ZALIN, Syria — Not long after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks that his government plans to return 1 million Syrian refugees from Turkey to Turkish-occupied areas in northern Syria, Turkish opposition parties denounced the plan which they called spiteful due to its violation of the international right of asylum and Syrian sovereignty. Now, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has responded, confirming Erdogan’s determination to build 250,000 houses in Al-Bab, Jarabulus, Tel Abyad, and Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ayn) with the assistance of international aid organizations. The project will supposedly give Syrians the right to use these houses for five or ten years.
Erdogan’s plans to settle Syrian from around the country into regions Turkey itself have demographically changed through repressive policies were also condemned in North and East Syria, The Committee of Displaced Persons of Rish Ayno (Serekaniye or Ras al-Ayn) said that the freedom with which the occupying power, Turkey, can pursue to establish settlements is evidence of the international community’s impotence and inability to carry out its legal and humanitarian duties. Turkey will change the historic, demographic, and legal reality of these areas, said the Committee.
A march took place in the city of Zalin (Qamishli) where thousands of people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds denounced the Turkish occupation and its crimes both in Syria and in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Last year, Siham Daoud, Secretary-General of the Future Syria Party, warned about the demographic change in the areas under Turkish occupation. It would not be the first time Turkey had annexed a part of the country, referring to the Turkish takeover of Hatay in 1939. Syria still disputes Turkish claims to the territory.
Ankara, through its colonial policies in Syria, seeks to reshape the region politically, socially, and militarily, said Daoud, with its ultimate goal of becoming the dominant force in the Middle East and the retaking of territories formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire.
In October 2019, Turkey and its proxies in the Syrian National Army (SNA), a coalition of militias, several of them with extremist ideologies, formed and funded by Turkey, invaded the cities of Rish Ayno (Ras al-Ayn) and Tel Abyad in North and East Syria, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Since the invasion, dozens of Turkish military bases have been established in those areas. The bases are guarded by the SNA who are equipped with armored vehicles and heavy weapons. Additionally, a large number of Turkish commandos are reportedly stationed in the region.
Demographic change and the Turkification of the area continue, with residents being forced to learn the Turkish language, the names of public facilities being replaced with Turkish ones and the hoisting of the Turkish flag over them.
Other human rights abuses continue as well. Turkish-backed factions continue to burn agricultural crops, kidnap civilians for ransom, extort business and families for large sums of money, and engage in torture, murder, and sexual assault.