October 2 was 256 days, 37 weeks “of violations…killing, and displacement” as well as the “seventh month of international silence on letting the murder, abuse, and looting be carried out in the Afrin area
“Turkey must stop serious violations by allied groups and its own forces in Afrin…”
― Amnesty International (August 2, 2018)
“…the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights holds the Turkish authorities responsible for all violations against the residents of the Afrin area in the northwestern countryside of Aleppo Province, where despite the violations, killings, displacement, torture, looting, stealing, imposition of royalties, and trafficking in detainees; the Turkish authorities are still allowing the Forces of the “Olive Branch” Operation and the rebel and Islamic factions to do what they want, all of which is ongoing amid international silence to the daily violations against the Syrian people in the Afrin area…” (SOHR, October 2, 2018)
As the year closes in and the days pass since Turkey with its F-16 Fighter jets and its Islamist allies crossed the border into the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava), leaving a bloody trail of destruction in its wake…
…And now all these days on since March 18, when Afrin city was captured and the Kurdish forces were forced to withdraw, a small number of reports have struggled to end the silence to denounce the ongoing human rights violations as well as the general lawlessness of key NATO ally Turkey and the armed gangs which now rule by force a substantial part of Kurdish territory, once a refuge from the destruction of the homicidal 7 year Syrian civil war.
Now the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who has monitored the situation in Afrin, its cities, towns and villages since the Turkish invasion, has produced its 256 day report giving voice to the almost endless list of violations perpetrated by the Turkish military and its Jihadist allies on the local population.
October 2 was 256 days, 37 weeks “of violations…killing, and displacement” as well as the “seventh month of international silence on letting the murder, abuse, and looting be carried out in the Afrin area in the northwestern part of Aleppo province, since the start of Operation “Olive Branch” on the 20th of January 2018.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in the United Kingdom, and apparently with extensive contacts across Syria, has managed to document the outrageous situation ongoing in Afrin since the Turkish invasion and in doing so has highlighted an administration committed to gross human rights abuses and violent attacks on those it has a responsibility to protect.
The report shows that Turkey’s war on the Syrian Kurds and the other minorities once residing peacefully in the Afrin region, did not end after its 58 day high-tech war against the local defenders, but instead has escalated, starting with:
“…the arrests of Afrin area’s citizens, where the arrests began as the military forces were able to enter areas populated by people who refused to leave their villages and towns and flee towards other Syrian areas…”
This has now included:
The arrest of more than 2338 citizens;
Of which more than 835 who are still in detention;
Torture against the detainees;
Release, if possible, only after the payment of a ransom imposed by members of the “Olive Branch” operation, “which sometimes reached more than 10 million Syrian pounds…”
All of which – and in the face of which the silence of the international community, and in particular Turkey’s NATO allies, should hang their heads in shame – was supported by:
“A lack of deterrence or accountability by the Turkish authorities or Turkish Forces in the area…”
Likewise since the occupation, March 18, 2018, the SOHR has:
“…been monitoring the number of casualties increasing day after day, as the fate of tens of those who were unaccounted for is revealed, where it rose to 373 civilians including 55 children and 36 women, the number of civilian citizens of the Kurds, Arabs, and Armenians, tens of them were killed in a mine explosion and under torture by “Olive Branch” factions, also the majority of them were killed by the Turkish aerial and artillery shelling and bombardment, and in several executions against citizens in Afrin area since the 20th of January 2018, also the shelling wounded hundreds of the citizens with varying severity…”
The Observatory also updated its estimate of the number of casualties in the invasion
At least 1580 fighters of YPG and Self-Defense Forces, who have been killed since the start of Operation “Olive Branch”;
About 634 members of the Turkish forces and the rebel and Islamic factions including 83 Turkish soldiers, who were killed in the clashes against Kurdish Forces in Afrin area since the start of Operation “Olive Branch” in January 2018;
At least 91 of the popular members of the regime forces have been killed in the Turkish bombardment since they entered on the 20th of February 2018;
The Turkish forces have carried out about 128 assassinations and targeting against the forces controlling Afrin;
Other serious concerns documented by SOHR:
The trafficking in detainees;
The demand for ransoms;
Added to: “the escalation of human casualties as a result of the continuous violations – which are not subject to any objection by the supportive authorities which command these factions…”
All this occurring in an environment Turkey maintains has not alone been stablised since March 2018 but also freed from the “terror regime of the PYD/YPG/PKK”.
In a recent article for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Germany, Loubna Mrie, a Syrian activist, wrote:
“Such stories are completely absent from coverage by Turkish state media. Instead, on state-run TRT, for example, one comes across titles such as “Sport and stability return to Afrin.” This article in particular backs up its claims with footage of a football match between two local groups and a quote from one of the players that “football was not possible when the YPG was controlling the city.” In short, if you rely on Turkish state media for coverage on Afrin, you would be led to assume that the situation is safe and could not be any better. The reality is far different: Afrin today is facing extreme demographic changes and various horrifying human rights violations, which continue to be documented and condemned by human rights organizations.”
Monitored by the SOHR in 3 main ways:
“…the first of which is the process of settling displaced people from the capital Damascus, Rif Dimashq, Ghouta, and other areas of southern and central Syria; and housing them in seized houses of which their former people were displaced from in the large wave of displacement, where more than 300,000 Kurdish citizens had fled Afrin area towards the northern countryside of Aleppo…
“…where displaced people are being resettled and sold land for $100 per 400 meters, and this glutton in the sale of real estate pushed the factions also to expel the displaced people and bring families of their fighters to Afrin and settling them in…
“…while the third method of fighting is by security-and-living pressure on the people, and pushing them to move out of the Afrin area… of whom more than 750 families have gone to the Manbij area, Ayn al-Arab (Kobani), and other areas under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces… and other than that, there are the royalties imposed on the civilian and the people who move within the Afrin area on the main and sub-roads, where varying sums of money are paid to checkpoints of “Olive Branch” Forces, who stop the small, large, public and private vehicles, and sometimes it goes beyond royalty and turn to looting…”
At the same time, Turkey’s goal to “cleanse” the region of Kurds is no longer an international secret, if one still unacknowledged by those with the power to intervene.
In a recent criticism of the Dutch Government for its support for some of the Islamist groups who accompanied Turkey in its encroachment into Afrin, on September 27, 2018 Syria expert Thomas van Linge told Dutch MPs that “Dutch-backed rebels were involved in “ethnic cleansing” in Afrin. ‘The rebels took Afrin, and this involved a lot of looting, and thousands of people were driven from their homes, the region is now ethnically cleansed,’ he said. Van Linge added that refugees from Daraa and east Ghouta had inhabited the homes from locals in Afrin…”
Also through both the destruction and confiscation of agriculture in the region:
“…the second method was fighting through the seizure and restriction of their agricultural crops and clamping down on them in harvesting olives; and preventing them from compressing it except by an official papers and delivering crops, while the factions burn crops and trees of people who refuse to pay royalties depending on the size of the farm, the number of olive trees, and the nature of the area in which they reside, where the “Olive Branch” operation factions arbitrary control the economic resources in Afrin… ”
This comes “…against the backdrop of the seizure of most of the olive plantations in Afrin by the factions of operation “Olive branch”, and leasing it to dealers and workers to work in them and receive money in advance as a price for the lease of these seized plantations, which are more than 75% of the area of olive farms in Afrin, after the factions shared control of olive farms.”
A report echoed by the Kurdish-language Hawar news on October 6 and reported in the Syrian Muraselon under Turkey Planning to Plunder $100mln of Northern Syria’s Agricultural Products:
“Salah Ibo, the deputy head of Afrin Agriculture Department, said that Ankara intends to steal $100 mln of Afrin residents’ agricultural products.
“Also, Hawar news went on to say that terrorists of Ahrar al-Shamiyah and Tajamo’a Adl, both affiliated to the Turkish army, have started fierce clashes in the village of Qajomo in Jandaris region over distribution of looted olive products.”
– The factions also deliberately steal and loot property of citizens, their warehouses, and their shops without fear or deterrence from any other faction or authority;
– The continuous looting of the property of citizens with each raid in Afrin city and its villages;
– Looting of property and contents of houses, (or through the arrest of a resident of the house after fabricating charges relating to the “cooperation with the Kurdish Forces”, in an attempt to impose their power over the area.)
Despite protests and complaints at these ongoing and criminal violations reported there has been no response from the Turkish regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan nor his military commanders (nor Turkey’s NATO allies, let it be said).
Finally, and sadly, ongoing allegations of the abduction and rape of women and young girls by the Turkish forces also needs to be added to this list of human rights abuses which the international community is willing to stay silent on, but for which there will have to be accountability… somewhere, sometime…
In conclusion and amid the enormous “international silence” the SOHR says:
“…the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights holds the Turkish authorities responsible for all violations against the residents of the Afrin area in the northwestern countryside of Aleppo Province, where despite the violations, killings, displacement, torture, looting, stealing, imposition of royalties, and trafficking in detainees; the Turkish authorities are still allowing the Forces of the “Olive Branch” Operation and the rebel and Islamic factions to do what they want, all of which is ongoing amid international silence to the daily violations against the Syrian people in the Afrin area…”
Finally, and in desperation, a call to the international community and the “actor countries”
“… to pressure the Turkish authorities, in order to stop the Syrian opposition factions of the “Olive Branch” Operation from carrying out these flagrant daily violations that have tired people of the Afrin area, those who stayed in their villages and towns…
“…we call on the international community to work diligently to bring the inhabitants of the Afrin area back to their homeland, and guarantee their lives and safety, where there is no place for them to displace to and no organization providing assistance…
“…we also call on humanitarian and relief agencies to provide assistance that will benefit the displaced people of Afrin, and provide medical treatment to hundreds of thousands of displaced people in a narrow geographical area…
“…we also call on the international community to press Turkey to open the checkpoints for people wishing to return to Afrin, and to control the factions that have not left anything without being looted, the factions which exercise daily violations against inhabitants of the Afrin area.”
And surely, somewhere in there also, is an investigation into war crimes, with a view to holding those responsible for murder, torture, kidnapping, abduction, rape and other violations accountable?
And particularly as it appears that by now, Turkey, in the grip of its own internal crisis in respect to the rule of law and respect for human rights standards, has obviously no desire nor capacity to “bring order” to the territories it has brutally conquered and, despite earlier criticism of its lawlessness in the region, continues to believe it can act with impunity while the situation in Afrin for its people continues to deteriorate…
…as the year comes to its end, no longer now: are you listening, Turkey?
Instead it is time for “the international community” – those with a conscience or some small shred of “international integrity left” and in particular – along with the UN’s Human Rights Council – Turkey’s ‘friends’ in the NATO camp – to take a stand on fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to “life, liberty and security of person”, and to step in now and demand accountability.
Protest in London against Turkish military and war against Kurdish people in Syria (March 2018)
By DAVID HOLT from London, England (London March 31 2018 (39) Kurdish Protest) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
“SOHR holds the Turkish government responsible for the daily flagrant violations in Afrin area of kidnapping, arresting, torturing, killing, royalties, trafficking in detainees, settling, seizing, and looting…
About 2350 detainees, about 375 civilian casualties, seizure of olive plantations, settling displaced people and selling them land in the area, displacing 300 thousand Kurds and clamping down on the remainder...”
Between a Rock and a Hard Place – Civilians in North-western Syria (United Nations – Human Rights)
“As a matter of priority, OHCHR urges the Republic of Turkey to ensure that all armed groups over which it exercises control in Afrin and other areas of Syria strictly adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law. Furthermore,
OHCHR urges all parties to strictly adhere to all applicable rules of IHL in relation to the protection of civilians.”
Syria: Turkey must stop serious violations by allied groups and its own forces in Afrin (Amnesty International)
“’Turkey’s military offensive and occupation have exacerbated the suffering of Afrin residents, who have already endured years of bloody conflict. We heard appalling stories of people being detained, tortured or forcibly disappeared by Syrian armed groups, who continue to wreak havoc on civilians, unchecked by Turkish forces,’ said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.”
Syria: Turkey-Backed Groups Seizing Property (Human Rights Watch)
“Turkey-backed armed groups in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have seized, looted, and destroyed property of Kurdish civilians in the Afrin district of northern Syria, Human Rights Watch said today. The anti-government armed groups have installed fighters and their families in residents’ homes and destroyed and looted civilian properties without compensating the owners.”
Updates & Links on Afrin since its occupation