UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Tuesday confirmed Turkey is settling Palestinian refugees in Afrin following the Turkish de-facto annexation of Afrin in March, raising fears of demographic changes in Afrin, majoriy Kurdish region.
“On 4 May, a convoy carrying 618 IDPs, the majority of whom are reportedly Palestinian refugees, arrived in the Euphrates Shield areas, and were later transported to an IDP camp near Deir Balut village in Afrin district,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.
“Several hundreds of Palestinian refugees who fled the regime's assault on the Yarmouk Camp to rebel-held southern Damascus have now been forcibly displaced to IDP camps in northern Aleppo and Der Balut, Afrin,” Elizabeth Tsurkov, a Research Fellow focusing on Syria at the Forum for Regional Thinking, a progressive Israeli think-tank, also confirmed on Twitter.
“The living conditions in those camps are horrific. Tens of thousands have been displaced to them from rebel-held towns south and east of Damascus in recent weeks. Some of the displaced Palestinians held a protest against these living conditions,” she wrote last week.
Turkey has been settling displaced Syrians from Damascus in Afrin, which Kurdish officials say is an attempt to change the ethnic demography of Afrin, a majority Kurdish region. Over 140,000 Kurds from Afrin were displaced to areas in northern Aleppo, with many of them living in tents or renting homes, not able to return back to Afrin.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG) said in a statement last Friday, they will target rebel groups that are assisting Turkey in changing the demography of Afrin. Rebel leader Jamal al-Zakhlool was killed by the YPG last week, who was in negotiations with Turkey over the settlement of more Syrians in Afrin and the establishment of Islamic courts and police.
“Recalling the earlier statements we issued regarding the attempts by Turkey and its terrorists to demographically change the region by settling terrorists and their families in the city after the people of Afrin have been displaced, we once again stress that settling of these families in Afrin is illegitimate in terms of fundamental human rights and is a clear violation of international law,” the YPG concluded.
According to a report of the Syrian NGO, Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU), civilians from Eastern Ghouta and Qalmun in Rural Damascus are ‘to be re-displaced to some areas in Afrin District which are considered safer in terms of security in comparison with other areas.’ It said 6,000 IDPs were placed in Afrin from Damascus.
This accounts for 8 percent of the 73,339 forcedly displaced people from Damascus, who were displaced to three governorates up to 23 April.
Moreover, displaced families are now settled in confiscated houses in Afrin. The Syrian website Aleppo24 reported that they have a list with 145 names of displaced families from Ghouta who are sheltered in confiscated houses in Afrin.
One of them is an American Deana Lynn, from Detroit, Michigan, and her family, who were displaced from eastern Ghouta.
“Cloudy with a slight chance of depression. Rented a house in Afrin. Still looking for a place to call home after being displaced from Douma Syria in Eastern Ghouta,” she wrote on Twitter on 26 April, sparking outrage among Kurds.
However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says that there are many displaced people that refused to be settled in Afrin.
“They refused during talks held by the displaced people of the Eastern Ghouta on their settlement in houses in Afrin area, where the Turkish forces provide them houses owned by people displaced from Afrin,” SOHR said in a report on 10 April.
“The displaced people of the Eastern Ghouta expressed their resentment of this decision imposed by the Turkish authorities on the displaced people of Ghouta, through carrying out an organized demographic change by settling the displaced people of the Eastern Ghouta in houses owned by the displaced people of Afrin,” the report added.
“They said that refuse any demographic change carried out by the regime forces and Russian in their areas which they left after violent shelling which left about 1800 civilian martyrs and more than 6 thousand injured,” SOHR concluded.