Asked for her reaction to the news story released by the Turkish state news agency on 14 July, the mother of a fighter killed in North Syria’s Afrin city during the Turkish occupation reacts strongly but calmly, saying that the story is a hoax and the person behind the story is the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself.
“He is a gangster, and he isn’t telling the truth” she says.
Although the two-week old story is being toned down by the Turkish government controlled media, it’s not so easy to ignore for the relatives of those killed by the Turkish forces in the military offensive against Afrin in early 2018. Six hundred and forty-six people in the city were killed, many being hurriedly buried while war and chaos engulfed the besieged city.
The Turkish government controlled news agency Anadolu Agency’s (AA) story claimed that three and a half years after the fall of Afrin to the hands of the Turkish forces and affiliated armed groups, a mass grave was suddenly discovered, and it was claimed by AA that victims of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the same units that resisted the Turkish occupation, were buried in the alleged mass grave.
YPG spokesperson Nuri Mehmud immediately stepped forward with a public statement giving the exact coordinates of the graveyard where 71 people were buried in the midst of the fighting between the invading Turkish forces and the Afrin resistance.
It was the exact same coordinates that the supposed “YPG victims” were claimed to be buried in a ‘mass grave’ allegedly “discovered” by the Turkish officials three and a half years later and reported in the Turkish government controlled news agency Anadolu Agency on the 14 July 2021.
Mehmud named the claimed ‘discovery’ “a desecration of a graveyard by the Turkish state”, and condemned it as a crime against humanity committed by Turkey.
Witnesses, relatives of killed fighters buried in that same graveyard, spoke to Medya Haber TV on the subject.
The mother of the resistance fighter Amara is one of them.
“The funerals of all fighters and civilians killed in those days were brought together after the Mahmude Massacre” she says, “There were no other graveyards left that we could reach in the city by then. We had to bury both the martyrs and the others in a graveyard near the Avrin Hospital. This was all we could do.”
Then she reacts strongly in response to Turkey’s report of “a mass grave” circulated by the Turkish state news agency, then to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. She says that Erdoğan is responsible for the hoax news and continues:
“Erdoğan himself is a gangster and he doesn’t tell the truth. He is the Islamic State. He has no respect for the honour of the people. He unleashed ISIS on the Afrin people and forgot about humanity.”
Avdoye Tevfik, is the son of another fallen resistance fighter. He says that his father Tevfik’s funeral was amongst the funerals shown on the hoax news story circulated by the Turkish state agency. He then explains how his father died and how he was buried.
“My father was wounded during the Alemdar clashes. He was then taken to the Avrin Hospital. He was martryed on 14 March. Afrin was almost completely occupied then. We didn’t have a chance to get him to a graveyard for martyrs. So we had the funeral and buried him in the graveyard near the hospital. We had the funerals of 32 martyrs on the same day.”
Avdoye then shows the picture of his father’s grave he took with his mobile phone. “This is at the back of the Avrin Hospital,” he says.