ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Ankara on Saturday harshly attacked the United States for slamming a Turkish policy of demographic change in the occupied Afrin canton of Syrian Kurdistan.
“The Spokesperson of the US State Department, under the influence of the smear campaign of the PYD/YPG terrorist organization and by referring to unverified assumptions, has made an unfortunate statement about the Operation Olive Branch,” a statement on the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Thursday said some 140,000 people had been displaced from Afrin due to Turkey’s assault on US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that ended with the capture in March of the town center.
“And as far as we can tell, they are not being allowed back into their homes,” Nauert said during a press conference in response to a question by Kurdistan 24, without directly pointing at Turkey.
The Turkish ministry, however, accused the YPG of preventing local people from returning to Afrin.
Kurdish officials and independent human rights watchdogs warn of a swift demographic change enforced by the Turkish army and its Syrian proxies by resettling Sunni Arab families displaced from elsewhere in Kurdish homes and villages.
Islamist Syrian rebel groups working with Turkey have in their publications confirmed busing in large numbers of civilian Arabs, Salafist fighters, and their families from the Damascus district of Ghouta into Afrin.
Fearful of an irrevocable land grab by Turkey and its Sunni Arab allies, Kurdish parties call it ethnic cleansing against locals who have been there for hundreds of years.
The UN has also acknowledged a population transfer of Arab civilians from southwestern Syria toward the north, done per a deal between Russia and Turkey.
President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly claimed that Afrin’s majority population was Arab and that the aim of his army’s assault was to give the region back to its “rightful owners.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany