A Turkish-backed council in Afrin has changed the name of several of the city's landmarks, including this roundabout that was changed from 'Kawa the Blacksmith' to 'Olive Branch.' Photo: AA
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Turkey and its Syrian proxies have expanded the campaign of demographic change in Afrin by renaming streets and public places, replacing Kurdish words and cultural references with Syrian opposition slogans.
Turkish-backed opposition groups have changed the name of ‘Kawa the Blacksmith’ roundabout to the ‘Olive Branch,' Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency confirmed on Thursday.
Olive Branch was the name of Turkey’s military operation in Afrin, which began January 20 and concluded with the fall of Afrin city on March 18.
A statue of Kawa the Blacksmith, a central figure in Kurdish mythology, stood in the center of the city roundabout before Syrian opposition fighters pulled it down.
Newroz 'New Year' Avenue was changed to Saladin Ayubi after the leader of the Ayubid dynasty and commander of the defense of Jerusalem during the Crusades in the 12th century CE.
The Watani 'Homeland' roundabout was changed to 'March 18th Martyrs, according Rudaw sources.
An avenue leading to the government building was also renamed after 'Recep Tayyip Erdogan,' Anadolu confirmed.
The agency released a video showing some of the changes and depicting the city as calm. It said the Afrin Council was responsible for the rebranding.
Footage released on August 9, 2018, showing the city of Afrin, Syria. Video: AA
The city and canton have become a battle ground of propoganda between the Turkish government and the Kurdish YPG-affiliated 'Olive Wrath Operation' that seeks to counter the Turkish incursion into Syrian lands.
Footage also emerged of rebels looting the homes and businesses of Afrin residents. Ankara condemned the behavior.
An estimated 50 percent of Afrin's residents before the Turkish invasion are still displaced and have not returned home.
Since Turkey and opposition groups seized the city, billboards issuing strict social rules, calls to prayer, and instructing women to wear the hijab have begun to appear.
A new video has emerged on Twitter showing the uprooting of olive trees in Jandaris area in Afrin.
The Syrian regime has repeatedly demanded Turkish forces withdraw from Afrin. Now that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has recaptured rebel strongholds around Damascus and Daraa – birthplace of the 2011 revolution – he has set his sights on reclaiming the last significant rebel holdouts in northern Syria, particularly Idlib, where Turkey operates command posts.
Turkish-backed rebel groups are committing serious human rights abuses against civilians in Afrin, Amnesty International reported last week.
The human rights monitor found evidence of arbitrary detentions for ransom, enforced disappearances, property confiscations, and looting, mostly committed by Syrian groups armed and equipped by Ankara.
Displaced people have been prevented from returning to their homes, while those who manage to return often find their property occupied by rebel factions or by displaced Arab families from Eastern Ghouta and Homs, the report said.