“Olive Branch” areas in June 2022 | 71 kidnappings and arbitrary arrests…nearly 45 human rights violations…growing public anger over deteriorating living conditions
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 June 2022, which can be summarised in the following main points:
Acts of violence leave scores of fatalities
In June, SOHR documented the death of 16 combatants 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. A breakdown of fatalities is as follows:
- A member of Jaysh Al-Sharqiyyah was killed during demonstrations against the Turkish energy company in Jendires district in Afrin countryside.
- A member of the “National Army” was burnt to death inside the headquarters of the local council in Afrin city during clashes between demonstrators and military police.
- A member of Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement was killed in clashes with Afrin Liberation Forces on a frontline in Shirawa district.
- Four members of Al-Amshat faction were killed in clashes which erupted in Faririyah village in Jendires district between a group of the faction and displaced gunmen from Anjara village in Jabal Sam’an area. The clashes followed disagreements between the two sides over priority to harvest a farmland planted with wheat.
- Nine member of Shuhadaa Darya Brigade were killed when a guided missile hit their car on the frontline of Basoufan village. The missile was fired from areas under the control of Kurdish and regime forces in northern Aleppo.
Explosions and infightings
“Olive Branch” area witnessed one explosion in June 7 when an IED planted in the car of a member of “Al-Jabha Al-Shamiyyah” exploded near Al-Sena’a school in Al-Mahmoudiyah neighbourhood in Afrin city in northern Aleppo. The explosion injured the member seriously and caused material damage.
On the other hand, “Olive Branch” area which is under the control of Turkish forces and their proxy factions in north Aleppo countryside also witnessed four infightings in June. Here are further details:
- June 6: Members of a patrol of Al-Hamza Division broke into the house of two members of the same faction fore “attempting to steal 3,500 TL from a Kurdish civilian from Tallaf village in Jendires district.” Clashes erupted between the two sides which resulted in the injury of a member from Al-Muwali tribe and the arrest of another member.
- June 7: Clashes erupted between two groups of the Turkish-backed “Jaysh Al-Sharqiyyah” in residential neighbourhoods in Afrin city.
- June 14: Violent clashes with medium and heavy machineguns erupted in Faririyah village in Jendires district between members of Al-Amshat faction and displaced gunmen from Ainjara village in Jabal Sam’an area, as militiamen from Al-Jamlan tribe operating under the banner of Al-Amshat faction attempted to harvest a farmland planted with wheat by force. The displaced gunmen attempted to prevent the Turkish-backed militias from seizing wheat in that farmland before clashes erupted between the two sides. The clashes left four members of Al-Amshat faction dead, while four other members sustained serious injuries.
- June 18: Violent clashes erupted between Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham and factions of the “National Army” in the villages of Al-Ghazzawiyah Al-Basoutah and Qarzihal in Shirawa district following an attack by “Al-Jabha Al-Shamiyyah” on the headquarters of Ahrar Al-Sham Islamic Movement in Al-Bab city, where the clashes expanded to Afrin city after the arrival of large military reinforcement of Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham and Ahrar Al-Sham in the city.
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 71 kidnappings and arbitrary arrests of civilians, including two women, by Turkish-backed factions in June. 11 people were released after paying ransoms.
Furthermore, SOHR has documented over 45 other violations distributed as follows:
- 15 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.
- Two incidents of seizure of shops by members and commanders of the “National Army” factions, and these shops were rented out to displaced people at low rental fees.
- 15 incidents of imposition of levies on civilians by factions and military police.
- Three incidents of felling fruit-bearing trees by factions of Turkish-backed “National Army,” where over 155 olive trees were cut down in several areas in villages and districts of Afrin.
- Five thefts carried out by “National Army” factions, including looting of home appliances, doors and windows.
SOHR also documented five assaults by various factions of the “National Army” in June; they can be summarised as follows:
- June 13: Members of Al-Sham Corps brutally beat a civilian from Al-Ghazzawiyah village in Shirawa district, causing cuts and bruises all over his body. The reason behind this assault remains unknown.
- June 17: Members of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah faction brutally beat a civilian and his sons who are from Sandyankah village in Jendires district in Afrin countryside and seized their house by force, because of disagreements between the civilian and a member of the faction.
- June 20: Members of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah faction brutally beat a civilian from Sandyankah village in Jendires district, seized his motorcycle and mobile phone and verbally abused him for unknown reasons.
- June 26: Members of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah faction brutally beat a taxi driver from Darkariyah village in Maabatli district and living in Afrin city for “causing traffic jam while a military vehicle was passing.” The attack caused cuts and bruises all over the civilian’s body. In addition, the man was fined 200 USD for “dealing with the former Autonomous Administration.”
Protests against Turkish energy companies
As a part of Turkish-backed factions’ policy to stifle voices and oppress peaceful demonstrators, SOHR activists documented the death of a member of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah faction affected by the injury he sustained on June 4, when he was hit with a bullet fired by a policeman while the police were attempting to disperse a demonstration by force. The demonstrators, who had gathered in front of the Turkish energy company in Jendires district in Afrin countryside, were protesting the deteriorating services provided by company. The dead man was a militiaman of Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah faction, but he had no weapons during the demonstration.
On the other hand, a cremated body of Turkish-backed militiaman with gunshot wounds was found inside the local council headquarters in Afrin city during protests against the Turkish energy company, where some protestors sabotaged and set fire to the headquarters of the Turkish-backed local council.
Sabotage of Syria’s historical heritage
Turkish-backed factions continued to sabotage Syria’s historical heritage through excavation work and digging in archaeological hills and sites, searching for buried artefacts and antiques. In June, SOHR activists documented two incidents of sabotage of archaeological sites, which affected the archaeological hills of Qabah and Hamou.
According to SOHR sources, “National Army” factions excavated and destroyed Hamou hill in Tel Hamou village in Jendires district, using heavy diggers and earth-moving machineries. It is worth noting that this hill, which is registered at the Syrian Ministry of Culture and General Administration of Antiques and Syrian museums based on Article no. 244, in 1981, was systematically destroyed by Turkish-backed factions which were searching for buried treasures.
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.