AFRIN, Syrian Kurdistan (Kurdistan 24) – Members of the Yezidi (Ezidi) community in the Kurdish-run northwest enclave of Afrin on Saturday said they are concerned about potential mass killings against them by the Turkish army and their affiliated Syrian militants.
Pir Shammo, an Ezidi religious leader in Afrin, told Kurdistan 24 they fear the massacres they had already experienced in the past would be repeated.
“Displacement is no longer our only fear. Many people have been forced to leave their countries—this happens. Again, we are in fear of massacres and mass killings,” he said.
“In the 21st century, we thought there would be no more genocides and massacres against certain nations, but in Afrin, history is repeating itself,” he added.
A cave in the Qibari village of Afrin countryside has been a temple for the Ezidis. The temple was shelled last week by the Turkish army.
No official statistics are available to confirm how many Ezidis live in Afrin, but Ezidi and Kurdish sources say there were an estimated 25,000 living there in 2011.
In the aftermath of the Syrian war and the subsequent emergence of terror groups, and due to fears of persecution, thousands of them left the region and migrated to Europe seeking asylum.
In 2012, Syrian regime forces withdrew from Afrin, and the city fell under the control of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main fighting force in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Turkey argues that its offensive in Afrin is justified because it targets the YPG, which Turkey accuses of having ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) designated as a “terrorist organization” by the US, the European Union, and Turkey.
However, US officials maintain that Turkey’s offensive in Afrin distracts the global coalition battling IS from doing the more important work of eliminating the extremist group from the region.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Reporting in Kurdish by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Salih in Afrin)