6 years of Turkish control in Afrin: 310,000 Kurds displaced, thousands arrested

Six years have passed since Syria’s majority-Kurdish city of Afrin and its surrounding districts came under Turkish control, leading to the displacement of more than 310,000 civilians and the confiscation of their property by Turkish forces and their allied groups, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Turkey and its Syrian proxies in January 2018 conducted a cross-border military excursion in Afrin called Operation Olive Branch in an effort to dislodge Kurdish fighters affiliated with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main element in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Turkish government views the YPG and SDF as extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Two months into the operation, Turkish forces entered the city center.
According to SOHR, the occupation of predominantly Kurdish Afrin was characterized by numerous human rights violations. These include the forced displacement of the local population, arbitrary arrests and the systematic confiscation of property, which has contributed to a significant demographic change in the region.
The SOHR documented the arrest of over 8,729 Syrian Kurds since the beginning of the occupation. Of these, 1,123 are still imprisoned, many having been released after paying substantial ransoms for their release. In addition, the organization has recorded the deaths of 668 Kurds, including 97 children and 88 women, through various forms of violence, such as IED explosions, airstrikes and extrajudicial executions.
The Turkish armed forces and their proxies are accused of more than 3,986 human rights violations such as  the confiscation of houses, stores and farmland, the sale of these goods at low prices and the levying of taxes on civilians to cultivate their land. The cutting down of tens of thousands of fruit-bearing trees for sale as firewood was also reported.
“For six years, Turkish forces and their proxy factions have wreaked havoc in Afrin, after having forced most of the indigenous inhabitants of the Syrian canton to displace and seized their properties. Despite the frequent warnings against the gravity of the current situation in Afrin, Turkish forces and their proxies have been proceeding with their reprehensible practices, violating all human rights and international conventions, amid suspicious inaction by the international community,” the SOHR said.
According to the SOHR, efforts to change the demographics of Afrin are obvious. Over 4,476 families from different Syrian provinces have been resettled in the area.
In 2023 a new housing complex called “Ajnadeen Felasteen” was built under the supervision of the Turkish Armed Forces, further cementing the demographic shift. The project aims to house members of pro-Turkish Syrian forces such as the Ahrar Al-Sham faction. This continues the policy of expelling the indigenous civilian population of Afrin and replacing them with families loyal to the Turkish-backed factions, according to the SOHR.
The international community’s silence on these issues is a point of contention for observers and human rights organizations.
“For six years, the indigenous inhabitants of the predominantly-Kurdish enclave have been dreaming to return to their houses after expelling Turkish forces and their proxies. However, this dream has been met by ‘shameful’ silence by relevant international authorities regarding the blatant violations committed in Afrin, which has become more akin to a Turkish district where the Turkish flag is raised on institutions and residents are forced to learn the Turkish language and give up their properties for Turkish-backed factions at a time when Ankara has managed to impose its rules in schools and courthouses as a part of an evil scheme to occupy the canton,” the SOHR said.

News Code 159489

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