Turkish-backed Syrian groups have pillaged olive groves in the northern Syrian district of Afrin, an area renowned for its olive crop, the Afrin Post reported.
Abu Rabei, the leader of “Al-Hamzah Division”, part of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), has imposed a 10 percent tax on the olive harvest under the threat of violence in Afrin, the Afrin Post said.
Armed thieves stole olives from the fields in Al-Ashrafieh, Jwaiq and Bulbul districts, the news site’s reports said. The reports included an account of a gang of nine, originally from near Hama, stealing olives from fields belonging to the people of Qibare village.
And the Turkish-backed “Sultan Murad” militia stole the entire olive crop of a detained Kurdish man, said the Post.
Meanwhile, a former member of “Al-Jabha Al-Shamiya” militia from Homs called Muhammad Abu Abdo sold four houses that he had seized from residents of the occupied city of Afrin, the Afrin Post said.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported in September that Turkish-backed Syrian groups had illegally removed nearly 300 olive trees owned by the residents in the northern Syrian district of Afrin.
SOHR also reported violations, thefts and imposition of taxes by factions from the SNA, which it said had pursued a systematic policy to clamp down on civilians.
According to the report, SNA factions stole a crop of nearly 3,000 olive trees in different areas of Afrin, in order to force their owners to leave the area, abandoning their properties to the faction members’ families.
The SNA was formerly known as the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella organisation of Syrian rebel groups which Turkey has supported since near the beginning of the country’s civil war in 2011.
In March 2018, Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies drove the Kurdish-led autonomous administration out of Afrin, leaving rebels in control of the region until the jihadist group Tahrir al-Sham seized control of parts of the district in October.
Aldar Xelil, a leading Democratic Union Party (PYD) official, noted earlier in October that the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group’s takeover of Afrin in northern Syria was part of Turkey’s planned reconciliation with the Damascus government.