The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

International Shameful silence on the abuses turns an entire year in Afrin into a dark year full of abuses, human trafficking, murder, and demographic change

January the 20th of 2018, was not a normal day, it was the beginning of destruction, killing, displacement, arrest, violation and resettlement, in short, a black day and the beginning of a demographic change and massacres under international support through the silence that takes sides, through the shameful silence, which ashamed the international community again, which preferred its personal interests towards Turkey to the human rights and the duty to stand up against violations every international party is talking about, and claim their intervention in Syria to protect these human rights and duties towards the people, whose cause, blood, and land were traded, and every time prepared for more horrific scenarios.

On the 20th of January 2018, “Olive Branch” operation which was prepared by Turkey under the direct orders of its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began the invasion of Afrin area, which used to be controlled by YPG of the people of the area, which included hundreds of thousands of residents of the area and from other Syrian provinces, where the process that began with large military mobilization consist of tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers, the gunmen of the Turkish Gray Wolves, and the rebel and Islamic factions who oppose the Syrian regime and are loyal to Turkey, supported by armored vehicles, reconnaissance drones, helicopters, warplanes, missiles launchers, artilleries, mortar shells, and heavy missiles, where Afrin lived about 60 days of intensive shelling, destruction, massacres, and killing which affected farms, schools, hospitals, and medical centers, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians from ​​Afrin area, who witnessed the only and most violent and attack in their area, which displaced more than 350 thousand citizens of the people of the Afrin, towards camps built on a hurry in the northern countryside of Aleppo, within areas of deployment of the Kurdish Forces and areas controlled by the pro-regime gunmen, to begin 2 real tragedies after the 19th of March 2018, the date in which the Turkish Forces and the Syrian military factions loyal to them controlled the entire area of Afrin with its towns and villages and the center of the area, Afrin city, and then began a journey of resettlement by the Turkish authorities for the displaced residents of the Eastern Ghouta, the capital Damascus, the Syrian south, and the countryside of Homs and Hama in seized houses, also they began a journey of seizing, looting, stealing, raiding, and robbing, which affected most of the houses in Afrin city and its countryside, and gone too far that the factions had internal clashes about the stolen houses and seized property, which belong to residents remained in ​​ Afrin area, within areas controlled by “Olive Branch” Operation Forces.

Where the factions who were given authority by Turkey in the area; carried out arrests against both genders, and transferred them to detention and custody centers made up of civilian homes that were seized and turned by them into headquarters for the pro-Turkey factions, which share influence and property in Afrin, and from time to time carry out looting and confiscation of property and funds, after these factions turned the kidnappings and ransom on charges the most prominent of which are “belonging to the Kurdish Forces and communicating and working for them”, where kidnaping for a ransom has become a popular trade adopted by most factions, in an attempt to collect the largest possible amount of money, and to clamp down on the remaining population in the region, where about 2600 people were arrested including more than 1000 are still in detention, while the rest were released after most of them payed ransom imposed by members of the “Olive Branch” Operation, sometimes it reached more than 10 million Syrian pounds.

Where the Syrian Observatory monitored more than once that the factions send audio or video clips to families of the abducted people, and impose money without bargaining, along with threats of liquidating their relatives if the desired amount of money was not payed.

Where Afrin witnessed the death of 384 civilians including 55 children and 36 women of civilian citizens of the Kurds, Arabs, and Armenians, tens of them were killed in a mine explosion and under torture by “Olive Branch” factions, also the majority of them were killed by the Turkish aerial and artillery shelling and bombardment, and in several executions against citizens in Afrin area since the 20th of January 2018

Until the same date of 2019, including about 84 civilians including 6 children and 3 women, were killed since after the Turkish Forces took control of Afrin on the 19th of March 2018, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also monitored the injury of hundreds and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of others, where the violations and inhuman practices remained the share of the remaining residents of Afrin area, who refused to leave their homes and farms for the Turkish Forces and factions that stole, devoured, looted, and seized the property of civilians and private and public property in the entire area of ​​Afrin.

And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has monitored more than 152 operations targeted “Olive Branch” in Afrin area, since the Kurdish forces lost Afrin area at the end of the second third of March 2018, where it rose to 689, the number of members of the Turkish forces and the rebel and Islamic factions including 85 Turkish soldiers, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented the death of at least 1584 fighters of YPG and Self-Defense Forces, who have been killed since the start of Operation “Olive Branch”, also at least 91 of the popular members of the regime forces have been killed in the Turkish bombardment since they entered on the 20th of February 2018, while the Turkish forces have carried out about 140 assassinations and targeting against the forces controlling Afrin, while leading sources of the YPG denied that their forces or cells had relation or responsibility for many of the assassinations and acts of torture; some of which appeared on videos and attributed to the Kurdish Forces, and the sources accused other cells belong to other parties of carrying out these assassinations and attributing them to the Kurdish Forces for their own agenda, the main aim of which is to escalating their violations against the civilians, where the resentment has been increasing among the civilians day after day, with the unfair and unjust procedures, and the silence of the Turkish Forces -who are leading the “Olive Branch” operation- and not responding to their complaints.

Forms of violations varied from seizing olive crops, to seizing thousands of olive oil barrels, collecting royalties and taxes, seizing and looting houses, seizing and selling farms, establishing military headquarters and camps in property of citizens, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights learned from reliable sources that groups operating in “Olive Branch” Operation after controlling Afrin spoke to the Turkish authorities, demanding them to expel the residents of Afrin city and its countryside completely, and to confiscate their property, livelihoods, farms, homes and their contents in full, which was rejected by the Turkish authorities, the sources confirmed that they wanted the same goal but they opposed the method, telling those who wanted this decision that it will bring the international community against them, and push the whole world to intervene in favor of the Kurds inhabitants of the area, and issued their orders to wait, and that the day will come when residents of the area will ask to get out of it, and they will pay to get out of their houses and farms and leave them, which is what happened slowly, as hundreds of families who remained in Afrin have fled as a result of the escalation of violations against them of kidnapping, beatings, assaults, looting, theft, and assaulting women and girls.

Which aroused anger of residents of Afrin and the people who were displaced of it who were prevented by Turkey from returning to their villages and towns, amid a Shameful silence by the world which did not show any action to what Turkey is doing in ​​Afrin area of daily violations against the residents and the civilians.

Intersected sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory that a military commander in Rahman Corps (who was displaced from eastern Ghouta) had an agreement with the local council in Afrin city, based on taking an area of a mountainous land located in the area between Basutah and Afrin city by the military commander, based on considering it as a “no-man’s-land” and it is not owned by anyone, and then granting 400 meters to the displaced people of the Eastern Ghouta in exchange of $100. Reliable sources confirmed that the agreement had been reached between both parties, but no displaced person has been handover anything yet.

The royalties imposed on the civilian and the people who move in Afrin area on the main and sub-roads, where varying sums of money are paid to checkpoints of “Olive Branch” Forces, who stop the small, large, public and private vehicles, and sometimes it goes beyond royalty and turn to looting, not to mention the arbitrary control of “Olive Branch” operation factions of the economic resources in Afrin- came against the backdrop of the seizure of most of the olive plantations in Afrin by the factions of operation “Olive branch”, and leasing it dealers and workers to work in them and receive money in advance as a price for the lease of these seized plantations, which are more than 75% of the area of olive farms in Afrin, after the factions shared control of olive farms.

Where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored a complete seizure of Afrin city by the Turkish forces and “Olive Branch” operation factions, where these factions split their areas of control and write phrases on everything being seized to prove their ownership of it, and to prevent the rest of the factions from seizing the same real estate or machine, also they burned olive plantations and property, while violations exceeded the seizure and dividing of property to carrying out daily raids of houses under the pretext of searching for weapons and sleeper cells and other pretexts, they also looted the property of houses of jewelry, money, electronic appliances, even mobile phones and furniture, while the theft moved from private property to public property, where groups of factions working in Afrin area stole electric copper cables in front of the people as well as hospitals and service institutions, while these robberies created internal clashes between rebel and Islamic factions operating in “Olive Branch” operation, which killed and injured tens of members in frequent rounds of bloody fighting, while the Turkish authorities did not engage in any kind of deterrence or pressure, but attempted to resolve disputes that may get completely out of control.

Also, factions in “Olive Branch” operation formed mock courts that request identity papers relating to property ownership in Afrin area in the northwestern sector of Aleppo province, and the sources confirmed that the process of ordering the papers is accompanied by information provided by intersected sources; about the start of preparations by the Corps’ court to return properties inhabited by fighters to their owners, and the sources confirmed that the houses are being seized until proofing the ownership of the house by a paper from the Land Registry in Aleppo that proves the ownership of the house to the plaintiff, even if there were charges of affiliation to the Kurdish forces or Kurdish political parties, where the ownership of the home is returned its owners, but those who cannot prove that, their property are seized and sold at an auction, also the individual arms and personal belongings areas sold in the same way at special auctions, which has aroused widespread dissatisfaction among residents of Afrin who the regime did not grant them access to Aleppo city as displaced people, amid fears that many displaced and remaining families cannot prove their ownership, where the people considered this as a new chapter in the process of restricting to displace the remaining civilians.

Also the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring new chapters in the series of the continuous violations practiced by the “Olive Branch” Operation Factions; against the remaining residents of Afrin city and its countryside in the northwest sector of Aleppo province, where the Syrian Observatory learned that members from a brigade working in Afrin area broke into a house near al-Nirouz roundabout in Afrin city, and arrested a Kurdish man with his son and daughter accused them of being “cells of YPG”, where they were taken to an unknown destination, and in the same context, members from al-Hamza brigade seized agricultural land owned by a citizen of Afrin, under the pretext of “he resides in Germany and supports YPG”, where the brother of the landowner, his agent, was expelled and the land that includes hundreds of trees of olives was seized.

The Syrian Observatory published yesterday, Monday, that factions of the “Olive Branch” Operation supported by Turkey continue their violations in Afrin city and its countryside against its remaining people, to steal their lands, arrest, and restrict them. And in a new chapter in the series of violations: “al-Sultan Shah” Brigade -which is part of the “Olive Branch” factions- legalized its thefts of the livelihood of Afrin people through series of resolutions issued and circulated regarding the harvesting of olives in Shih Township in the countryside of Afrin, and these decisions stipulate the imposition of royalties in different proportions on the olive harvest, where residents owners of the agricultural lands in the area were forced to pay 10% of their produce, but in the case of absence of the agricultural landowners in the area their agents act on behalf of them; and higher percentages were determined as follows:

15% of the crop is paid if the agents are first class relatives to the landowners (father, mother, brother, sister).

If the agents are from the area but not related to the landowners, the royalty will be 25% of the total crop production.

35% of the total crop production is paid if the agents are from “supporters” of YPG according to the circulation of the Sultan Shah faction.

The wave of displacement which was one of the largest displacements ever mostly headed towards the northern countryside of Aleppo, after the regime forces prevented civilians from reaching Aleppo city, and about $1000 USD were imposed on the person in order to be smuggled towards Aleppo city, also some of the smugglings were carried out in different ways through regime’s checkpoints to Aleppo city in return for large sums of money, to begin the journey of tragedy for those displaced people, where some of them were able to shelter themselves in houses and the rest were housed in a quickly-built camps, protecting them neither from the winter’s cold nor the summer’s heat, accompanied by turning a blind eye by the international relief and humanitarian organizations towards helping them, where the assistance provided was not as the size of the tragedy and did not provided much help, while tens citizens were injured and killed while they were attempting to reach Aleppo city.

This denial of access to Aleppo city by the authorities of the regime of Bashar al-Assad was accompanied by the prevention by the Turkish Forces and the rebel and Islamic Syrian opposition factions; for the displaced citizens from returning to their villages and towns in Afrin area, where the checkpoints were set up and the citizens were prevented from returning, while the Turkish authorities used their homes, villages, and farms as a way to settle tens of thousands of displaced people of the Eastern Ghouta and displaced people from central and south of Syria, including those who were resettled in homes, farms, apartments, camps. The largest proportion were for families of the fighters working in the “Olive Branch” operation factions or factions displaced from other Syrian areas to the Syrian north, also Afrin and its properties were used as a means by the Turkish side to keep the factions working in the “Olive Branch” operation busy and deliberately carried out looting and theft, where the Syrian Observatory monitored hundreds of thefts carried out by members both individually and by groups of factions working in the area, as well as mass looting by factions as happened on the locust day; when Afrin city and its countryside, houses, shops, warehouses, and machineries were looted.

we call on the international community to work diligently to bring the inhabitants of Afrin area back to their homeland, and guarantee their lives and safety, where there is no place for them to displace to and no organization providing assistance, we also call on humanitarian and relief agencies to provide assistance that will benefit the displaced people of Afrin, and providing medical treatment to hundreds of thousands of displaced people in a narrow geographical area, we also call on the international community to press Turkey to open the checkpoints for people wishing to return to Afrin, and to control the factions that have not left anything without being looted, the factions which exercise daily violations against inhabitants of Afrin area.