On September 21, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the 76th UN General Assembly and bragged about his military actions along the border of war-ravaged Syria.
Thanks to our efforts and to the detriment of our martyrs, we were able to ensure the voluntary return of 462,000 Syrians to the areas where we provided security.
But it is misleading.
Indeed, turkeys military actions underway in Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria displaced thousands of residents and killed hundreds of civilians. Refugees from other regions of Syria are replacing residents of predominantly Kurdish regions. Critics call it demographic engineering.
And Turkey recently accelerated military strikes in areas under Kurdish control border areas, including drone attacks targeting Kurdish-led Women Protection Units, or YPJs.
The Allied Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) were the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) formed in 2015 and supported by the United States to combat the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria. Ankara, however, regards the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a terrorist group and considers its drive for independence to be tantamount to an insurgency.
The United States-YPG alliance defeat the islamic state has always infuriated Turkey, although the United States also viewed the PKK as a terrorist group.
The YPG is the military arm of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), an offshoot of the PKK in Syria. Turkey engaged in talks with the leaders of the PKK and PYD until 2015, when the talks broke down. However, the SDF in Syria denies having any links with the PKK.
Aid groups say Syria is in the middle of the world’s worst refugee crisis, with more than 13 million people displaced and most in need of food, water, shelter and other assistance . About half of those affected are children, aid group says World vision.
The Syrian civil war started in 2011. Since 2016, Turkey carried out airstrikes and cross-border military operations in collaboration with Syrian allied militias. They targeted YPG-controlled areas in northern Syria and allegedly aimed to establish a safe zone clear of ISIS and YPG fighters.
At the UN, Erdogan called America’s relationship with the YPG unacceptable. He claimed that the Turkish presence in Syria prevented PKK terrorists from using the territory to launch attacks.
But Turkey’s border operations have been disruptive and marred by accusations of atrocities.
In 2018, Turkey and the allied Syrian rebels launched an operation in the Syrian enclave of Afrin controlled by the Kurds. At the time, 500,000 people lived in the region, 80 percent of whom were Kurds, as well as around 300,000 refugees of all ethnicities.
The Turkish campaign has moved around 150,000 to 200,000 people of the region. Turkey allowed Syrian refugees other regions move to Afrin. Civilians remaining in Afrin have reportedly been subjected to arrests, torture, loss of property and cultural persecution, according to the report. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor.
In October 2019, Turkey has launched another military operation in northeastern Syria. The UN said around 180,000 civilians were forced to flee the area and the operation exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation for the 3 million people living there.
In 2019, Erdogan told the UN that 2-3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey would be resettled in this area. According to International refugees, an advocacy group from Washington, DC, that violate international law because it would dramatically change the ethnic landscape of northern Syria and could be seen as demographic engineering.
Amnesty International said in 2019 that there was credible evidence that Turkish forces and their Syrian allies had committed war crimes. Turkish military forces and a coalition of Turkish-backed Syrian armed groups have shown a shameful disregard for civilian life, committing serious violations and war crimes, including summary assassinations and unlawful attacks that have killed and wounded civilians during the offensive in northeastern Syria, the group said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also denounced Turkish forces and allied Syrian militias. Contrary to Turkey’s account that their operation will establish a safe zone, the groups they use to administer the territory themselves commit abuses against civilians and discriminate on ethnic grounds, the group said.
In October 2019, the United States imposed sanctions on Turkish officials and institutions. The White House said Turkey’s movements in Syria threatened to undermine the war against the jihadists, endanger civilians and still threaten to undermine peace, security and stability in the region.
In September 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said an increase in killings, kidnappings, illegal transfers of people, land and property seizures and forced evictions had been documented in the northern, northwestern and northeastern regions. of Syria under the control of Turkish forces and armed groups affiliated with Turkey.
Last July, the US Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on several Syrian entities, including Syrian-run prisons and Ahrar al-Sharqiyah, a Turkish-backed Syrian rebel faction operating in northern Syria. Two of the faction leaders were punished for alleged crimes against civilians, especially Syrian Kurds, and for inviting former ISIS members into its ranks.
The Treasury Department accused Ahrar al-Sharqiyah of unlawful killings, kidnappings, torture and seizures of private property.
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