Turkey is conducting a policy of “demographic change” in the Afrin area despite denials by the regime in Ankara.
“Once we have purged the terrorists (from Afrin) we will then cleanse them from Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tal Abyad, Ra’s al-Ayn and Qamishli,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
As part of the colonisation of Ireland in the 16th and 17th-centuries, the country witnessed the confiscation of its land by the English crown and the settling of this land with settlers from the island of Great Britain. This was to result in ongoing conflict, hatred, violence and war right down to the present day in the northern part of Ireland.
It seems now, since the beginning of the Turkish incursion into the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava – “one of the only islands of democracy in a sea of Middle Eastern despotism“) similar concerns have been expressed at the intent of the Turkish State and in particular its President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in relation to his Kurdish neighbours.
From day one, talk of ethnic cleansing and demographic change featured high on the list of reasons for the Turkish military invasion.
Since the capture of a number of villages in recent weeks, Kurdish sources have issued numerous statements confirming that this process has begun and warning the international community of the dangers facing the people if Turkey is not encouraged to withdraw to its own borders.
The YPG Command in the Afrin region recently said:
“One of the most attention-grabbing practices is the settlement of families of the gangs that act with the invading Turkish state and the Turkmens brought in from Atme, Azaz, Turkey and Iraq in the regions of Shiye and Jindires. This is a clear manifestation of the practice of demography change in the region that fascist Erdoğan had spoken of before, during the initial invasion attacks.”
Earlier, in a communication to the Reuters Press Agency
Redur Xelil, the head of foreign relations in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said Turkey was conducting a policy of “demographic change” in the area despite denials by the regime in Ankara.
“The Turkish government is settling Turkmen and Arab families in the villages of Afrin that it occupied after forcing out its people and is distributing the belongings of the people of Afrin to the new settlers,”
Shahoz Hassan, co-president of the Executive Body of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria’s Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), in an interview with Rudaw, the Iraqi Kurdish News Agency, echoes the allegations that Turkey is attempting to “change the demography of Afrin.”
“They bring in some civilians, who are affiliated to them, and place them in those villages. They rush in this regard so that they make demographic change a reality.”
“Turkey has already ‘cleared’ villages of Yazidis, Kurds, Christians and others, promising to replace them with Syrian refugees. In fact, Afrin already has enlarged its population by 50 percent to house (internally displaced) Syrians, who are among those being killed, injured or captured,” two Christian activists, Bassam Ishak and Lauren Homer, said:
“Turkey has committed war crimes and ethnic cleansing already in Afrin and the Federation of Northern Syria…”
Ishak heads the Syriac National Council and is a member of the political bureau of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Lauren Homer, is a Washington, D.C. based international human rights lawyer.
Memories of ISIS
Concern has also being raised at the FSA groups currently being placed in the frontline of the Turkish military assault with many of them having been identified as either originating from or being connected to extremist Jihadist groups.
French journalist Jeremy Andre:
“The attackers of Afrin are ultra-violent radical groups, who already commit acts of ethnic cleansing (destruction of Yazidi temples, forced displacements), and want to destroy all the political and social progress in Rojava, like gender equality…”
This has been corroborated in a number of videos released on social media. For example in one video a militia fighter flanked by others describes the Kurds as “infidels” and issues a stark warning, saying “by Allah, if you repent and come back to Allah, then know that you are our brothers. But if you refuse, then we see that your heads are ripe, and that it’s time for us to pluck them.”
“The video is 100 per cent authentic,” said Rami Abdulrahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which released it, in an interview with The Independent. He adds that he is very concerned about the fate of some Yazidi villages in Afrin captured by the advancing Turkish forces, saying he has seen videos taken by the militiamen themselves in one of which “an elderly Yazidi man is questioned by them, asking him how many times he prays a day.”
Patrick Cockburn: “The Turkish offensive against the Kurds in Afrin will not end when it falls, but its elimination may set the stage for further Turkish attacks against Kurdish-held territory further east…But, if the fall of Afrin is accompanied by mass killings and ethnic cleansing, then the war in northern Syria is about to get a whole lot worse.”
YPG Afrin Command statement
YPG Afrin Command released its statement on March 14th “regarding the invading Turkish state’s settlement of refugees in camps in the plundered villages of Afrin in an attempt to change the demography of the region.”
Other than the concerns expressed, the statement declares that those following in the wake of the Turkish military invasion with the hope of settling on the captured territory will become legitimate targets (“a target to the legitimate aims of our fighters“) in a war that appears now to be endless and ongoing.
“At a time when our people are subjected to fascist practices by the invading Turkish state and affiliated gangs in Afrin, international states lapse into a doubtful silence. These fascist practices have targeted the history and future, and the free and honorable life of the region as a war has been started through a military intervention in violation of international law.
Relying on military technology in its attacks, the Turkish state has engaged in the fascistic practices of massacring and displacing our people in the areas they have invaded recently. Still, our people have manifested their devotion to their land and history. Our people remain standing with the same determination against those who plunder the people’s properties and those who vow in videos circulated on social media that those refusing the Turkish state’s sovereignty will be beheaded.
One of the most attention-grabbing practices is the settlement of families of the gangs that act with the invading Turkish state and the Turkmens brought in from Atme, Azaz, Turkey and Iraq in the regions of Shiye and Jindires. This is a clear manifestation of the practice of demography change in the region that fascist Erdoğan had spoken of before, during the initial invasion attacks.
All these practices show that the Turkish state’s goal has always been to subject our people to genocide and eradicate them from existence. In addition, with these practices, the Turkish state aims to create denominational and national issues by setting the peoples of Syria against one another in order to create a new Turkey in line with its interests. These practices will also cause the war in Syria to extend over a longer time and result in the migration of Syrian people.
We in the YPG state clearly that the regions where the invading Turkish state is changing the demographic structure have been a battle field since the first day and military activities have been taking in these regions up until now. We warn those who are an instrument to or have a part in the Turkish state’s scheme not to approach these regions. In contrary case, they will be a target to the legitimate aims of our fighters. We also call on those that have become an instrument in this dirty scheme not to be deceived by the Turkish state’s schemes. We also warn them not to put support behind the Turkish state’s hostile practices against the local people because any settlement in the regions that have been invaded without a consideration of the law or legitimacy will be realized by use of force, which will constitute a violation of international laws and it is a most incontestable right for our fighters to target these regions.”
Other Voices appeal to UN, EU, and UN Security Council
Nadia Murad, since September 2016 the first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking of the United Nations (UNODC) as well as being an ISIS survivor, a Yazidi human rights activist from Iraq and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. She was kidnapped and held by the Islamic State in August 2014.
“200 civilians have been killed, including 3 Yazidi children. Shrines and religious sites have been destroyed or forcibly converted into mosques. People’s homes are being looted and minorities are being shamed by extremist militias…”
“Many of these actions are war crimes and should be documented. This horror is reminiscent of the initial actions of ISIS in Iraq. Medical and healthcare services are urgently needed. This situation foreshadows “ethnic cleansing” and genocide…”
On Wednesday 14th March, the HDP, Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also warned of an unfolding humanitarian crisis:
“We believe the UN must take a stance before great human tragedies, like those in Srebrenica in the past, occur,” HDP’s Spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen told a press conference in Ankara.
“The HDP fears the Turkish state may engage in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Kurdish population that also harbors the religious Yezidi (Ezidi) minority by driving them out of Afrin and resettling Sunni Arabs, Turkmen, and foreign fighters brought as far away as China’s Xinjiang region.”
In a letter to UN’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, recently published on Global Rights HDP Deputy Faysal Sariyildiz said:
“The worrying statement by Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, ‘We will place 350,000 Syrians into Afrin,’ is absolutely an indication of [a] planned ethnic cleansing… President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself has numerous times claimed that Afrin of northwestern Syria belonged to Arabs and his army’s operation was aimed at “giving it back to its rightful owners.”
Ilham Ehmed a Syrian Kurdish Politician:
“The Turkish state is resettling families of gangs [in Afrin villages]. The policy of changing demographics has begun,” she tweeted.
David Romano, professor of Middle East Politics:
“The rhetoric and policies regularly coming out of Ankara, from Erdogan’s party and his government coalition partner, is actually full of anti-Kurdish animus, from banning the word “Kurdistan” and closing down all independent Kurdish media (including even a Kurdish children’s television station) to claiming that Afrin does not have a Kurdish majority. President Erdogan even went so far as to claim that the Kurds in Afrin are imposters and that Turkey will “return Afrin to its rightful owners.
Last time this columnist checked, threats of ethnic cleansing are usually indicative of a problem with the threatened ethnic group.
Perhaps officials in Ankara think they can say anything they want without being contradicted. That is, after all, the present state of “democracy” in Turkey today. International media, however, should know better than to accept these Turkish government propaganda lines without objection.”
Ramazan Mendanlioglu, (for ANF, on 12 March)
“The aim of the AKP’s foreign policy is to annihilate the entire north of Syria, i.e. the local self-government and carry out ethnic cleansing in order to subsequently establish Turkey-compliant Arab Islamists there in order to both destroy the self-determination of the Kurdish people, and secure Ottoman motivated influence in Syria. So here we are dealing with the racist-colonialist policy of Turkey, which also ignores all international agreements, laws and standards. It is openly pursuing the goal of ethnic cleansing, of at least cultural genocide – and the international community supports them! ”
Mention of the United Nations and the July 1995 massacre in Srebrenica should be enough to wake those currently sleeping from their shameful silence and begin to take the action necessary to protect the inhabitants of the Afrin region. Problem has been up to now that by the time they woke up in Srebrenica – more than 8000, mostly male, Bosnians had been butchered.
So – despite what Gokcan Aydogan wrote recently:
“The problem here is not what Erdogan thinks or does. In history, there have always been dictators like Erdogan. The problem is the inability to condemn what he does or stop him. The dull and ineffective international rules, dirty arms deals, the very immoral refugee deal, the secret political agendas of the EU, the US and Russia strengthen Erdogan’s hand in his assault against the very same people who sacrificed their lives fighting against the “common evil” ISIS.”
…and urgently: better wake up soon, Mr Guterres.