Looting, heavy taxes and the seizing of property have led to a bad olive harvest for the second year in a row in Afrin Canton, Syria.
November is the olive harvest season, and around 18 million olive trees are grown in Afrin Canton. However, according to a Hawar News Agency report, numerous obstacles and exploitative practices enforced by occupying mercenaries in the region are preventing farmers from harvesting their crops. Since the Turkish occupation, hundreds of thousands of trees have been cut down or burned, while taxes and fines have been imposed on farmers.
Ibrahim Sheikho, the official spokesman for the Human Rights Organisation in Afrin, said mercenaries seized the olive trees in the occupied villages and have so far cut down more than 280,000 trees, burned more than 15,000, and uprooted more than 20,000.
Olive oil is also being suppressed and obstructed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced: “Thousands of olive oil tanks were stolen by elements of the Operation Olive Branch forces, and were sold in various markets”.
Sheikho said that the Turkish occupation, in cooperation with mercenaries, stole more than 70,000 tons of Afrin olive oil, which is marketed as a Turkish product, and exported it to the European Union.
According to the Hawar News Agency’s report, mercenaries are also imposing taxes on farmers who have successfully harvested olive crops. The mercenaries of the Amshat faction reportedly imposed $8 for each tree, fruitful or unfruitful, and taxed crop production at a rate of 15 percent. This led to a general strike and the tax was eventually dropped from non-fruitful trees.
Another mercenary faction forced farmers to sell the crops at artificially low prices to the faction, so that mercenaries essentially have total control over the crops and are able to buy and sell at will.