Syrians for Truth and Justice: Turkey-based Ihsan Relief and Development cuts down hundreds of trees to build illegal village in coordination with armed groups

CAFRIN, Syria — In a recent report, Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) exposed the role of three Syrian and international humanitarian organizations in the unauthorized resettlement of fighters of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) and their families through a project ostensibly to aid internally displaced people (IDPs) in Cafrin (Afrin), Syria.

The Ihsan Relief and Development organization, an offshoot of the Syrian Forum, began the project in the Jindires area, close to the town of Kafr Safra. Hundreds of trees have been chopped down on a nearby slope since 2019, as seen in satellite imagery acquired by STJ. The project was carried out in territory occupied by Turkey during Operation Olive Branch in 2018, which resulted in the displacement of thousands of residents. The Samarkand Brigade of the SNA has complete authority over the settlement.

Additionally, the STJ report discovered that Ihsan made a deal with the group to let them construct the village and carry out their objective without hindrance. In return, the group’s fighters will be allocated 16% of the houses constructed.

The Al-Sham Humanitarian Foundation, under the supervision of Kuwaiti Rahma International Society, assisted in carrying out a portion of the project and enticing IDPs from other Syrian regions to settle in the newly constructed village.

These two groups, Al-Sham Humanitarian Foundation and Ihsan Relief and Development, were instrumental in creating Jabal al-Ahlam (Mountain of Dreams), an example of the forced demographic change that has taken place throughout the Syrian conflict.

Two blocks of homes make up the illegal village, an eastern and a western block. It is one of nine villages and human settlements whose building work started after the Turkish military control of the Cafrin region. The Syrian Justice and Accountability Center (SJAC) also came to the conclusion that Turkey has obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as an occupying power because it effectively controls parts of northern Syria, including by exercising military control, enforcing Turkish law, operating schools, and managing other institutions.

The Afrin City Local Council (ACLC) approved the construction of each of these unlawful constructions according to the instructions of Governor of the Turkish State of Hatay Rahmi Doğan, the Turkish authority in charge of this region, according to STJ’s sources.