Turkish-backed militias cut down half a million olive trees in Syria’s Afrin – local monitor

AFRIN, Syria (North Press) – Turkish-backed Syrian opposition armed groups have cut down at least 500,000 olive trees in Syria’s Turkish-held northwestern region of Afrin since March 2018, reports said.

In a report issued at the beginning of 2020, the Human Rights Organization in Afrin said that Turkish-backed armed groups cut at least 500,000 trees and burnt large areas of fields in the region.

Since its invasion and takeover of Afrin in March 2018, armed opposition groups have seized lands, cut trees, and sold them, Afrin resident Umm Gharib, told North Press. 

“The armed groups expelled my neighbor Jiwan Abdo under the pretext of belonging to Kurdish parties to seize his olive trees.”

Zuheir al-Sami, a settler from Ghouta in the Damascus countryside, told North Press that he, along with a member of the armed groups, planned to cut the trees and sell them.

“The groups prevent the locals from approaching their agricultural lands, but they allow militias members only. So, I go cutting at night, collect the wood, and then send it to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) held-areas for selling.”       

Fawaz al-Rahil, an agricultural engineer from Afrin, warned of the dangers of deforestation. “Cutting trees in large numbers threatens the forests in the region that may affect the environment,” he stated.

There were 18 million olive trees in Afrin, according to reports issued by the Autonomous Administration, in 2017.

The Turkish military and Syrian armed opposition groups’ offensive on Afrin in 2018 led to the displacement of more than 300,000 indigenous people of Afrin, leaving their lands to be looted and violated by the Turkish-backed groups. 

(Reporting by Jiwan Shkaki)