Mar 07 2018

UN concerned civilians may be trapped in Afrin

Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary General Farhan Haq voiced concerns on Tuesday that local authorities are preventing civilians from leaving the northwest Syrian town of Afrin, as Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch closes in on the city.

Speaking at Tuesday’s daily press briefing, Haq said that while around 5,000 people had been able to leave the Afrin area, the UN was concerned that “not all of those who want to leave the area have been able to get past the local authorities.”

A reporter from Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency then asked Haq “Who do you report to by the local authorities?  Are they the Kurdish fighters in Afrin?” This prompted the UN spokesman to affirm that Kurdish fighters were “among” the local authorities in question.

Anadolu Agency and other major Turkish news sources including Hürriyet newspaper reported on Tuesday’s daily briefing. Their reports, however, diverged from the official report published on the UN website, which says it is “a near-verbatim transcript” of the press briefing.

Anadolu reports the question posed to Haq as “Who do you report to by the local authorities? Are they the YPG/PKK terrorist organisation?” – referring to the People’s Protection Units, an armed Kurdish group that Turkey considers the Syrian extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party. 

Hürriyet’s report of the briefing also carries the question as Anadolu quoted it.

Haq’s press briefing on Wednesday expressed concerns over the “tens of thousands of people” displaced in Afrin “reportedly sheltered in schools, mosques and public buildings”, adding that their main needs “include food, medicine and winter items.”