Satellite images reveal extensive illegal logging in Afrin: report
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Illegal logging has been uncovered in 114 forest patches in Syria's Kurdish-majority region of Afrin, according to a report published today by the Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) and Lêlûn Association for Victims in Afrin.
New Report - Illegal logging in the region has been ongoing systemically since 2018, practiced by several of the opposition’s SNA factions for funding.#Syria #Afrin #Turkey #deforestationhttps://t.co/l8EcbDRENG— SyriansTruth&Justice (@STJ_SYRIA_ENG) April 12, 2023
While some have suspected that Turkish-backed armed groups have engaged in illegal logging in Afrin, proof or evidence regarding the claims have not been available.
In early 2018, Turkey and its Syrian militia proxies invaded Afrin as part of Operation Olive Branch, resulting in the displacement of thousands of Kurdish civilians.
Since then, Turkey and their affiliates have occupied the region, engaged in looting and plundering, and terrorized and extorted the local population. International human rights organizations have documented extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, and rape in Afrin.
STJ investigated the extent of tree-cover loss and found that 57 locations showed high degradation, where perpetrators cleared the forests almost entirely.
In 42 locations, there was moderate degradation, and 15 locations showed low degradation. Although there are no official statistics on the number of trees cut since 2018, STJ estimates that the loss is in the tens of thousands, while local sources insist that the number is much higher.
STJ has been monitoring forest logging in the Afrin region since 2019, using field researchers to record large-scale woodcutting, to compile evidence from various open sources, to analyze the information, and to match the findings with satellite images.
Bassam al-Ahmad, the executive director of Syrians for Truth and Justice, stated in an interview to Kurdistan 24 that while there has been significant attention given to human rights violations such as killings, torture, and displacement, little attention has been given to the issue of deforestation and illegal logging.
“Syrians for Truth and Justice conducted research to document the extent of armed groups’ involvement in deforestation, which they used as a means of financial support,” he said.
“This practice reflects a disregard for the devastating impact on the indigenous people and environment of Afrin, amounting to an act of ecocide,” he concluded.