"levant" documents the expropriation of Kurdish property in Syria and the theft of their organs in Ankara
By: Karim shafiq
Despite his attempts to overcome the ordeal he was exposed to and the scars of that wound that is still digging into his soul, Omar (a pseudonym)
who is in his twenties and has managed to escape with the help of some mediators and smugglers, is still haunted by the horrors and concerns. Such fears and concerns are apparent in his shacky voice, especially in view of the deplorable situation in his occupied area by Turkish forces andthe Syrian factions loyal to them in Afrin, in northwestern Syria. Many of the people of Syria, who are still under the control of these elements, share with Omar his concerns, taking into account that the rest of his family members are still in one of the villages subjected to the control of Turkish forces,after been displaced of their homes which, as he remembers, got confiscated by settlers and gunmen.
The land is not for its people
“The area under Turkish control, in northern and eastern Syria, has been exposed to the factors of systematic demographic change, with the help of factions loyal to them,” says Omar. “and according to figures documented by local activists, 60 percent of the current residents of the village of ‘Shaykh Al-Hadid’ consist of settlers and families of mercenary factions”.
After the occupation of Afrin, the Turkish-backed fiction ‘Sultan Suleiman Shah’ known as al-Amshat; based on the name of its leader Abu-Amsha, imposed itself and, according to the young man, carried out daily violations such as kidnapping, robbery, and Imposing royalties on agricultural landowners and olive presses, not to mention changing the names of some squares with Turkish or Arabic names, including for example placing the name of the Turkish president in the two languages on one of the main squares in the centerof the town, which was known as ‘Al-Saraya’ Square. They’ve also renamed the ‘Kawa Square’ (which represented the name of a Turkish hero) to ‘Olive Wrath’ in order to commemorate the operation of Turkish military and (FSA) factions in the area. They’ve also changed the name of ‘The Newruz Sq’ (Kurdish New Year's Day) to ‘Salah a-Deen al-Ayoubi Sq.’
As the young man tells levant; he was able to flee Afrin, with the help of some jobbers and smugglers, to Shahba city after the Amashat faction took control of his area, which contains about 18 villages, all of which are under the control of the Turkish army, which is stationed in one school, as well as some border checkpoints.
The Sheikh Al-Hadid township is located to the west of Afrin, andaccording to the same source; the number of houses there reaches up to 1400 house. But the families who own these houses and used to live in them are no longer able to do so, due to the gunmen takeover of the town. He himself got arrested twice and paid the ransom required for him to be released. But after the third time, he decided to escape; fearful of unknown fate chasing him especially after they found one of his peers a dead body one month after being kidnapped, despite his family paying the required ransom.
In his testimony, he confirms several cases of human organs theft from individuals after getting killed or during being treated in Ankara’s hospitals, especially ‘Evrin’ where several cases have been documented among Syrian refugees who suffered health crises and returned after which as dead bodies. Among them was a fifty-year-old man who suffered from a stroke and died but the Turkish army accompanying his body refused to show it to his family despite their insistence on examining it.
There has been also another case in which the family of the missing person was able to examine his body, where they found an extended surgery in the head, chest and stomach areas, without a clear and direct medical reason related to the medical condition he had.
And to that, the Istanbul-based International Association to Combat Organs Trafficking indicates that there are many things that are happening beyond the legal and legitimate framework, including organ transplants which take place by using crooked ways, while it escalating amid the Turkish government silence that is, according to the association, more like an accomplice.
For its part, a report issued by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) two years ago reveals that there are approximately 17,000 Syrian refugee children who went missing in mysterious circumstances, and there have been some suggestions that they were kidnapped in order to steal their organs.
The fear that haunts the Kurds’ lives
During our meeting with the young man and documenting his testimony, he was contacting his brother who escaped Afrin to Tell Rifaat city located north of Aleppo, and refused to talk to any entity or media outlet about what he went through in Afrin or the details of what has been going on inside it. In the meanwhile, the accompanying mediator interfered and translated some Kurdish phrases which clarifies that the fear the Turkish presence left behind is tremendous, and it’s going to be a heritage that is difficult to escape from. This is, according to him, is due to the “mercenaries” working for the occupying factions, some of which are from Afrin and their relatives, but they’re working for them under the pressure of torture and kidnapping, so they do that forcibly and against their will in order to survive and save themselves.
The mediator (who preferred not to mention his name) adds to "levant": "The Kurds in the areas controlled by the Turks and their factions are afraid of talking with their relatives in other regions, whether by phones or other means of communication, especially regarding the facts about what’s happening in Afrin after many of the people there got kidnapped and assaulted in charges of "spreading lies". The Turkish forces and their factions are installing devices to monitor calls, and conversations of social networking apps, thereby forcing them not to report what is going on inside.
You pay for resistance with your life!
Kurdish journalist Sardar Darwish notes that the Turkish plan is obvious from its first moment: forcing demographic change on Afrin, in a manner that can be monitored accurately. The plan has started with bringing armed families to Afrin and placing them in the Kurds’ homes after displacing them, and then transferring those who left Homs, Ghouta and other cities to Afrin. And finally, which is the most dangerous action of all: issuing public identities for the settlers and the indigenous population of Afrin, both Kurds and Arabs, without distinguishing between residents, displaced and refugees, after closing the displaced offices with the aim of granting legitimacy to the gunmen, settlers and factions by forging new identities and changing them to their settlement address in the homes of civilian Kurds.
“In the village of Qarmatlaq in Afrin, the Amashat faction forced dozens of families to leave their houses, then confiscated them in order to use these houses to resettle the families of Idlib. The same thing happened in Janderysa northwest of Aleppo, in incidents that were almost identical to those of Afrin, but the families in Kotanli village who refused to give up their houses had to face live bullets.” He ads to levant.
In a recorded interview with “levant”, Ibrahim Ibrahim, spokesperson for The Syrian Democratic Counsel ‘MSD’, explains that what Turkey is doing in northern and eastern Syria is a complete and radical change of the cultural, instructional and educational structure of the area that it occupies, as the Ottoman “Turkification” policy pervades the educational curricula and administrative transactions, where the Turkish government abolished identification cards and documents and issued new ones with the assistance of its local mediators.
During the preparation of this inquiry, ‘levant" got the chance to examine a set of identification cards, which the Turkish government and the loyal factions have begun issuing in the areas subjected to their control, including Afrin and The Euphrates Shield. And according to local activists, such cards contain wrong or inaccurate information as they deliberately ignore what’s related to the original place of registration and include everyone within the local population, without making a clear distinction between the three existing cases, namely: the displaced, refugees and original population.
On the 17th of May this year, and according to a spokesman for the Council of Syria, The Public Department of Displaced Affairs was abolished by the Ankara Local Council in Afrin. But the story does not end here. Rather, it goes way beyond that un a complex manner that directly affects the attempts to amputate the connections linking original inhabitants to their lands, in Afrin or in areas that fell under the Turkish occupation. This is also a part of the new settlement project, which Ankara and its disparate arms seek, in order to alter the demographics and filter the identity of its individuals; as there is no differentiation in these new n in these new cards between the local population, the displaced and the refugees: they are all registered as original population.
And according to what appears in the identification cards, of which levant obtained a copy, these new cards -which were issued recently in the two languages: Arabic and Turkish, without a clear reason for adding the later one- differ from those previously held by the people and residents of Afrin, which included the original data about them, such as the full name and the place of birth. But some of these data where changed and others were replaced with different data. They specifically replaced the original registration authority, known in the Syrian identity cards as ‘The Secretary’ or ‘The Secretary of The Civil Register’, with the current registration place, and registered it according to the area of the individual’s displacement and to the new ‘Secretary’ to which he/she immigrated, without bothering to clarify his original region, not to mention other cards, that do not have data related to the place of registration or birth at all, which means imposing a case of forced displacement, ignoring the original registration of individuals, and abolition their actual identities.
There is historical hatred from Turkey, with its Ottoman heritage, for many of the people of the region, especially the Kurds and Arabs, and this is evident in the course of the current events, which id not different from what had happened centuries agothrough the crimes committed under the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, there’s nothing new about what Erdogan has been doing today, whose aim is to revive the Ottoman practices with their aggressiveness.
The only thing that may have changed, however, is the mechanism, where the Kurdish people became a field for its genocidal concepts; starting with destroying Turkish villages and cities with a Kurdish majority, arresting and killing their people, and now has extended its practices to reach northern and eastern Syria during the Syrian war, where it’s enforcing a military siege, as well as the ideological and ideological oppression and terrorism by supporting radical Islamic jihadist groups towards Afrin, not to mention the pillaging of the Syrian national economy, the funds and the private properties by their armed militia elements, in the absence of regional and global role.
Among the most prominent operations that involved confiscating homes is when the Turkey-backed Syrian opposition factions seized, with their gunmen, of the photojournalist Rudi Saeed’s family house, during the operation known as ‘Operation Peace Spring’ in the city of Sri Canet (Ras al-Ain), north and east of Syria, according to what Saeed (a Reuters cameraman) has announced on his Twitter account.
He also added in his tweet that the militant factions have seized many homes belonging to the Kurds and Arabs in the city.
His tweet was: “The Turkish army and the faction supported by it have taking over my house just because I’m Kurdish; as Ankara perceives every Kurdish person as a threat to it. Meanwhile, it doesn’t see any threat in the presence of a leader of ISIS and terrorism near its borders.”
Homes are for settlers!
Speaking to levant; Lamar a pseudonym) who’s in the fourth decade of her life confirms that the Amashat faction threatens the people who refuse to obtain IDs issued for them from the local council, which was formed by the Turkish army, to pay fines amounting to one hundred thousand Syrian pounds (about $195), as well as imprisonment, which forces them to submit to changes, and to obtain the new identities, instead of incurring a fineor going to jail.
In her testimony, she recites the details of an attempt that some of her relatives took to return to their homes in the village of Sheikh Al-Hadid. Such attempt came after being forced out of their houses and having to travel among several villages and cities amid the Turkish occupation of Afrin. On their way back, they faced a number of obstacles, which started when they were trying to cross the security barriers made, according to her, by ‘mercenaries’, meaning the Turkey-backed factions. These factions demanded them to pay sums estimated at about fifty thousand Syrian pounds, until they were able to reach the village.
However, as soon as they reached the administrative borders of the township, the Amshat faction confronted them and the other families they came along with them, and demanded them to pay another fifty thousand Syrian pounds to allow them to enter. But not everyone was able to get to the houses they left behind, as many of them were turned into homes for the settlers’ families and into military and security headquarters.
In Erdogan’s dictionary; Kurds are more than just people
The Kurdish legal and human rights activist, Bassam Al-Ahmad, documents the violations in Afrin, where he Amasat faction has allocated 25% of the agricultural crops of lands owned by the Syrian Kurds in the areas under its control to its military faction,and 10% for the local council, which is directly under the Turkish occupation authorities, And its military forces. In addition to that, each family is compelled to pay a fifty thousand Syrian pounds worth of taxes at the end of the season.
He also asserts, in his talk with levant, that the attempts to haze the kurds, steal their resources and impose royalties on them, fall, with his words, under many tricks aimed to put them in a situation of catastrophic economic changes and varied pressures, in order to create a social and a psychological gap between him and the settlers, which forces the Kurds to leave. This also aims at stabilizing the demographic change processes, whereby families that can’t pay the costs of agriculture due their loss of 40% of the production in forms of taxes imposed on them, not to mention the production expenses that range from 30 to 40%, are left with so little percentage of the production; around 29%, which is not enough for living expenses under the occupation.
The Kurdish researcher, Counselor Masoud Fawzi, also says that the east of the Euphrates is a part of the Syrian land, and it was occupied by the Turkish-backed militias, where they expelled the citizens and displaced hundreds of thousands of them, which enabled Turkey to take over Afrin, with the participation of the national army factions loyal to it, where most of their members were associated with ISIS but joined these forces after cracks had pervaded them, then being defeated by the Kurds. They’ve also established their authority and amidst massive violations committed by the factions that included plundering, looting, kidnapping, and taking over civilian property, which led the Kurds to flee Afrin.
In addition, he confirms to levant that since its control of the area, the Turkish army quickly left some factions of the national army to loot and arrest people in order to terrorize and displace them. Furthermore, these factions confiscated the property of civilians who fled, as the battles approached their villages, and converted their homes to military headquarters and warehouses to store stolen goods and weapons, or housing to accommodate faction fighters and their families.”
And In light of the lawlessness and the fact that Ankara has allowed the fictions to dominate, numerous crimes have emerged, such as kidnapping for ransoms, according to the Kurdish adviser. The kidnappings are focused on well-off Kurdish civilians, where they’re required to pay a sum of between $ 1,000 and $ 10,000 to be released, based on the material situation of the kidnapped person. Such kidnappings are linked to information available about their wealth and financial capabilities, not their affiliation with the Kurdish units.
When asked about the incidents of displacement and resettlement continuing in Afrin and their consequences, Fawzi answers:
“Forcibly relocating the displaced from Ghouta, Homs, and Daraa to Afrin is a Turkish plan aimed at permanently resettling them, which contributed to changing the national demographics in Afrin for the benefit of Arabs and Turkmen, where more than 200.000 people were forcibly displaced, without being able to Return. Rather, they’ve been housing tens of thousands of others that were displaced from Ghouta and other cities, in the context of a systematic Turkish policy aimed at bringing about a profound demographic change, and reducing the percentage of the Kurds to 35%, a number that Erdogan has repeatedly talked about and been seeking to achieve.