KOBANI (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish-backed rebels have changed the names of two squares in the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin, Kurdish activists say.
On Tuesday, Turkish-backed militants changed the Kurdish names (Nowruz Sq. and Kawa Sq.) to “Salah a-Deen al-Ayoubi Sq.” and “Martyrs’ Sq.,” Kurdish activists told Kurdistan 24.
“It’s unclear whether this is an initiative by the administration of Afrin or just some initiative by a local commander,” Elizabeth Tsurkov, a Research Fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking, an Israeli think-tank, who specializes in Syria, told Kurdistan 24.
“Either way, the denial of Kurdish identity is widespread in Syria, partially due to decades of living under Ba’ath rule that attempted to Arabize the Kurds,” Tsurkov noted.
“Turkey, too, has an interest in presenting Afrin as an ethnically-mixed area and not one that used to have a clear Kurdish majority,” she added.
Abdulbaqi Asad, head of the Kurdish human rights organization MAF, told Kurdistan 24 that five Kurdish human rights organizations have presented rights violations in Afrin to the UN.
A report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for June details large-scale rights abuses in Afrin, which was taken in March by Turkish-backed Islamist rebels from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
According to an Amnesty International report released this month, Turkish forces occupying Afrin are giving allied Syrian armed groups free rein to commit serious human rights abuses against civilians.
Ibrahim Murad, the representative of the Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava and Northern Syria in Germany, told Kurdistan 24 that Turkey aims to change the demography of northern Syria.
“But we as the Rojava and Northern Syrian representations in Germany and Europe work to expose and show Turkish practices to the world,” he added.
Although the Kurds lost Afrin to Turkey and Syrian rebels on March 18 as a result of the Olive Branch Operation, the YPG said it would continue its resistance, targeting rebel forces backed and settled by Turkey in the former Kurdish-held enclave.
The Kurdish forces’ General Command previously said the people of Afrin “have never given up the resistance against the Turkish occupation” despite forced immigration, ethnic cleansing, looting, theft, and mass killings.
YPG top commander Sipan Hemo told Asharq al-Awsat on Sunday that the YPG’s military operations in Afrin continue and will grow in intensity with time.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the YPG has carried out over 100 attacks against forces controlling the area.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany