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Afrin after Operation Olive Branch: An update on the situation in north-west Syria

As the UN Human Rights Council prepares to hear the findings of the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and YASA e.V. – Kurdish Centre for Studies & Legal Consultancy have submitted a briefing to the Commission about the human rights situation in Afrin in Turkish-occupied northern Syria.

As the UN Human Rights Council prepares to hear the findings of the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and YASA e.V. – Kurdish Centre for Studies & Legal Consultancy have submitted a briefing to the Commission about the human rights situation in Afrin in Turkish-occupied northern Syria.

Ceasefire and YASA have been monitoring the situation in Afrin since the launch of Operation Olive Branch in January 2018, which culminated in the occupation of the area by Turkish forces and armed factions of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA). In July 2020, Ceasefire and YASA published Cultivating Chaos: Afrin after Operation Olive Branch, a comprehensive report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Turkish-occupied Afrin. The report documented patterns of violations including attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure; forced displacement and demographic change; arbitrary detentions; property looting and theft; and attacks on religious and cultural heritage.

This briefing provides an update on the situation in Afrin, covering the period from July 2020-June 2021 and drawing on an additional 125 cases documented since the publication of the previous report. It finds that patterns of arbitrary detention targeting the Kurdish population are continuing with impunity, driving the ongoing displacement of local residents out of the area. Large-scale property and land seizures, coupled with major new housing and infrastructural projects, are encouraging the resettlement of Syrians from other governorates into Afrin, cementing patterns of demographic change. Meanwhile, the destruction of religious and cultural heritage sites continues to alter the historical character of the region. At the same time, constant infighting between SNA factions creates a precarious security environment for all, with frequent clashes and bombings leading to civilian casualties. Women and girls in this context are rendered vulnerable to sexual harassment, forced marriage, and other forms of gender-based violence at the hands of the factions.

Read the report: Afrin after Operation Olive Branch: An update on the situation in north-west Syria (PDF)

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