ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Osman Baydemir, a prominent lawmaker from Turkey’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on Thursday said the Ankara government wanted to “de-Kurdify” Syria’s Afrin region that has been bracing an all-out Turkish military campaign.
“The objective is the same with that of the Ba’ath regime: To de-Kurdify the Kurdish geography,” Baydemir said during a press conference in Ankara, likening the Turkish policy to a 1970s Syrian plan of creating an “Arab belt” in the north of the country by expelling the Kurds and resettling Arabs.
“The head of the AKP says so. [He] wants to capture Afrin and give it to the FSA,” Baydemir said, reminding of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks over the weekend in which he claimed Afrin was Arab-majority and the Kurds did not belong there.
Erdogan is also the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Baydemir refrained from calling him the President.
“The whole issue is this: 55 percent of Afrin is Arab, 35 percent are the Kurds who were later relocated, and about seven percent are Turkmen. [We aim] to give Afrin back to its rightful owners,” the Turkish President said at a rally in the Bursa Province.
With intense aerial bombardments and ground attacks on the isolated Kurdish enclave, the Turkish army is supporting Islamist Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions in its offensive on Afrin.
“He wants to hand Afrin to Islamic State-like groups, and resettle the three and a half million refugees there. Whose land are you giving away? What audacity is this? This is a hateful policy of changing demographics,” Baydemir continued.
Earlier this week, a United Nations report revealed that Turkey’s military offensive had displaced an estimated 5,000 people in Afrin.
Afrin’s Public Health Committee said continued Turkish attacks had killed at least 35 civilians and wounded 106 others. Kurdish forces defending the district haven’t released how many casualties they have.
On Wednesday, Erdogan continued anti-Kurdish rhetoric by saying the towns of Manbij and Kobani, east of Afrin, were “filled with terrorists” by the United States.
“There are no Kurds in Manbij. Arabs were expelled, and terrorists were brought,” he said, although once again stating the official line that the campaign was not targeting “our Kurdish brothers” and only “terrorists.”
In a Monday opinion piece for The Washington Post, Co-President of Afrin’s self-administration Hevi Mustafa described Erdogan’s words as “a threat of ethnic cleansing.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany