Islamization threatening minorities in Afrin: NGO

A Germany-based NGO says there is no longer a future for non-Muslim minorities in Afrin such as Ezidis, Christians, and Alawites.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Germany-based NGO says there is no longer a future for non-Muslim minorities in Afrin such as Yezidis (Ezidis), Christians, and Alawites since Turkish-backed Islamist rebels took over the region with Turkish support on March 18.

“The Turkish army has already brought tens of thousands of Arabic Islamists into the Kurdish region. Many of the new settlers are armed, and many of them are members of one of the various Islamist groups,” a German NGO, Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), said in a report released last Tuesday.

The report added that the various groups “support the Turkish occupation army by killing, torturing, and expropriating the Kurdish civilians who are still living in Afrin.”

“Due to the Islamization policy, it is no longer possible to live an Ezidi or Alevi life in Afrin. The small Christian community of approximately 1,000 people has disappeared,” the report stated.

STP’s Middle East Consultant, Kamal Sido, told Kurdistan 24 the situation for minorities in Afrin is very difficult.

“When the Turkish occupation and Islamization of Afrin continues, this will mean there is no more life possible for the Ezidis,” he said.

On July 14, the Afrin Media Center reported that the Turkish-backed Descendants of the Prophet brigade turned the house of an Ezidi, 60-year-old Hannan Nasiru, in the Basoufan village, into a mosque.

“This is how it ends for Ezidis there,” Sido said.

Nasiru fled like most of the 10,000 to 15,000 Ezidis to camps in the Shahba region, in northern Aleppo.

“After the occupation, there are a few that have returned. But when Ezidis have the possibility, they will leave,” Sido added.

“For the Muslim Kurds, it’s maybe possible to adjust in Afrin, but for minorities it’s difficult,” he said. “Olive fields for Alawites in Malbata were put on fire, and people were afraid to put out the fire.”

Suad Hiso, the President of the Yezidi Union in Afrin, told Kurdistan 24 that the biggest fear for Ezidis is the growing Islamization under rebel rule.

“Turkey’s mercenaries in Afrin are forcing Ezidis to go to mosques. There are more than 20 Ezidi villages, and in each still 20-25 families remained. They also confiscated their seasonal crops,” she said.

“This is a demonstration of Muslim dominance over Ezidis and part of a policy of ethnic cleansing against religious minorities. Due to the Islamist allies of Turkey, the Ezidi are much more vulnerable than the Sunni Kurds,” Thomas Schmidinger, an Austrian expert on Kurds, who recently wrote a book on Afrin, said.

He noted there are reports of forced conversions in some Ezidi villages and of kidnappings of women and girls, but not as systematic as the Islamic State’s invasion and genocide in northern Iraq’s Shingal in August 2014.

Moreover, there are reports of desecration of some Ezidi cemeteries and other sacred places such as in the village of Feqira in May 2018.

“Afrin was home to the largest Ezidi minority in Syria, and the largest outside Iraq since most of the Ezidis from Turkey left in the 1980s. It looks like the existence of the Syrian Ezidis is coming to an end. Let’s hope they will find their way to the already large Ezidi diaspora in Germany,” Schmidinger stated.

In a June statement, the Yezidi Union in Afrin called on the international community “to intervene to protect the Ezidis threatened by extinction.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany