Settlers and settlements in Afrin

Since the start of the Turkish occupation of Afrin region, northwest Syria, in 2018, Turkey continues to change the demographics of the region. After the forced displacement operations that affected more than 75% of the indigenous population, Turkey started establishing settlement projects to house Arabs and Turkmen from various Syrian regions with the aim of erasing the Kurdish identity in the region and ending its existence. This is taking place in agreement with Kuwait and Qatar, which support suspicious settlement associations under the name of relief and humanity in Afrin.

Families of militants of the Syrian National Army (SNA) and ISIS extremists who fled to Afrin, have been resettled there, as their presence during the year 2020 reached about 65.20%, according to the Human Rights Organization in Afrin.

In order to create the elements of stability in the region and to impose the reality of the occupation, the Turkish state has started to build many housing projects throughout the region. For example, in Maryamin village, east of the city of Afrin, it built “al-Shamiya Village,” and in the Yazidi majority village of Balfon, about 70 families from the countryside of Aleppo and Ghouta were settled with financial support for them.

Also, three settlement complexes were built in Aranda village, the plain of Senara village and the plain of Shadiya village, that is, along the border line in Shiyeh (Sheikh al-Hadid) district reaching Rajo district, in addition to building housing complexes in Avrazah and Haj Hasna villages after cutting the olive trees. Besides, a housing complex was built in the village of Baseleih, south of Afrin.

In addition, a housing complex under the name “Kuwait al-Rahma Village” was built in the villages of Sherawa district, specifically Deir Mishmish and Khalta, in cooperation with the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood groups, and the Sabah al-Ahmad Charitable City was built in northwestern Syria and funded by the International Islamic Charitable Association amid great discreetness, so the location of the city has not been specified yet. Also, other housing complexes were built in Midan Ekbes village, the northwest of Jindires and the Ashrafiyah neighborhood in the city of Afrin.

Not to mention that, the Turkish state has established several camps on the edge of the Syrian-Turkish border such as in the Bulbul district, Surka village in Rajo district, Muhammadiyah village and Deir Ballout in Sherawa district, in which about 600 families from south of Damascus, including 325 Palestinian families have been settled in. In general, the percentage of Palestinian settlers in northern Syria reached 7,500 settlers in 2020, who were brought from Daraa, Homs, Aleppo and Yarmouk camp in Damascus, according to the Civil Documentation Center for Palestinian Refugees.

With the aim of establishing a Turkmen belt along the border line between Syria and Turkey, the Turkish state resorted to settling the Turkmens in the region, since the Turkmens, according to Malcolm Kerr from the Carnegie Center for the Middle East, are “the settlers who are best able to strengthen the Ottoman presence in the Syrian border areas.”

In parallel, in an audio recording of the head of the Association for Living in Dignity in Gaza, he explained that there is explicit coordination between them and the Muslim Brotherhood groups in Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey to support and finance the associations in Afrin to establish settlement projects in line with Turkish national and Brotherhood interests. The Living in Dignity Association seized agricultural lands in the village of Tel Tawil in Afrin this year in order to establish housing projects.

Among these associations is the White Hands Association (Beyaz Eller), which is based in Ankara and has 45 partners that support its projects in places of displacement and camps, and is interested in implementing urgent and emergency projects. It is carried out in various villages and neighborhoods of the occupied region of Afrin. As a result, it contributed to the construction of a housing complex in the Yazidi majority village of Shadeira, in Sherawa district, and named it the village of “Basma”, to house the Turkmen, in cooperation and with the participation of the Turkish-based Ihsan Relief and Development Association, which supports the displaced families of the militants of the SNA. It also participated in constructing housing projects in Afrin to shelter the Turkmen of Homs and Latakia. Furthermore, it seized the agricultural lands in the village of Tel Tawil, with the aim of establishing housing projects there, and built 247 housing units northwest of Jindires, after confiscating the lands located between the villages of Kafr Safra and Tatara.

There is also the Qatari “Atta’ Bila Hidoud” Association, which carries out housing projects in Afrin, “as it works in support of the Arab and Islamic nation” and relief for its displaced and refugees. In its funding, the association directly relies on the Qatari leadership. This association was unique in providing material support to the settlers of the people of Ghouta, Homs and Deir ez-Zor in Afrin by building their own housing complexes.

In addition, the Kuwaiti-based Global Charity Association for Development (Tanmeia Foundation), participated in financing the project of building new settlements in Afrin, being, as it claims, “working to achieve sustainable community development in various humanitarian projects in Kuwait and abroad, especially in Syria.”

Most of these associations participated and provided material support through the border crossings, especially in Jindires district, as it is close to the border crossings of Hamam Village Crossing and Atma Crossing, so it was exposed to most settlement campaigns. Through these settlement practices, displacement and forced residents to leave their lands and homes, and the recruitment of settlers, the proportion of the Kurdish population in the villages of Jindires has declined to 30% and 25%.

The Turkification and Arabization policy applied by Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood reveals the Turkish strategy towards the Kurds in general and Afrin in particular. The racist Turkey has experiences and a history full of genocides and demographic changes in Kurdistan, Armenia and Sanjak of Alexandretta. What it is doing in Afrin is nothing but a series that complements the Ottoman malicious intentions, in front of the suspicious silence of the world.