“Olive Branch” areas in July | Violations against civilians continue, while nearly 20 people kidnapped and arrested arbitrarily
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 July’s prominent developments in these areas, which could be summarised in the following main points:
In July 2021, SOHR activists have documented the death of four people (three civilians and one militiaman), they were distributed as follows:
- A child and a man were killed in rocket fire on Afrin city.
- A woman was killed after being beaten brutally by her husband in Afrin city.
- A militiaman of Suqour al-Sham was killed after being hit with a gunshot fired by his one of his companions by mistake in the faction’s headquarters in Afrin city.
“Olive Branch” areas experienced one explosion in July 2021, as an IED exploded on July 19 in the car of a media activist in Afrin city in north-western Aleppo.
Olive Branch” areas also experienced two fights among Turkish-backed factions. The first fight erupted on July 4 between a group of Jaysh al-Nukhbah and another group of Suqour al-Shamal in Darwish Maydanki in Afrin. The reasons behind this fight, which left three militiamen of both sides injured, remained unknown. The second fight was on July 18 when a disagreement flared up among Turkish-backed factions in Raju district in Afrin countryside, which evolved later to gunfire with light and medium weapons. This fight left no casualties, but it caused a state of panic among the region’s residents.
As repression is escalating in Turkish-controlled areas in Aleppo countryside, particularly 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 July, SOHR documented the arrest and kidnapping of over 19 civilians, including a minor girl, in Afrin city, Ma’batli, Sheikh Hadid, Rajou, Bulbul, Sharran and Jendires. It is worth noting that seven of these people have been released, while the others are still in the factions’ custody.
On July 13, a member of al-Sham Corps, known as “Abu Khalil”, assaulted a 74-year-old lady from Kawenda village of Rajo district in Afrin on July 4. the Turkish-backed militiaman hit the woman with a chair and insulted and abused her because she refused to pay the “protection levy.”
While on July 12, Turkish-backed al-Hamzah Division had imposed levies of 200 to 500 TL on residents of Kokaniyah village in Maabatly district in Afrin countryside north of Aleppo, under “protection taxes”. “Abu Sultan”, a commander in al-Hamza Division, informed the residents that they must pay these new levies, during a meeting in the house of the village’s headman.
The commander warned the village’s residents that if they refused to pay, their properties would be subjected to thefts, then al-Hamza Division would be not responsible for protecting those properties.
It is worth noting that these new levies were not included in the previous “harvest olives’ season” or the annual taxes of 20% of the harvest, which the Local Council imposed on farmlands’ owners.
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 July 15 that the Turkish forces and their proxy factions retrieved bodies of civilians and military personnel from a mass grave discovered near the Local Council in Afrin city. Over 57 bodies were retrieved, while the retrieved bodies were taken to unknown place. According to SOHR sources, the bodies in this mass grave were of identified civilians and military personnel with tombstones on their tombs, as most of them were killed during the siege imposed on Afrin in early 2018.
Also, on July 25, the Turkish-backed al-Hamza Division, headed by Mu’taz Abdullah, imposed new levies in return for allowing civilians to take care of olive trees belonging to people who were displaced from the villages of Kafrdalli Tahtani, Kafrdalli Fuqani, Ma’rata and Mazen in Afrin countryside. Al-Hamza Division asked the authorized representatives of the trees’ owners to pay eight USD (25,000 SYL) for each tree every three years in return for allowing these representatives to take care of olive trees.
While on July 21, the Turkish Interior Minister “Sulayman Soylu” visited the directorates of the General Security and police in the cities of Afrin and Azaz in Aleppo countryside, on the first day of Eid al-Adha. Meanwhile, Turkish-backed factions in Afrin and Azaz were seen on high alert before the visit of the minister to Syrian territory.
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.