CAFRIN, Syria — The Yezidi Union of Syria condemned the visit of the President of the Syrian Coalition, Nasr Hariri, to the village of Basofan and other villages in Cafrin (Afrin), stressing that his visit is provocative and aimed at ensuring the project of demographic change in Turkish occupied territories is successful.
The statement issued by the Union said that, “The first act of sabotage carried out by groups affiliated with the Syrian Coalition when they entered Afrin was the destruction of the archaeological site at the Temple of Ain Dara, which dates back to 1,300 B.C. The destruction of Yezidi temples across Afrin soon followed.”
Yezidi schools were closed and replaced with Islamic schools. Islamic dress was imposed on women and girls, some even forced to convert to Islam. Many Yezidis were forced from their properties, either during the initial fighting or during the occupation.
Last week, a letter of protest was sent to the German Association for Hunger Aid (Welthungerhilfe) by 28 human rights organizations and media agencies decried the organization’s support and funding for a project to renovate dozens of houses seized in Cafrin as encouragement of demographic engineering and calls on Welthungerhilfe to reverse the project.
Welthungerhilfe’s regional office based in Gaziantep, Turkey, recently announced a tender to renovate 400 houses in each of the occupied cities of Azaz and Cafrin, allegedly to house displaced persons from other parts of Syria there.
In October, 42 human rights organizations called on the U.S. impose sanctions on Turkish-backed groups in northern Syria and reformulate the ceasefire agreement signed with Turkey.
The areas under Turkish occupation since the country’s direct involvement in the Syrian conflict in 2016 have witnessed widespread looting and destruction of archaeological and cultural heritage sites. Gravesites and places of worship are desecrated and ravaged in the hunt for artifacts or precious metals.
In April, members of the Turkish-backed and Syrian Coalition affiliated Syrian National Army (SNA) desecrated a Yezidi holy place, the Sheikh Ali shrine, in the village of Basoufan, south of Cafrin. The dome of the shrine was destroyed, and the tomb of Sheikh Ali exhumed in search of gold and artifacts. According to a local Yezidi, the shrine dates back to the first century A.D.
Yezidis are often targeted by extremists for their religious practices. It is often believed that the Yazidis bury their dead adorned with gold, though no such custom exists.
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a 25-page report on Tuesday calling on Turkey to put an end to wide-spread war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by its proxy forces, the Syrian National Army (SNA), in the areas under its occupation.
According to the report, there is significant evidence that the Turkish-backed SNA has committed, and continue to commit torture, murder, displacement, rape, and the looting of property.