“Olive Branch” areas in March 2022 | 80 kidnappings and arbitrary arrests…over 70 human rights violations…ongoing demographic change • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

“Olive Branch” areas in March 2022 | 80 kidnappings and arbitrary arrests…over 70 human rights violations…ongoing demographic change

SOHR calls on the international community to intervene immediately and protect civilians from systematic violations by Turkish-backed factions

Since Turkish forces and their proxy factions captured several areas in north-western Aleppo, namely Afrin canton, after a military operation known as “Olive Branch”, humanitarian crises have been emerging and worsening gradually, with violations, attacks and explosions occurring almost daily. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has monitored and tracked prominent developments and gross violations in these areas in March 2022, which can be summarised in the following main points:

 

 

Acts of violence leave scores of fatalities

 

In March, SOHR has not documented any deaths in areas under the control of Turkish forces and factions operating under the banner of “Olive Branch” operation room in the north-western countryside of Aleppo, but Observatory activists documented the death of five people in different circumstances in the vicinity of “Olive Branch” areas. A breakdown of fatalities is as follows:

 

-Four civilians:

 

  • A child and a man were killed in the explosion of an old landmine near the frontlines between Kurdish forces and “National army” faction in Ibbin village in northern Aleppo countryside, which is under joint control of Kurdish and regime forces in Sherawa district.

 

  • Two women, one of whom was Komin’s head of the Autonomous Administration, were killed by a mysterious explosion that rocked the seventh headquarters of “Komin” (local committees) of the Autonomous Administration in Al-Hadath village in the northern countryside of Aleppo.

 

-A regime soldier was killed in an attack by Turkish forces stationed in Merimin village on a regime military post in Ibbin village in the northern countryside of Aleppo.

 

 

In March, SOHR has not documented any explosions or infightings in “Olive Branch” area, but the vicinity of those areas has witnessed two explosions, and they are as follows:

 

  • March 26: An old landmine explosion killed a child and a man near the frontlines between Kurdish forces and “National army” faction in Ibbin village in northern Aleppo countryside, which is under joint control of Kurdish and regime forces in Sherawa district.

 

  • March 30: A mysterious explosion hit the seventh headquarters of “Komin” (local committees) of Autonomous Administration in Al-Hadath village in the northern countryside of Aleppo, killing two women.

 

 

Ongoing heinous crimes and violations

 

As Turkish-backed factions continue their blatant violations on a daily basis against the residents who have chosen to stay in their areas over displacement and against people displaced to Afrin canton, SOHR has documented 79 kidnappings and arbitrary arrests of civilians, including seven women, by Turkish-backed factions, in March. Seven people were released after paying ransoms.

 

Furthermore, SOHR has documented over 68 other violations, distributed as follows:

 

  • 37 incidents of seizure of houses, shops and lands by members and commanders of Turkish-backed factions in Afrin city and affiliated districts. The seized houses and shops belonged to people who have forced to displace from Afrin canton due to the “Olive Branch” operation.

 

  • Three incidents of selling displaced people’s houses which had been forcibly seized earlier by Turkish-backed factions. The houses were sold at low prices and in US dollars in particular.

 

  • Eight incidents of imposition of levies on civilians by factions, military police, and military court.

 

  • 15 incidents of felling fruit-bearing trees by factions of Turkish-backed “National Army,” where over 880 olive trees were cut down while five forests in several areas, including Deir Sawan, Ruta, Jama and Kafr Safrah villages were completely uprooted.

 

  • Five assaults by various factions of the “National Army;”

 

-First assault: Ahrar Al-Sham member severely beat a displaced man from eastern Ghouta in Raju district.

 

-Second assault: A leader of Al-Hamza division severely beat civilians in Kafr Zeit village.

 

-Third assault: Members of Amshat faction attacked civilians and opened fire indiscriminately in Afrin countryside to intimidate and force the people to withdraw a complaint against Amshat members.

 

-Fourth assault: Members of “Amshat” faction attacked another member of the same faction to force him to go live on Facebook to acquit “Amshat” faction from committing crimes.

 

-Fifth assault: Three members of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah faction brutally beat a civilian from Qibar for “speaking in Kurdish.”

 

 

Demographic change in Afrin

 

As a part of the ongoing efforts to change the demography of Afrin city and to construct settlements, the Kuwaiti association of the “White Hands” announced the start of the second stage of the settlement dubbed “Basma Village” on Tuesday, March 29. During the second stage, eight residential blocks with 125 flats planned to be established, as well as starting construction of new six other units. This settlement was established on a plot of land of an estimated 10,000 square metres, after having been seized from the real owner, a civilian known by his initials as Z. H. from Shadirah.

 

Moreover, Turkish-backed factions continued to sabotage Syria’s historical heritage through excavation work and digging of archaeological hills, searching for buried artefacts and antiques. In March, SOHR sources documented seven incidents of excavation work and digging in archaeological hills and sites, including Tel Basutah, Tel Khazian, Tel Taranda, Tel Zuntari, Tel Basraqah, and Tel Beir. The archaeological hill of Beir which is in south of Sherkan village in Maabatli district was vandalised and dug up by heavy machinery, destroying most of the hill foot and its surroundings in search of buried treasures.

 

Furthermore, the archaeological hill of Juwaik was also subjected to excavation work with heavy diggers and earth-moving machinery, which destroyed its archaeological layers. In addition, dozens of fruit-bearing olive trees in surrounding areas were felled. The excavations affected nearly 7000 square meters of the Acropolis and the nearby areas extending to the vicinity of the high hill.

 

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, while no party or international or regional player is exhibiting any willingness to put an end to these “grave” violations, despite SOHR’s repeated warnings about the dreadful humanitarian situation in the region.