ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – After five days of Turkey’s military operation in Afrin, people in Afrin say they are digging hideouts to escape bombardment and ask the international community to do more to end the conflict.
Jiwan Sarfaraz’s mother and sisters were at their home in Jindaris, Afrin on Tuesday, he told Rudaw English.
“My father had gone out at that time. My mother went to the yard to fetch something,” Sarfaraz told the story in a low and sorrowful voice. When she was in the yard, Turkish warplanes carried out a strike that killed his mother, Fatma Bakir, he said.
Sarfaraz lives in Erbil. He had visited the Kurdistan Region in 2013 and was unable to return home to Afrin. So he has stayed and is working in Erbil as an online marketing agent.
But contact with his family in Afrin has been difficult. After learning about the death of his mother, he was having problems connecting with his family, “because the communication networks do not work.”
Now he wondered about the future of the remaining members of his family, saying “the situation is not normal… People are afraid to go out.”
In his hometown of Jindaris, people have dug holes to hide in from the Turkish warplanes, he said.
Four civilians were reported killed in Jindaris on Tuesday, two children and two women according to the Kurdish forces.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that “terrorists” are the target of their Operation Olive Branch, naming the Kurdish YPG forces and the ruling political party PYD, which Ankara maintain are extensions of the PKK. The Syrian Kurdish groups deny the charge.
Turkey’s head of the parliament’s foreign affairs commission, Volkan Bozkir, informed NATO, the European Union, and member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that civilians will be protected.
“All necessary precautions have been taken to avoid harm to civilians,” he wrote, according to Hurriyet Daily News, stressing that “terrorists” were the target.
According to figures from a monitoring group, civilians make up a great number of casualties.
At least 30 civilians are among the casualties in five days of the operation, two killed by SDF shelling and 28 killed by Turkish artillery and shelling, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated on Wednesday.
People from Afrin confirm that civilians have suffered under the attacks.
Shekho Blo, a lawyer in Afrin talked to Rudaw English on the phone. He said people are moving within Afrin canton to find safer areas.
Erdogan has accused Kurds of taking over Afrin canton and has said that his operation will restore the population demographics.
“Fifty-five percent of Afrin is Arab, 35 percent Kurds who were relocated later, and 6 to 7 percent Turkmen. The whole point is to give Afrin back to its real owners,” said Erdogan on Sunday in Bursa province.
Writing for the Washington Institute in 2016, visiting fellow Fabrice Balanche, said that Afrin’s population is “nearly 100 percent Kurdish.”
Locals confirm that Kurds are in the majority.
Idris Hado, a Kurd from Afrin now living in Erbil estimated that the Kurdish population is as high as 95 percent. The Arab population, he said, was brought in under government policies during the 1960s.
Afrin is also hosting as many as half a million Syrians displaced from other parts of the country.
Hado has been in constant contact with his friends and family members in Afrin who tell him the situation is bad, “but their morale is high.”
Shiyar Khalil, a Kurdish journalist from Afrin, blamed Erdogan for harming the “good relationship” between Kurd and Arabs living in the canton.
Khalil had been detained in Syria for his support for the Syrian revolution and as an outspoken defender of human rights. He is now visiting Erbil from his base in France.
On Wednesday, as two people were killed in Turkey by a rocket fired from inside Syria, according to Turkish officials, Erdogan touted “successful” progress in the military operation in Afrin.
Sarfaraz, mourning his mother, called on the international community to “end the war.”