SERE KANIYE, Syria (North Press) - Even though Turkish forces and their affiliated opposition groups invaded the northern Syrian city of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) in October 2019, Walid Mostafa stayed in his city in order to secure his house and possessions. He never expected to face such extreme violations, carried out in the light of day, with no one held accountable.
In a voice recording, he told a North Press correspondent that “the city's sights have changed; strange flags flap over our heads, and strangers hang out in our city. We are being stolen publicly.”
Families in Sere Kaniye live in fear of the ongoing violations of Turkish-backed opposition groups in light of Turkey's domination of the city, just as families in the currently Turkish-occupied Syrian city of Afrin.
Walid said with a trembling voice, that “the city has turned into a Turkish province, where there are portraits of Kemal Ataturk (founding father of the Republic of Turkey), Turkish flags, in addition to teaching the Turkish language with Arabic in schools and forbidding the Kurdish language.”
Photos that Turkish-backed armed opposition groups posted on media websites showed the changes that took place in the city: hanging identification signs for organizations in Turkish and Arabic languages, as well as hanging the portrait of Turkish president Erdogan next to the founder of the Turkish Republic Ataturk inside the organizations.
Walid added that “they stole everything inside and outside the city, including livestock, houses…everything.”
“They arrest those who oppose them under the pretext of dealing with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),” he said.
Walid sent special photos to North Press that showed looted and burnt houses by Turkish-backed opposition groups in Sere Kaniye, under the pretext of dealing with SDF.
In June, the governor of the Turkish province of Urfa, Abdullah Areen, inaugurated a house belonging to a Kurdish family who had been displaced from the city of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) as an institute for the memorization of the Quran.
Al-Khabour Network published footage showing the governor of Urfa opening the institute. Muhyiddin Essu, a human rights activist residing in Germany, wrote on his personal account on Facebook that the house belongs to his family, and that “the governor committed systematic looting on the pretext of the opening of the institute.”
"Teaching the Holy Qur’an in stolen homes is immoral and contrary to Islamic principles," Essu added.
During the Turkish operation in Sere Kaniye, Human Rights Watch published a report in which they accused Turkish-held armed opposition groups of murdering civilians who tried to return to their homes, as well as stealing and converting houses into headquarters, where they arrest and displace hundreds of people.
Disputes over spoils
Walid said that “three clashes took place in June and the beginning of July between Turkish-backed opposition groups over the sharing the spoils, shops, and houses.”
In July, North Press Agency wrote about clashes that took place between Turkish-backed armed opposition groups in Sere Kaniye, which resulted in the killing and wounding of dozens of members of the groups, amid civilians’ fears from the ongoing fighting between these groups.
Bad living conditions
Another source from Sere Kaniye said that the living situation is very bad, and the local councils in the city and its countryside have set the price of one ampere for generators at eight thousand Syrian pounds per week, while a gas tank is sold for 30,000 Syrian pounds. High prices include all basic foodstuffs inside the city.
He added, "If we do not die from a stray bullet from their clashes, we will die because of the deteriorating living situation."
The same source pointed out that the local council imposed financial dealings in Turkish lira, but they retracted the decision after a popular protest.
Turkey imposed their own identification cards on residents of the area, taking shops by force from their owners and handing them to settlers coming from outside the city, the source added.
(Reporting by Delsoz Yossef, editing by Lucas Chapman)