Returning Syrian refugees are mostly families of Turkey-backed fighters - report

The majority of the Syrian refugees whom Turkey has resettled in northeast Syria are families of Turkish-backed Syrian militias, Foreign Policy said on Monday, citing reports by a local watchdog.

Turkey on Oct. 9 launched a military operation in northeast Syria to clear Kurdish-led forces it views as terrorists from areas south of its border. Ankara took control of an area between two border towns of Ras al Ayn and Tel Abyad during the operation, and aims to create what it calls a safe zone to resettle Syrian asylum seekers, over 3.6 million of whom are currently residing in Turkey.

Following the incursion some of the Syrian refugees, whom Turkey says are from previously Kurdish-controlled region, began to return. But most are actually from other parts of Syria, such as Raqqa, Idlib, Ghouta, Homs and even Iraq, Foreign Policy said, citing Thomas McClure, a researcher with the Syria-based Rojava Information Center.

McClure said the majority are likely the family members of Turkish-backed fighters, many of whom defected from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army and have ties to extremist groups such as al Qaeda, according to Foreign Policy.

The Turkish-backed rebels spearheading the country’s offensive in northeast Syria have been accused of committing war crimes, carrying out summary executions and unlawfully occupying and looting private properties, while the offensive has brought accusations of ethnic cleansing against Turkey.

Foreign Policy said the reports of atrocities by the rebels had raised fears that a form of ethnic cleansing was taking place, as people of Arab descent were moved to the region while its displaced Kurdish population was prevented from returning.

Some 200,000 people were forced to flee due to Turkish incursion and most of them have not returned to their homes, Foreign Policy said, citing local reports.

The majority of the Syrian refugees whom Turkey has resettled in northeast Syria are families of Turkish-backed Syrian militias, Foreign Policy said on Monday, citing reports by a local watchdog.

Turkey on Oct. 9 launched a military operation in northeast Syria to clear Kurdish-led forces it views as terrorists from areas south of its border. Ankara took control of an area between two border towns of Ras al Ayn and Tel Abyad during the operation, and aims to create what it calls a safe zone to resettle Syrian asylum seekers, over 3.6 million of whom are currently residing in Turkey.

Following the incursion some of the Syrian refugees, whom Turkey says are from previously Kurdish-controlled region, began to return. But most are actually from other parts of Syria, such as Raqqa, Idlib, Ghouta, Homs and even Iraq, Foreign Policy said, citing Thomas McClure, a researcher with the Syria-based Rojava Information Center.

McClure said the majority are likely the family members of Turkish-backed fighters, many of whom defected from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army and have ties to extremist groups such as al Qaeda, according to Foreign Policy.

The Turkish-backed rebels spearheading the country’s offensive in northeast Syria have been accused of committing war crimes, carrying out summary executions and unlawfully occupying and looting private properties, while the offensive has brought accusations of ethnic cleansing against Turkey.

Foreign Policy said the reports of atrocities by the rebels had raised fears that a form of ethnic cleansing was taking place, as people of Arab descent were moved to the region while its displaced Kurdish population was prevented from returning.

Some 200,000 people were forced to flee due to Turkish incursion and most of them have not returned to their homes, Foreign Policy said, citing local reports.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/12/09/turkey-resettling-refugees-northeastern-syria/