Four villages in Sherawa, Afrin surrounded
Three sides of the Bircqase, Kilote, Gunde Mezin and Basemre villages in Afrin’s Sherawa district have been surrounded by the Turkish army and their allied gangs. The only road to the villages is under control of the Syrian regime.
The Bircqase, Kilote, Gunde Mezin and Basemre villages are to the west of Afrin’s Sherawa district, and are by the border with the area under Turkish state and gang occupation. From the north to the west, the Kimare, Berade, Kefer Nebo, Birc Heyder and Kibesine villages are along the border. To the east there are Nubil-Zehra and the twin towns are under Syrian regime control. To the south there is the Kela Simeane, where the invaders are. These four villages have been targeted by gangs constantly since 2012. With the Turkish state invading Afrin, the villages were surrounded from three sides. The only road to the Sherawa and Shehba regions is controlled by the Syrian regime, or occasionally forces allied with them, and they extort passersby. Villagers are having a harder time because the road is closed.
The villagers spoke to the ANF about their village and their situation. Sherawa Council Member and member of the peace committee for the four villages, Mahmud Mihemed said Bircqase is an ancient village: “Some villagers live on agriculture, some are workers. They usually go to Lebanon to work. The village is surrounded. From the north to the south there are Kimare, Berade, Birc Heyder, Bircke Sileman, Kefer Nebo, Basufane, Fifine and Kibisine villages, all under Turkish state occupation. There are some 150 refugees from Afrin in Bircqase. In Kilote there are around 5. There are 30 refugees from Afrin in Gunde Mezin, and 15 families in Basemre. These four villages are on the border, and in Nubil-Zehra there is the state. We are surrounded. There is just a kilometer distance between us and the Turkish allied gangs in places. Sometimes there is less. Every few days they fire mortars into the village, and the state cuts off our roads. So we are completely surrounded. They just close the road as they wish. We resist that, and we will continue until the end.”
THE REGIME GIVES US THE MOST TROUBLE
Mihemmed Eli Mihemmed, who was forced to leave Afrin after the occupation and currently lives in Bircqase, said the worst trouble came from the regime closing off the Nubil-Zehra road. Mihemmed Eli Mihemmed said: “As refugees from Afrin, there are 225 families living in these four villages. There are 220 local families in the Bircqase village. We are surrounded in these villages on three sides by the Turkish state and their gangs. They attack the villages with mortars. We have just one road that is open, and it is to the regime-controlled Nubil-Zehra. The regime keeps closing off this road. They take our cars and demand money. They constantly give the people trouble. We have people injured due to the attacks, there is a Heyva Sor station here but it’s not enough. More than the attacks, the regime closing off the road gives us trouble. We need the road to take our wounded to hospitals and to go procure our needs.”
POWER CUT OFF FROM NUBIL-ZEHRA
Kilote village commune co-chair Hisen Eli said the gangs are 5 km from the village and attack every night with mortars and Howitzers: “There are 70 families and a total of 310 people in this village. 10 of these families are from Afrin. We are surrounded by gangs on three sides, our only way out is through Nubil-Zehra but the regime keeps closing that road, or demands money for passing through. The regime provides electricity for Nubil-Zehra but not our four villages. The people are having an extremely hard time. There are no jobs, there is no land left to farm. Landmines have been laid outside the village, people can’t go to their fields. Often the animals detonate these landmines. We have mortars fired on us every day. The only purpose of these is to make us leave our own village, but they must know that we never will.”
Fatma Ibrahim from the Kilote village said the gangs burned down all olive trees and fields that the people lived off of, and so the people have lost their livelihood completely. Ibrahim said there are times when they are stuck in the village for months, but that they won’t leave their villages despite everything.
“WE COULDN’T CROSS OVER FOR TWO MONTHS”
Gunde Mezin commune co-chair Emine Hesen Berho said there are 350 families and 1.500 people in the village, with 60 families coming from Afrin. Berho said the gang attacks and regime embargo has made life dificult for the villagers, and that they haven’t been able to cross over to Sherawa’s other side for two months: “Because the regime cut off the road and they are not letting us through. When they do, they demand money. The regime is tearing us apart. Whenever there is an attack, we have to leave our homes. Then regime allied groups come and rob our homes.”
“THEY ARE ONLY 500 METERS AWAY”
The village closest to the gangs, Basemre village commune co-chair Zekeri Mihemmed Xirfan said: “The west of our village is completely under gang occupation up to Xeftan Zeves, Kefer Besine and Enedane. The closest gang checkpoint is at 500 meters from us. They fire mortars into the village daily. Our injured and sick cannot cross the road into the city. The only road we have is through Nubil-Zehra but that is under regime control, so we end up stranded in the village for months at times.”