April 21, 2020 - 13:54 AMT
Afrin's Kurdish population halved since 2018 offensive: says rights group

Since the Turkish invasion of January 2018, the Kurdish population of Afrin, northwest Syria, has fallen by more than 60 percent, Rudaw reports citing a local rights group.

Thousands of indigenous Kurds were forced to flee the area when Turkish forces and their Syrian militia proxies launched Operation Olive Branch on January 20, 2018.

By the time Ankara had seized control of Afrin city from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on March 24, tens of thousands of Kurds had fled, many of them to Kurdish-controlled areas in northeast Syria.

Families displaced by regime offensives to the south were resettled in their place.

“According to the latest statistics that we received, the size of the indigenous population of Kurds in the Afrin region reached 34.8 percent in January, while they previously made up 97 percent of the population,” the Afrin-based Human Rights Organization said in a report Sunday.

“The number of arrivals from various other regions makes up 65.2 percent of the population.”

The organization, which is run by local activists, failed to elaborate on the ethnicity of the settlers, but said they are from Idlib, Ghouta, Homs, and Deir ez-Zor – Arab majority areas.

It estimates Afrin is now home to 298,700 Kurds and 458,000 people displaced from elsewhere in Syria, while Afrin city is home to 53,300 Kurds and 110,000 people displaced from elsewhere in Syria.

International aid organizations were barred from entered Afrin following the offensive, making data difficult to verify. The Human Rights Organization did not explain its methodology.

According to UN estimates, upwards of 150,000 Kurds have been displaced, most of them displaced to Shahba camp in Tel Rifaat, north of Aleppo.

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch with the stated aim of pushing the YPG back from its southern border.

Ankara believes the YPG is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group which has fought a decades-long war with the Turkish state for greater political and cultural rights for Kurds.

The YPG, which makes up the backbone of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), denies any organic ties with the PKK.

Photo: AFP