AANES says US stance on demographic change in Syria’s Afrin “unfair”  

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – On Friday, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) said the recent statement of the US regarding the demographic change in Syria’s Afrin was “unfair”.

In a press brief on August 2, spokesperson of the US Department of State, Matthew Miller, said they do not see the building of settlements in the Kurdish city of Afrin in northwest Syria by Turkey to house the families of the militants of the armed factions as a demographic change.

Badran Chiya Kurd, co-chair of the Foreign Relations Department of the AANES, said in a tweet in Arabic that “the recent statement by the US Department of State which included that the deportation of Syrian refugees to northern Syria does not change the demography of Afrin is incorrect,” adding, “this is a political stance that is unfair and contrary to reality.”

Replying to a question about “this is an intention to alter the demographic change in Afrin?” Miller said, “No.” Furthermore, he thanked Turkey for what he called “hosting communities for generously supporting nearly 3.7 million refugees, 3.3 million of whom are Syrians.”

Chiya Kurd said the Turkish plan to deport three million refugees aim at eliminating the Kurdish presence in northern Syria. “Lately, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked about a plan to deport a million Syrians from Turkey to the Turkish-occupied areas, like Afrin.”

The Kurdish-majority region of Afrin has been under the Turkish occupation since 2018 following a military operation dubbed “Olive Branch” to push away the Kurdish People’s/Women’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) under the pretext of protecting the Turkish national security.

The invasion displaced around 300,000 indigenous Kurds. Turkey and its affiliated opposition factions of the Syrian National Army (SNA), replaced the population with Arabs fleeing other parts of Syria. The Kurds in Afrin are subject to systemic discrimination and violence. In 2022 alone, 633 people, mostly Kurds, were arbitrarily arrested by SNA factions and Turkey.

“The statement of the US Department of State further complicates the situation and reveals a clear consistency with the Turkish demands,” Chiya Kurd added.

Since 2018, Turkey has built settlements in Afrin and other areas it occupies in north and northwest Syria to house the families of the militants of its affiliated SNA factions.

Turkey has built 26 settlements in Afrin, northwest Syria, through using organizations like Living with Dignity Association, White Hands (Beyaz Eller), Rahma International Society, ONSUR, IHH, and others which are funded by Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, and Palestinian organizations.

Human rights activists say they are part of a Turkish “ethnic engineering” policy in the region. Most are funded by Turkish, Qatari, Kuwaiti, and Palestinian organizations with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. At least 1,535 Palestinian families living in Syria have been resettled to Afrin. 

“Turkey’s forcibly deportation of the Syrians is a blatant violation of the international laws and norms,” the AANES official stressed. “We confirm the safe return for the Syrians to their original areas where they had been displaced from years ago.”

“It is better to take a deterrent posture regarding the Turkish acts, to stop the demographic change in Afrin, and to put an end to the Turkish drone attacks on the safe areas,” Badran Chiya Kurd, co-chair of the Foreign Relations Department of the AANES, concluded.          

By Jwan Shekaki