“Olive Branch” areas in June | Nearly 30 civilian fatalities in attacks and explosions, over 25 arbitrary arrests and kidnappings…ongoing violations…demographic change in progress
Since Turkish forces and their proxy factions captured several areas in Aleppo after a military operation known as “Olive Branch”, humanitarian crises have been emerging and worsening gradually, with violations, attacks and explosions occur almost daily. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked June’s prominent developments in these areas, which could be summarised in the following main points:
In June 2021, SOHR activists have documented the death of 29 people (six militiamen and 23 civilians), they were distributed as follows:
- Three people, including a commander in the Turkish-backed police and a little girl, were killed in an IED explosion in a car near the roundabout of Kaveh the Blacksmith in Afrin city.
- Three people were killed in an armed fight in a funeral reception tent in Jendires in Afrin countryside.
- A member of Suqur al-Sham Brigade was killed after he was hit with a gunshot fired by another member by mistake in Afrin city.
- A civilian from Na’iyyah village of Shirawa district in Afrin countryside died under torture in a prison of al-Sham Corps.
- 21 people were killed in rocket fire by regime forces stationed in al-Ziyyarah and Ibbin on al-Shefaa hospital in Afrin city. The fatalities were as follows:
-17 civilians, including a woman and her baby, three women of the hospital staff, a doctor, another woman and a little girl.
-Four military personnel, they were a commander in Suleiman Shah faction, two members of the same faction and a police officer.
In June 2021, SOHR documented four explosions in “Olive Branch” areas as follows:
- In early June, unidentified man threw a grenade near Nowruz roundabout in Afrin city centre.
- On June 6, unknown gunmen on a car ,”Saba” make, threw a grenade on the road to Jendires in Afrin city.
- On June 8, an IED exploded in al-Mahmoudiyah neighbourhood in Afrin city.
- On June 26, an IED exploded near the roundabout of Kaveh the Blacksmith in Afrin city, which killed three people, including a commander of the Turkish-backed police and a little girl.
“Olive Branch” areas also experienced two fights among Turkish-backed factions. The first fight erupted on June 9 between a group of Sultan Murad and another group of Jaysh al-Sharqiyyah near Nowruz roundabout in Afrin city, and it left two members on the two sides injured at that time. The second fight was on June 20 when Jaysh al-Nukhbah opened heavy machinegun fire on checkpoint of Suqur al-Shamal faction near Omar Sammu village in Sharran district in Afrin countryside in north-western Aleppo. According to SOHR sources, the clashes resulted in the injury of three members on both sides.
As repression is escalating in Turkish-controlled areas in Aleppo countryside, especially in Afrin, Turkish-backed factions have stepped up their daily violations against the region’s people who refused to flee their areas and people displaced to the canton. In June, SOHR documented the arrest and kidnapping of over 26 civilians in Afrin city, Ma’batli, Sheikh Hadid, Rajou and Bulbul. It is worth noting that ten of these people have been released, while the others are still in the factions’ custody.
As a part of efforts by Turkish forces and their proxy factions to follow Turkey’s plan of demographic change in Afrin city and affiliated districts, SOHR sources reported on June 3 that Turkish-backed factions renewed excavation work on the outskirts of the archaeological site of Nebi Huri fortress, near the water spring, searching for antiquities. According to SOHR sources, the factions have erected large soil barriers in the area where they were digging under the pretext of “establishing a fish farm”.
On June 4, members of “al-Waqqas Brigade” brutally beaten 12 people from Hakja village of Sheikh Hadeed district in the northern countryside of Afrin in north-western Aleppo, after detaining them for hours, as these residents expelled shepherds from Idlib providing, while they were overgrazing their sheep in the arrested residents’ fields and orchards. The faction released the residents and kept only one person in its custody until his brother hands himself over to the factions, as he insulted one of the shepherds.
On June 8, SOHR sources reported that a leader of the “Military Police” branch in Afrin abused the female detainees in Ma’ratah prison with the severest methods practiced by the Syrian regime against the prisoners. The Military Police leaders sexually abused the female prisoners under pretext of investigations. According to SOHR activists, families and dignitaries in the region were informed of several sexual abuse incidents by the Military Police leader known as “Abu Riyadh”, where they filed several complaints to the Turks and some factions operating in the region to put an end to his violations against the prisoners and hold him accountable, but to no avail.
It is worth noting that Ma’ratah prison is run by the Military Police and the Defense Ministry of the Syrian interim government under supervision of the Turkish intelligence. Most of the detainees in Ma’ratah prison are Kurdish people kidnapped or arrested since the Turkish forces and their proxy factions captured Afrin city and affiliated districts for “formerly working for or dealing with the Autonomous Administration”.
On June 15, Turkish backed militiamen of “Suleiman Shah Division” seized a piece of land of about 20 Dunams, owned by a civilian from Afrin, in Sheikh Hadid district in the countryside of Afrin under the excuse of building a wedding hall and homes for the displaced families.
On June 17, members of al-Sham Corps which is close to Turkey forced families from Tadef town in the countryside of Aleppo to evacuate their homes by force to turn them into military bases under the excuse of the “general interest”. Also, a member of a group known as “Fedaie Baba Amr” affiliated to al-Sham Corps attacked a civilian who refused to evacuate his home in the village, where smuggling operations with regime checkpoints in the area were prevalent.
On June 18, members of ”Samarqand Brigade” headed by the security official in the village of Kansafra in the countryside of Jendires district attacked a civilian from Afrin, where they hit him in front of his wife and kids because he prevented the members from taking off wooden utility poles near his house. Separately, near Qarba village which is located only five km away from Jendires district, members of “Ahrar al-Sharqiya” division excavated archaeological hill. The faction’s members brought in heavy diggers and earth-moving machineries for search for antiquities, in addition to uprooting several olive trees in the vicinity of the hill. The excavation work and digging in the area continued for more than a week.
On June 29, Turkish forces and al-Sham Corps seized olive and pomegranate orchards located between the villages of Basoutah and Karzilah in the countryside of Afrin, where they felled olive trees and paved the soil in order to build a military base and residential units for housing displaced people from other provinces. On the other hand, Turkish forces blocked the road between Afrin and al-Basoutah, near Trendah village, with the aim to build a military base, which forced the residents to use off-roads to reach Afrin city.
On the same day, June 29, the Turkish-backed al-Hamza Division summoned headmen of the villages and towns of Maaratah, Kaziyah and Kafrdali Fuqani, which are under the Division’s control, asking them to count the properties of civilians, who were forcibly displaced from these areas, with the aim to seize them. It is worth noting that the civil councils affiliated with the Turkish Intelligence had canceled the authorization documents issued by the displaced people to their relatives living in Afrin canton to manage and run their properties.
SOHR sources also reported that a civilian from Ba’yah village of Shirawa district in Afrin countryside in north-western Aleppo died under torture in a prison of the Turkish-backed “al-Sham Corps”. According to Syrian Observatory sources, the dead man was arrested in February 2020 by militiamen of al-Sham Corps and he was later freed after his family had paid 1,300 US dollars. However, the same faction arrested the same person again in April 2020, and took him to Iska prison in Shirawa district. The man died on June 4, 2021, after being tortured brutally. His family was forced to pay 1,000 US dollars, so that they could take the body after they vowed to bury the man secretly and without taking photo of the corpse.
It seems that the series of violations in “Olive Branch” areas will be unstoppable as long as Turkish forces and their proxies keep breaching all international laws and charters, and with no body being able to put an end to these “grave” violations, despite SOHR repeated warnings about the dreadful humanitarian situation in the region.