Sirwan Kajjo
Jan 20 2018

Afrin residents hope for the best, prepare for the Turkish invasion

As tensions increase between Turkish forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters near a border flashpoint city, residents in the Syrian city of Afrin are trying to cope with the rapidly evolving situation.

Although a full-scale Turkish offensive has not begun, several Kurdish-held villages on the Syrian side of the border have been targeted by Turkish artillery. At least dozen border villages have been hit by the Turkish military in the past two days, according to local sources.

“People in these villages are sacred because the Turkish military is shelling indiscriminately,” Ayende Koran, a local reporter who closely follows the events, told Ahval.  

Despite these continued attacks, villagers have not fled from their homes as they are besieged on all sides, she said.

In the center of Afrin city, the situation is relatively calm.

The market movement seems normal and most supplies are available, despite a spike in prices since Turkish threats have escalated in the past few days.

“People are going about their daily lives as usual,” said Shekho Billo, a 45-year old lawyer who lives in Afrin. “I have been going to work at the court every day since the Turkish threats began last week.”

There is, however, an obvious concern among Afrin’s residents that Turkey might invade the city at any moment, he said.

Surrounded by opposition forces from the east and west, Syrian regime troops from the south and a sealed Turkish border from the north, Afrin –  a region of nearly 800,000 people – has practically been isolated for more than two years.

Known for abundance of agricultural produce, the Afrin region has relied on local production to meet the population needs.

“We have been used to this type of situation. We’ve even endured worse conditions,” said Walid Osman, a 32-year old elementary school teacher in Afrin. “Our city is rich enough for us to pull through these difficult times.”

Several thousand residents took to the streets of Afrin on Friday to protest Turkey’s threats to invade their city and the bombing that has been ongoing on the border.

“This crisis has unified the people of Afrin more than ever. People of different political backgrounds are opposing Turkey’s intentions to occupy their city,” said one protester, who asked not to be identified.

On the eastern frontier of Afrin, heavy clashes broke out between Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups and People’s Protection Units (YPG). The fighting has left several fighters dead on both sides.

Opposition fighters, including the Sultan Murad Division and Jaysh al-Naser, have stated their readiness to attack Afrin alongside the Turkish military.

Throughout the Kurdish-held enclaves, YPG fighters are on full alert and reinforcements are on standby, Kurdish military officials said Friday.

“We will confront any attack on Afrin, whether by the Turkish military or their allied Syrian rebels,” Nuri Mahmoud, YPG’s spokesman, told the pan-Arab al-Arabiya news channel.

YPG fighters from other Kurdish-led enclaves in northern Syria have reportedly been deployed to Afrin, local sources said.

“Today we heard about some additional YPG forces coming into Afrin,” Koran said. “But we don’t know where they came from.”