Afrin three years after the invasion

Numerous victims and massive damage (Press Release)

Three years after Turkish troops started to invade the northern Syrian Kurdish region of Afrin (on January 20, 2018) in violation of international law, there are still numerous human rights violations and war crimes against the civilian population. According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) and Kurdish human rights groups in northern Syria, the Turkish occupation forces and their Syrian allies killed at least 58 civilians over the course of last year – and a total number of 987 people are said to have been abducted, 92 of whom were women. Further, there have been dramatic effects on the natural environment and the historical sites of Afrin. "In 2020 alone, 50 historical sites were damaged, 72,000 olive trees were cut down, and 250 houses were confiscated by Islamist militias," stated Dr. Kamal Sido, the STP's Middle East expert. "…and there are still raids and clashes between Islamist militias. 170 people were harmed in 39 explosions in Afrin, many of them killed."

"In addition, there are countless attacks on the Kurdish culture and language. For example, places are given Turkish or Arabic names: thus, the former 'Freedom Square' in Afrin is now called 'Ataturk Square' – and a square with the Kurdish name 'Kawa' was renamed to 'Olive Branch' in honor of the wrongful offensive," Sido said. There are attempts to replace the Kurdish language with Turkish. School uniforms show Turkish flags, and Syrian nationals have to carry Turkish identity cards. "The Turkish occupation is to be seen as an attempt to make Afrin Christian-free. About 1,200 Kurdish Christians were living in the region in January 2018 – but the proportion of the Kurdish population, including the Yazidis, Alevis, and Christians, dropped from 96 to less than 35 percent. Also, Yazidi and Alevi shrines as well as Kurdish Muslim cemeteries are being destroyed or looted," Sido said. 

About 314,400 olive trees were destroyed in the Afrin region as part of Operation Olive Branch.  "Olive and olive oil production is one of the main economic sectors in the region. Apparently, the Turkish military is aiming to deprive the people of their economic livelihood," explained the Middle East expert.

According to human rights groups in northern Syria, at least 300,000 members of the Kurdish ethnic group have been displaced by the occupying regime since January 2018. A total number of 674 civilians were murdered, and 7,343 were abducted. Further, 82 people are reported to have lost their lives under torture. About 696 civilians were injured, including 303 children and 213 women. Mine explosions injured 2,017 people in Afrin, and there are 68 reported cases of targeted violence against women. The term "rape" is often avoided in conservative Islamic societies.