Panel Discussion on Afrin Occupation

On the evening of 24 November 2018 OKA hosted a panel discussion of the humanitarian situation in Afrin.

The event synopsis presented by OKA is as follows:

The Syrian Kurdish Afrinregion is located in the northwest of Syria neighbouring Turkey, with a population of half million people prior to the Syrian conflict 2011. Its area is more than 2000 km² and mostly mountainous, covered with more than 10 million of olive trees. Afrin was a safe haven during all years of Syrian civil war and was hosting tens of thousands of refugees from all over Syria. Different religions, ethnicities and sects lived together enjoying full religious freedom. Afrin historically was called the mountains of the Kurds, and this name was changed in the second half of 20thcentury. The region is now named after the River of Afrin. The vast majority of Afrin people are Muslims with few thousand of Alawites and tens of thousands of Yazidis and some Christians.

Starting from 2013, Syrian opposition militants attacked the region several times, but these attacks were repelled. As from 2013 Afrin was most of the time under siege by the opposition supported by Turkey. Afrin survived the tragedies, calamities and destruction of the brutal war in Syria till early 2018. By 2018, the war in Syria looked it was about to come to an end, and regime regained from the opposition all areas in southern and central Syria.

In early 2018, Russia mediated a deal that lead to the relocation of Jihadi fighters from the only pocket they controlled in Damascus suburb Douma. Under this deal tens of thousands of extremist fighters and their families moved to areas north of Syria under the control of fellow opposition Jihadists. Turkey was part of the deal as it provides the lifeline for the area controlled by opposition next to its border, the final destination of all opposition fighters relocated from other areas under deals with Russia and the Syrian government. In return, Russia allowed Turkey to invade Afrin alongside with more than 30000 Syrian rebels. Many of them came from Damascus and other parts of Syria under deals mediated by Russia. After 2 months of fighting and bombardment, Turkish army entered Afrin city. Hundreds of civilians including many children were killed by aerial bombardment and artillery shilling. Large parts of towns like Jindiris were destroyed by the Turkish army.

The Turkish military campaign led further to displacement of 150,000 civilians from Afrin to nearby Shahaba safe areas. The rebels and the Turkish army do not allow these people to come back to their homes and villages which have been taken over by the rebels.

The people of Afrin are now subject to different types of oppression, abuse, such as kidnapping, forced disappearance, looting of properties, violence and lawlessness. Some 150,000 of Kurds living in their homes in Afrin are literally hostages held by some 20 rebel groups comprised of hardline jihadis, criminals and thugs. All these groups are sponsored, supported, financed by Turkey and report to the Turkish military commander in Afrin.

The atrocities against the Kurds of Afrin are underreported as no media is allowed into the region. UN and human rights organizations documented these atrocities, and recently the situation deteriorated further as rebels escalated their abuses and thuggery so as to force the Kurds of Afrin out of their homes, aiming to change the demography and identity of the region forever. There are no more Yazidis in Afrin, most of them fled and those who stayed have been forced to convert to Islam. Yazidi temples and shrines have been demolished and this applies to Alawites and other religions. The rebels even destroyed the tombs of the young male and female Kurdish fighters fallen fighting terrorist organization Islamic State.

More than 3,000 civilian Kurds in Afrin, including many women and children, kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured now by Turkey and the rebels and this is hardly ever highlighted or reported in the media.

This event is dedicated to those women, children, and elderly Kurds of Afrin who are suffering in silence and cling to their ancestors, land and olive trees groves.