Kurdish population down by 25 pct in Syria’s Afrin – report

Northern Syria’s Afrin has lost some 25 percent of its Kurdish population while 400,000 Arabs have moved into the region, shifting the demographics significantly, according to the Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria (AANES) in the country’s Kurdish-controlled areas.

Some 300,000 Kurds had migrated out of Afrin, Mezopotamya Agency cited AANES representative Fethila Hisên as saying.

The city has been under control of the Turkish army and Turkey-backed Syrian groups since 2018, when a Turkish military incursion pushed out Syrian Kurdish groups that had maintained control during Syria’s decade-long civil war.

“Public services have changed to Arabic and Turkish, while schools now teach in Turkish. The Kurds of Afrin are being turned into Ottoman subjects,” Hisên said.

Speaking on the anniversary of Syrian National Army (SNA) forces entering the city, Hisên spoke of rights violations and crimes committed since 2018.

At least 8,000 civilians have been abducted over the years, while most were returned after their families paid a ransom, according to the AANES official.

Hisên said 650 civilians, including 20 children and 75 women, have been killed since 2018. At least 12,000 olive trees were burned down, while another 350,000 olive trees were uprooted and removed from the region.

A United Nations report dated 2020 called on the Islamist factions under Turkish control in the SNA to cease all looting of civilian properties, including religious and archaeological sites. The report also stated that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe the SNA committed war crimes, such as hostage-taking, rape, cruel treatment and torture.

According to the report, Turkish forces were aware of these grave human rights violations, and may have violated the human rights treaty obligations of Turkey in failing to address them.

At least 12 women were abducted since January, Naylê Mihemed from the Afrin Human Rights Organisation told Mezopotamya Agency.

Child marriages have also increased due to locals considering marriage a way to protect their daughters, Mihemed added. “Women cannot leave their homes, they are facing pressure. They can go about town only in the company of a male family member,” she said.

The advocacy group has reported at least 82 sexual assaults since the Turkish takeover.

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