AFRIN (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey has started building a border wall around the northwestern Syrian Kurdish region of Afrin, locals in the area said on Wednesday.
A Kurdistan 24 team in Syria headed to the Afrin countryside north of Aleppo to record footage of the new wall that Turkey is building around the region.
“The wall will separate Afrin city, and most of its countryside from the Syrian territories and they will be added to the Turkish territory,” Hadiya Yousef, a senior Kurdish official, told Kurdistan 24.
“By building the wall, Turkey is trying to gain legitimacy for its occupation of the Syrian territories,” she added.
The Afrin region is part of Aleppo governorate in northern Syria, and it was under the rule of the Kurdish self-administration since 2013 until Turkish-backed Syrian opposition armed groups invaded it last year, in an operation called “Olive Branch.”
Syrian regime forces and Russian troops in the Shahba area, a region nearby where the wall is being built, have remained silent and are only observing.
Duha Ibesh, a roughly 30-year-old woman from the region, said they were expelled from their village in the Afrin countryside where the wall construction vehicles destroyed their olive tree fields and the Turkish army demolished many civilian’s houses to facilitate the building of the wall.
“We have been expelled from our village Jilbire and moved to another village nearby, and we are not allowed to return,” she said. “We are watching it from here.”
Last week, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the main council that rules northern Syria, accused the Turkish state of building a concrete wall around the city of Afrin to isolate it from its surroundings.
Turkey invaded parts of northwestern Syria, including al-Bab and Afrin, in 2016 and 2018 respectively in an attempt to crush Kurdish aspirations of autonomy in the region. This led to the displacement of 140,000 Kurds from the latter in what critics describe as a sustained campaign of demographic change.
Sinam Mohamad, an SDC representative in the United States, told Kurdistan 24 Ankara plans “to isolate the area of Afrin from its Syrian environment in preparation for its annexation to Turkey.”
Mohamad related the situation of Afrin to the Iskenderun district which Turkey annexed in the 1930s, suggesting that the Syrian government is out of the game due to agreements between Turkey and Russia.
Turkey is “taking advantage of international silence and the silence of the Syrian government,” she added, noting the actions are a violation of human rights and international law.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Saleh from Afrin countryside)