“Olive Branch” areas in November | Turkish-backed factions commit nearly 185 violations, including thefts, arbitrary arrests, kidnappings and seizure of properties • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

“Olive Branch” areas in November | Turkish-backed factions commit nearly 185 violations, including thefts, arbitrary arrests, kidnappings and seizure of properties

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 November’s prominent developments in these areas, which could be summarised in the following main points:

 

 

Human casualties

 

In November 2021 alone, SOHR activists have documented the death of five people:

 

  • Three civilians, including a woman were killed in rocket fire originating from areas controlled by Kurdish and regime forces on residential neighbourhoods in Afrin city.

 

  • A civilian died under torture in a prison of Turkish-backed factions, after being detained for over one year. According to SOHR sources, the family of the 51-year-old civilian known by his initials as S. N. was informed of the his death and were asked to collect his body from Al-Ra’i prison which is run and supervised by factions affiliated to Turkish Intelligence.

 

  • A member of Liwaa Al-Ghab died under torture in a prison of Al-Hamza Division, after being arrested following a fight between the two sides in Julqan village in Jendires district.

 

 

Explosions and rivalries

 

“Olive Branch” areas witnessed two explosions in November 2021, with the first taking place on November 3 when four civilians, including two members of the civil defence, died in the explosion of an old landmine in “Kulyan” village in Raju district. While the other explosion was on November 6 near the headquarters of Al-Sham Corps in Tel Sallour village in Jendires district. However, the nature of the explosion remained unknown and no further details were reported about the number of casualties and material damage caused.

 

Also, in November, “Olive Branch” areas experienced five fights among Turkish-backed factions, which can be summarised as follows:

 

  • November 1: Violent clashes erupted between the factions of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah and Al-Moatasem Division on Al-Villat street in Afrin city centre in the early hours of Monday morning. According to SOHR activists, verbal altercations took place between a member of Al-Moatasem Division from Aleppo city and another member of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah, before it later evolved to violent clashes between the two factions. However, no casualties were reported.

 

  • On the same day, November 1, clashes erupted between members of Al-Hamazah Division and other unknown militants over olive looting and bounties. According to SOHR activists, militiamen of Al-Hamzah Division stationed at a military checkpoint near Rajo opened fire on militants with bags of looted olive in their possession, after they refused to share the olive with the checkpoint’s members. Violent clashes erupted between the two sides that led to the wounding of a civilian and several members of Al-Hamzah Division at the checkpoint.

 

  • November 8: Clashes erupted in Julqan village in Jendires district between a group of Liwaa Al-Ghab and Al-Hamza Division, which led to the death of a member of Liwaa Al-Ghab under torture after being arrested during the fighting. The clashes also left the brother of Liwaa Al-Ghab leader and three other members injured.

 

  • November 10: Clashes erupted between the same factions, Liwaa Al-Ghab and Al-Hamza Division, in Afrin city and Julqan village in Jendires district, which left four members on both sides injured.

 

  • November 24: Clashes erupted between the military police and members of Suleiman Shah faction “Al-Amshat” in residential neighbourhoods in Jendires district. It is worth noting that three civilians, including women, were injured during these clashes.

 

 

Arbitrary arrests and kidnappings

 

As repression is escalating in Afrin canton, 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 November, SOHR documented the arrest and kidnap of over 121 civilians, including ten women and a child, in Afrin city and surrounding districts of Bulbul, Raju, Sheikh Hadid, Ma’batli, and Jendires.

 

The largest number of arrested people in “Olive Branch” area in November was in the village of Ma’mal Ushaghi in Raju district, with 29 people arrested by Muhamed Al-Fateh faction and the military police, while Iska village in Jendires district saw 27 people arrested by Al-Sham Corps.

 

These arrests and kidnappings were ordered by the Turkish-backed factions’ commanders with the aim to collect ransoms which ranged between 1,500 and 2,000 Turkish liras. It is worth noting that some of these people have been released after paying the required ransoms, mostly in Ma’mal Ushaghi village, while the others are still in the factions’ custody.

 

 

Ongoing violations

 

Turkish-backed factions continued excavation work in the archaeological hills in search for treasures and antiquities, sabotaging Syria’s history like ISIS had done. In this context, SOHR activists reported that Al-Jabhat Al-Shamiyah faction, which is close to the Turkish intelligence, were digging several sites in front of civilian houses in Akdah village in Azaz city in north Aleppo in search for buried artifacts. The excavation work and digging in these sites were led by the faction’s military commander who is known by his initials as M. A. and in collaboration with chairman of Sajo municipal who is known as A. A.

 

In Afrin city, however, “Deir Sawan” hill in Sharran district, registered by the Syrian Antiquities Directorate in 1981 under Resolution No. 244 | A, was dug and excavated by the Ankara-backed factions.

 

According to recently captured photos of the site, digging and systematic destruction of that hill could be obviously seen at Al-Akrobol peak until the slope, where heavy diggers and earth-moving machineries continued digging, searching for antiquities in full view of Turkish forces.

 

Meanwhile, the hill in the south of Jendires district was excavated and destroyed by Turkish forces stationed over the hill, after turning it into a military based since they captured Afrin canton. Satellite photos showed the continuous digging and sabotage of the that hill by heavy machines for expanding the base and treasure looting, as well as destroying the warehouses of the German-Syrian mission, as they completely levelled the whole area after stealing the tools used by the archaeological missions that were searching for monuments.

 

Since the factions of the Turkey-backed National Army captured Afrin canton in March 2018, the looting of several archaeological sites has occurred throughout Afrin.

 

Similarly, SOHR sources reported that Turkish-backed factions continued excavating the archaeological hill of “Kashour” on the Syria-Turkey border, in full view of Turkish forces. The faction used heavy diggers and earth-moving machineries for excavating the archaeological hill, searching for antiquities and artifacts.

 

Since the beginning of “Olive Branch” operation in 2018 when Turkish forces and their proxy factions stormed Afrin canton, the archaeological hill of “Kashour” was excavated by the Turkish-backed factions on many occasions.

 

In 2019, most of the hill was excavated and damaged, while in early 2021, a large-scale campaign of digging and excavation work was unleashed, which led to the disappearance of the hill.

 

Moreover, factions of the Turkish-backed “National Army” continued damaging the archaeological hill of “Qibar” in Afrin countryside, five kilometres away from Afrin city, using heavy diggers and earth-moving machineries. It is worth noting that the factions of the National Army started excavation work in that hill in 2018, where they gradually removed the hill until they levelled it in 2019 with the aim of looting artifacts and antiquities. It is worth noting that the excavation work took place in full view of the Turkish forces.

 

 

On the other hand, the factions imposed levies on the farmers of Afrin with the beginning of the olive harvest season, as Al-Majd faction, led by Yasser Abdulrahim, imposed varying levies on the residents of several villages which were as follows:

 

  • Hayama village in Bulbul district: 190 20-litre tins of olive oil

 

  • Sa’riya village: 160 20-litre tins of olive oil

 

  • Bakhjah village: 150 20-litre tins of olive oil

 

  • Ali Bakah village: 180 20-litre tins of olive oil.

 

Similarly, Al-Hamza Division imposed levies on the farmers as follows:

 

  • Al-Karu village: 300 20-litre tins of olive oil

 

  • Shankiliyah village: 200 20-litre tins of olive oil

 

  • Bikiyah village: 250 20-litre tins of olive oil.

 

Besides, Suqur Al-Shamal faction controlling Kamrouk village in Ma’batlidistrict imposed levies on the village’s farmers of ten percent of the harvest, as well as levies on olive pressers of 35% of the profit. The factions threatened to arrest everyone violating this decision on charge of “dealing with the former Autonomous Administration”.

 

Moreover, Ahrar Al-Sham imposed a levy of 100 USD on every family in Qarzahil village under “protection taxes”.

 

In the meantime, Sultan Suleiman Shah faction “Al-Amshat” in Sheikh Hadeeddistrict imposed levies of 25% on olive pressers and four US dollars on every olive tree.

 

Also, Liwaa Al-Samarqand imposed a levy of 50 olive oil drums and 1,500 TL on the elder of Haj Suleiman village and beat him up brutally. The same faction imposed a levy of 25 olive oil 20-litre tins on a civilian called RamdanQasu, as he had transported his olive to a presser in area controlled by Al-Amshat faction.

 

SOHR documented the seizure and selling of 24 houses in Afrin city in November 2021. It is worth noting that the houses were sold at low prices ranging between 1,000 USD and 2,500 USD each, after the inhabitants were forced out.

 

The factions also seized over 27 land plots and nearly 1,670 olive trees. In addition, nearly 3,148 trees were felled on 11 occasions, while the trees were sold as fire logs. Some of these trees were felled by Sultam Murad faction Al-Sham Corps as follows: Sultan Murad faction felled 65 olive trees in Bulbul district, 80 olive trees in Ister village and 2,000 bushes in Deir Suran village. While Al-Sham Corps felled 490 trees in KafrNebbo village in Shirawa district.

 

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented eight attacks on civilians by Turkish-backed factions during the past month. Further details of these attacks are summarized as follows:

 

  • Members of Al-Hamzah Division beat up an elderly man brutally after taking over his 50 sheep in Mayyassah village.

 

  • A commander of Al-Amshat faction known as “Hussein” beat a civilian called “Zarka” brutally for expressing rejection of felling forests by the faction.

 

  • Members of “Al-Jabha Al-Shamiyyah” beat a civilian from Afrin brutally, before opening fire on him.

 

  • Militiamen from Hayyan town beat the elder of Burj Haydar village brutally in a funeral reception tent and insulted the Kruds, describing them as “atheist and infidel”.

 

  • Liwaa Al-Samarqand brutally beat up the elder of Haj Suleiman village and imposed a levy of 50 olive oil 20-litre tins and 1,500 TL on him for transporting his olive to a presser in area controlled by Al-Amshat faction.

 

Meanwhile, a civilian from the Syrian coastline was kidnapped in Afrin city, as he was attempting to cross into Turkey and then to Europe, with the help of smugglers of Al-Jabha Al-Shamiyyah. The man was kidnapped by Al-Jabha Al-Shamiyyah which asked his family to pay a ransom of 18,500 USD. The man was released on November 15 after his father paid the requested ransom, where the faction sent the victim’s family videos showing the man being tortured.

 

It seems that violations in “Olive Branch” areas will not stop as long as Turkish forces and their proxies keep breaching all international laws and charters, and with no party showing any willingness to put an end to these “grave” violations, despite SOHR repeated warnings about the dreadful humanitarian situation in the region.

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