Turkish-backed Syrian militia remove Kurdish people, culture in north Syria: Eyewitness

"Can you imagine that your home is about 35 km from you and you cannot return because strangers and invaders are living in it?"
author_image Hisham Arafat

QAMISHLI (Kurdistan 24) – A Syrian Kurdish civilian who returned to his hometown under Turkish control in northern Syria said on Saturday that Turkish-backed militias work to remove the Kurdish people and culture from areas under their control.

Zeki Haj, a 54-year-old Syrian Kurdish advocate from the Syrian Kurdish town of Ras Al-Ain, also known as Serekaniye in Kurdish, returned to the town a few weeks ago after Turkish-backed Syrian radical groups controlled it in November.

He used to have a small bookshop in the town and, after being forcibly displaced in November, he returned to check on his house and shop.

“When I arrived in the outskirts of the town, the Turkish-backed groups at the checkpoint immediately asked, ‘Are you Kurd or Arab?’”

He said the militias affiliated to the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition looted the shop and the Kurdish books.

“Kurdish books were taken while other books were left there, and pictures and posters of children in Kurdish clothes were removed from the walls of the book shop,” he said. “Paintings of Newroz and Kurdish clothes were removed as well.”

He confirmed that the Turkish-backed radical groups intimidate any Kurd who wants to return home and remove anything related to the Kurdish culture.

“They tore the pictures and trampled them with their feet,” he said, referring to what the Turkish-backed groups did to his shop.

Zeki also said the identity of the town was totally changed.

He said Kurds from the town are no longer there and anything related to the Kurdish culture is also destroyed.

Thus, he left his hometown empty-handed for the second time and resorted to Qamishli city, which is under the joint control of the Syrian government and the Kurdish administration.

Zeki currently lives in a rented house and runs a small stationery in the city.

He expressed his pain regarding displacement, noting it is difficult to leave your home by armed force, so others can come and live in your house.

“Can you imagine that your home is about 35 km from you and you cannot return because strangers and invaders are living in it?

“To force people to leave their homes and let them watch from the outskirts as strangers occupy them—to let people just watch how their houses and shops are looted before their eyes, this cannot even be imagined in our present time.”

Despite the atrocities by the Turkish-backed militias, like looting, abduction, torture, and intimidation, Zeki hopes to return to his home one day.

Turkey launched its so-called “Peace Spring” Operation on Oct. 9, 2019, causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands and deaths of dozens of civilians.  

Local Kurdish populations and multiple international observers see this as an intentional effort by Turkey to ethnically cleanse Kurds from areas along its southern 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

(Additional reporting by Lava Asaad)