Afrin (Efrin), a town in northern Syria, has been under the control of Turkish forces and allied Syrian linked factions since 20 January 2018. Three years on, Jin News has presented an assessment of the changes that have taken place in Afrin.
Hundreds of people who fled and vacated their homes when it was taken over by Turkish forces and allied Syrian linked factions, today find themselves living in refugee camps that have been constructed in Raqqa (Reqa), Shahba (Şehba), and Qamishli (Qamişlo) with the support of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES). Many people who currently live in these temporary camps have expressed their desire and determination to return to their homes one day. “We will never give up, we will return to Afrin”, many have emphasized.
Whilst refugees from Afrin try to organise their everyday lives in the camps and struggle to survive, the situation in Afrin itself is reportedly getting worse day by day. According to Jin News, 58 civilians, 9 of whom were women, were killed whilst 987 people, 92 of whom were women, were abducted in Afrin within the past three years. Mercenaries who have no respect for the values of Afrin have reportedly been been destroying historical monuments and also pillaging priceless artifacts. There were reportedly 39 major explosions in Afrin during 2020 which resulted in the deaths of 170 civilians. Hundreds of civilians were also reportedly injured in these blasts. However, the Turkish government continues to present Afrin as a “liberated city” to the international media.
According to Jin News, 300,000 civilians have been forcedly displaced from Afrin since 18 March 2018. There has been a massive demographic change in the population and the ethnic structure of Afrin. Turkey has reportedly resettled approximately 400,000 civilians – who were living in the towns of Deraa, Idlib and Xutayê – in Afrin.
In the past three years, there has been a reported significant increase in violence against women in Afrin. According to Jin News, 70 women have been abducted and 78 women were reportedly raped during this time. 314,400 olive trees have been felled in Afrin even as harvested olives and olive oil from Afrin has been reportedly transported to Turkey to be traded there. Turkey is accused of having felled 72,000 trees alone during the construction of the road connecting Jindires to Turkey’s border town of Hatay.
250 houses were also reportedly burned to the ground whilst many residential areas have been turned into military encampments. Thousands of displaced people from Afrin are forced to live in exile, waiting for a time when it will be possible to return to their homes.