Protest against the demographic change and the settlement of Palestinians in Afrin
Accompanied by the silence of world public opinion, the Turkish state is occupying parts of Syria and consolidating its occupation through looting, destruction, displacement and the violent Turkification of all life.
The Autonomous Administration of Afrin and Shehba Canton made a statement denouncing the settlement of Palestinians and the demographic change in Afrin.
The statement was made in Serdem Camp in Shehba with the participation of Afrin IDPs and representatives of the Autonomous Administration. The statement was read by Afrin Canton Council Members Mistefa Nebo and Rêgaz Lolo.
In the statement, it was pointed out that the conflicts between radical movements continue at the expense of the people and said: "The displaced people of Afrin, and the parties and institutions in Shehba condemn the policies of the Turkish occupation state in changing the demographic structure of Afrin and settling Palestinians in the homes of displaced citizens, especially the Kurds, with the support of Qatar and some Palestinian factions."
The statement reacted to the silence of human rights organisations and said, "We demand that the violations committed be documented, recorded and exposed as soon as possible. The public must also be informed, and the murderers must be held accountable."
Occupied territories de facto linked to the Turkish administration
The Turkish state occupies large parts of northern and eastern Syria in violation of international law. The occupied territories are de facto linked to the Turkish administration by provincial governors and are dominated by militias commanded by Turkey. These groups consist largely of the remnants of the ISIS, the former Al-Nusra front, but also of entire jihadist militias such as Ahrar al-Sham or Faylaq al-Sham. Among them, there is regular conflict over looting, territory or plunder. There is a climate of terror. Kidnappings, torture and extra-legal executions are commonplace. These conditions mean that more and more of the original inhabitants have to leave the region. Loyal settlers are being accommodated in their place.
The rest of the Kurdish population is subjected to an assimilation campaign as the Turkish state is pursuing a three-stage plan in northern and eastern Syria. First the Kurdish population is displaced, then the region is Arabized and finally Turkified.
Colonial settlements built in Afrin
According to the Human Rights Organization Afrin-Syria, colonial settlements are being built in Afrin with support from the so-called charity organizations Helping Hand For Relief and Development-HHRD and Swasia Charity Foundation, both of which are based in the U.S.
Both organizations are reported to be playing a role in the construction of colonial residential complexes near the village of Kafr Rum in the Shera district and the Helping Hand settlement near the city center of Afrin. In addition, the International Relief and Development organization is reported to be building 100 houses on a farm in the village of Kubala in the Sherawa district.
Afrin Canton was the westernmost canton of Rojava and North and East Syria, home to 200,000 ethnic Kurds. Though the population was overwhelmingly Kurdish, it was home to diverse religious groups including Yazidis, Alawites and Christians alongside Sunni Muslims.
On 20 January 2018, Turkey launched air strikes on 100 locations in Afrin, as the onset of an invasion they dubbed ‘Operation Olive Branch.’
The Turkish Airforce indiscriminately shelled civilians as well as YPG/YPJ positions, while a ground assault was carried out by factions and militias organised under the umbrella of the Turkish-backed National Army.
By 15 March, Turkish-backed militias had encircled Afrin city and placed it under artillery bombardment. A Turkish airstrike struck the city’s only functioning hospital, killing 16 civilians.
Civilians fled and the SDF retreated, and by 18 March Turkey was in de facto occupation of Afrin. Between 400 and 500 civilians died in the invasion, overwhelmingly as a result of Turkish bombing. Other civilians were summarily executed in the field.
Prior to the Turkish invasion, Afrin had been one of the most peaceful and secure parts of Syria, virtually never seeing combat during the civil war but occasional skirmishes between YPG/YPJ and jihadi forces on its borders. As a result, Afrin offered peaceful sanctuary to over 300,000 internally displaced people from elsewhere in Syria.
Before the Turkish invasion, the population of Afrin consisted of well over 90 percent Kurds. According to various sources, this percentage has dropped to 15-22 percent due to the occupation. The 300,000 internally displaced persons from Afrin confirm these numbers. At the same time, more than 450,000 people were resettled in Afrin, mainly members of mercenary groups and their families, as well as refugees from other parts of Syria with links with Turkey. The Barzani Foundation and the Barzani party KDP-ENKS play an important role in Turkey's expansionist moves. Since the beginning of the Rojava revolution, the KDP and the ENKS have been trying to destabilize the region through terrorist attacks, support for Islamist mercenaries and smear campaigns against the Autonomous Administration of Rojava and to pave the way for a Turkish occupation. The occupation of Afrin has led to a regime of terror.
At the same time, the Kurdish language was banned and Turkish flags and pictures of President Erdoğan were hung everywhere. Turkish ID cards were issued. Place names were Turkified. For example, Azadî Square was renamed Atatürk Square. In addition, sacred Yazidi sites were looted and destroyed.
Around 9,000 people have been abducted in recent years, and around a third of them are still missing. These atrocious acts were committed by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda affiliate, as well as remnants of ISIS and Turkish right-wing extremists. In the last six months alone, 12 people have been killed by the occupiers and 173 people have been kidnapped.