The attack on Afrin four years ago (January 20)

Ongoing daily human rights violations

Four years after the beginning of Turkey's invasion of the region of Afrin in northern Syria – which is to be seen as a violation of international law – the civilian population is still suffering from ongoing serious human rights violations, as was reported by the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). As of January 20, 2018, the Turkish army and allied Islamist militias had started to attack the once Kurdish-dominated region and to expel the non-Arabic and non-Sunni population. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and local sources of the STP, at least 129 people were killed and 726 abducted in 2021. The Turkish occupying power and its Islamist allies are said to be responsible for these crimes.

"The Turkish military has turned Afrin into a living hell. Almost every day, there are clashes between rivaling pro-Turkish militias. Primarily, the reasons for the armed conflicts are to be seen in a power struggle and a battle for control over the villages in the region – since whoever is in power will be able to rob the Kurdish community and to abduct people in order to extort ransom money," stated Dr. Kamal Sido, Middle East Consultant of the STP.

In a war of aggression (named "Operation Olive Branch") NATO member Turkey had invaded the Kurdish region of Afrin on January 20, 2018, after Russia had contributed to clearing the airspace above to allow for attacks by the Turkish air force. During the invasion of the region, the troops also used weapons that were produced in NATO states. Shortly before the beginning of the military offensive, Sigmar Gabriel – the former German Foreign Minister – had invited his Turkish counterpart to his private home in Goslar. One of the topics of the meeting is said to have been the upgrade of German Leopard 2 tanks, which were increasingly used in Afrin. "Thus, the new German government must condemn the human rights violations in the Turkish-occupied regions. Turkey will also have to grant the press, international observers, as well as aid organizations free access to the conflict area – and the armed forces and the allied militias will have to withdraw from Afrin."

Due to the occupation of Afrin by NATO member Turkey, about 300,000 people were forced to flee from the region. Many are still living in tents to the north of Aleppo. The Turkish government systematically encouraged Sunni Muslims, supporters of President Erdogan, to settle in the region and to take possession of the houses of the Kurds who fled. The aim is to rid the region of the Kurdish identity forever. In order to achieve this, the Turkish army has closed down all Kurdish schools and the first Kurdish university in the history of Syria – and tens of thousands of Kurdish books were destroyed. 

Next Thursday, January 20, the STP will hold a vigil in front of the embassies of Russia and the United States, demanding an end to the Turkish occupation of northern Syria.  

Dr. Kamal Sido is available for further questions: k.sido@gfbv.de or +49 (0)173 – 673 39 80