Demographic change by the Turkish state in North-East Syria

First of all, we offer a definition of “demographic change”. It is the transformation from one form of social organization to another, and therefore it sits within the social sciences, which deals with the issues, problems and changes of human society. It concerns population and growth factors, and their qualitative and quantitative balance. Report PDF

Demographic change includes changes in the economic, social and political components of modern societies. It also includes the measurement of certain characteristics of the population, such as the size of the population and its distribution by type of work, industry and area, as well as by political, religious or national affiliation.

Historically in Syria, particularly from 1965 to 1976, Sunni Arab groups were settled in the northern region as part of the policy of the Syrian Baath Party government. This region, a 275 kilometre by 15 kilometre area, stretched along the Syrian-Turkish border.

In the 1970s, Kurdish villages in northern Syria were subjected to forcible demographic change as well; their agricultural lands were appropriated by the Syrian regime to give them to the Sunni Arabs. This policy aimed to remove the Kurds from the Turkish-Syrian border and form an Arab “human belt” there. The Syrian state established collective farms for the Arabs in Northern Syria and the occupiers of these farms, similarly to some Jewish colonies, were trained and armed by the militarily.

The Turkish regime, headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began to carry out its plans once the crisis in Syria had broken out by embracing terrorist organizations (Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the so-called Free Army). Under the orders of Erdogan, it provided these organizations with shelter, money, and military training, and provided them with passports to cross the Syrian border and fight the Syrian people in the most heinous ways prohibited internationally. The scheme began as drawn by Erdogan in the areas of al-Bab, Jarablus, and Izaz. Throughout this period, this led to:

– The occupation of part of North-West Syria.- The murder of many civilians, including children, women and older people, in extreme and inhumane ways, and the use of sexual violence against the population.- The theft and looting of private property.- The provision of Turkish identities to the armed terrorist factions mentioned above- The settling of the families of the pro-Turkish terrorists in North-West Syria.

Recently, on 19th January 2018, Erdogan continued his policy of occupation by seizing more land, and invading Afrin in the far North-West of Syria. Again, Afrin was subjected to the oppression of terrorism, and its hostile attack against the Syrian population (Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Christians). The Erdogan regime, with jihadist factions within its ranks, occupied the city after a fierce confrontation with the People’s Defence Units (YPG and YPJ) for more than two months. The same processes of ethnic cleansing that had been trialled across the region were used in Afrin. The kidnappings, for example, forced some abductees to pay a ransom and then leave Afrin and go to the city of Manbej or East of the Euphrates, as they were displaced from Ghouta, Homs and Daraa in Afrin region, under the Turkish state’s plan to permanently resettle them. This led to the change in the ethnic demographics of Afrin, with Arabs and Turkmens settled in, as the Kurdish population was displaced.

The North-East of the Euphrates has then been targeted by Erdogan, who aims to subjugate and kill the Syrian people, especially the Kurds, in order to create demographic change, through ethnic cleansing of Kurds in areas close to the border. These regions were administered by the Democratic Self-Administration and had to fend off or be liberated from Daesh. The Democratic Self-Administration embraces all Syrian people equality to create peace, security and coexistence in Syria.

On October 9th 2019, the Turkish regime and the terrorist factions loyal to them began to invade all areas east of the Euphrates, starting from the city of Malikiyah (Derik) along the border to just west of Kobani. The Turkish army bombed the houses and villages of unarmed civilians with heavy aircraft and artillery, while at the same time their terrorist jihadist factions crossed using the roads in civilian cars from Hasaka to Kobani city. The head of the Future Party “Hevrin Khalaf” was brutally executed on the third day of the invasion (12th October 2019). This video shows execution of “Hefren” by terrorist armed factions: https://youtu.be/lUGviS5WxuQ

It is important to mention that under the Democratic Self-Administration these regions in northern Syria had succeeded in enabling the co-existence of different ethnic groups. Through political leadership and grass-roots democracy had overcome the tensions between ethnic groups on the ground. With a short period of time, they formulated a social contract based on the philosophy of coexistence, starting from the smallest unit of society (the family) to the largest one which is the administrative and political system.

Some people wonder how this societal project succeeded, and how the Kurds, Arabs, Syrians and other social components were able to prevent attempts to clash in light of the ongoing conflict. During the past years, there was little stability and security in many areas in North-East Syria because of the terrorist attacks, but its people, with support of all sectors of society, have been able to liberate themselves and restore life with a spirit of coexistence and brotherhood among all its inhabitants, and to establish an administrative system (the Democratic Self-Administration) deriving from the heart of this inclusive culture of the North-East of Syria.

Erdogan’s plan to build 200,000 homes and resettle refugees in North-East Syria
Default Model of “Safe Zone”, Source (Syria Noor)The Turkish newspaper (Daily Sabah) revealed Erdogan’s plans to change the demographic of the region, saying that two million Syrians will be resettled in 200,000 homes to be built in the so-called “Safe Zone” in North-East Syria, at a cost of up to 27 billion euros. According to the source, through the Turkish occupation they plan to change the demographic of the region through:

– The construction of 140 villages with a population of up to 5,000 people each.- The establishment of 10 towns with a population of 30,000 each.- Each village will have 1000 houses, two mosques, two schools, a youth centre and a gym. The houses will be 100 square metres each.

This is the latest trick designed to encourage refugees who are not from this region to believe that the Turkish government will provide them with better housing than most Turks. Erdogan started this occupation with the intent of demographic change, just as it was done in Afrin and historically in Turkey. In calling it a “safe zone,” Turkey frames the process as due to security concerns that give it the right to cut off part of Syria, just as Hitler, the German Nazi leader, did; to seize as far as possible the territories of other countries to impose his hegemony over the region.

The president of the AKP and ruler of Turkey, with the authority he has been exercising for years as an occupier talks about a “Safe Zone”. The refugee housing program, according to his statements, is the largest demographic change of its kind in history. This plan primarily entails Turkey cutting itself a piece of land from Syria, as it has done previously and publicly; it continues in its expansionist policy.

Most of the refugees currently residing in Turkey are from areas such as Aleppo, Jarablus, Idlib. Turkey does not want them to return to areas close to their former villages and towns, but rather to resettle them in North-East Syria, to continue the policy of Turkmenisation against the Syrian part of the population.

This Turkish project, described as “settlements”, shows that Turkey may seek to imitate Israel’s policies in al-Golan and Difa al-Garbia, only expanding it with greater ambition and speed. The Turkish state, like the Israeli state, believes that part of Syria should be seized in order to create a “Safe Zone”, just as Israel views the Golan Heights, but unlike Israel, it hopes to move between one and two million people to the area swiftly and without any international ramifications, and in fact while receiving international support for the policy.The US rapprochement, which coordinated with Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces to conduct joint patrols between the US and Turkish armies, and the fact that Turkey envisions a safe zone housing one million residents in the region, will force the United States and its partners on the ground to evacuate and make room for the new Turkish regime.

Demographic change with the families of Daesh and other terrorist factions returned to the region

The Turkish state, through the its invasion of North-East Syria, which started on 9th October 2019, supported by terrorist factions such as Daesh, has made it clear its intention to create demographic change in the areas liberated by the Syrian Democratic Forces “QSD” from the extremist organization Daesh.

Turkish army planes and artillery launched a large-scale attack on the SDF’s control areas in North-East Syria, where there are thousands of Daesh leaders and members in prisons, in addition to the tens of thousands of their families in camps in these areas.The Turkish state is specifically targeting Ras al-Ein city (Sri Kaneyh), Tal Abyad (Kre Spey), Qamishlo and Kobani, as well as the villages on the entire border strip in North-East Syria, which is more than 450 kilometers in length.

These areas, which were liberated from Daesh are specifically being targeted under orders from the president of Turkish state, Erdogan. These are the areas that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by the YPG and YPJ, in cooperation with the International Coalition including the USA, made great sacrifices and eleven thousand lives were lost in the fight against Daesh. With Turkey’s invasion these areas have now gone from being under Daesh terrorism to being under Turkish state’s aggression supported by jihadist factions deployed by Turkey.

After everything the SDF has had to endure in eliminating the terrorist organization Daesh it is now facing NATO’s second largest army (the Turkish army) and resisting the bombs and attacks from latest military weaponry and aircrafts used by Turkey. Under such a situation the re-emergence of Daesh is inevitable and with those Daesh prisoners that have escaped from the prison during the attacks by the Turkish state this is already happening.

Some Daesh members have taken advantage of Turkey’s military invasion to carry out terrorist operations, as in the following video, at the moment of the Turkish bombing of Jerkin prison in Qamishlo city, in “Himo” village, on 11th October 2019: https://www.facebook.com/594011770651150/posts/2667980593254247/

Also, in Ein Issa, where some of Daesh families fled the camp, after they set fire to the camp, as shown by the following video:https://www.facebook.com/alyaumch/videos/2435726643364147/

Furthermore, the video below, prepared by Al Arabiya, shows the ideas and plans of the members of Daesh: https://www.facebook.com/588565647885123/posts/3140446792696983/

Mustafa Bali, a spokesman of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), warned earlier: “There is more work to be done for preventing Daesh from returning, and to maintain the achievements in the fight against them.”The Turkish President, Erdogan, in front of the eyes of the world, defends his invasion and occupation policy without any attention to the sanctions or statements from the US or European countries.

The director of the Syrian Observatory, Sami Abdul Rahman, said that 69 civilian were martyred in Turkish artillery and field executions carried out by Turkish forces and the jihadist mercenaries used by them. There are 120 wounded civilians. The humanitarian situation of IDPs is extremely critical with no help from the rest of the world. The number of displaced people increased to more than 250 thousand. The US forces have not only abandoned the Syrian Democratic Forces, but also the civilians who were being protected by the SDF. The situation of the IDPs is very bad, and many of them can’t even find milk for the babies.

People of Ras al-Ein city displaced as a result of shelling on their city, north-east of Al-Hasakah, 10th October 2019

In the framework of its systematic invasion to change the demographics of the region the Turkish army directly targeted a convoy of civilians on Sunday, 13th October 2019, whom had gone to Ras al-Ein city (Sari Kaneyh), to express their rejection of the invasion. Tens of civilians were killed and wounded in this attack – the video below were taken after the convoy was targeted:https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=33&v=Yq98TUFFJNMhttps://business.facebook.com/syriahro/videos/886313548436637/

The convoy was accompanied by journalists from wider media organisations, protected by members of the internal security forces “Asayish”, they were targeted specifically. This shows clearly the mind-set of Edogan’s regime and adds to the evidences showing Erdogan’s intent to exterminate the Kurdish people at all costs.
People of Sari Kaneyh (Ras al-Ein) have been displaced from their homes
The Syrian Democratic Forces have warned that the war with Turkey would force it to redistribute the fighters on the front lines to defend their land and honor. The SDF is made to divert its attention from the battle against Daesh and its ability to prevent the escape of 11,000 Daesh members in prison is severely compromised.

Picture of the terrorist members of the “Mu’tasim Brigade”
The demographic change being carried by the Turkish state is evidenced by the crimes and acts of violations carried out by the jihadi mercenaries Turkey has deployed in the invasion it has dubbed as “spring of peace” operation.

The Al-Mu’tasim Brigade it has deployed in this invasion has committed crimes in Sari Kaneyh city (Ras al-Ein). The members of this terrorist group have seized and occupied the homes of the people of the region. They have written statements such as “reserved” on the walls and the doors of houses to declare to the rest of the factions that they were taken so as to avoid conflict with the likes of the “Shamia Front”, which raided and looted the stranded houses in Gre Spi (Tal Abyad). These are houses that belong to the Armenian and Christian families, and had written on their walls “reserved for the Shamia Front”. The homes in Gre Spi (Tal Abyad) had text written on them saying “reserved for Abu Anty”, and in the Armenian neighborhood “for Alexan”, “for Pankin” and others. The Syrian Observatory obtained and published (on 2nd of November 2019) an audio recording by these jihadi mercenaries deployed by the Turkish state, saying “We were called before Free Syria Army (FSA), and now we are called Syrian National Army (SNA), but infact, we don’t deserve these names, because we don’t know the meaning and the value of these names. Moreover, for the battles, the minister of defence should have talked to our (Turkish) ally, to clarify some points; to not interfere in details of our battles, as well as, the prisoners in the battles should be our prisoners. To be honest, in this case, we are like mercenaries, we just fight with no right to talk, and the most wose thing is to stole your family in the name of (spoils)”. as shown in this video: https://youtu.be/NCDzsdxs_Kc

Conclusion

Forced displacement is defined under international law as the unlawful eviction of a group of individuals or residents from a given territory, and constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity. As a method of ethnic cleansing it constitutes genocide. The Turkish occupation army, in cooperation with terrorist factions loyal to it, is thus guilty of all such crimes.

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, deportation or forced displacement of the population, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, constitutes a crime against humanity. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 prohibits the forced or mass transfer of persons, or their exile from their areas of residence to other lands, unless this is in their interest and in order to avoid risk of armed conflict.

The Turkish occupation army is collaborating with terrorist factions loyal to it in withdrawing from the security mechanism established under the US-brokered agreement, which was implemented by the Syrian Democratic Forces between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ein.Since the announcement of combat operations in North-Eastern Syria, the Turkish state has attacked and invaded the region with the aim of displacing indigenous populations from the region and allowing mercenaries drawn from various other Syrian provinces to settle on that land. The Turkish State has thus sought to alter the demographics of areas under military occupation and limiting the right of refugees to return to lands from which they were displaced, a longstanding (Ottoman) project aligned with the Milli Charter. This is in addition to ongoing practices of extortion in relation to the Syrian tragedy.

Taking advantage of international emergency conditions and the failure of the international community to intervene, Turkish occupation forces have launched attacks on several safe villages, shelled border cities using artillery and warplanes, and mobilized sleeper-cells planted since the Daesh uprising in the region. Indiscriminate Turkish shelling of densely populated neighborhoods and villages has resulted in significant destruction, including the killing of dozens of civilians, the wounding of hundreds more, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of citizens.A firm stand must be taken against all such operations of the Turkish regime, which aim to impose demographic changes on the region, with particular attention focused on operations affecting areas such as Afrin-Bab-Jarablus and Izaz, and areas of North-East Syria such as Tal Abyad and Ras Al-Ein. The international community and international organizations must take serious action against the Turkish State’s invasion and occupation of Syrian territory, which as noted has altered the demographics of the region via the violent dispossession and displacement of the Syrian people, a process that is ongoing in cities like Afrin.

Having occupied the areas between the cities of Sari Kaneyh (Ras al-Ein) to Cri Spey (Tal Abyad) in North-East Syria, and after forcibly displacing more than 300,000 civilians from their cities, towns and villages, destroying houses, hospitals and vital infrastructure, the Turkish state is now attempting, in coordination with the United Nations, to move populations from other areas to settle there. The aim of this is to change the demographic character and identity of the region under the false pretext of returning refugees, as alleged by the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The silence and inaction of the United Nations in relation to these crimes and violations only encourages the Turkish State to continue its war of aggression, ethnic cleansing and related racist projects, which will serve neither the future stability and reconstruction of Syria nor the UN’s stated objective of achieving peace and security. We remain hopeful that multilateral institutions such as the UN will fulfil their function and unequivocally condemn this criminal aggression on the part of the Turkish state, and pressure Turkey to withdraw from all territories it has placed under military occupation and cease engaging in all other human rights abuses which are morally indefensible, in contravention of all international charters and covenants, and therefore illegal under international law.

The References:Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Al-Rasif Site 22., France24, ANF News, Al-Arabia, Sky News Arabic, Deutsche Welle 2019 (DW)