Legion affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood has threatened the people of the villages of Basufan, Burj Haydar, Ba'ayat, Fafratin and Kabashin in the Sherawa district by forcibly removing them from their homes after a siege that has been ongoing for some weeks. A report by the Violation Documentation Center in North Syria stated that before the Turkish occupation of Afrin there were more than 3500 Yezidi living in Iskan village, but today there are only 200 people remaining. The Yezidi village was subjected to all types of violations by the militants of Sham Legion; they have prevented them from practicing their religion and are forcibly impose their version of Islam.

Stealling and vandalized of antiquities

Turkish forces and their Islamic extremist allies, together with certain terrorist factions are attempting to change the features of Afrin city, and have stolen many antiquities. The shrine of Prophet Hori is one of the archaeological sites that has been vandalized, and it has been converted into a mosque which is controlled by the Turkish Hatay Endowment Directorate.

Environment destruction

Some other extremist groups like Sultan Murad and Ahrar al-Sharqiya are continually cutting down trees in Afrin. Recently they have cut more than 130 olive trees owned by the Kurdish citizen “Muhammad Khalil Hamo” from the village of Haloubia, and 90 trees for the citizen “Muhammad Darwish” from the village of Matina. More than 900 trees from Mapata, and 220 olive trees in the Qarah Gerna area were cut and sold as firewood in the Turkish markets.

According to human rights reports issued concerning the situation in the Afrin region, there are several Qatari, Turkish and Brotherhood charitable relief societies and organizations that started different activities in Afrin right after the occupation in order to consolidate settlement and enable settlers to build villages, mosques and religious schools. These reports confirmed that the situation in Afrin is a humanitarian disaster. Below are some examples of those organizations: Hand in Hand / Qatari Organization - The Big Heart, the Association of the Sons of Houran and the People of the Levant / Shafak / Turkey - Turkish IHH - the Eastern Dawn Organization / Qatari Endowment of the Turkish Religion - the Artgrel / Turkmen Organization - the Turkmen Association - and other associations and organizations.

The Violations Documentation Center in Northern Syria has stated that there are many attempts at demographic change and Turkification of the region through imposing the Turkish language and repressing the expression of Syrian identities, which is a clear indication of the Turkish plan of demographic change in Afrin. In addition to what was mentioned above, we have documented more than 18 cases of the transformation of educational and cultural centers into military headquarters, 9 houses were demolished and destroyed, 500 graves were bulldozed, 25 cases of theft and the confiscation of public and private property, and 35 houses were stolen.