The German humanitarian organization World Hunger Aid (Welthungerhilfe) has cancelled a controversial ‘aid’ project for gangs and their families that have recently settled in Afrin, in northern Syria. The organisation, which operates under the German Presidency, announced that it had cancelled the project due to the “high suspicion that it might contradict its basic principles”. This decision was made after 28 Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) had objected to the project.
According to Özgür Politika, whilst avoiding any provision of assistance to settlements under the control of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES – also known as Rojava), the German state and aid organizations reportedly continue to transfer money under the name of ‘humanitarian aid’ to the regions occupied by the Turkish state and its jihadist groups in Syria.
World Hunger Aid (Welthungerhilfe), affiliated to the German presidency, had to cancel its ‘aid’ project, which had planned to repair 400 houses in Afrin, which was occupied by the Turkish state and related armed groups, after it received substantial criticism from public interest organisations. It issued a statement on its social media account and announced that it took the criticism it received of the project seriously and, as a result of its detailed analysis of the matter, had decided to cancel the project that planned to repair 400 houses. It stated that the decision was taken due to the high suspicion that it “violated its principles of independence”.
Details of the World Hunger Aid (Welthungerhilfe) Afrin project were revealed on twitter by the Violations Documentation Centre in Northern Syria (VDC-NSY), which also posted supporting evidence regarding the project. The VDC-NSY translated the documents published by the World Hunger Aid (Welthungerhilfe) branch in Antep that were in Arabic, from its website and social media accounts. In the documents, during the envisaged first phase, 150 houses were planned to be renovated in Afrin. In its statement, World Hunger Aid (Welthungerhilfe) had described the project as aimed at helping refugees who had to migrate to Afrin.
The VDC-NSY, however, stated that Afrin was occupied as a result of an agreement between Russia, Turkey and the Syrian regime. According to the agreement, people were reportedly to be brought from Eastern Ghouta (Guta) to be resettled in the places where 100,000 Kurds had been forcibly displaced from Afrin. It was learned that the houses that the project planned to repair in Afrin belonged to Kurds who had been forcibly displaced by the jihadists. Jihadists and their families, who fought in Libya and Azerbaijan on a behalf of Turkey, currently live in these houses.
Joint statement by 28 NGOs
When news of this World Hunger Aid (Welthungerhilfe) project became public, both Syrian and international NGOs published a joint statement. In the statement, which was signed by organisations that included the Society for Threatened Peoples (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker) and Syrian Human Rights Watch, it was noted that the project would mean support for the occupation of Afrin: “Even if the envisaged project is considered ‘in good faith’, the reality of occupation – forced displacement, forced demographic change and attacks on private property – contradicts international law, the main objectives of your organization and it harms your stated principles of ‘independence and professionalism’ in the world”.
Is ‘the project’ part of a refugee agreement?
NGOs have raised questions as to whether a part of this project forms part of a covert agreement between Turkey and the European Union. In previous statements, Turkey’s President Erdoğan had stated repeatedly that the EU promised Turkey that it would build houses in Syria but that this promise has not yet been fulfilled. In a statement recently made by Rojava’s autonomous administrations, it was suggested that during the period when Turkey made an agreement with Greece over the status of opening/closing its borders with Greece, bureaucrats from the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) had made a proposal to “support the occupied territories”.
Considering that the World Hunger Aid (Welthungerhilfe) organisation is under the Presidency headed by SPD’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, it has been argued in some quarters that this proposal may have been activated by the project of World Hunger Aid (Welthungerhilfe).