“Afrin IDPs” a return to the settlements and legitimizing occupation

After Turkey and its mercenaries of the armed factions launched a war on Afrin region, northwest Syria, in January 2018, the majority of the population was forcibly fled and displaced to the Shahba area (Aleppo northern countryside). As it was documented by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the total number of the displaced after the Turkish military occupation were estimated at 300,000 people by May 2018, while about 400,000 settlers have been transferred to Afrin to be settled instead of the indigenous residents, some of whom were displaced from Eastern Ghouta in Rif Dimashq, and some are families of Arab and Turkmen pro-Turkish militias.

Practices of the mercenaries in Afrin:

Since Turkey and its armed gangs took control of Afrin, the situation has worsened in there, where they have committed the most heinous types of violations against civilians, including killing, kidnapping and rape, such as the kidnapping of a minor girl, Malak Nabih Khalil Jum’a, who was kidnapped by the al-Nukhba faction affiliated with the Sultan Murad Division, and later, her body was found in one of the agricultural lands after she was brutally shot dead.

They also made a demographic change, bringing mercenaries’ families and settling them in the homes of the indigenous people of Afrin. The mercenaries have cut down trees, where they have cut 43,000 fruitful and forest trees since the occupation of Afrin in 2019, according to the Human Rights Organization-Afrin, as well as the seizure of lands and agricultural crops, to export them abroad under the Turkish origin and production, as they did with the Afrin olive oil. In addition, they engaged in re-registration of real estate in order to deprive the displaced people of ownership of their lands, in addition to the theft of antiquities that date back thousands of years.

Now, more than three years after the occupation of Afrin, in addition to the forced displacement and the demographic change, the documents of violations committed by Turkey and its mercenaries have begun to come out in the open, as many local and international reports have appeared documenting these practices in which Turkey has publicly accused of committing war crimes, which put it in an embarrassing position in front of the international community. Therefore, the Turkish intelligence rooms began to follow a new policy as an attempt to improve its image in front of the world public opinion, whitewash the face of the mercenaries, and legitimize their occupation. So that it recently promoted the process of returning the displaced people of Afrin from the Shahba camps to their areas by relying on the leaders of the Kurdish National Council of Syria (ENKS), where the document that was posted on social media proves that the two ENKS members, Abdel Baset Hamo and Ibrahim Berro, had met with the official of the Syrian file in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Istanbul on June 21, 2021, where it was agreed to return the Afrin IDPs, which requires intensifying calls through the ENKS media, and an amount of $25,000 has been allocated by the Turkish side to invest it in the issue of the return of the IDPs. This is what we clearly saw when the ENKS member, Abdul Hakim Bashar, demanded the displaced people of Afrin to “return”, claiming that there are no violations as it is promoted on the media.

These data were accompanied by information that members of the armed factions called on the people, through mosque loudspeakers, to encourage the displaced people of Afrin to return. The sources confirmed that this coincided with meetings that took place between the leaders of the armed factions and a number of ENKS members under the names of local councils, mayors and notables of the region, and these meetings focused on communicating with the displaced people of Afrin in the Shahba camps and encouraging them to return to their areas.

The returnee families, estimated at about 37, and they were distributed to the settlements that have recently been formed by Turkey with Qatari and Kuwaiti funds. Among the settlements that were sorted out are Matina, Ba’rava, Baflon and Afrin settlements. The returnee families were placed in these settlements which were built by the Muslim Brotherhood organization, without returning them to their homes and villages. This is another chapter of the complicity and employment of the ENKS. The other thing which proves that the ENKS’s concern is burning the paper that haunts Turkey and its fascist and racist policies against the Kurds, which is the issue of forced displacement and war crimes committed that Turkey cannot evade. The ENKS, and by virtue of its organic association with Turkey’s policies known to all, wants to remove this tint from the Turkish fascism.

The separation of families on the settlements is due to Turkey’s unwillingness to have Kurdish communities on one spot inside the city of Afrin.

In addition, those who were deceived and returned, were subjected to arrests, and the number of detainees since the beginning of August until now has exceeded nearly 30, in addition to arrests of women who were among the returnees.

These steps and calls that are launched by the ENKS leaders that the displaced should return despite all these violations and without providing any international guarantees for their return are nothing but a promotion of the Turkish racist policies, and according to observers of the Kurdish affairs, it comes to emptying the Shahba areas and the camps in which the displaced families are located, where Turkey, through the ENKS, wants to raise the tint of demographic change from itself and cover up its crimes committed there with the support of its mercenary factions and legitimizing its occupation of Afrin, in addition to distorting the image of the Autonomous Administration in front of international and internal public opinion, and trying to increase the rift between the Kurdish parties and create obstacles that prevent the resumption of the intra-Kurdish dialogue rounds and the unification of the Kurdish position.