January 20 marks the third anniversary of the Turkish occupation's attacks on the Afrin canton and its occupation. In this dossier, we will address the deals concluded between the interfering parties in the Syrian affairs that led to the occupation of Afrin and Turkey’s crimes during the attacks and the subsequent crimes after the occupation in terms of demographic change and the resettlement operations that took place in it, in addition to the resistance of the forcibly displaced people of Afrin.
Afrin and the Syrian crisis
Afrin is located in the far northwest of Syria, and is bounded on the west by Iskenderun and the Black River, and on the north by the train tracks in Akbes Square, on the east by the Azaz Plain, and on the south by Mount Samaan.
During the Syrian crisis that began in the spring of 2011, most Syrian cities and regions were devastated by the war for power between the government and those who called themselves the opposition.
However, the regions of Rojava, including Afrin, maintained their safety thanks to their adoption of the third line, and they turned into a safe haven for hundreds of thousands who fled the ongoing war, especially from the city of Aleppo and its countryside, so Afrin became a huge human center after being marginalized as a result of the Damascus government's policies towards Rojava areas during the four decades of Ba'ath rule.
Afrin embraced 500 thousand people, from Afrin, who returned to it after the outbreak of the war in the city of Aleppo, in addition to the influx of displaced persons from the Syrian interior.
Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the Turkish-backed mercenary groups' attacks on Afrin have not stopped, as the canton has been under attack since 2012, in addition to being besieged by mercenary groups, especially ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and other factions that called themselves the names of the Ottoman sultans.
The attacks of Turkish mercenary groups on Afrin increased with the announcement of its autonomous administration on January 29, 2014. In return, Turkey began constructing a separation wall on the artificial border between Rojava and Bakur Kurdistan.
During the construction of this wall, Turkey occupied parts of the border lands by placing the concrete blocks within the lands of the citizens and stealing them from them, and began to mobilize forces along the borders.
The war for power between the government and those who called themselves the opposition and those who had their headquarters in Turkey, opened the door to foreign interference and the multiple occupations of Syria under the pretext of protecting allies. The Russian intervention at the end of September 2015 hit the Turkish plans to occupy all of northern Syria from west to east and annex it to Turkey, which was constantly publishing the map of Turkey in accordance with the Milli Charter that includes parts of Syria and Iraq.
This Russian intervention forced Turkey to change its objectives in Syria from "toppling the regime" to eliminating the Kurdish presence in Syria. Therefore, it began to ally with it at the beginning of 2017 in the so-called Astana Accords, and Iran also joined it. The three parties were beneficiaries of the agreement. Russia and Iran benefited from Turkey's withdrawal of its mercenaries from the various Syrian regions and the restoration of government control over those areas, while Turkey wanted to benefit from it in the elimination of the Kurds and the democratic project that the Kurds developed with the rest of the peoples of the region represented by the Autonomous Administration.
In May of 2017, Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed in the Astana Agreement to establish so-called De-Escalation Zones that include Idlib and parts of Aleppo, Latakia and Homs, so that the government forces would isolate the mercenary groups supported by Turkey and eliminate them one by one, and Russia and Turkey began to make deals.
Among the deals between the Russian and Turkish sides is the "Damascus Ghouta in exchange for Afrin" deal. On this basis, the mercenary groups in Eastern Ghouta were transferred to Idlib, and the residents of Ghouta were sacrificed. In return, Turkey got the green light from Russia by occupying Afrin.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan held a meeting with the Russian Chief of Staff, Valery Gerasmov, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in the Russian capital, Moscow, on January 18, 2018, two days before the attacks on Afrin.
Turkey called on Russia to close the S-400 air defense systems deployed in the "Hmeimim" and "Lattakia" bases, to allow its warplanes to fly over Afrin.
As a result of this agreement, Russia withdrew its forces from the Afrin region and headed to Tal Rifaat on January 20, the day of the attacks, thus opening the way for Turkey to launch an air and ground attack, after it had mobilized more than 25,000 mercenaries and thousands of its soldiers along the border with Afrin.
Afrin and Kirkuk
Political observers linked what happened in Afrin to what happened in Kirkuk, and the KDP's complicity with the nation-states that occupy Kurdistan. This party insisted on holding a referendum for the independence of the Kurdistan region of Iraq despite the lack of suitable conditions and ground and despite Kurdish warnings about this step and the rejection of regional and international powers. Thus, this party opened the way for the forces that occupy Kurdistan to re-control the Kurdish areas.
In this context, the head of the Future Syria Party branch in al-Shahba and Afrin, Muhammad Rashid, said, “There is a common denominator in both Kirkuk and Afrin. Talking about Kirkuk brings to mind Afrin where the policies of demographic change are followed. "The systematic emptying of its original inhabitants, and political plans by the actors to change the real perceptions."
A scene that has not happened since World War II
At 16.22 on Saturday, January 20, 2018, the sky of Afrin canton turned into a track in which Turkish warplanes raced, as the Turkish occupation state began its attacks on Afrin with an air attack in which 72 aircrafts were used targeting an area not exceeding 3,850 km2 in.
Massacres and war crimes
Since the first day of its attacks, Turkey has committed massacres against civilians by bombing villages and neighborhoods. On the first day, a massacre was committed in the village of Jalbara in Sherawa district, in which 9 civilians were killed and 12 others were wounded. On January 26, a massacre was committed in the center of Mobata district, in which 7 people were killed.
A massacre was also committed against the people of the village of Gobalah in Sherawa district, which resulted in killing 18 civilians and wounding 7 others, 4 are members of the same family. A massacre was also committed in the village of Shakakta in the Shia district, as a result of which 5 civilians were killed.
The village of Yalanquz, which belongs to the Janders district, was not spared from the massacres, as 5 civilians were killed as a result of raids carried out by Turkish occupation army aircraft in the morning hours of February 26, followed by another massacre against 13 civilians in the center of Janders district.
Among the massacres also is that that claimed the lives of 7 civilians, including 4 children, and the wounding of 17 others in the center of Afrin, in addition to the death of 20 civilians in the Mahmoudiya neighborhood.
Even the hospitals were not spared from the Turkish crimes, as the occupation air forces targeted Avrin Hospital on March 16, which led to the death of more than 16 civilians, including children, who were receiving treatment there.
According to the Health Authority in Afrin canton, the number of civilian martyrs during the 58 days of the Turkish attacks reached 257 civilians, including 45 children, 36 women and 176 men. In addition, 742 civilians were wounded, including 113 children, 113 women and 516 men.
Destruction is everywhere..
The Turkish occupation army targeted everything during its attacks, in violation of international laws. The two centers of the Kurdish Red Crescent in Jandres and Rajo were bombed, causing them to be out of service.
It also targeted the Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi mosque in the center of Jandres district, which was built in 1961 and is one of the oldest mosques in Afrin canton, and the mosque of the town of Jalma belonging to Janders, which was built in 1958, in addition to the bombing of the shrine of the martyr Sido in the town of Kafr Safra in Janders.
The occupation army also targeted water sources, "the Maidanaki Dam, which supplied the people of Afrin with drinking water, the potable water pump in the village of Matina in Shara district, the spring of the town of Jalameh, and the water pump in the town of Kafr Safra in Janders."
During the attacks, Turkey completely destroyed 68 schools out of 318 schools in Afrin, as well as targeting archaeological sites, and destroyed the Tel Ain Dara archaeological site on January 28. In addition to the complete destruction of the historic Nabi Hori amphitheater. The number of archaeological sites destroyed by Turkey reached three sites on the list of UNESCO, in addition to shrines for the Yazidi community and another for the Alawites community, as well as old churches for Christians and ancient shrines and mosques for Muslims in Afrin and its countryside.
Turkey continued its crimes against archaeological sites after the occupation, and according to the Directorate of Antiquities of Afrin, there are about 75 archaeological hills in the Afrin region, and the Turkish occupation and its mercenaries destroyed most of these sites as a result of their excavation of antiquities and smuggling them to Turkey.
According to the directorate’s statistics, more than 28 archaeological sites and warehouses and more than 15 religious shrines of various sects and religions were destroyed.
From the first hour, Turkey launched its attacks on Afrin, the people of Afrin organized themselves immediately and participated in the Resistance of the Age.
The people did not leave their villages on the front lines, and every one of them participated according to his ability to deal with the attacks of the occupation.
With the announcement of the general mobilization in northern and eastern Syria, and the intensification of the attacks, hundreds of thousands of people in northern Syria flocked to Afrin canton, to support the military forces and the people in protecting the canton, and to show a position rejecting the attacks and deals between Russia and Turkey at the expense of the Syrian people.
Afrin's resistance was full of epic stations and struggle. In many of the hills in which the battles took place, the Turkish occupation resorted to using dozens of planes to destroy those hills in order to be able to occupy one point such as the hill of "Qastal Jendu, Sheikh Khoreza, Hammam and Keveri Ker".
A fighter in the anti-terrorist units, Avista Khabur, headed towards the tanks of the Turkish occupation and carried out a commando operation, as she blew herself up, and managed to damage a tank and kill its occupants, in the village of Hamam in Janders on January 27.
In a scene that will not be repeated, the fighter Barin Kobani, with her individual weapon, fought the occupation army and its mercenaries, and did not leave its point in the village of Qorna in the Bulbul district until the last bullet to be martyred at the beginning of February, where the occupation army-filled with hatred- mutilated her body.
As for the fighter Aylan Kobane, 22 of his comrades were released from the siege in the district of Jandres district, when the fighter Aylan blew himself up within the ranks of the occupation army and killed a number of them on March 8.
The second stage of "Resistance to Age"
The people of Afrin have fought against the second largest force in NATO for a period of 58 days using individual weapons, Turkey would not have occupied Afrin without the support it got from the NATO countries, especially the American planes and German tanks.
The Turkish occupation's attacks on Afrin have proven to the whole world that international organizations, led by the United Nations, are nothing but an organization that serves the agendas of the great powers.
The people of Afrin, with its Kurds and Arabs, heading to al-Shahba near Afrin, is a message from the people of Afrin to confirm that their resistance against the occupier is still continuing, so they launched the second phase of the Resistance of the Age.
The people of Afrin have been resisting for three years in al-Shahba, despite the fact that the area is being bombed on a daily basis by the Turkish occupation, which seeks to intimidate the people and force them to leave this area as well.
Despite the vast amount of evidence that Turkey has committed massacres, war crimes and crimes against humanity, international silence prevails.
Afrin and three years of occupation
After the dirty deal between Russia and Turkey, and the occupation of Afrin, this safe city turned into hell for the residents who remained in it.
According to the Human Rights Organization - Afrin, they documented during the three years of the occupation of the city, nearly 400 thousand settlers were settled in all villages and districts of Afrin, and most of them were mercenaries who were fighting for Turkey and the latter brought them with their families from various Syrian regions based on the deals concluded with Russia to change the Syrian demographic.
The process of demographic change coincided with Turkification: the names of the main squares in Afrin center were changed, such as Azadi Square (Freedom) changed to Ataturk Square and Newroz Roundabout to Salah al-Din, the National Roundabout to March 18 Roundabout, and Kawa al-Haddad Roundabout to the Olive Branch Roundabout, and within the framework of changing the names of the villages, the Turkish occupation changed the name of the village of Qastal Miqdad To Selcuk Obasi, and the village of Kutana to Zafer Obasi, and Kurzeyla to Jafar Obasi as well as naming strategic and Kurdish places after Ottoman names.
Besides, the Turkish flag and pictures of Erdogan were everywhere and on sign boards in every village, district and city center, as well as imposing the Turkish language in schools and placing the Turkish flag on students' clothes.
The Turkish crimes against the original inhabitants of Afrin did not stop after its occupation, and the Human Rights Organization - Afrin documented the kidnapping of more than 7,343 civilians during three years of occupation, and confirmed that the fate of more than half of them is still unknown.
It also cut down more than 314,400 olive and other forest trees for trade in their firewood, and burned more than 11,000 olive trees.
Russia's policy has not changed
Russia opens the way for Turkey to launch attacks and occupy other areas in the region, especially the one on the M4 highway.
The Co-Chair of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, Badran Çiya Kurd, noted earlier "Russia is benefiting from the hostility and attacks of the Turkish occupation on the region, as it seeks, in one way or another, to extend the control of the Damascus government over the rest of the Syrian territories."
Çiya Kurd emphasized that “Russia seeks to intimidate us, thus undermine our will, and expel the Syrian Democratic Forces from the region; it is directly responsible for the occupation of Afrin."