Afrin Civil Council: Efforts underway to discuss Turkey withdrawal, return looted property
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A member of the Afrin Civil Council (ACC) on Monday said efforts were underway to return stolen property to the residents of Afrin as well as discussions regarding a Turkish withdrawal from the area.
Speaking to Kurdistan 24 via Skype, Azad Osman, a member of the ACC’s public relations committee, said over 2,000 displaced persons have returned to the Kurdish region over the last two days.
Turkish and Syrian rebel forces overtook the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin on March 18 where they declared full control following a nearly two-month long offensive against the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Ankara, who launched its military incursion into Afrin in January, claimed the operation was meant to secure its borders of YPG forces which it argues are an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), thus “terrorists.”
Shortly after the takeover, images and videos circulating on social media showed Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters looting the property of civilians in Afrin.
According to Osman, several FSA members “who stole and looted from the houses of civilians in Afrin were arrested.” He added that the stolen items had been recovered and would be returned to their owners.
Regarding the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Afrin, Osman said a meeting would be held soon with the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
The ACC representative explained that the council did not fully manage Afrin yet due to the security situation but said they are “communicating with international organizations and institutions regarding the situation on the ground.”
“As for the resettlement of residents from Ghouta to Afrin, we will discuss the matter during the upcoming meeting as there is nothing confirmed so far and we certainly do not accept such a thing,” Osman continued.
“We are a temporary committee. Until residents return to Afrin, there will be elections to choose who the people want as their representatives,” he noted.
About a week ago, officials from Afrin announced the formation of the ACC, which will administer the area from a civilian perspective and help facilitate the return of displaced persons.
“We were able to reopen two bakeries and secure 150 tons of flour, and we repaired the water pumps, which were disrupted during the battles, to provide drinking water for civilians,” Osman told Kurdistan 24.
“There is a hospital ready to receive patients, and some of those who have been wounded were sent out of Afrin for treatment,” he added.