Turkish-backed armed groups continue plundering archaeological sites in Afrin


Afrin – North-Press Agency


Turkey and its backed Syrian armed opposition groups continue drilling operations in several archaeological sites in the Syrian region of Afrin with the aim of stealing archaeological finds and artifacts and selling them outside the borders in "a clear violation of the region's civilization and its archaeological heritage.”


An agricultural engineer, residing in the city of Afrin, who refused to reveal his name for security reasons, told North Press that during the past two years, the Turkish backed militants carried out digging and illegal excavations in several archaeological sites including the historic Ein-Dara Hill and the ancient village of Barad.  


"The excavations, digging and bulldozing works often take place in broad daylight and at the sight of the people, but the groups' militants prevented the civilians from approaching the hills near the village of Gamrouk, in Muabatli district, after being bulldozed,” he added.   


The Turkish-backed militants and the Turkish military carried out violations through excavation works in archaeological sites in Afrin since they controlled the region in March 2018, as some of which were documented by the Directorate of Antiquities in Afrin in a photo exhibition entitled "Civilization Appeal,” which was held in the city of Qamishli last September.


North-Press reporter said that militants of "al-Hamza Brigade" (a Turkish-backed militia) bulldozed another hill near the villages of Marateh and Kafr Shil near the city of Afrin, where the militants of the mentioned group accompanied by drilling machinery were seen on those hills last November.


Muhammad (pseudonym), a resident of Afrin said that the militants are taking artifacts out of the country in exchange for sums of money, in coordination with Turkey, which aims to the continuation of the economic and tourist decline in the region.


Muhammad, who refused to give his real name for security reasons, bemoaned the fate of the hills "which are of historical and archaeological status, such as Ein-Dara Hill, Jinderis Hill and Nabi Huri Hill (Cyrrhus), in which the residents see the civilizations of Afrin and its historical kingdoms."


A local source told North-Press that all the theft operations are transferred into the Turkish capital Ankara, and then they are sold in different countries.


He said that last month, members of al-Hamza affiliated group "Suqour al-Kurd Brigade,” excavated an ancient hill near the village of Kafr Daleh in the district of Jinderis in Afrin, but the group stopped drilling after two days, due to its inability to pay the large amounts for carrying over the dirt resulting from drilling and the machinery expenses due to the high fuel prices. 


According to eyewitnesses, excavations are still going on in the vicinity of the "Roman Amphitheater" in the area of Nabi Huri (Cyrrhus), where the drilling machinery and the effects of their works in the soil are clearly visible.   


Last year, mosaic paintings and coins were stolen, which were excavated by the so-called "Jaysh al-Nukhba" which is affiliated with the Turkish-backed "National Army" in the vicinity of Nabi Huri Castle, as pictures of a person named "Muhammad Asaad Alloush" were posted with artifacts, where he purchased the paintings by 50,000 $ and these pieces were smuggled out of the area, according to what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at the time.


There are about a hundred archaeological sites and landmarks in Afrin, some of which are registered in the statutory records and some aren't, including sites listed on the Syrian National Heritage List such as Ein-Dara, Jinderis Hill, Nabi Huri (Cyrrhus), Doderiyeh Cave and the Church of Saint Simeon Stylites, in addition to sites which have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage Regulations since 2011 such as the site of Barad, which includes a group of landmarks, such as churches, shrines and tombs.