Study refutes Turkish claim of '700 attacks' from Afrin

The allegation constituted one of the primary justifications for the Turkish invasion of the town in Syrian Kurdistan.
author_image Ari Khalidi

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A report by the BBC on Tuesday disproved a widely-held Turkish claim, voiced by the highest echelons of power in Ankara, that there were over 700 attacks from Afrin into Turkey in 2017.

The allegation constituted one of the primary justifications for the Turkish invasion of the town and its some 360 villages in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).

Turkish airstrikes and ground shelling during the past two months killed over 250 civilians, wounded over 500, and displaced hundreds of thousands, leading to a Kurdish exodus from the region Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to give back “to its rightful owners.”

The study by the BBC's Reality Check found that the number of incidents publicly reported in that area and period, checked against multiple sources, appeared to be far lower than 700.

Twenty-six attacks from Syria were recorded, only 15 of them from Afrin.

A Turkish soldier raises the Turkish flag over the administrative headquarters of the self-declared canton of Afrin, after invading the town in Syrian Kurdistan, March 18, 2018. (Photo: AA)
A Turkish soldier raises the Turkish flag over the administrative headquarters of the self-declared canton of Afrin, after invading the town in Syrian Kurdistan, March 18, 2018. (Photo: AA)

“Over the last year alone, more than 700 attacks have been launched from the Afrin area under PYD/YPG control against Turkish cities. Turkey has had enough and decided to act,” Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesperson for Erdogan, wrote for CNN shortly after his country’s attack on the Kurdish enclave.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Deputy PM Bekir Bozdag joined Presidential releases pushing the claim in statements in January.

A newly-appointed Turkish Consul General to the Kurdistan Region’s capital of Erbil said the same figure in an interview with Kurdistan 24.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs told BBC that it defined the 700 incidents as “harassment fire,” which included “anything that does not directly target Turkey but is felt as a side-effect of an ongoing incident or clashes in Syria.”

Turkey and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxies captured the center of Afrin over the weekend after two months of fighting against US-armed Kurdish forces.

Once in the town center, they raised the Turkish flag, although Erdogan has repeatedly said his country was not eyeing to occupy “others’ lands” while at the same time recalling territorial vastness of the Ottoman Empire and threatening to capture all of Rojava, despite a potential confrontation with the US.

Civilians take shelter in caves from Turkish airstrikes and ground shelling, Afrin, Syrian Kurdistan, February 2018. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Civilians take shelter in caves from Turkish airstrikes and ground shelling, Afrin, Syrian Kurdistan, February 2018. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

 

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany