Turkish proxies arrest Syrians protesting poor living conditions in occupied zone

Turkish proxies in northern Syria have arrested a number of local civilians, who gathered to protest against what they see as their declining standards of living, local Syrian outlet Northern Press Agency (NPA) reported on Saturday.

Six civilians in the city of Tel Abyad, north of Raqqa, northern Syria were arrested by members of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) after hundreds gathered to demonstrate against their quality of life and the corruption of local authorities. The protesters raised slogans saying, “No to starvation, no to monopoly,” and “We are at the mercy of the mafias.”

A local source, who spoke to NPA on condition of anonymity, said that Turkish forces participated in a post-demonstration sweep of local homes to make the arrests. They added that those who were detained were taken to the SNA headquarters in Tel Abyad.

Turkey took control of this region in 2019 following Operation Euphrates Shield, which it launched to drive the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the area to secure the Turkish border regions of Syria. After an agreement with Russia in the aftermath of the operation, Turkey was able to establish this “safe zone” from which its proxies would continue to operate against Kurdish militants.

Tel Abyad and its surrounding areas were added to other chunks of northern Syria that were seized by Turkish forces between 2016 and 2018 from either Kurdish forces or Islamic State militants. 

These occupied zones have been administered by Turkish officials, but residents often complain about the criminality of their local proxies. Turkish-backed forces have been accused of committing war crimes in northern Syria, including  looting of civilian property, according to U.N. commission report published in 2020

These regions’ integration with Turkey has also left them prone to suffer the repercussions of its economic turmoil. After switching to the Turkish lira amidst the sharp devaluation of the Syrian pound, residents are continuing to find themselves struggling to just get by and meet their day to day needs because of the current troubles facing the Turkish currency. 

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