Christian Peacemaker Teams call on White Helmets to speak out about Afrin abuses

“Refugees from Ghouta and other regions of Syria should not be used as pawns to facilitate the ethnic cleansing and displacement of Kurds and other minorities in Afrin.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24)The Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an international organization set up to support teams of peace workers in conflict areas around the world, have expressed dismay on the work of the White Helmets in Afrin.

In a letter on Monday, the CPT called on the White Helmets to change their policies and called for the withdrawal of the Turkish army and rebels from Afrin.

Both organizations were earlier nominated for the Nobel Peace Price due to their humanitarian work.

“Last year, both you and our organization, Christian Peacemaker Teams, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. We respect your courage and the work you have done,” the CPT said in the letter.

“We understand why you have been an inspiration for so many, including members of our organization and our supporters, and we know you have suffered grievous losses in your country’s war,” they said.

“Because of our mutual human rights and life-affirming work, we are dismayed to learn that you are working with the Turkish invading forces and their Free Syrian Army mercenaries in the Syrian region of Afrin.”

Khaled Khatib, a spokesperson for the White Helmets, previously told Kurdistan 24 the organization attempts to work in all areas of Syria. 

“We seek to work in all areas of Syria, where we can, that's why we operated in Afrin for some months, but the YPG [People’s Protection Units] didn’t allow our volunteers to come to Afrin,” Khatib said.

“The people there [in Afrin] need the services of the White Helmets,” he added. “We always do our best to serve our community.”

However, according to the CPT, the White Helmets should reject the Turkish invasion.

“Before the Turkish invasion, Afrin was a region where Kurds, Arabs, [Yezidis], Armenians, and other minorities lived together peacefully.  Women were safe and held leadership positions in the government,” the CPT letter read.  

The CPT noted that over 100,000 people “have been violently displaced from their homes and prevented from returning.”

They also underlined that authorities in charge of Afrin are forbidding the use of the Kurdish language and imposing several other sanctions on the population from forced conversions to kidnappings.

Therefore, the CPT called on the White Helmets to “live up to [its] noble ideals,” and use their local and international influence to call for the withdrawal of the Turkish army and Turkish-backed rebels from Afrin.

“All the people displaced by the Turkish [army] and FSA should be allowed to return home and receive compensations for the damages done to their homes and region,” the group said.

“Refugees from Ghouta and other regions of Syria should not be used as pawns to facilitate the ethnic cleansing and displacement of Kurds and other minorities in Afrin,” it added.

The CPT also asked their supporters to e-mail the production company of British film director Orlando von Einsiedel, who made an Oscar-winning documentary about the White Helmets, accusing the group of working with the Turkish military occupation forces in Afrin.

CPT’s Kathleen Kern, in a letter tovon Einsiedel, asked him “to visit Afrin and the [Kurdistan Region] where Turkey has installed military bases.”

“You could also ask the White Helmets working there what their relationship is with the Turkish military,” Kern said in the letter.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany