Kurds have accused Turkey of carrying out cultural wars by attempting to obliterate the Kurdish past, by stealing and destroying antiquities from the historic Kurdish area of Afrin, Syria, in an attempt to blot out the indigenous Kurds’ long history.
Ali Mahmoud, a Kurd who felt an identification with the antiquities and historic remains of Afrin, where he lived and worked as a teacher, he told 7Dnews: "I and other Kurds cannot bear the idea of losing Afrin's antiquities which indicate the Kurdish presence in the region. The Turks want to distort the region's history and continue with their attempts to change its demographic nature. They want to obliterate our history," he said in an interview he gave to 7Dnews.
Mahmoud's fears have been expressed by many Kurds, in view of the continued archaeological excavations carried out by the Turkish army and opposition factions which have been carried out for months in Afrin.
The fear for the loss of antiquities has also prompted the director of the Department of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, to appeal to those concerned with human civilization, as well as to international organizations, to intervene to protect the Syrian cultural heritage, and "put an end to the Turkish forces' practices in archaeological sites in Aleppo's countryside," noting that "there have been reports about the Turkish forces, and the factions supporting them, that they are carrying out archaeological excavations down the hills in search of antiquities that date back thousands of years.”
Culture Wars: Turkish Excavations a ‘crime’
The on-going Turkish excavations are described by Jain Zakaria Al-Hosari, a researcher in the history and antiquities of Afrin, as a "crime," and who considers that the information leaking out recently on the excavations, looting and vandalism of archaeological sites in Afrin, was part of "planned policy adopted by most existing forces now in control of Afrin."
In an interview he gave to 7Dnews, Al-Hosari explained that the process of damaging antiquities has "shifted into a systematic and planned policy aimed at distorting the region's history and blurring its features." He added, "what is happening are not actions by individuals or outlawed groups in search of archaeological finds or treasures as some may claim. Rather, it is a planned and systematic policy aimed at sabotaging the region's archaeological and historical evidence and its ancient civilization.
"The fear is not only from the looting of archaeological evidence, but also from destroying historical and demolishing their sequence of layers, signs and the evidence they involve," he said.
"The area has become a workshop for indiscriminate digging. Every faction or force has turned the area under its control into a site for random digging in search of treasures and antiquities in order to sell them in the markets of neighbouring countries," Al-Hosari added.
In this context, the Human Rights Organisation in Afrin issued a statement confirming that the Turkish army, and its allies, have "shovelled the archaeological sites in Afrin with heavy vehicles," noting that "the Turkish army has looted the archaeological treasures of Afrin, held control of historical sites and converted them into military bases."
"The operations are carried out by large vehicles, heavy equipment and trucks," the organization said.
"The Turkish army aims to systematically eradicate the historical evidence of the Kurdish region, as it has already destroyed and removed the Kurdish and Yezidi shrines and temples. The army moved an antiquity they found in the land of a farmer in the Kurdish village of Sedianka to Turkey's interior," Hosari said.
Hosari went on to explain that "those factions did not show respect to the temples or the religious shrines of different religions, nor did they revere the archaeological sites, hills, castles or caves."
Their aim is clear, which is to "conceal the cultural identity and civilization of the area. This is a "crime not only against the Kurdish population of the region but against human heritage in general. Therefore, it is everyone's responsibility to act to bring an end to such practices, prosecute the perpetrators and return stolen antiquities to Afrin simply because they are an irreplaceable human heritage," said Hosari.
The Human Rights Organization in Afrin has issued a statement confirming that the Turkish army’s destruction of the geological layers, aims to conceal its identity and landmarks that indicate the nature and composition of its indigenous Kurdish population.