With the world distracted by coronavirus, Turkey pursues demographic change in northern Syria

TEL ABYAD, Syria – The Turkish occupation of North Syria continues to take advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and has intensified its plans to change the demographics of northern Syrian border with Turkey by transferring the families of its armed proxies to the homes of displaced local residents in Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ayn) and Tel Abyad.

According to the Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC-SY), three local sources have confirmed that on Wednesday morning, families of Syrian National Army (SNA) fighters were relocated into the homes of displaced people from Tel Abyad and Rish Ayno.

The SNA is a collection of militias, including several espousing Islamist ideologies, formed and funded by Turkey.

Turkey and the SNA invaded North Syria in October 2019 amidst the announcement of a U.S. withdrawal from Syria. An estimate 300,000 civilians were displaced during the fighting. Many of those displaced have not returned to their homes. Those who have returned have been subjected to harassment, abduction, and worse by the SNA.

On 9 December 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his country had begun work on housing one million Syrians from other parts of the country in cities of Tel Abyad and Rish Ayno and the surrounding countryside.

The VDC-SY sources added that Turkish forces carry out the transferring of citizens who wish to move to Tel Abyad. After registering those who wish to move, cars and other vehicles are escorted by Turkish forces from Jarabulus to the Turkish border and from there travel onto Tel Abyad with their possessions via Turkish territory.

Many of the relocated SNA families have been transported with Russian assistance from “reconciliation” areas such as Gouta.