International community must interfere to stop Turkey from killing more civilians in Afrin:
Germany: FFHR said, on Monday, 19th February 2018, that the military operation led by turkey and The Turkey-backed Syrian opposition in Afrin district, far north-west of Syria, has left at least 173 civilians dead, including children and women, and wounded at least 464 civilians, according to Angela Rashou, pharmacist and co-chair of the health council in Afrin.
FFHR has documented 16 deaths among them 7 children and 3 women since the beginning of the operation since the operation began on January 20th, which is called ‘Operation Olive Branch’, under the pretext of protecting its national security from possible attacks by PKK, as Turkey consider People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a Syrian armed wing for PKK, which listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and several states.
Afrin’s district is predominantly inhabited by Kurdish of Alawites, Yazidis and Sunni in addition to Arabs of the same beliefs and few thousands of Christians. Afrin is located in the far north-west of Syria. It consists of seven counties, in addition to the city of Afrin, ( Sharan, Sheikh alhadid, Jendiris, Raju, Bulbul,and Mabatli). The total population of Afrin is 523258 according to the official statistics in 2010.
“ Using PKK as a pretext does not give Turkey the permission to kill innocent civilian in Afrin, and the indiscriminate bombing of civilians is a clear violation of norms of the war and international humanitarian law, which obliges the protection of civilians and their properties”
said Tara Reynor OGrady, a Researcher a FFHR.
FFHR has received 16 reports of civilian casualties between January 20th, when the operation, “ olive branch”, began and February 18th. Based on these report, FFHR’s investigators interviewed 30 civilians from Afrin who confirmed that the Turkish air force and heavy artillery, deployed on the Turkish-Syrian border, indiscriminately bombarded villages and border towns, which resulted in at least 173 civilians death.
“ At 3 a.m. on Thursday, February, 8th 2018 Deir Ballout village, Gendaris district, was bombed by Turkish airstrikes , killing 10-year old Bader Darmoush after being hit by fragments in the chest”
said A. A, a 53 year old teacher.
According to Ankara’s claim, the operationaims to secure the border between Turkey and Syria in the Afrin region by ending the presence of YPG, which Turkey accuses of being the armed wing of the PKK, which has been involved in and armed conflict with Turkey since 1980s with the aim of achieving ethnic rights for Kurdish people in Turkey. This is why Turkey is targeting the boarder region which is dominated by small towns and villages such as Jenders that is inhabited by 23947 people according to Syrian government statistics in 2004, which is located in 7 km to the south-west of Afrin.
“ The Adana agreement signed between Turkey and Syrian government, on October 20th, 1998, grants Turkey the rights to defends its national security and to combat PKK in Syrian territory and to target PKK’s camps and other facilities for training inside Syria. Annex four of the agreement grants Turkey the permission to cross the border, up to 5 km, to achieve that. However, the agreement does not grant Turkey the permission to kill civilians and to target civilian populated areas”
“ Lawand Mustafa, a two year old boys, was Injured after being hit by fragments in the head as a result of Turkish air strike on Husayya village in Maabatly district on Friday, February 9th, 2018”
said A.G a 50 year old driver.
All the witnesses interviewed by FFHR in Afrin confirmed that the military offensive against civilians has driven thousands to flee their homes, which remained subject to looting and robbery by the Syrian opposition forces that back Turkish army forces in Operation Olive Branch. The civilians have been displaced toward center of the city of Afrin as the siege imposed by the Syrian regime forceswill not allow the civilians to go to Aleppo which is under the Syrian regime control. Some civilians, who managed to cross the Syrian regime checkpoints between Afrin and Aleppo, said that they had to pay huge amount of money, up to US $ 2000 per person, in order to cross the checkpoints.
FFHR, in a statement before the beginning of the operation, called for the suspension of the operation due to its serious implications on peace and co-existence both in Syrian and Turkey. FFHR urged Turkey and PKK to reactivate the peace process which was suspended in 2015. FFHR also stressed the importance for the Syrian opposition forces not participate in this operation, which has resulted in serious consequences in term of citizenship and coexistence indicated by hatred speech and provocation which will have consequence for both Arab and Kurd citizens in Syria