“45 Syrian and international organizations call on bringing an end to the suffering of residents in Afrin, ending daily human rights violations and facilitating a safe return of the forcibly displaced population. We also call for the formation of a civilian council consisting of the local population of Afrin”.
On April 28th, 2020 a large explosion hit the city of Afrin, causing the loss of no less than 60 lives. The majority of these casualties were innocent civilians, in addition to scores of injured and missing people, plus massive material damage. This was the single deadliest attack since the area was militarily occupied by Turkey and factions of Turkey-backed “Syrian National Army” (SNA) in March 2018.
In the months and years following Afrin’s occupation, the region witnessed systematic and widespread violations against its indigenous Syrian Kurdish inhabitants. Thousands of such violations have occurred. These violations, as documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international, included private property confiscation, arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances, and looting.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria reported on the continuity of this type of violations in its latest report on January 2020, in which it found that the Turkish-backed forces of SNA had “perpetrated the war crime of murder and repeatedly committed the war crimes of pillaging, hostage-taking, cruel treatment, and torture, as well as serious contravention of the right to enjoyment of possessions and property”.
These violations which were and still are being committed in Afrin, are part of a policy of ethnic persecution aimed at wide-scale demographic change in the area, including by changing its identity and population. Many local and Syrian sources confirm that forced displacement in Afrin has affected around 65% of the region’s indigenous population after Turkish army’s operation “Olive Branch”, and its subsequent military occupation. The region, furthermore, hosted tens of thousands of IDPs from various Syrian regions prior to this invasion.
The signatory organizations of this statement, while in strongest terms denouncing and condemning the terrorist attack which took place in Afrin during the blessed month of Ramadan; and calling for holding the perpetrators accountable, whichever party was behind the attack; call on the international community, represented by The Security Council, European Union, Arab League and NATO to:
- Take immediate action to protect the civilian population of Afrin, and hold the Turkish government accountable under the Fourth Geneva Convention, including its primary responsibility as an occupying power. Moreover, the safety of the population must be ensured and instances of forced displacement monitored, in addition to safeguarding the return of the indigenous population to their homes, and halting the wide-scale ethnic targeting “Turkification” by changing the names of locations, villages and cultural heritage sites in the area.
- Take immediate action aimed at expelling extremist groups belonging to the Syrian National Army out of Afrin, and guaranteeing the return of all displaced people who were forced out of the area, returning confiscated property, compensating the victims and maintaining the area’s
- Issue an international resolution that forces the Turkish government to bring an end to its military occupation of all Syrian areas, within a specific timeframe.
- Guarantee accountability for all perpetrators of human rights violations in Afrin, and pledge to compensate the victims through an independent, impartial and neutral justice procdure.