This 20-page paper presents a case study of the housing, land and property (HLP) situation for local and displaced persons in the Syrian region of Afrin since the Turkish-led ‘Operation Olive Branch’ was launched in January 2018. HLP rights violations are described in interviews that provide nuanced accounts of the roles and engagement of different actors in relation to the occupation and transfer of housing, land and property. This study specifically considers the involvement of the Turkish Armed Forces, their Syrian partners (the Free Syrian Army, FSA, and other factions), as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs) resettled from elsewhere in Syria. The dynamics between these actors, as well as the local councils and civil police forces set up by Turkey and its Syrian allies, are analysed so as to understand the complexities of who is committing, and ultimately accountable for, HLP violations in Afrin. The overlapping HLP issues in today’s Syria are exemplified by the relocation to Afrin of displaced families, particularly those evacuated from the rural areas around Damascus that were returned to Syrian government control in spring 2018. Framed in the larger context, the Afrin case study presents compelling testimony of the many ways the Syrian conflict has impacted enjoyment of HLP rights. This chapter documents various HLP violations committed against individuals from Afrin during and since the military operation and accepts as credible local interviewees’ claims that the violations are politically motivated attempts to change the demographics of a historically Kurdish region. Recent practices of HLP transfers in Afrin mirror policies enacted by the Turkish government against its own Kurdish population and build on pre-conflict measures introduced by the Syrian authorities to restrict property and housing ownership in targeted border areas.
Title: “Nothing is ours anymore” – HLP rights violations in Afrin, Syria
Author: Thomas McGee (University of Melbourne)
Published by: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung: Tunis (In book: Reclaiming Home: The struggle for Socially Just Housing, Land and Property Rights in Syria, Iraq and Libya (pp.120-140))
Date: September 2019