Citizens of Afrin protest Turkey’s military operation on Sunday. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Barzani Charity Foundation (BCF) is hoping to bring humanitarian aid to the people of Afrin and has asked for authorization from relevant authorities.
“We are calling on all the relevant parties to facilitate so that BCF is able to dispatch necessary humanitarian assistance to the civilians of Afrin as they are in need,” said Masrour Barzani, president of BCF’s founding board and senior Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader.
Delivering aid by land to Afrin would require passing through the Kurdish-led self-autonomous region of Rojava and through areas under the control of Damascus or of Turkish-backed groups.
Turkey launched its Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on January 20. At least 15,000 people have been internally displaced, leaving the border regions where the bulk of the fighting is taking place, and moving into central Afrin, according to UN figures.
Afrin health officials say more than 140 civilians have been killed and another 310 injured, Oxfam reported.
“Medical supplies are inadequate, especially surgical supplies, because of the increasing number of wounded. There has been a serious shortage of medical staff who have spread out to different locations to relieve the pressure on Afrin's main hospital and allow it to focus on serious operations such as limb amputations. We appeal to all humanitarian organizations to help the people of Afrin,” said Angela Rasho, co-chair of the Health Council in Afrin, according to Oxfam.
The aid organization noted that routes out of Afrin have been blocked, saying on Monday that the people “are trapped between warring parties on the border with Turkey without any protection or proper medical supplies.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Syria has expressed concern about rising civilian casualties and damage to important infrastructure.
The “intense fighting is putting thousands of families at risk” in Afrin, according to the ICRC.
“Reports of casualties among civilians, while civilian infrastructure including essential water facilities are in danger of being hit and cutting off access for tens of thousands to clean water,” the ICRC stated on Monday.
According to UN figures, 323,000 people are living in Afrin and nearby areas under Kurdish control. Of them, 192,000 are in need of humanitarian aid and 125,000 are IDPs displaced by conflict in others areas of Syria.
Speaking at BCF’s annual conference on Monday, attended by governmental, consulate, and business representatives, Barzani said the aid group had reached out to help Kurds during humanitarian crises in neighbouring countries, like earthquake-damaged Van, Turkey in 2011, and Rojava’s war-torn Kobane that was retaken from ISIS in early 2015.
After the earthquake last November on the Kurdistan Region-Iran border, Barzani said they tried to send aid to Kermanshah, Iran, but were not permitted. Iran initially said it did not need international aid in the aftermath of the quake that was the deadliest in 2017.
The Foundation has also served refugees and displaced populations sheltering in the Kurdistan Region.
Commenting on Arab refugees still residing in camps in the Kurdistan Region, Barzani criticized the Iraqi government saying their “failed political and administrative policies forced these people to come to Kurdistan. We expected the Iraqi government to take care of the camps and increase the volume of assistance to them, but they did not come, thus, putting further burden on the BCF and other agencies.”
Turkey launched its military operation to clear its border areas of “terrorists,” alleging that the ruling Kurdish groups in Rojava are extensions of the PKK, a named terror organization. The Kurdish groups deny the charge.