Afrin’s Kurdish insurgency continues, leading to frustration among rebels

"Not a single Kurd from the age of 15 to 50 must be allowed to stay in Afrin and its surrounding towns."

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Abo Hussen, the head of the Emergency Department at the 23rd brigade, has called for collective punishment of Kurds after 23rd division commander Ahmad Samir and others were killed in an attack by Kurdish forces last Monday.

“Brothers, villagers, and faction’s leaders, it’s not the first time these cells set up explosions and operate in these areas,” he said in a leaked voice message shared by BBC journalist Riam Dalati on Sept. 4. “They are in Afrin now, without any doubt.”

“Not a single Kurd from the age of 15 to 50 must be allowed to stay in Afrin and its surrounding towns. This is our right,” Hussen added. “Just as our youths and families have been expelled [in Tal Rifaat]. We must expel them even more, and make them homeless.”

“Therefore, we appeal to the factions’ leaders generally to deal with this firmly and do not let anyone of them breathe!”

After this, pro-Turkish factions kidnapped several civilians, including the elderly, in raids in the Kurdish villages of Brijma and Juwaiq on Tuesday, the Afrin Media Center reported. The civilians also had their social media accounts checked on their phones.

In February 2016, Kurdish-backed forces took the town of Tal Rifaat from Islamist rebel groups. Turkey promised Tal Rifaat’s displaced people that it would recapture the area in exchange for participation in the attack on Afrin.

Ankara is expected to demand from Moscow the hand-over of Tal Rifaat in a meeting scheduled for Sept. 7 in Tehran between Russia, Iran and Turkey. The session will discuss the imminent attack of Idlib.

An attack on Idlib could endanger 170,000 of displaced Kurds from Afrin, who are living in Tal Rifaat, and surrounding areas, with limited support.

KCK Executive Council Member Mustafa Karasu warned Russia in an opinion piece not to betray the Kurds in the Shahba region in exchange for Idlib. He added that the Kurds could collaborate with Russia and Syria against rebel fighters in Idlib if they reach a “democratic compromise” with the Kurds.

Although the Kurds lost Afrin to Turkey, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) continues its resistance, targeting rebel forces settled by Ankara in Afrin.

“Afrin’s reputation is not very secure in the past, compared to other areas of Euphrates Shield, I’m not sure if it will lead to the overthrow of the Turkish-backed rebel structure that has taken over the city,” Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a research fellow at the Middle East Forum, told Kurdistan 24.

On Thursday, the YPG said they killed two fighters in Dikmedash village, in the Shera district of Afrin. Among the casualties was one fighter from Tal Rifaat.

“One of the mercenaries was responsible for the economic interests of the Levant Front in occupied Afrin and was selling the olives, houses and belongings that mercenaries had stolen from Afrin’s people,” the YPG said in a statement.

Nicholas A. Heras, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24 that Turkey’s dependence on Syrian rebel groups to manage occupied Afrin “is operating on a hope and a prayer.”

“The Syrian rebels running Afrin are mercenaries with little local legitimacy,” he noted.

According to Heras, the only way Turkey and its Syrian rebel proxies will gain legitimacy in Afrin “is to irreversibly change the population of Afrin by forcibly expelling Kurds.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany