SOHR exclusive | Erdogan’s “safe zone” in the latest five months: 146 fatalities in acts of violence…nearly 100 infightings and explosions…over 400 arbitrary arrests and kidnaps…at least 530 other violations • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

SOHR exclusive | Erdogan’s “safe zone” in the latest five months: 146 fatalities in acts of violence…nearly 100 infightings and explosions…over 400 arbitrary arrests and kidnaps…at least 530 other violations

In light of the media propaganda about an imminent military operation by Turkish forces into Syria and the latest and numerous reports about the “voluntarily return” project which aims at sending Syrian refugees in Turkey back to Syria, namely the so-called “safe zone,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has prepared a comprehensive report highlighting all key developments documented in the unsafe “safe zone” in the last five months, precisely from January 1, 2022, to May 31, 2022.

 

According to the Turkish government and the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the “safe zone” is the region controlled by Turkish forces and factions of the pro-Ankara “National Army” operating under the banner of “Euphrates Shield,” “Olive Branch” and “Peace Spring” operations rooms in north and north-east Syria region.

 

Based on SOHR activists’ reliable daily monitoring and documentation, as well as accurate statistics, we, at the Syrian Observatory, would like to highlight the most prominent developments and violations experienced in areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions in northern, eastern, north-eastern, north-western countryside of Aleppo, Al-Hasakah countryside and Al-Raqqah countryside in the latest five months, which can be summarised in the following main points:

 

 

Full details of fatalities in acts of violence

 

SOHR has documented the death of 146 people in various acts of violence in areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions in northern, eastern, north-eastern, north-western countryside of Aleppo, Al-Hasakah countryside and Al-Raqqah countryside in the past five months, specifically from January 1 to May 31.

 

The fatalities are distributed as follows:

 

  • 57 civilians, including 12 children and four women.

 

  • 78 combatants.

 

  • Nine Turkish soldiers.

 

  • A suicide bomber.

 

  • An unidentified person.

 

Moreover, 272 others, both civilians and non-civilians, sustained various injuries due to acts of violence which took place in the same period, between January 1 and May 31, according to SOHR statistics.

 

A regional distribution of casualties documented by SOHR in areas controlled by Turkish forces and their proxy factions in the past five months is as follows:

 

 

“Euphrates Shield” are and its surroundings

 

74 people were killed in various acts of violence in “Euphrates Shield” area and it surroundings in northern, eastern and north-eastern countryside of Aleppo, while 154 other civilians and combatants sustained various injuries in this region in the latest five months. Here is further details of the circumstances of deaths:

 

-34 civilians, including five children and three women; they are as follows:

 

  • 14 civilians were killed in bombardment with artillery shells and rockets fired from areas where Kurdish and regime forces are deployed.

 

  • Ten civilians, including three women and three children, were murdered.

 

  • Six civilians, including a child, were killed in explosions.

 

  • Three civilians were killed by Turkish-backed militiamen.

 

  • A child died of hypothermia due to extreme cold weather.

 

-35 combatants:

 

  • Ten combatants were killed in armed attacks by unknown gunmen.

 

  • Nine combatants were killed in ground bombardment and attacks by Kurdish and regime forces.

 

  • Nine combatants were killed in factional rivalries and family and tribal infightings.

 

  • Seven combatants, including five commanders, were killed in explosions.

 

-Four Turkish soldiers were killed in ground bombardment and attacks by Kurdish forces.

 

-A person who was riding a booby-trapped motorcycle in Al-Bab city.

 

 

“Olive Branch” area

 

38 people were killed in various acts of violence in “Olive Branch” area in north-western countryside of Aleppo, while 89 other civilians and combatants sustained various injuries in this region in the latest five months. Here is further details of the circumstances of deaths:

 

-18 civilians, including five children and a woman; they are as follows:

 

  • Eight civilians, including five children, were killed in a massacre in Afrin city committed by bombardment with artillery shells and rockets fired from areas where Kurdish and regime forces are deployed.

 

  • Three civilians, including a woman, were killed by Turkish-backed militiamen.

 

  • Three men were killed in indiscriminate gunfire during family feuds and factional infightings.

 

  • Two men were murdered.

 

  • Two men were killed in explosions.

 

-17 combatants:

 

  • Eight combatants were killed in factional and family infightings.

 

  • Five combatants were killed in ground bombardment and attacks by Kurdish forces.

 

  • Two combatants were killed in explosions.

 

  • One combatant was killed in unknown circumstances.

 

  • One combatant was shot dead by unknown gunmen.

 

-Two Turkish soldiers were killed in ground bombardment and attacks by Kurdish forces.

 

-A suicide bomber who blew himself up at a military post of Jaysh Al-Islam, near Kawa Al-Haddad roundabout in Afrin city.

 

“Peace Spring” area

 

34 people were killed in various acts of violence in “Peace Spring” area in Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah countryside, while 29 other civilians and combatants sustained various injuries in this region in the past five months. Here is further details of the circumstances of deaths:

 

-Five civilians, including two children; they are as follows:

 

  • Four civilians, including two children, were killed in indiscriminate gunfire during factional infightings.

 

  • An Iraqi man was shot dead by unknown gunmen.

 

-26 combatants:

 

  • 20 combatants were killed in factional and tribal infightings.

 

  • Two combatants were shot dead by Syria Democratic Forces (SDF)

 

  • Four combatants were killed in explosions.

 

-Three Turkish soldiers were killed in an explosion which targeted their military vehicle in Tel Abyad area, near the Syria-Turkey border.

 

 

A monthly breakdown of the fatalities documented by SOHR in areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions between January 1 and May 31, is as follows:

 

 

“Euphrates Shield” area and its surroundings

 

-January: Ten people:

 

  • Six civilians, including three children.

 

  • Three combatants.

 

  • An unknown man.

 

-February: 28 people.

 

  • 17 civilians.

 

  • 11 combatants.

 

-March: Eight people.

 

  • Six civilians, including two children and a woman.

 

  • Two combatants.

 

-April: 23 people.

 

  • Three civilians, including a woman.

 

  • 17 combatants.

 

  • Three Turkish soldiers.

 

-May: Five people.

 

  • Two civilians, including a woman.

 

  • Two combatants.

 

  • One Turkish soldier.

 

 

“Olive Branch” area

 

-January: 13 people:

 

  • Nine civilians, including five children.

 

  • Three combatants.

 

  • A suicide bomber.

 

-February: Eight people.

 

  • Four civilians, including a woman.

 

  • Four combatants.

 

  • -March: No fatalities were documented.

 

-April: Seven people.

 

  • Three civilians.

 

  • Four combatants.

 

-May: Ten people.

 

  • Two civilians.

 

  • Six combatants.

 

  • Two Turkish soldiers.

 

 

“Peace Spring” area

 

-January: Six people:

 

  • Three combatants.

 

  • Three Turkish soldiers.

 

-February: No fatalities were documented.

 

-March: Five people.

 

  • Two civilians, including a child.

 

  • Three combatants.

 

-April: 11 people.

 

  • Two civilians.

 

  • Nine combatants.

 

-May: 12 people.

 

  • A child.

 

  • 11 combatants.

 

 

 

 

Infightings

 

SOHR activists have documented at least 60 tribal and family feuds and factional infightings in areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions in northern, eastern, north-eastern, north-western countryside of Aleppo, Al-Hasakah countryside and Al-Raqqah countryside in the past five months, namely from January 1 to May 31.

 

These feuds and infightings left 54 people dead: seven civilians, including two children, and 47 combatants and gunmen. In addition, tens others sustained various injuries during these fights which ignited a state of panic and discontent among the residents.

 

A regional distribution of the infightings and feuds documented by SOHR in areas controlled by Turkish forces and their proxy factions from early January 2022 to late May 2022 is as follows:

 

 

“Olive Branch” area

 

15 factional fights took place in “Olive Branch” area in north-western countryside of Aleppo, leaving eight combatants dead, while three more civilians were killed by indiscriminate gunshots during these clashes. Here is a monthly breakdown:

 

  • January: One infighting.

 

  • February: Three infightings.

 

  • March: No infightings were documented.

 

  • April:. Eight infightings.

 

  • May: Three infightings.

 

 

“Euphrates Shield” area and its surroundings

 

24 tribal, family and factional infightings and armed attacks took place in “Euphrates Shield” area and it surroundings in northern, eastern and north-eastern countryside of Aleppo, leaving 19 combatants and gunmen dead. Here is a monthly breakdown:

 

  • January: Two infightings.

 

  • February: Two infightings.

 

  • March: Two infightings.

 

  • April: 17 infightings.

 

  • May: One infighting.

 

 

“Peace Spring” area

 

21 tribal, family and factional infightings took place in “Peace Spring” area in Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah countryside, leaving 20 combatants dead, while four more civilians, including two children, were killed by indiscriminate gunshots during these clashes. Here is a monthly breakdown:

 

  • January: One infighting.

 

  • February: One infighting.

 

  • March: Eight infightings.

 

  • April:. Seven infightings.

 

  • May: Four infightings.

 

 

 

 

 

Explosions

 

SOHR activists have documented at least 37 explosions: landmine explosions and IED and bomb attacks, in areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions in northern, eastern, north-eastern, north-western countryside of Aleppo, Al-Hasakah countryside and Al-Raqqah countryside from January 1, 2022, to May 31, 2022.

 

These explosions left 26 people dead, and they are as follows:

 

  • Eight civilians, including a child.

 

  • 13 combatants, including five commanders.

 

  • Three Turkish soldiers.

 

  • A suicide bomber.

 

  • An unidentified person.

 

Moreover, tens others sustained various injuries due to these explosions which ignited a state of panic and discontent among the residents.

 

A regional distribution of explosions documented by SOHR in areas controlled by Turkish forces and their proxy factions in the past five months is as follows:

 

 

“Olive Branch” area

 

Eight explosions: landmine explosions and IED and bomb attacks, took place in “Olive Branch” area in north-western countryside of Aleppo, leaving five people dead as follows:

 

  • Two civilians.

 

  • Two combatants.

 

  • A suicide bomber who blew himself up at a military post in Afrin.

 

Here is a monthly breakdown of these explosions:

 

  • January: Two explosions.

 

  • February: Three explosions.

 

  • March: No explosions were documented.

 

  • April:. One explosion.

 

  • May: Two explosions.

 

 

“Euphrates Shield” area and its surroundings

 

25 explosions: landmine explosions and IED and bomb attacks, took place in “Euphrates Shield” area and it surroundings in northern, eastern and north-eastern countryside of Aleppo, leaving 14 people dead as follows:

 

  • Six civilians, including a child.

 

  • Seven combatants, including five commanders.

 

  • A person who was riding a booby-trapped motorcycle in Al-Bab city.

 

Here is a monthly breakdown of these explosions:

 

  • January: Four explosions.

 

  • February: Eight explosions.

 

  • March: Four explosions.

 

  • April:. Five explosions.

 

  • May: Four explosions.

 

 

“Peace Spring” area

 

Four explosions: landmine explosions and IED attacks, took place in “Peace Spring” area in Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah countryside, leaving seven people dead as follows:

 

  • Four combatants.

 

  • Three Turkish soldiers.

 

Here is a monthly breakdown of these explosions:

 

  • January: Two explosions.

 

  • February: One explosion.

 

  • March: One explosion.

 

  • April:. No explosions were documented.

 

  • May: No explosions were documented.

 

 

 

 

Arrests

 

SOHR activists have documented the arbitrary arrests of 341 people, including two children and 16 women, by Turkish-backed factions and Turkish intelligence service in areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions in northern, eastern, north-eastern, north-western countryside of Aleppo, Al-Hasakah countryside and Al-Raqqah countryside in the past five months, specifically from early January 2022 to late May 2022.

 

These people were arrested on different charges, the most prominent of which were “communication with the Kurdish forces, Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), the Autonomous Administration and ISIS cells.” It is worth noting that nearly 120 people were released after their families paid levies and money and investigations were accomplished, while the rest, 221 people, remain imprisoned.

 

A regional distribution of the arbitrary arrests documented by SOHR in areas controlled by Turkish forces and their proxy factions since early 2022 until late May is as follows:

 

 

“Olive Branch” area

 

231 people, including two children and ten women, were arrested arbitrarily in “Olive Branch” area in north-western countryside of Aleppo. Here is a monthly breakdown:

 

  • January: 45 people, including a child and two women.

 

  • February: 49 people, including a child and four women.

 

  • March: 58 people, including three women.

 

  • April: 28 people, including a woman.

 

  • May: 51 people.

 

 

“Euphrates Shield” area and its surroundings

 

91 people, including four women, were arrested arbitrarily in “Euphrates Shield” area and it surroundings in northern, eastern and north-eastern countryside of Aleppo. Here is a monthly breakdown:

 

  • January: 50 people, including four women.

 

  • February: Three people.

 

  • March: Nine people.

 

  • April: Seven people.

 

  • May: 22 people.

 

 

“Peace Spring” area

 

19 people, including two women, were arrested arbitrarily in “Peace Spring” area in Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah countryside. Here is a monthly breakdown:

 

  • January: 14 people, including two women.

 

  • February: No arrests were reported.

                                             

  • March: Three people.

 

  • April: No arrests were reported.

 

  • May: Two people.

 

 

 

 

Kidnaps

 

SOHR activists have documented the kidnapping of 64 people, including a child and five women, by unknown individuals and combatants in areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions in northern, eastern, north-eastern, north-western countryside of Aleppo, Al-Hasakah countryside and Al-Raqqah countryside in the past five months, specifically from January 1 to May 31.

 

A regional distribution of theses kidnaps is as follows:

 

 

“Olive Branch” area

 

51 people, including a child and four women, were kidnapped in “Olive Branch” area in north-western countryside of Aleppo. Here is a monthly breakdown:

 

  • January: Two people, including a child.

 

  • February: 21 people.

 

  • March: 22 people, including four women.

 

  • April: Two people.

 

  • May: Four people.

 

 

“Euphrates Shield” area and its surroundings

 

11 people, including a woman, were kidnapped in “Euphrates Shield” area and it surroundings in northern, eastern and north-eastern countryside of Aleppo. Here is a monthly breakdown:

 

  • January: Four people, including a woman.

 

  • February: No kidnaps were reported.

 

  • March: Three people.

 

  • April: Three people.

 

  • May: One person.

 

 

“Peace Spring” area

 

Two people were kidnapped in “Peace Spring” area in Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah countryside, one of whom was kidnapped in January, while the other was kidnapped in March.

 

 

 

 

 

Violations

 

Beside arrests and kidnaps, SOHR activists have documented 531 other violations in areas under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions in northern, eastern, north-eastern, north-western countryside of Aleppo, Al-Hasakah countryside and Al-Raqqah countryside in the past five months, precisely from January 1, 2022, to May 31, 2022. The violations committed during this period can be distributed regionally as follows:

 

 

“Olive Branch” area: 392 violations were documented by SOHR in “Olive Branch” area in north-western countryside of Aleppo. Here are further details:

 

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

 

  • 105 incidents of felling fruit-bearing trees by factions of Turkish-backed “National Army,” where over 7,368 olive trees were cut down across Afrin canton.

 

  • 71 incidents of imposition of levies on civilians by factions, military police, military court and local councils.

 

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

 

  • 30 incidents of digging, excavation and sabotage of archaeological sites and hills.

 

  • 24 assaults by various factions of the “National Army” for diverse reasons.

 

  • Seven robberies.

 

The monthly distribution of theses violations is as follows:

 

  • January: 132 violations.

 

  • February: 76 violations.

 

  • March: 75 violations.

 

  • April: 55 violations.

 

  • May: 54 violations.

 

 

“Euphrates Shield” area: 52 violations were documented by SOHR in “Euphrates Shield” area and it surroundings in northern, eastern and north-eastern countryside of Aleppo. Here are further details:

 

  • 31 incidents of imposition of levies on civilians.

 

  • 12 assaults.

 

  • Nine robberies.

 

The monthly distribution of theses violations is as follows:

 

  • January: 12 violations.

 

  • February: 12 violations.

 

  • March: 15 violations.

 

  • April: Seven violations.

 

  • May: Six violations.

 

“Peace Spring” area: 87 violations were documented by SOHR in “Peace Spring” area in Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqah countryside. Here are further details:

 

  • 59 incidents of seizure of houses, shops, vehicles and farmlands.

 

  • 14 incidents of selling displaced people’s properties at low prices.

 

  • Eight incidents of digging, excavation and sabotage of archaeological sites and hills.

 

  • Six robberies.

 

The monthly distribution of theses violations is as follows:

 

  • January: 18 violations.

 

  • February: 15 violations.

 

  • March: 19 violations.

 

  • April: 21 violations.

 

  • May: 14 violations.

 

 

 

 

Protests against deteriorating service and living conditions

 

The so-called “safe zone” has witnessed a dreadful humanitarian situation, deteriorating services and dire living conditions, which triggered public anger. Since early 2022, SOHR has documented tens of protests and demonstrations staged by the residents who called for improvement of living conditions, stopping violations and factional infightings, controlling security situation and putting an end to the escalating security chaos. On many other occasions, the region’s residents protested corruption practiced by local councils and Turkish-backed factions and violations committed by Turkish energy companies operating in that region.

 

 

Demographic change

 

As a part of ongoing efforts to change the demography of Afrin city and surrounding villages and construct new settlements, the Kuwaiti association of the “White Hands” announced, on March 29, the start of the second stage of the settlement dubbed “Basma Village”. 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.

 

While in April, Sultan Murad faction, led by a militiaman known by his initials as A. A., accomplished the construction of a residential compound for displaced people from Homs near Kafrum village in Sharan district. The number of houses of the compound approximates 360, with an estimated area of 120 square metres per unit. The compound also includes a school, a mosque and shops. According to Syrian Observatory activists, the settlement was built on the foot of a hill which had been planted with forest trees. These trees were completely cut down and sold as fire logs. Furthermore, “National Army” factions continued preparations for the construction of other settlements in Aghjilah village in Jendires district and Umar village in Sharan district. In this context, the factions of the National Army started leveling agricultural land owned by civilians who had been forced to displace from Afrin.

 

Also, in May, the Kuwaiti association of the “White Hands” accomplished the construction of a residential compound near Kafr Safra village in Jendires district in Afrin countryside, north-west of Aleppo. This settlement consists of 250 houses with complete infrastructure, a school, a mosque and shops. The settlement was built at the foot of Jabal “Hajj Muhammad” after forest trees were cut down, while displaced people from Damascus were settled there.

 

 

Overall, this bleak picture remains in place with the widespread corruption and tyranny of the Turkish-backed factions without any deterrent preventing them from committing further humanitarian crimes against Syrian civilians in areas under their control.

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights therefore renews its appeal to the international community not to abandon its responsibility and obligations and find a lasting solution to the tragedy of the region’s civilians that are plagued with systematic abuse and violations committed by lawless factions, including thefts, murders, looting, arrests and kidnappings, in full view of Turkish forces which remain silence and take no actions.

 

SOHR also confirms that the situation in the so-called “safe zone” is not more different from other zones of influence throughout Syria where Syrian civilians have fallen victims to violations committed by all warring powers, rampant security chaos, deteriorating services and dreadful living conditions.