Turkish-backed armed groups continue illegal logging in Syria’s Afrin

AFRIN, Syria (North Press) – A special source revealed to North Press on Wednesday logging operations carried out by members of the Turkish-backed armed opposition recently in Rajo sub-district in the countryside of Afrin, north of Aleppo.

The source, who preferred not to be named for security reasons, said that militants of the Ninth Division, Ahrar al-Sharqiya, and the Hamzat Group are cutting olive trees belonging to the residents of the district under the pretext of their supposed support of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration.

 “They are using electric saws to cut down trees from the roots and sell them to merchants in the countryside of Damascus and Homs at different prices,” the source added.

He pointed out that one kilo of timber is sold at 125 Syrian pounds (SYP), while a kilo of small pieces of wood is sold at 200 SYP.

The militants collect firewood in some homes of Rajo residents, after they turned them into military headquarters and warehouses to store the firewood and sell it to traders later, according to the source.

The source indicated that the opposition groups are also cutting down forests in the vicinity of the district and selling firewood from cypress and oak trees at a price of 150 SYP per kilo.

At the end of December, a dispute erupted between Hamzat and Ahrar al-Sharqiya over the division of the places of sale of olive trees that had been stolen from Rajo.

In a report in late November, the Human Rights Organization in Afrin accused the Sham Legion group of cutting 3,500 olive trees in Afrin.

Afrin is of the most important Syrian areas for olive cultivation, as the number of its trees reached more than 18 million trees by the end of 2017, of which 16 million were in the process of fruiting, according to the figures of the Autonomous Administration in Afrin at that time.

The Turkish invasion of Afrin in March 2018 led to the displacement of more than 300,000 indigenous people and the settlement of thousands of families of opposition groups in their homes and lands.

Since 2018, the Afrin region has been witnessing widespread violations against civilians, according to local and international human rights reports, that aim to achieve the displacement of residents and the seizure of property.

Reporting by Farouq Hamo