The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is a United Kingdom based conflict zone monitor that has documented the current situation in Afrin, Syria. They have focused heavily on the Turkish occupation that has resulted from their military incursion into Syria under Operation Olive Branch. On Wednesday they released the statement that, “Demographic change is being carried out, led by military powers that claimed the protection of the Syrians.”
A mobile observation team from SOHR has concluded a trip through the western territories of Afrin and has found the situiation on the ground to be somewhat grim. The Turkish military captured the city alongside the Free Syrian Army redels in March after months of bombing the city via airstrikes and artillery fire. The operation was conducted under the guise of combating terrorism in the form of the PKK, YPG/YPJ and their affiliates. The Kurdish organizations outside the PKK have denied the accusations and believe that the operation is a cover for a massive land grab by the Turkish government.
In the southwestern reaches, Jandaris was among the areas that saw the most conflict. According to SOHR the few homes that were still intact had been vandalized with graffiti and signs marking them as Syrian based faction property. To the north of Jandaris, Kafr Safra village is military controlled zone that has a headquarters building and barracks for Turkish military forces. SOHR stated that, “A spray can is enough to turn a building, a farm or even a whole village into private property of a military faction.” The looting of private property by rebel forces plagues the region as well.
The Turkish military has set up checkpoints throughout the region and Kurdish people are detained for insults and those who are deemed to be YPG affiliated are arrested and sometimes tortured. Internally displace people are another big problem with many coming from rebel faction held areas such as Qalamoun and Eastern Ghouta to Afrin. Turkey has blamed the influx of IDP’s on the YPG and PKK though, claiming they have forced these people from their homes. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag told state sponsered media that the IDP’s have been, “Displaced under the pressure of PYD/YPG, the people of Afrin are now returning back to their homes.”
Humanitarian relief organizations have come from Turkey provide food and medical care but have been overwhelmed. A field hospital was erected in Jandaris, according to Turkish media, that is capable of caring for about 400 people a day. It has been estimated that nearly 50,000 people stayed in Afrin despite the conflict and another 100,000 in the outlying regions according to the United Nations. 137,000 IDP’s have relocated to just north of Aleppo but now face subpar living conditions and suffer from a severe lack of resources.
On Tuesday the United Nations declared it would be dedicating $16.3 million to relief efforts for the IDP’s from Afrin, the majority of which would be for providing medical care, food, and water. The United Nation’s Syrian humanitarian coordinator, Ali al-Za’tari, stated, “With this reserve allocation, the UN and partners are able to scale up the response to the crises in East Ghouta and Afrin. However, the Syrian Humanitarian Fund has depleted all of its resources. We continue to appeal for funding to allow the humanitarian community to respond to those in need.” The United Nations aims to acquire $9 billion the year for humanitarian relief, so far $.4 billion has been donated by various international entities. The aid groups in Syria say that the amount raised will be sufficient though. A joint statement from the groups on the ground, including the Norwegian Refugee Council and Oxfam, read, “This conference did not go nearly far enough to provide adequate support to the millions of Syrians in need of help and who are left facing an uncertain future.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Qasioun News Agency [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons