Attempts to Turkify the occupied Afrin territory

Despite a heavy siege during the Rojava Revolution, Afrin was an example for a democratic system. Yet there is a Turkification attempt in Afrin through post-occupation massacres, plundering and assimilation.

The Turkish state is destroying the history, nature and society of Afrin since January 20, 2018 when it first began the occupation campaign. The Turkish state is trying to separate Afrin from Syria and attach it to Turkey, to change its demography and Turkify the entire Afrin region under the Turkish government. Yet the people of Afrin continue to resist these attempts.

The crimes committed by the Turkish state in Afrin were not less than what ISIS had done previously in Iraq and Syria. Similar to the time when ISIS was taking pride in terminating ancient and religious sites, the Turkish state and its affiliated mercenaries when they first occupied Afrin, started with the destruction of the statue of Kawa the Blacksmith. The footage of this barbarism which was broadcast live by the Rudaw TV reminded of the destruction of ancient Palmyra by ISIS.

AFP documented the looting in Afrin

Turkish-led mercenaries, a traditional force of plundering, started to loot civilian properties as just as they entered Afrin city center. Legitimizing their crimes in the name of ‘spoils of war’, the mercenaries seized houses and the workplaces of the Afrin people. The French news agency AFP had a journalist in Afrin, that documented all of the plundering. Once the images were published on international media, the United States, the European Union – who were silent during Turkey’s occupation campaign – expressed discontent for the first time.

The properties which were looted by Turkish mercenaries in Afrin, were sold in the markets of Azaz town and elsewhere in occupied northwest Syria. The plundering even targeted the houses of Arab residents and the collaborator ENKS.

Tens of prisons

The Turkish state and its affiliated mercenaries, starting from March 18, 2018 began to abduct, torture and kill Kurdish citizens in Afrin region. According to the Human Rights Documentation and Archiving Center of Northern Syria in Afrin, 270 civilians were killed by the end of 2018 and 4500 others were abducted and imprisoned. There are five official prisons in Afrin, yet each of the mercenary groups is running its own prisons.

Abduction, torture and killing

The majority of the pressure and abduction crimes were committed in the villages of Baflun, Qibar and Xezewi which were populated by the Yazidi (Êzidî) minority in Afrin. Up to this moment, 4500 civilians have been kidnaped by the Turkish state and its mercenaries, the fate of 850 of them is unknown – 159 of the noted civilians are women.

Demographic change

Hundreds of thousands of Afrin people were forced into displacement in the aftermath of the Turkish occupation. Their private properties were confiscated. About 80.000 non-locals were brought by the Turkish state from Ghouta, Homs, Qalamoun, Hama, Damascus and elsewhere in Syria to be settled in occupied Afrin. The Arab IDPs from Idlib were likewise settled in Afrin’s Jindirese district.

Some of the local Afrin villagers who refused to leave their homes after the occupation, were forced by the Turkish state forces to leave their land. The Turkish state committed a mass demographic change and issued Turkish identity cards to the non-locals they had brought to settle in Afrin.

During the occupation campaign, the Turkish state did not hesitate to destroy religious sites of the Yazidi faith, and leveled historical locations to the ground.

Using their mercenaries as a proxy, the Turkish state transferred antiquities of Afrin into Turkish territory.

They did not show mercy to the dead in Afrin, two cemeteries of martyrs were completely destroyed by the Turkish army – they carried out exhumations at Martyr Avesta Cemetery.


Plunder of nature in Afrin

The crimes of the occupying Turkish state were not less than ISIS’; they even plundered the nature of Afrin and burned down many of the olive trees in the region. During the occupation campaign there was rarely a night without Turkish army setting fire to a forest near Afrin. Tens of forests and more than ten thousand olive trees were burned in Afrin.

Plunder of harvest and agriculture in Afrin

After occupying Afrin, the Turkish army established a special protocol among its personnel and the affiliated mercenaries to steal agricultural harvest and Afrin olives, and transferred them to Turkey. The agriculture board in Afrin reported that 15 tons of wheat harvest from 2017 and 20-25 tons of wheat from 2018 were seized by Turkish state and affiliated mercenaries.

Similar to wheat, the Turkish state also looted the olives of Afrin, the harvest of which in 2018 was predicted at 220.000 tons – which was also transferred to Turkey. The olives were processed for oil in Turkey and then sold to Spain. Once the olive plunder was brought up by the media, the Turkish ministry of agriculture admitted that “we as the (AKP) government do not want the PKK to get an income from Afrin” and denied the agricultural looting in Afrin.

Turkification attempts in Afrin

Currently there are so many Turkish banners, titles and flags in occupied Afrin that it no longer appears to be a Syrian city – it is more like a part of Turkey. The Turkish state during the occupation destroyed 31 schools and banned the education in Kurdish language. Now the schools in occupied Afrin are only teaching in Arabic and Turkish, the curriculum is also based on Turkish nationalism. The school titles were replaced with the names of Ottoman sultans.

The institutions, villages and neighborhoods in occupied Afrin were likewise renamed. Some of the areas were named after Ottomans, Seljuks and even Erdogan.

ISIS and Al-Nusra in occupied Afrin

The Turkish state and affiliated mercenaries did not only act with the mentality of ISIS. They also deployed ISIS groups within their mercenaries and used them as the first line of assault. Now ISIS has a presence inside the mercenary groups led by the Turkish state.

One of these mercenaries, Seif Plat Abu-Bakr who had joined ISIS earlier and fought in Aleppo, was shown as a commander of the Al-Hamzat mercenaries during the occupation of Afrin. The head of the Al-Zahar Bebars battalion affiliated with the Sultan Murad mercenary group, is Abu Abdul-Rahman, a former ISIS fighter.

The Turkish state has deployed a portion of the HTS (Al-Nusra) mercenaries from Idlib to Afrin. On September 18, 2018, 400 HTS mercenaries were deployed to Afrin and embedded with the Faylaq Al-Rahman and Al-Hamzad groups in Afrin city center and Jindirese district. Apart from that, 65 members of the HTS, led by Au Omar Al-Shami, have joined the Faylaq Al-Rahman group in Qibar village in occupied Afrin.