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Housing,Land ,and Property Rights Violations in Afrin after 2018

Housing,Land ,and Property Rights Violations in Afrin after 2018
  1. Executive Summary

Taking over the Kurdish-majority Afrin District following the 2018 Operation Olive Branch, Turkish-backed Syrian armed opposition groups committed various patterns of human rights violations against the area’s original inhabitants. According to the periodic reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, these violations are continued with impunity. The most notable reported violations were those related to housing, lands, and property (HLP) rights. Given the seriousness of these violations and their short and long-term grave consequences, PÊL – Civil Waves thoroughly prepared this research to shed light on HLP rights violations and analyze them based on verified information and testimonies.  PÊL heard accounts of 90 displaced Kurds and Yazidis, 60 men and 30 women, whose properties were seized or destroyed by members of Syrian rebel groups or the Turkish Army in control of the area.

Witnesses testified to recurrent systematic and widespread ethnic-based property rights violations against civilians who did not take part in any fighting. The violations included arbitrary seizure, destruction, and looting of civilian homes, businesses, and agricultural land with crops and livestock; the violators did not stop there. They turned the landowners into day laborers.

That said, witnesses’ accounts reflected the de facto powers’ inaction towards these violations and their disregard for the victims. In turn, the victims do not dare to claim their rights, given intimidation by Türkiye-backed opposition militias or civilians linked with them in light of the state of lawlessness in the region. In addition, no judicial, administrative, or implementing solutions are available to protect or redress the victims. Notably, trespassing on the properties of civilians, mainly the Kurds and Yazidis, combined with arrests, beating, and threats, led to mass displacements among the original population, contributing to a serious demographic change in the area.

Witnesses were able to name the responsible factions/violators for the reported HLP rights violation in 47 cases as follows:

Al-Hamzat Division (10 cases), Tajammu Ahrar Al-Sharqiya (7 cases); Al-Jabha Al-Shamiya (six cases); The Turkish Army (five cases); Ahrar Al-Sham Movement (three cases); The Military Police (three cases); Al-Sultan Suleiman Shah Division (3 cases); The Syrian National Army (two cases), Faylaq Al-Sham (two cases); Al-Sultan Murad Brigad (two cases); Al-Shaitat (one case); Suqour Al-Shamal Brigade (one case); The Mu’tasim Division (one case); Hama Revolutionaries Brigade (one case). However, witnesses reported the remaining 56 cases could not identify perpetrators of the violations but confirmed them being “mercenaries” or members of the “Free Syrian Army” affiliated with “Turkish forces”.


The research report briefs (90) face-to-face interviews PÊL conducted with victims of property rights violations or with their families. More broadly, this paper will shed light on the arbitrary rule of the Turkish Army and its allies, Syrian rebels, over Afrin and their ongoing human rights violations and abuses against the original population of the region in general and the Kurds in particular.

PÊL sees this report as complementing the efforts of several local and international human rights entities in documenting the violations in Afrin since the launch of Operation Olive Branch five years ago. The previous reports in this regard were unanimous that the violations in Afrin were widespread and systematic and committed on an ethnic, religious, and political basis. According to the reports, the violations included seizing and looting property, as well as forcing the civilians out of their homes and villages by means of threats, force, arrest, kidnapping, torture, and sometimes even murder.  


  1. Methodology 

For this research dedicated to documenting violations of housing, lands, and property rights in the Türkiye-held Afrin and its surroundings, PÊL analyzed (90) physical interviews conducted between June 2022 and December 2023 by our researchers in northeastern Syria with people displaced forcibly from Afrin. The witnesses provided PÊL with original and verified ownership documents of their alleged expropriated properties, the locations of these properties on Google Maps, hand drawings for their houses, and the sources of information telling what has become of their lost properties which they no longer visit in Afrin.

During the initial planning of this project, PÊL involved an advisory committee consisting of a group of victims of property and housing rights violations from Afrin and briefed them on its expected results and the recommendations it would provide. Notably, the identity of most of the witnesses who testified for this report will be concealed at their request. However, some agreed to share their identity and testimonies with certain entities, including the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the International, Impartial, and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), and certain Special Rapporteurs, and local and international organizations.

To read and download the full report:

HLP.Afrin.PêL.2023 (2)

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