Wladimir van Wilgenburg, Ahval, December 21, 2019
Shahoz Hasan, the co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) maintains that the UN will be complicit in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plans for demographic change in northeastern Syria if it does not speak out against Ankara’s plans.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) hosted president Erdoğan on Monday and Tuesday as the co-chair of the Global Refugee Forum in Switzerland. During this forum Erdoğan suggested that Syrian oil reserves, many of which are under Kurdish and U.S. control, could be used to fund projects for the return of Syrian refugees.
Ankara took control of an area between two border towns of Ras al Ayn and Tal Abyad during the so-called Operation Peace Spring in October. Erdoğan aims to settle 1 out of 3.6 million Syrians in this so-called safe-zone.
Hasan spoke to Ahval in an interview on Tuesday, addressing Ankara’s ambitions and developments in the region.
The Turkish president is constantly talking about Syrian refugees; his recent comments are that he wants Syrian oil to support to return Syrian refugees from Turkey. This is happening at a time when Erdoğan himself is causing their displacement both in northeast Syria, and Afrin as well – what are your thoughts on this?
Erdoğan is waging a psychological war against the states involved in the situation in Syria. He is using the refugees as a threat against Europe. Turkey has given Turkish identification to many of the refugees so that Erdoğan can use their votes in the elections. And now he is exploiting the case of refugees to implement a demographic change in Gire Spi [Tal Abyad] and Serekaniye [Ras al-Ain], similar to what Turkish state has already done in Afrin.
Let us do a calculation. Erdoğan attacked Afrin, more than 300,000 people were displaced from there, and now residing near Aleppo’s Shahba and elsewhere in northeast Syria. Turkey also attacked Gire Spi and Serekaniye – that also led to displacement of over 300,000 people. More than half a million, 600,000 people have been displaced in Northeast and Northwest Syria. At the same time, Erdogan is now saying that he has plans to resettle 1 million Syrian refugees in these areas – if this is not demographic change, then what is it?
Of the 1 million refugees, not even 20 percent of them are from this region [northern Syria]. The local people of this region, from Afrin, Kobani, Gire Spi are welcome to return if they will. Within the agreement for a safe zone, which [Ambassador] Jeffrey himself was supervising, and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was a party to – the issue of refugees was an article, emphasizing that voluntary return of [local] refugees, not militants, must be guaranteed. But what Turkey wants is that militants occupy those territories, displace the local populations, and replace them with non-locals.
That is a big problem, and the United Nations, through its silence and support to Erdoğan’s plans, will be complicit in Erdoğan’s acts of demographic change, which is a crime according to international law. The UN must hold the perpetrators accountable, not be a party to it.