Turkey-linked jihadists from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and al-Qaeda are taking advantage of the Ankara offensive in the besieged Afrin region in northwestern Syria to slaughter Christians and Yazidis, caution several activists.
The warnings come as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced over the weekend that his allied forces conquered the center of the Kurdish-held city of Afrin.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s State Department has expressed “a serious and growing concern” over the situation in the Syrian city, but maintains, “We remain committed to our NATO ally Turkey, to include their legitimate security concerns.”
Khalid Haider, a U.S.-based Yazidi (or Yezidi) activist with ground sources in Syria, told Breitbart News the Turkish military is working alongside ISIS in Afrin, noting:
Time and time again the indigenous people of Syria are suffering, but this time is at the hands of members of the Turkish military who have been incubating ISIS terrorists. ISIS militants and their leaders are embedded with the Turkish military, and they are annihilating religious minorities. The world needs to wake up and stop this from happening.
Haider went on to say that Turkey-linked ISIS jihadists are killing Christians and Yazidis for not knowing how to behave like proper Muslims, telling Breitbart News:
Please be advised that any Christian or Yazidi who is captured by those ISIS militants is asked how many times do Muslims bow during prayers and how many times do Muslims pray. And if the Christians and Yazidis don’t have the correct answer, they are killed.
Haider’s comments echo activists who recently told the Catholic News Service (CNS) that Turkey-affiliated members of al-Qaeda and ISIS are targeting Christians and Yazidis.
Citing the activists, CNS notes, “Turkey is using hardline jihadist proxies, including Islamic State and al-Qaida militants, to eliminate the presence of Kurds and other ethnic and religious minorities along its border.”
“The situation is dire. They feel desperate. They are crying out to God every hour,” Charmaine Hedding, the head of the Christian aid organization known as the Shai Fund, told the Catholic News Service (CNS), referring to religious minorities.
“The jihadist militants consider Yezidis ‘infidels,’ while there have been announcements made that if you kill Christians, you will go straight to paradise,” added Hedding, noting that she maintains contact with members of the religious groups via satellite phone.
Lauren Homer, a U.S.-based international human rights lawyer familiar with the situation in Afrin, told CNS that Turkey is engaging in ethnic cleansing and other war crimes in the region.
Farming villages and small towns have already been ‘cleansed’ of their inhabitants. Yezidi villages and Christian churches stand empty. Ancient landmarks, homes, and farmland lie in ruins due to Turkish bombs. Many war crimes have occurred. They’re documented by both residents and by gloating Turkish fighters.
Homer’s comments coincide with what United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights advocate who survived the ISIS genocide in the Middle East, noted in a statement last week, in which she said, “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.”
On January 20, Turkey launched an operation to seize Afrin from the U.S.-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) defending it, which Ankara claims to be an extension of the terrorist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
Although the Trump administration continues to praise the YPG’s contribution to the ongoing fight against ISIS, it has apparently abandoned the Kurds in northern Syria.
“The United States does not operate in the area of northwest Syria, where Afrin is located,” Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, declared on Monday, echoing the American military.
“Observers said so far; the United States military seems to be doing little to protect its Kurdish and Christian allies in northwestern Syria, who are largely credited with eradicating Islamic State from the area as part of the U.S.-led military coalition,” notes CNS.
Haider and other activists have urged the Trump administration to take action to stop the slaughter of religious minorities at the hands of Turkey-allied jihadists.
Citing the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of ground sources to keep tabs on the conflict, the Associated Press (AP) reports that “nearly 200,000 people have fled the Afrin region in recent days amid heavy airstrikes, entering Syrian government-held territory nearby.”
AP learned from a Kurdish official that “more than 800 YPG fighters have been killed in the 58 days of fighting, and estimated that 500 civilians were killed.”
“The Observatory puts the number of casualties at over 280 civilians, adding that more than 1,500 Kurdish fighters have been killed since Jan.20,” adds AP.