After Turkish-led forces captured Afrin in northeastern Syria with a military operation dubbed ‘Operation Olive Branch’ in 2018, they have committed atrocities which include killings of civilians, forced displacement and crimes against women and children.
An alarming pattern of grave violations has been documented in these areas occupied by Turkey and its proxies since 2018, such as increased killings, kidnappings and unlawful transfers of people, as well as seizures of land and properties, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) has reported.
Amid this dark atmosphere, women who were displaced from Afrin continue to raise their voices against Turkey’s ‘occupation’ from the refugee camps in Shahba, where they all wait to be able to return home one day.
“The Turkish regime wants us out of here. They have their plans shaped around us. They want to intimidate Kurdish people.”
These are the words of Ceylan Mihemed, who has been living in Veger Camp in Shahba. Ceylan told ANHA that the “women’s struggle” is the target of the “occupying forces.”
“The Turkish state targets the women’s struggle the most. They want to break the women’s struggle,” she said.
“However, women have never let them accomplish the stated end goals of any of their attacks.”
Fatma Osman stated that Veger Camp is also targeted because of the fact that it welcomes refugees from Afrin.
Despite the increasing attacks, she was adamant that they will not be displaced again.
“We will not leave here. The day we leave here will be the day when we return to Afrin. Until that day comes, we will resist, even at the cost of our blood,” she said.
Leyla Reşo, another resident of Veger Camp, shared details about the hard living conditions in the camp.
“We have many difficulties in the camp. Whether it is hot or cold, life here is hard. Our kids get sick in these camps. Doctors are far away, we are not able to find medicine,” she said, as her words reflected the grim circumstances of the people displaced from Afrin, who insist on not leaving northeastern Syria and who live in the camps of Shahba, yearning to return to Afrin one day.
“What do you want from us?” Leyla’s question is addressed to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“We already live in difficulties in camps. As if all of this were not enough, they bombard the vicinity of the camp, they bombard us,” she added.
“But Erdoğan should not forget the fact that we are not afraid of him. As women, we will keep on resisting.”
As Syrian women have been leading the self-defence resistance of their communities against ISIS assaults, the local armed groups backed by Turkey have been targeting women as a special war strategy in Afrin and all regions they occupied in northeastern Syria.
The Missing Afrin Women Project, which tracks the disappearance of Kurdish women and girls in Afrin since 2018, has revealed that hundreds of young girls were abducted by Turkish-backed armed groups.
ANHA cited in December 2020 the findings of a Sky News report, which revealed that a number of detained Afrin women had been transferred from Turkish prisons to Libya, where they were enslaved in the same manner that ISIS mercenaries had enslaved Yazidi women in Sinjar.
Whilst Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has urged Turkey to launch an immediate independent investigation into violations and abuses committed in parts of north, northwest and northeast Syria, which are under the control of its forces and affiliated armed groups, Turkish shelling and air raids still continue in ‘occupied’ regions.