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Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker e.V.

Afrin under Turkish occupation: Human rights organization criticizes devastating humanitarian and economic situation

One year after the attack on Afrin, which was a violation of international law, Turkish troops continue to occupy the Kurdish region in northern Syria. The humanitarian and economic costs of the occupation are shocking. Hundreds of civilians were killed, thousands arrested and hundreds of thousands displaced. Tens of thousands of olive trees were burned, oil presses were destroyed or removed. This key industry now lies in ruin. The destruction of the economic basis will make it even more difficult for refugees to return to their homeland.

One year after the attack on Afrin, which was a violation of international law, Turkish troops continue to occupy the Kurdish region in northern Syria. Kamal Sido, Middle East Consultant of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), is shocked by the humanitarian and economic situation following the occupation. "The Turkish army and their Islamists allies have left a trail of destruction in the region," Sido stated in Göttingen today. "The war crimes and human rights violations are only possible because they are supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin and tolerated by the NATO member states."

According to consensus reports by "Afrinpost" and several human rights advocates, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated significantly: at least 225 civilians got killed in violent clashes since the beginning of the occupation on March 18, 2018 - and 17 others have been tortured to death. A total number of 467 civilians were injured and another 2,500 were arrested. "At least 300,000 Kurds from Afrin are on the run, any many are living in refugee camps in Shahba to the north of Aleppo. They are almost completely cut off from the outside world," Sido reported, referring to reports of his contact persons in northern Syria.

The economic impact on the region and its inhabitants is devastating: since the beginning of the occupation, Turkish army officials and Syrian-Islamist "warlords" ordered around 120,000 olive trees to be cut down and sold as firewood. Another 20,000 olive trees were burned. About a third of the 325 existing olive oil factories and 18 out of 26 olive processing factories were destroyed or disassembled. Revenues from this key industry declined by 109 million USD in comparison to 2017. The occupiers burned down about ten of the 32 hectares of forest land in Afrin. Out of 1,100 factories and production facilities, 770 were destroyed, looted, or resold - and over 70 percent of the leather processing factories were destroyed or looted. Tens of thousands of sheep, goats, and cows were slaughtered or seized, and many poultry arms were destroyed or looted. The losses in this sector are estimated at around 25 million USD.

Clearly, the population of Afrin is suffering from flight and expulsion: "One year after the beginning of the occupation, all Armenians and about 1,200 Kurdish Christians have fled. The Kurds' share of the population has fallen from 96 to under 35 percent," Sido explained. Many holy places of the Yazidis and Alevis as well as historical ruins were destroyed or plundered. Of the 325 schools in the region, 70 were destroyed or turned into barracks and prisons. "Turkey intends to assimilate and forcibly disassociate Afrin. The destruction of the economic basis will make it even more difficult for refugees to return to their homeland," the Middle East expert warned.

Kamal Sido is available for further questions: k.sido@gfbv.de or +49 (0)551 - 499 06 18

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