Turkey continues demographic change in northern Syria by resettling hundreds of refugees in Tal Abyad, Ras al-Ain
TAL ABYAD (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish authorities reportedly sent 19 buses loaded with roughly 900 Syrian refugees over the border into Syria to be resettled in the country’s northern towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain (Serekaniye), activists and local news agencies said on Wednesday.
“The new arrivals, who are the families of the Turkish-backed armed groups, will be settled in Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain in the houses left by their owners who fled the town after the Turkish attacks in October,” Ahmad, a Syrian Arab activist who asked to conceal his name for security reasons, told Kurdistan 24.
Ahmad added that people who stayed in the town were angry with the Turkish authorities for bringing people from other Syrian provinces and relocating them in the border areas.
“More busses carrying the families of the militants of the Turkish-backed groups of Ahrar Al-Sharqiya and Al-Shamiya Front will arrive in a few days to be transferred and resettled in the town of Ras al-Ain,” he said.
Local media in northern Syria report that the busses contained Syrian families from Ghouta around Damascus, Idlib, Homs and the northern Aleppo countryside.
Activists in the town published videos on social media showing the militants waiting for their families on the border crossing gate of Tal Abyad.
Today 19 busses holding 900 #Syrian refugees crossed from #Turkey to Syrian Turkish-held town of #TalAbyad. The new arrivals are from Homs, Idlib and Aleppo, thus increasing #demographic change in northern Syria amid #coronavirus crisis. #TwitterKurds #CoronavirusPandemic pic.twitter.com/fkjN1kHCon— Hisham Arafat (@HishamArafatt) April 8, 2020
Activists also said the new arrivals were transported at the expense of Turkish authorities who granted them houses whose owners already left after the Turkish invasion in October 2019.
Since the Turkish cross-border invasion on Serekaniye began in October, scores of violations against local civilians have been consistently and credibly reported by residents and observers. Moreover, many who have attempted to return to their towns under Turkish control faced brutality, arrest, and torture, especially members of the Kurdish population.
Turkey launched its so-called “Peace Spring” operation on Oct. 9, causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands and the death of at least dozens of civilians.
The campaign was put on hold after the United States and Russia struck separate deals with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to allow the withdrawal of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from a planned buffer zone Ankara refers to as a “safe zone.”
Erdogan said in December that Ankara aims to resettle up to one million Syrian refugees as a first batch in the buffer zone under its control, many of them from other parts of the country.
Local Kurdish populations and multiple international observers see this as an intentional effort by Turkey to ethnically cleanse Kurds from areas along its borders. The United Nations has said there are strong indications that Turkish and Turkish-backed forces have already enacted such a campaign of forced demographic change in the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany