“Olive Branch” area in November 2023 | 27 arbitrary arrests and over 56 other human rights violations by Turkish-backed factions
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 November 2023, which can be summarised in the following main points:
Acts of violence leave casualties
In November, SOHR documented the death of four persons in areas under the control of Turkish forces and factions operating under the banner of “Olive Branch” operations room in the north-western countryside of Aleppo. A breakdown of fatalities is as follows:
- A civilian was killed by an IED explosion.
- Two combatants were killed in clashes with “Tahrir Afrin” Forces (Afrin Liberation Forces).
- A combatant was assassinated.
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 23 arbitrary arrests of civilians, including a child and a woman, by Turkish-backed factions and four cases of kidnapping in November.
Furthermore, SOHR has documented over 56 other violations distributed as follows:
-Five incidents of seizure and selling of 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, where those houses were sold for 1,000 USD up to 1,500 USD.
-16 incidents of felling fruit-bearing trees by factions of Turkish-backed “National Army,” where over 3,866 olive trees were cut down in several areas in villages and districts of Afrin.
-18 incidents of imposition of levies by factions, military police and Turkish intelligence; they are as follows:
- Seven incidents in which ransoms of 400 to 2,000 USD each were paid by families in return for the release of detainees.
- Three incidents in which “Al-Amshat” faction imposed levies on civilians ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 USD in Kakhrah village in Ma’batli district in Afrin countryside.
- One incident in which “Al-Hamzah” Division imposed a levy of 5,000 USD on a civilian, after having returned to his hometown, Karu village in Bolbol district, as he asked the division to take back his properties.
- One incident in which “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah” faction imposed a levy on a civilian in Jendires district for possessing a shop in the district.
- One incident in which “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah” faction imposed levies on farmers during the season of olive harvest in Maskanah Foqani and Tahtani villages in Jendires district in west Afrin countryside. According to SOHR sources, a commander of the faction asked for 100 tins of olive oil from every family possessing 1,000 olive trees and 20 tins from every family possessing less than 1,000 olive trees.
- One incident in which “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah” faction imposed a levy of 100 TL on every truck driver transporting olive or olive oil.
- Imposition of a levy of 15 TL imposed by “Al-Majd Corps” for every fruit-bearing olive tree and another levy of four packs of oil taken from every civilian in the village.
- Imposition of a levy of two packs of oil on every family in Dikah village in Bolbol district, where the faction managed to collect 150 packs. The faction also imposed levies on the residents’ properties estimated to be 50%, as well as imposing levies of 150 TL each, equivalent to 90 USD, for guarding farms.
- One incident in which “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah” faction imposed a levy of 5 TL on every farmer in the villages of Raju district in Afrin countryside in return for allowing them to prune their trees.
- Imposition of levies by members of “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah” faction on farmers in Maskanah Tahtani village in Afrin countryside under the pretext of “guarding their crops from thefts,” as they claimed.
Also, SOHR also documented six assaults in “Olive Branch” area in the past month; they can be summarised as follows:
- Gunmen of “Jaysh Al-Nukhbah” faction severely beat a civilian in his third decade and his 67-year-old father, who are from Shekhoutkah village in Maabatli district in Afrin countryside, for refraining from selling foodstuffs from his shop on Kamrok road to an armed group of the aforementioned faction, due to debt accumulation on them.
- Gunmen of the “National Army” factions took a 45-year-old civilian from Hasan Dera village in Bulbul district in Afrin countryside, to an unknown destination, after brutally assaulting him, for unknown reasons, and his fate remains unknown.
- Members of checkpoint of Suqur Al-Shamal faction severely beat a civilian from Baadanli, for his refusal to pay royalties under the name of supporting Gaza, which are “bags of olives”, resulting him bruises throughout his body.
- Members of a joint patrol between “Al-Sultan Suleiman Shah” and “Al-Hamzat” factions brutally assaulted a young man in his twenties, accompanied by his father, and confiscated their mobile phones, in Garzihel village in Afrin, over the killing of one of his relatives in a Turkish drone targeting in Ain Al-Arab, where the residents headed to pay their condolences to the family, to be assaulted by the two factions.
- Members of “Al-Sham Corps” arrested a minor from Rajo district in Afrin countryside and assaulted him brutally, before he was taken to M’aratah notorious prison for unknown reasons, while his fate remains unknown.
SOHR also documented 11 thefts in “Olive Branch” area in November; they are as follows:
- Members of “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah” faction stole the harvest of 120 olive trees in Maskanah village in Jendires district.
- Members of the 3rd Corps stole and reaped nearly 75 trees in Qastal Majdad village in Bolbol district.
- Members of the 9th Division stole and reaped over 50 olive trees in Jiyah village in Raju district, as well as felling nearly 15 olive trees after reaping them.
- Members of “Sultan Murad” faction stole and reaped over 40 olive trees in Deir Suran village in Sharran district in Afrin countryside and 90 other trees in Abla village.
- Members of the “National Army” stole and reaped over 65 olive trees in Jendires district in Afrin countryside.
- Members of “Sultan Murad” faction stole 60 bags of olive belonging to three civilians from Bilan village in Bolbol district.
- Members of “Sultan Murad” faction stole the harvest of 2,000 olive trees in Kotana village in Bolbol district in Afrin countryside.
- Members of the 112th Brigade stole the harvest of 200 olive trees in Damlaya village belonging to a forcible displaced civilian.
- Two leaders of “Suqour Al-Shimal” faction stole and reaped 300 olive trees in Sheikhurzah village in Bulbul belonging to a civilian forcibly displaced to the areas of Aleppo countryside.
- Members of “Suqour Al-Shamal” faction stole nearly 15 bags of olive by force belonging to civilians from Abodan village in Bolbol district in Afrin countryside.
Explosions and infightings
“Olive Branch” area also experienced only one in November, precisely on November 16 when an IED exploded in a truck at Al-Qaws entrance in Afrin city. The explosion left a civilian dead and others injured, where the injured people were taken to the military hospital in Afrin city.
Meanwhile, SOHR documented no infightings or factional clashes among the factions of the “National Army” in “Olive Branch” area in the past month.
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.