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Fri, 22 Nov 2019 05:38 GMT

Turkey’s Wall around Afrin Hints Ambitions of Annexing the North Syria City


Mazen Radwan

Sat, 18 May 2019 15:03 GMT

Turkey is working to erect a wall around Syria’s northern city of Afrin, a sliver of near-border territory with Turkey that Ankara’s militias overran last year, and part of a larger scheme to build a border wall. Kurds in the area have warned that such a move suggests Turkey is moving towards annexing Afrin.

Kurdish activists in Afrin have reported that Turkish invaders, who took over the city in March 18, 2018, have been actively constructing a cement barrier to separate Afrin from its surroundings since the start of April.

Since last year Afrin has been controlled by Turkey, and its Syrian proxies. The civilian affairs are run by Turkey’s Hatay Governorate. Nearby Russian and Syrian regime forces, according to locals, have stood by idly as the Turkish army has overseen the wall’s construction process.

As for how far the construction has gone, with the wall’s starting point placed in Djalbul village, eight km southeast of Afrin, Kurdish activists said that the structure is in its second stage.

After taking Afrin, Turkish forces were reported to have pillaged relics from each of the neighbouring ancient villages of Marimeen and Kemar, both of which are set to be engulfed by the wall.

This hints that Turkey, as soon as the barrier is completed, is looking to fully isolate Afrin from Syrian territory, and implement the full absorbtion of the city.

Confirming local Kurdish reports on Turkey’s move to build a wall, Syrian National Democratic Alliance coordinator, Ahmad Aaraj, said: “Turks have chopped down trees at the border and levelled the land, before moving forward and starting to erect the divider.”

Aaraj, speaking to a 7Dnews correspondent, considered that on the ground realities in the Afrin region point towards a “systematic invasion to which non-local powers conceded and has resulted in the wall passing through the villages of Djalbul and Marimeen, and reached Kemar, which is nestled in the region’s far south.”

The Syrian information ministry, late last April, had released a statement on Turkish invasion forces building a concrete wall, in the vicinity of the city of Afrin, in the northern countryside of Aleppo, with the intent to isolate the city from its natural geographic environment.

Afrin, according to the statement, is claimed as an integral part of Syrian territory, and any move to separate the region from its homeland is considered a crime against the Syrian people, and a blatant violation of International law, said the ministry.

And the ministry quoted insider sources as saying that there are “plans to build a 70 km wall inside Syrian territory, with oversight towers that are in direct contact with the military command centres of Turkish occupation forces in Idlib, which is close by Afrin.”

Turkish activists reported that the wall is made of cement blocks that are three metres high, and the part that has been completed is more than three kilometres. Troops have launched construction work so far in three villages mainly.

In a move to uproot locals, Turkish bulldozers have attacked civilian houses, and the infrastructure, that included two water reserves and a school. Thousands of trees were also chopped down in order to build the wall.

Damascus, the Syrian capital and regime stronghold, considered the wall a continuation of Afrin’s troubled fought-over status.

It also noted that Turkey’s scheme, especially its objectives and implementation mechanism, mimics the apartheid wall being built by Israeli occupation forces, to keep Palestinians apart and embolden existing and new settlements.

Political analysts stress that the wall is being built under coverage provided by Syrian opposition parties, namely the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), an amalgamation of opposition groups that are active in Syria’s north and headquartered in Istanbul.

“The SNC is defending Turkish interests and has unfortunately become a tool for serving Ankara’s agenda in Syria,” Aaraj told 7Dnews, noting that “SNC and Kurdish National Council in Syria members are warranting the Turkish invasion by giving it coverage.”

Five years ago, the Turkish government announced plans for building a security wall along its border with Syria. Ankara has thus far completed the construction of 564 km.

After wrapping up the part of the structure in Afrin, the wall will reach 711 km. Turkish forces have already driven the city’s locals out from their homes and replaced them with loyalist militias.

Turkish forces, seeking to displace Afrin civilians have committed pillage, exercised brute force, and cut down olive groves, which were essential to the survival of the local economy.

“Apart from Afrin, there are more than 60 Kurdish towns in the countryside of Aleppo, including Jarabulus and border towns Al-Bab and Azaz, that were the victims of Turkish invasion, whereby forces displaced locals and destroyed villages,” Aaraj told 7Dnews, pointing out that one of the largest towns uprooted by Turkish forces had a population of 50,000 civilians, most of who were Kurds.

Listing Turkish hostilities in Syria, Aaraj named human rights violations such as killing, kidnapping and coercion, that were practiced in Afrin, where most of the indigenous people were displaced on the grounds of belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Before Turkish involvement, Aaraj stresses that Afrin was one of the safest areas in Syria’s north. Despite the ongoing war in the country, the city had stuck to a disassociation policy, and had welcomed displaced Syrians from all regions.

Middle East