Kurdish Red Crescent says civilians in Afrin under threat of massacre

Stating that 232 civilians, including 35 children and 29 women, have been killed and at least 668 civilians, among them some 90 children and 100 women, have been wounded since the start of a Turkish military campaign in Afrin, northwest Syria, on January 20, Nuri Sheikh Qenber, co-chair of the Kurdish Red Crescent (Heyva Sor), has claimed that the Turkish government is trying to force the residents of Afrin to leave the city by spread threats of massacre.

Speaking to the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF) Qenber said: “The civilians are deliberately targeted in order for them to leave the city. They try to scare the people with these attacks. Their ultimate goal is to settle gangs in the emptied villages. The residents of the villages which are invaded by the Turkish army had to take refuge in Afrin city centre. The recent increase in the number of people living in Afrin city has created a lot of problems. We are facing a lot of problems due to a lack of shelter and humanitarian needs.”

According to Qenber providing drinking water has become a problem for the city as the Turkish army captured the only facility dispensing potable water in rural Afrin. Now hundreds of thousands of people rely on water from wells.

Qenber also said: “Aid has been cut off for a week since the aid convoys were targeted on the Aleppo road. There is a lack of medicine, food and most importantly a lack of fuel. For the past six years the demand for electric power was met through fuel generators. When there is no fuel there will be no electricity. Then the hospitals and bakeries won’t be able to operate.”

Highlighting the issue of plundering by  Free Syrian Army (FSA) militias Qenber stated that “these gangs massacre people in every village they capture. They torture captives and loot people’s belongings. If the world continues to remain silent and these gangs enter Afrin, hundreds of thousands could be massacred.”

Pointing out the seriousness of the threat in Afrin, Qenber urged the United Nations, international organizations, UNICEF and Doctors without Borders to stop the massacres in Afrin. “They need to act now so that one day they won’t regret what happened,” Qenber said.

Meanwhile, ANF has also reported that hundreds of thousands of local people in the districts and villages of Afrin were forced to leave their homes and take shelter in Afrin city centre because of  bombardment by the Turkish military and FSA attacks. The displaced locals are hosted by the residents of Afrin in their homes, and they are determined not to leave the city despite the reported threats of massacre.

However, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) has claimed that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (YPG/PKK) are forcibly preventing Syrian civilians from leaving Afrin​. According to an AA report, a Turkish army drone captured video footage of YPG/PKK militants stopping residents of Syria’s Afrin from leaving the district.

Other Turkish pro-government media outlets have also propagated the same claims, according to which the defensive lines and concentration of the YPG are mostly located in Afrin town center. In order to secure its position, the YPG has used human shields, forcing people to move toward the town center. In addition, it has stopped Kurds and Arabs who want to go to areas under the control of the opposition or the regime.

“Civilians have been attempting to flee Afrin, some to the region previously captured by the Turkish military during Operation Euphrates Shield and others to Manbij. However, the YPG is preventing civilians from continuing on at checkpoints, with violence often erupting between the terrorists and civilians,” according to a report by Turkish government mouthpiece Daily Sabah.

The report also claimed that with an increasing number of civilians attempting to flee Afrin, the YPG has called in reinforcements to block the means of exit.

KURDS IN GERMANY CALL FOR VIOLENT PROTEST IN EUROPE

On Sunday tens of thousands of Kurds organized demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience in several cities in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, Belgium, Norway and Denmark to protest the Turkish military campaign on Afrin.

Services at London’s King’s Cross and Manchester Piccadilly stations were halted by the demonstrations. The protesters were waving Kurdish flags and disrupted traffic for several hours.

After the closure of the Manchester Piccadilly train station, British Transport Police Superintendent Mark Cleland said authorities appreciate and respect the right to peaceful protest. “But those involved in this afternoon’s incident will be subject to intense investigation, with a view to arrest and prosecute,” Cleland said.

A few hours later, the London’s King’s Cross protest erupted, forcing the train station to put its services on hold. The station was shut down temporarily as police stopped protesters from accessing the tracks, British Transport police said. The protestors later left the station and blocked Euston Road briefly before moving towards Russell Square.

Moreover, a leftist Kurdish youth group in Germany has vowed to turn the streets of Europe into “rubble and ash” following a weekend of clashes with police and other demonstrators as well as attacks on Turkish mosques.

Turkish-led forces have nearly surrounded the enclave controlled by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and have vowed to conduct a siege of Afrin town. Kurds have warned of an impending “massacre” and “ethnic cleansing.” The conflict has increasingly spilled over into Germany, home to large Kurdish and Turkish minorities.

According to a report by Deutsche Welle (DW), Roja Ciwan, a German-Kurdish youth group, showed videos of some of the attacks on its website. In a Monday posting, it said European states that stand by or support the Turkish military operation will pay a price. “The European states must understand that we will not stand by and watch as our people are massacred in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). The previous actions are not enough; here and today it is time to carry the war back to Europe.”

The targets include Turkish embassies and Turkish groups with links to the government in Ankara as well as stores and cafes, Roja Ciwan said. The group also threatened the offices of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, the Social Democrats, courts and police.

“Whoever supports or defends the war against our people must pay. When nobody listens we will turn the downtowns of Europe into rubble and ash. Regardless of how or what burns on this day, Europe must understand that we will not allow Afrin to fall,” the youth group said.

The report said a similar call went out from the Apoist Youth Initiative, a pan-European anti-fascist group that follows imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is known to his supporters as “Apo.” The call to action comes as Kurds prepare to celebrate the Newroz new year on March 21, a holiday that carries heavy political undertones for Kurds around the themes of resistance and oppression.

Kurdish groups in Germany are organized under a plethora of acronyms, with most groups falling under the umbrella organization NAV-DEM. The movement gets support from Kurdish nationalists and politicians from the left. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency considers NAV-DEM to be closely linked to the PKK, which it calls “the biggest and most powerful foreign extremist organization in Germany.”

Germany is home to 3 million people of Turkish origin. About a third are ethnic Kurds who came to work here in the 1960s and ’70s, followed by another wave in the 1980s and ’90s, fleeing conflict and persecution.

The Turkish General Staff said in a statement on Monday morning that a total of 3,347 militants have been “neutralized” since the start of Operation Olive Branch in Afrin. Turkish authorities often use the word “neutralized” in their statements to imply the militants in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

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