ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Well-known Syrian activist Loubna Mrie has documented human rights violations in the region of Afrin in an article released Friday by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, a German left-wing policy and education institution.
Mrie, the daughter of a pro-Assad militia leader from the city of Latakia, joined anti-regime demonstrations at a young age, supported rebels with medicines, and helped find homes for fleeing families, as reported by The Guardian in 2012.
But now, she says, the rebels are the ones carrying out atrocities.
“I wrote this because being against the Syrian government doesn’t mean turning a blind eye on the rebel’s atrocities,” she wrote on her Twitter feed. “What Turkey and FSA brigades are doing in Afrin is shameful and needs to be more covered especially by us, Arab activists,” she added.
Turkey and Turkish-backed armed groups captured the region of Afrin on March 18 in a campaign that lasted over two months. During the operation, hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands more displaced. Moreover, experts say ethnic cleansing is now taking place by Turkish-supported armed groups in Afrin.
In Friday’s article, a journalist and civilian who fled Afrin named Muhammad Billo is quoted saying that refugees from Eastern Ghouta took his house, but eventually, he felt sorry for them.
“We were both fathers who were forced to flee with our families to seek shelter somewhere very far from home,” he told Mrie.
“Although I am against the Syrian government, what I saw and heard made me ashamed of the rebels. Ashamed that I might be taking someone’s house because the government and its thugs took mine,” Majd, a 25-year-old from Eastern Ghouta said.
But, the 25-year-old said, even people from Eastern Ghouta who fled to Afrin are now ashamed.
“I am not a geopolitics expert, but I didn’t need to be one in order see what Turkey was doing. They [rebels] were attempting demographic change by hiding behind Syrian Arab soldiers, who broke into houses that belonged to Kurds and encouraged displaced Arabs to take over,” he said.
“They broke the door and told us everything is fine and that we could stay here. But it’s not,” he said. “These are not their houses. What right do they have to break the houses and install new families?”
“People disappear from the streets and their houses in the middle of the night. For these brigades, every Kurdish civilian is a YPG affiliate until he proves the opposite,” a source in Afrin told Mrie.
Despite this, the pro-Turkish government media continues to paint what many say is a clearly fabricated, rosy picture of the city.
“The reality is far different: Afrin today is facing extreme demographic changes and various horrifying human rights violations, which continue to be documented and condemned by human rights organizations,” Mrie wrote.
“These brigades cannot commit any of these violations without the approval of the Turkish army, or at least without them turning a blind eye to the violations,” she continued, citing sources in Afrin.
Amnesty International charged in a report in August that Turkish forces are giving allied Syrian armed groups free rein to commit serious human rights abuses against civilians.
Turkish officials claim the city will be returned to its “original people,” which outrages those displaced from Afrin.
“Leaving Afrin to what people? The criminal brigades? People they installed in our houses? These are not Afrin people,” journalist Billo said.
“I believe that Afrin will, eventually, return to its people," he said. "But for now, we can’t do anything other than expose these brigades’ atrocities and hope that, one day, justice will take place and our confiscated town will be ours again.”
Editing by John J. Catherine