Turkish troops fighting to conquer the Kurdish-held region of Afrin in Syria are committing “war crimes” against Yazidis and Christians that mirror the “ethnic cleansing and genocide” in the region at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), declared a top United Nations envoy in a letter published this week.
Echoing Kurdish Christian leaders in Afrin and some analysts, U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights advocate who survived the ISIS genocide in the Middle East, noted in a March 12 statement:
I received information that the area of Afrin inhabited by Kurds, Yazidis and Christians is under siege from all sides. There is only one road through which people can leave the city. 200 civilians have been killed, including 3 Yazidi children. Shrines and religious sites have been destroyed or forcibly converted into mosques. People’s homes are being looted, and minorities are being shamed by extremist militias.
She went on to say that Turkey’s actions against Christians and Yazidis amount to “war crimes.”
“This horror is reminiscent of the initial actions of ISIS in Iraq. Medical and healthcare services are urgently needed. This situation foreshadows ‘ethnic cleansing’ and genocide,” stressed Murad.
We are concerned about the current humanitarian situation in the city of Afrin & other areas in Syria.I call on the @UN, @Europarl_EN , @StateDept & Arabic nations to call on a cease fire in Afrin and other areas in Syria. pic.twitter.com/acXkjs64O8
— Nadia Murad (@NadiaMuradBasee) March 12, 2018
The Turkish military claims it has “neutralized” 3,530 so-called terrorists and “assumed control of at least three-fourths of the city from the U.S.-allied People’s Protection Units (YPG) since it began Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on January 20, reports Daily Sabah.
Christians are among the people killed by Turkey in Afrin, according to local pastors and some analysts.
Consistent with a desperate plea for global assistance made by Pastor Hakim Ismael from the Kurdish Church Network International early this year, Murad urged U.N. member states like the United States and the European Union to “demand” that Turkey stop attacking Afrin.
In open letter dated January 20, the day that Turkey began its Afrin operations, Pastor Ismael implored the international community, “Please help us,” noting:
As the Leaders of the Christian churches in North Syria, in the town of [Afrin] we hereby confirm that we are under attack by Turkey.
The lives of our women and children are in danger. The city of Afrin is being bombarded by Turkish airstrikes. We are asking for intervention, and protection against the violent attacks which are being levied against us at this moment.
Many lives are in mortal danger. We are requesting aid and assistance. We are unable to protect ourselves or our families against these attacks, neither are we able to offer assistance or shelter to the innocents.
In early February, Lela Gilbert, an expert on religious freedom at the Hudson Institute, cautioned that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had declared “jihad” on ethnoreligious minorities in Afrin, mirroring actions taking by ISIS in the region.
Echoing the U.S. Departement of State, Dr. Y. Alp Aslandogan, the executive director of the non-profit Alliance for Shared Values, told Breitbart News that Erdogan’s authoritarian government has deemed members of religious minorities, such as Christians and Jews, “enemies of the state” in Turkey.
The U.N. and the American government have officially determined that ISIS committed “genocide” against Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minority groups in Iraq and Syria.
Gilbert noted that now Turkey is slaughtering Christians and other religious minorities in neighboring Syria.
Via Twitter, local Kurdish Pastor Valentine Hanan has pleaded for international assistance and protection for Christians in Afrin.
“We demand urgent Int’l protection for the believers in #Afrin and the cease of this Turkish shelling.
We are also against the heavy Turkish shelling and the return of Islamic groups to the region,”- #Christian Pastor Valentine Hanan (4/5) #StopYazidiGenocide #YazidiGenocide
— ZATA (@BOMBNER) January 27, 2018
— Peshmerga #KIRKUK (@KURDISTAN_ARMY) January 22, 2018
Pastor Hanan reportedly wrote on Twitter, “As the Good Shepherd Church in Afrin city, we demand urgent international protection for the believers in Afrin and the cease of this Turkish shelling. We are also against the heavy Turkish shelling and the return of Islamic groups to the region.”
Various news outlets, like the Independent in the U.K., have described that Turkish military effort in Afrin as ethnic cleansing targeting the Kurds and their allies.
In March, the Independent reported:
Syrian Arab militiamen leading the Turkish attack on Afrin in northern Syria are threatening to massacre its Kurdish population unless they convert to the variant of Islam espoused by Isis and al-Qaeda. In the past such demands have preceded the mass killings of sectarian and ethnic minorities in both Syria and Iraq.
Ankara-allied Syrian Arab opposition groups like the Free Syrian Army, which has received U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance, are lending support to the Turkish operation, dubbed “Olive Branch.”
Although the Kurdish YPG forces taking on Turkey in the Afrin helped the United States deal a defeating blow to ISIS in the Middle East, the American military has stressed it has no intention of helping its ongoing partners.
U.S. NATO ally Turkey has long described the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which both Ankara and Washington have deemed a terrorist group.
Despite Turkey’s concern, the United States continued to lend support to the Kurdish troops, except for those fighting in Afrin.
The U.S. continues to praise the YPG as significant allies in the war against ISIS.