The Turk­ish occu­pa­tion of Afrin caused a mas­sive dis­place­ment of pop­u­la­tions and now appears as a planned and wil­full eth­nic cleans­ing with mul­ti­ple human­i­tar­i­an consequences.

This occu­pa­tion of Afrin by the Turk­ish State now rais­es seri­ous human­i­tar­i­an chal­lenges at all lev­els. Women are par­tic­u­lar­ly affect­ed in many ways, lead­ing to a mas­sive low­er­ing in their qual­i­ty of life that can go as far as rep­re­sent­ing a seri­ous risk to their lives and their dignity.

I. The Canton of Afrin and achievements regarding women’s freedom

Pri­or to the attempts at Turk­ish occu­pa­tion on Jan­u­ary 20 2018, women in the Can­ton of Afrin had made many advances in mat­ters of free­dom: a sys­tem for mutu­al aid and assis­tance had been set up by wom­en’s homes, the com­munes and wom­en’s assem­blies, the co-pres­i­den­cy sys­tem guar­an­teed wom­en’s par­tic­i­pa­tion at all deci­sion­ary polit­i­cal lev­els, with­out excep­tion. The women in Afrin had also set up a defence force entire­ly made up of women, such as the Wom­en’s Defence Forces (YPJ), the Social Defence Forces (HPC-Jin) and the Wom­en’s Secu­ri­ty Forces (Asaysa Jin). All of these wom­en’s orga­ni­za­tions had an autonomous sta­tus which allowed women to take their own deci­sions and car­ry out their own actions. Thanks to this pro­gres­sist sys­tem, the women of Afrin were able to defend them­selves and to defend their soci­ety against reac­tion­ay forces and the misog­y­ny active with­in and with­out their soci­ety in the form of armed reli­gious fun­da­men­tal­ist groups. Women in the Mid­dle-East have been con­front­ed with sex­ist poli­cies that recent­ly cul­mi­nat­ed again in fem­i­ni­cides car­ried out by ISIS and oth­er Islamist groups active in the region. With the increas­ing pow­er of ISIS, women were exposed to sex­ist crimes against human­i­ty in the entire regions under Islamist con­trol. The most vio­lent and impres­sive exam­ple was the mas­sacre in Sind­jar in August 2014, where the world com­mu­ni­ty was unable to pro­tect thou­sands of Yazi­di women from kid­nap­ping, rape, sale on mar­kets, toture and large-scale killings. Women in Afrin were able to pro­tect them­selves from these inhu­man treat­ments thanks to their self-defence units, until 2018. Here, women played a key role in the devel­op­ment of a demo­c­ra­t­ic and envi­ron­men­tal­ly-friend­ly admin­is­tra­tion. Afrin is a sym­bol of wom­en’s lib­er­ty and revolution.

II.War against Afrin : strong pressure against the population

Pri­or to the ille­gal inva­sion of Afrin by the Turk­ish State on Jan­u­ary 20 2018, the peo­ples of Afrin were sub­ject­ed to dis­as­trous and ongo­ing bru­tal­i­ty on their native land. Because of artillery shellings and air strikes against the dif­fer­ent regions of the Can­ton of Afrin, 645 civil­ians were wound­ed, at least 232 were killed and 200.000 peo­ple were dis­placed from their vil­lages, in search of safe­ty in the town of Afrin. The neg­a­tive impact of the war on the sit­u­a­tion of women is evi­dent. As the Turk­ish State has cho­sen, trained and sup­port­ed the rad­i­cal Islamist orga­ni­za­tions as its allies, cru­el exam­ples of the anti-woman men­tal­i­ty became pub­lic dur­ing the war, such as the sex­ist muti­la­tion of the the corpse of fight­er Barin Kobane on Feb­ru­ary 1st 2018. Cas­es of rape and kid­nap­ping of women were also report­ed in the vil­lages tak­en over by the Turk­ish State and its allies, as men­tioned above. Up until March 1st 2018, at least 82 peo­ple were wound­ed by artillery, airstrikes and Turk­ish snipers. Among them, some lost their eye­sigh or some of their limbs and 23 were killed. The women also expe­ri­enced prob­lems because of the lack of food and water in the town of Afrin caused by the increase in pop­u­la­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly with the lack of milk for babies. Con­stant bomb­ings also have a psy­cho­log­i­cal effect that can lead to inabil­i­ty to breast­feed. Chil­dren suf­fer from fear and stress under the attacks. On the whole, the war phase against Afrin was very hard on the pop­u­la­tion. It was char­ac­ter­ized by crimes against human­i­ty, per­pe­trat­ed in par­tic­u­lar by the armed Islamist groups deployed by the Turk­ish State. War crimes such as tar­get­ing the homes of civil­ians, water sup­plies and dams, schools, bread shops, med­ical units, hos­pi­tal staff and Afrin’s main hos­pi­tal “Avrin” demon­strat­ed the Turk­ish State’s strat­e­gy of total anni­hi­la­tion against the pop­u­la­tion dur­ing the operation.

III. Occupation of the town of Afrin : 14–18.03.2018

When the Turk­ish army and its allies bombed the town direct­ly from March 14th to 18th 2018, a miminum of 47 civil­ians were killed and scores of oth­ers wound­ed, along with the spon­ta­neous exile of the qua­si-total­i­ty of the town’s pop­u­la­tion. This dis­place­ment occurred in a chaot­ic and dan­ger­ous con­text, the occu­py­ing forces even con­tin­u­ing to tar­get the civil­ians flee­ing the town, killing at least 13 peo­ple. A cer­tain num­ber of civil­ians also died on the road because of the ter­ror that caused heart attacks along with the enor­mous exer­tions, for sev­er­al peo­ple had to cov­er tens of kilo­me­ters on foot to the region of She­h­ba. Civil­ians who stayed behind in the town were sub­ject­ed to the cru­el­ty of the invaders, rang­ing from pil­lag­ing to expro­pri­a­tion, tor­ture and extra-judi­cia­ry exe­cu­tions. Rad­i­cal Islam dis­crim­i­nates heav­i­ly against women. Accord­ing to infor­ma­tion received, in occu­pied Afrin, women were treat­ed like mer­chan­dise by occu­py­ing ofrces, they were col­lect­ed, kid­napped and used as domes­tics and rape objects. It is obvi­ous that the occu­pa­tion of Afrin is a project of mas­cu­line dom­i­na­tion bear­ing down for the total sub­jec­tion of women and of the occu­pied society.

IV. Massive Displacement of Afrin residents to the region of Shehba

Present­ly, 100.000 refugees occu­py the region of She­h­ba. Approx­i­mate­ly 20.000 dis­placed per­sons have sought refuge in Nubil, 10.000 in Zehra. An esti­mat­ed 50.000 peo­ple have reached Alep­po, while some 5000 oth­ers have moved on to Min­bic. In She­h­ba, a pre­lim­i­nary count in the towns and vil­lages gives the fol­low­ing result: approx­i­mate­ly  20.000 peo­ple have found refuge in Til Rifat, 12.000 in Fafin, in Ahras 10.000, 7000 in Bab­nis, 4000 in Halis­sa, 3700 in Um-Housh, 2500 in Ghir­na­ta Farms, 3000 in Kefer Naya, 2000 in the new refugee camp ‘Warge­ha Berxwedan’ and 1500 in Kefer Nasseh. More than 40.000 dis­placed per­sons are spread out among some twen­ty oth­er vil­lages in the region. The exact count of refugees and their needs is still ongo­ing. Among them, most of the 25.000 Yazidis tra­di­tion­al­ly lived in Afriniv. Many of them now live out on the streets, in dam­aged hous­es, in tents or in schools. After their vio­lent expul­sion from their homes in Afrin and the theft of their belong­ings by the Turk­ish State and its allies, they are now deprived of their fun­da­men­tal human rights.

• Sur­vival material 

Food and water reserves are lim­it­ed. The amount of healthy food is insuf­fi­cient for it is not pss­si­ble for the local com­mu­ni­ty nor for the aid orga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide var­ied foods cov­er­ing essen­tial needs in nutri­ents such as vit­a­mins, pro­teins, min­er­als and fibers. So far, only the appro­pri­ate sup­ply of bread has been imple­ment­ed across the region. Per­sons suf­fer­e­ing from gluten intol­er­ance are thus expe­ri­enc­ing health prob­lems. Milk for chil­dren and new­borns remains prob­lem­at­ic since ade­quate sup­plies are unavailable.

More­o­ev­er, there is not enough clean drink­ing water avail­able for the entire pop­u­la­tion. Indeed, sev­er­al wells in the region have dried up or  need elec­tron­ic pump­ing equip­ment which is unavail­able. Water present­ly used by the pop­u­la­tion has not been ana­lyzed and con­sti­tutes a health risk.

• Health

Many refugees have suf­fered health prob­lems dur­ing and fol­low­ing their dis­place­ment for they have walked over long dis­tances in poor weath­er con­di­tions and bear­ing heavy loads. Fol­low­ing this, many of them have stayed out in the open with­out blan­kets, so that com­mon ill­ness such as bron­chi­tis and gas­tro-enteri­tis have spread quickly.

Health ser­vices in the region of She­h­ba can only respond to basic needs. Although the Kur­dish Red Cross has built sev­er­al med­ical hot spots and a hos­pi­tal is being built in the vil­lage of Fafine, treat­ment pos­si­bil­i­ties are often very lim­it­ed. There is a lack of qual­i­fied med­ical staff, of instru­ments, sur­gi­cal equip­ment and labs, as well as med­ica­tion. In many cas­es, peo­ple suf­fer­ing from chron­ic ill­ness­es can­not find the appro­pri­ate med­ica­tion for their condition.

• Edu­ca­tion

With the onset of the war against Afrin on Jan­u­ary 20 2018, chil­dren and stu­dents could no longer attend their class­es for secu­ri­ty rea­sons. The total­i­ty of the exist­ing 318 schools had to be closed down. The Turk­ish army often sin­gled  out schools among its pub­lic ser­vice tar­gets. With the end of the oper­a­tion by the Turk­ish army, some schools were re-opened by the invaders but it appears they are apply­ing a pol­i­cy of Islamist and Turk­ish nation­al­ist assim­i­la­tion on the chil­dren. Chil­dren and stu­dents who have become refugees are still deprived of their right to edu­ca­tion for oth­er fun­da­men­tal needs such as food and water are still lack­ing for thou­sands of peo­ple. Edu­ca­tion is still on hold but should pick up again soon.

• Secu­ri­ty

Pop­u­la­tions were flee­ing from Afrin for fear of death and oppres­sion by the Turk­ish army and its Islamist allies. They reached the region of She­h­ba in most dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, in the hope of find­ing refuge from war events and, most­ly from the oppres­sion from a fun­da­men­tal­ist Islamist men­tal­i­ty lead­ing most often to vio­lence pure and sim­ple against women and any form of oppo­si­tion. But the refugees are still not safe for they are not pro­tect­ed by any inter­na­tion­al mech­a­nism such as the UN. What’s more, they are in close geo­graph­i­cal vicin­i­ty to the zones belong­ing to the forces occu­py­ing Afrin. The region of She­h­ba is very close to the Syr­i­an town of Azaz, invad­ed by the Turk­ish State in August 2016 and which now shel­ters a cer­tain num­ber of Jihadist groups and sol­diers. In fact, some of the refugees live 2 kilo­me­ters away from the forces they have just fled. More­over, it is not impos­si­ble that the Turk­ish State envi­sion pur­su­ing its bru­tal cam­paign, com­men­taries have been made on a num­ber of occa­sions by Turk­ish author­i­ties regard­ing Til Rifat in the region of She­h­ba. Recent agree­ments between the Turk­ish State and Rus­sia – whose troops are also sta­tioned in She­h­ba, rein­force the fears con­cern­ing the safe­ty of the dis­placed civil­ians. Thus, refugees from Afrin con­tin­ue to live in fear of a future assault being their lot. They could be tar­get­ed again by airstrikes from the Turk­ish military.

Adding to this, we should note that the region of She­h­ba was also a war zone until 2016, because it was con­trolled by ISIS and has only recent­ly been lib­er­at­ed. This is why a num­ber of hous­es are still dam­aged and unsuit­able both as liv­ing quartiers and as areas in which chil­dren can play. Also, ISIS fight­ers left behind a num­ber of land­mines in pre­vi­ous­ly occu­pied areas. Removal of land­mines has not been com­plet­ed, mak­ing the zone dan­ger­ous for civil­ians. Chil­dren, par­tic­u­lar­ly, are at risk of eas­i­ly walk­ing over mines in the aban­doned hous­es or along the foot paths. A cer­tain num­ber of land­mine vic­tims have been record­ed in She­h­ba after March 18 2018.

V. Responsibility of the international community

Giv­en the atroc­i­ties to which peo­ple were sub­ject­ed in the can­ton of Afrin and the ongo­ing human­i­tar­i­an cat­a­stro­phy in She­h­ba, it is impor­tant that the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty take its respon­si­bil­i­ties and not turn a blind eye. Dur­ing the war against Afrin, sev­er­al appeals were made for polit­i­cal sup­port but all mea­sures tak­en by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty proved unsuc­cess­ful in stop­ping the hor­ri­ble sit­u­a­tions imposed on the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion, and on women in particular.

Dur­ing the 8181th meet­ing of the UN’s Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, Staffan de Mis­tu­ra, spe­cial envoy of the Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al to Syr­ia, not­ed that “recent devel­op­ment in Syr­ia have raised ques­tions con­cern­ing the dura­bil­i­ty of the Astana dis-esca­la­tion agree­ments.”   Fol­low­ing this, the UN’s Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil adopt­ed res­o­lu­tion 2401 on Feb­ru­ary 24 2018 sug­gest­ing a thir­ty-day cease­fire over the entire Syr­i­an ter­ri­to­ry. Despite this, the Unit­ed Nations have not tak­en any respon­si­ble mea­sures to stop the tragedy, nor to imple­ment their own deci­sions, nor to stop the vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al law and fun­da­men­tal human rights in Syr­ia and, more specif­i­cal­ly, in the Afrin war of occupation.

• Strong polit­i­cal mea­sures are now inevitable in order to put an end to the Turk­ish occu­pa­tion of the can­ton of Afrin and ensure the depar­ture of all occu­pa­tion forces, includ­ing the Turk­ish army and Islamist forces, as well as the admin­is­tra­tion imposed by the Turk­ish State. Their pres­ence in Afrin is in vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al law and inter­na­tion­al agree­ments, dis­re­gard­ing the sov­er­eign­ty of the Syr­i­an State as well as the right of peo­ple to self-deter­mi­na­tion and safe­ty. Not only does this inva­sion counter the advances in terms of wom­en’s free­dom and rights to self-expres­sion, advances accom­plished dur­ing recent years in these regions. They encour­age the prop­a­ga­tion of a cul­ture of rape and fem­i­ni­cide, dis­re­gards the right of women to exis­tence, integri­ty and dig­ni­ty. All demo­c­ra­t­ic polit­i­cal pow­ers in the world must work to end the occu­pa­tion and allow women and all Afrin inhab­i­tants to live in dig­ni­ty. The end of the occu­pa­tion can assist in the recov­ery of the inte­ri­or sta­bil­i­ty the peo­ple of Afrin had reached pri­or to the Turk­ish agression.

We call on the UN to play its role in influ­enc­ing the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion on the ground and main­tain­ing inter­na­tion­al law.

• More­over, the health and safe­ty of the pop­u­la­tions in the region of She­h­ba must be pro­tect­ed. While they shel­tered tens of thou­sands of refugees from oth­er regions in Syr­ia, the pop­u­la­tions of Afrin are now sub­ject­ed to the same fate: liv­ing in unac­cept­able con­di­tions of squalor under severe restric­tions. What’s more, the refugees are still not safe as they remain unpro­tect­ed polit­i­cal­ly to this day and must live with the prospect of fur­ther attacks by the Turk­ish State and its Islamist allies.

The Unit­ed Nations must shoul­der their respon­si­bil­i­ties to the refugees sub­ject­ed to the Turk­ish aggres­sion in the region of She­h­ba. The refugees must acquire a pro­tect­ed sta­tus under the UN.

This applies notably to the two refugee camps (‘Warge­ha Berxwedan’ in Fafine, ‘Ser­dem’ in Til Sosin) in the region of She­h­ba, recent­ly built to respond to hous­ing needs of the population.

A large scale UN human­i­tar­i­an aid pro­gram should be read­ied in all urgency in order to send nec­es­sary mate­ri­als to meet fun­da­men­tal human needs of the pop­u­la­tion, notably:

1. Lodg­ing
(a) tents
(b) blan­kets
© mat­tress­es
(d) pil­lows
(e) sheets
(f) dish­es

2. Med­i­cine
(a) antibi­otics
(b) med­ica­tion for chron­ic illnesses
© med­ica­tion for mater­ni­ty units
(d) pedi­atric medication

3. Med­ical Equipment
(a) ambu­lances, mobile clinics
(b) sur­gi­cal instru­ments, uri­nary catheters
© ban­dages, ster­ile gauze, bindings
(d) anes­the­sia machines, coag­u­la­tion instru­ments, X‑ray machines, arti­fi­cial res­pi­ra­tors, equip­ment for osteo­poro­sis, ster­il­iza­tion instru­ments, defib­ril­la­tor, oxy­gen gen­er­a­tors, blood test­ing equipment.
(e) oth­er med­ical mate­r­i­al, sur­gi­cal thread, nylon, med­ical alcohol.

4. Food, Hygiene
(a) sur­vival rations
(b) baby’s milk
© hygien­ic supplies

5. Elec­tric­i­ty
(a) gen­er­a­tors
(b) water pump­ing stations
© solar pannels

See :

The Kur­dish Red Cross Appeal (Hey­va Sor)

• An inter­na­tion­al judi­ci­airy mech­a­nisms must be put in place to deal with war crimes and crimes against human­i­ty in Syr­ia, such as the crimes that were com­mit­ted dur­ing the war against Afrin and the ensu­ing occu­pa­tion by the Turk­ish army and its affil­i­at­ed Jihadist groups. All those respon­si­ble for the ille­gal occu­pa­tion as well as sub­jects guilty of pil­lag­ing, rape, mur­der and mas­sacres of women and the peo­ple of Afrin must be brought to tri­al before an inter­na­tion­al tri­bunal. A spe­cial mech­a­nism must thus be put in place to col­lect tes­ti­mo­ny and proof of human rights vio­la­tions, receive requests and lis­ten to the vic­tims and wit­ness­es to the war crimes and the human rights violations.

Afrin • Déplace­ments de pop­u­la­tions et réfugiés Cliquez pour lire

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