Turkey has completed the construction of a new settlement in the outskirts of the Kurdish city Afrin (Efrîn) in northwestern Syria. The enclave, funded with financial support from Saudi Arabia, consists of over 350 prefabricated chambers, signalling a significant expansion in the ongoing efforts to reshape the demographic landscape of the region.
The number of enclaves established by countries including Turkey, Kuwait, Palestine, and Qatar within Afrin has now reached nearly 30, according to the North Press Agency.
The completion of the enclave comes amidst a backdrop of tension and displacement. The Turkish takeover of Afrin in 2018 has led to the displacement of approximately 300,000 indigenous Kurds from their ancestral lands.
Subsequently, Turkey, in collaboration with affiliated opposition factions operating under the Syrian National Army (SNA), orchestrated the resettlement of Arab inhabitants who had been displaced from other parts of Syria.
Turkish authorities has been deporting and settling Syrian refugees residing in Turkey to newly built housings in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has openly stated his government’s intention to settle over a million refugees in these constructions.
The resettlement of Syrian refugees by Turkey has fuelled concerns over its intentions, and a recent denial by a US State Department spokesman has only added to the controversy.
Human rights groups argue that these housing projects are part of a calculated strategy to alter the demographic composition of the region.
One notable aspect of this controversial strategy is the Turkification of place names and alteration of signage in formerly Kurdish areas under Turkish control. This shift in nomenclature serves as a stark illustration of the demographic change that is unfolding.
Reports by international organisations such as the Kurdish Peace Institute and Amnesty International have shed light on the extent of housing, land, and property violations, as well as forced repatriations. These actions are seen as integral components of a documented campaign aimed at reshaping the demographic makeup of northern Syria, in line with Turkey’s strategic objectives.
In 2018, the United Nations Human Rights office also warned about the anti-Kurdish demographic changes occurring in the region following Turkey’s military incursion. President Erdoğan’s statements in 2019 further underscore the intentions behind these actions, as he outlined his vision to establish what he referred to as a “controlled life” with a preference for Arab inhabitants over Kurdish communities in certain areas.
As the controversy surrounding Turkey’s policies continues to highlight the challenges inherent in the quest for stability and the protection of human rights within the region, the United States has taken a decisive stand against human rights abuses against the Kurdish residents of the Afrin region, announcing sanctions on Thursday targeting two Turkish-backed armed groups.