Defend International (DI) has launched a worldwide campaign entitled “Save Afrin: The World Has To Act Now” to raise awareness about the impacts of Turkey’s invasion of Afrin on civilians and to call on the International community to intervene.
“Turkey’s invasion into Rojava threatens any possible path to peace and may turn into another humanitarian disaster in the Middle East. In a worst-case scenario it may put the Kurds, Christians, Yazidis and other minorities at risk of new systematic persecution or acts of ethnic and religious cleansing,” said Dr. Widad Akreyi, co-founder of Defend International.
The campaign will be modified regularly to reflect any changes on the ground.
Save Afrin: The World Has To Act Now
22 January 2018
(Oslo) – Defend International (DI) is hereby announcing the launch of the worldwide campaign “Save Afrin: The World Has To Act Now” to raise awareness about the impacts of Turkey’s invasion of Afrin on civilians and to call on the International community to intervene. DI urges other NGOs to echo similar calls and we welcome sponsorships.
The campaign will pursue several, interrelated objectives, including:
- Coordinating activities related to raising awareness about the tragic consequences of Turkey’s invasion of Afrin on the civilians and their living conditions;
- Coordinating (lobbying and other) activities related to intensifying the efforts aimed at ending the invasion as soon as possible;
- Providing a platform for discussion and the exchange of information on matters and activities relevant to securing the fundamental rights of the refugees and residents of Afrin and Rojava;
- Keeping up efforts to maintain momentum and improve focus;
- Building a bridge between potential partners and communities whose work is relevant to the campaign, including individuals, groups (e.g., artists, songwriters, singers, intellectuals, youth), communities, and organisations active in the areas of peace-building, inter alia, as well as actors involved in ending armed conflicts and violence against women and girls in times of war; and
- If needed, assisting the UN and other partners to prepare for regional or local meetings focusing on selected aims of this campaign.
“Turkey’s decision to invade Afrin adds another layer of complicity into the multidimensional armed conflict in Syria,” said Dr. Widad Akreyi, co-founder of Defend International. “It threatens any possible path to peace and may turn into another humanitarian disaster in the Middle East. In a worst-case scenario it may put the Kurds, Christians, Yazidis and other minorities at risk of new systematic persecution or acts of ethnic and religious cleansing.”
The campaign will be inclusive, informal, and pragmatic. Participation is open to organisations and associations that are willing to endorse the objectives mentioned above.
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Major Campaign Updates/Outcomes
- In January and February 2018, Dr. Widad Akreyi, co-founder of Defend International, highlighted the cases of civilian casualties as reported by the Independent in its article entitled Inside Afrin, the true victims of Turkey’s invasion of northern syria are revealed- refugees, babies, women and children. The cases included:
1. The Arab refugee family that had went to bed without knowing that they’d not see each other again. The 40-years old Taha Mustafa, his wife Amina, their 14-years old son Sulieman and 17-years old daughter Zakia were killed. Only the 19-years old Safa had survived the Turkish attack.
2. The 8th-grade Kurdish schoolboy Mustafa Khaluf suffered from severe leg injuries after the Turkish planes had bombed his home in Jendeeres, wounding him and his sister.3. Kifah al-Moussa, an Arab woman, was working in a chicken farm in the village of Maryameen when a Turkish aircraft bombed the building.
4. The 50-years old Ahmed Kindy was wounded in his home in Jundeires on the 1st night of Turkish attacks on Afrin.
5. The 15-years old Dananda Sido was wounded in her legs and chest while running for her life in the street in the Kurdish village of Adamo.
6. The 58-years old Kurdish farmer was wounded in his head and eye when his home was bombed by a Turkish aircraft on the second night of attacks.
- On February 1st, Dr. Widad Akreyi approached the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), stating that “the injured residents and refugees of Afrin are in desperate need of medical attention. The local hospitals have run out of supplies. The Turkish invasion and constant attacks make it impossible to care for the wounded. Please help.”
On March 1st, the ICRC and their local partners were finally able to send the desperately-needed help. A 29-truck convoy arrived in Afrin and delivered humanitarian aid enough for 50,000 people, providing the displaced families living in dire conditions with 430 tonnes of food, winter clothes, hygiene kits, mattresses, blankets, medical supplies and water purification materials.
Dr. Widad has expressed her thanks and appreciation to ICRC and their local partners.
- On January 21st, Dr. Widad Akreyi contacted the United Nations and its Secretary General Mr. António Guterres saying that the death and destruction faced by the residents and refugees in Afrin, Rojava because of Turkey’s invasion into Northern Syria was unacceptable. She called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting over Turkey’s invasion of Afrin, asking for an immediate cessation of all acts of violence that made the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria worse.
On February 25th, the UN Security Council adopted a month-long ceasefire across Syria to allow for “safe, unimpeded and sustained delivery of humanitarian aid and services and medical evacuations of the critically sick and wounded.”
Defend International welcomed the adoption of the UN resolution and called on Turkey to stop its offensive on Afrin, to abide by international law and fulfil its responsibilities as a UN member state.
However, Turkey has rejected the UN resolution, saying it does not apply to its military operation in Afrin. In response to Turkey’s statement, the French President’s office has said that President Macron had told Turkey’s President that the resolution “applied to all of Syria, including Afrin, and should be implemented everywhere and by all without delay.”
- In March, Dr. Widad Akreyi asked UNICEF, UNICEF USA and UNFPA to help Afrin’s children who were being targeting on a daily basis, stating that the photos of victims were too graphic to publish. “The physical and psychological impacts are immense,” Dr. Akreyi stressed.
On March 16th, UNICEF USA updated us with their response in Afrin. UNICEF indicated that “dozens of children have been killed and many more injured since the start of hostilities” and that “for the last 10 days, children and families have suffered severe water shortages as the source of water for Afrin city has reportedly been cut off. Families are relying on untreated water and boreholes, potentially increasing the risk of waterborne diseases for about 250,000 people.” It also said that “most health facilities are shut down and classes are said to be suspended as well” and that “there is no official displacement tracking mechanism but local sources estimate around 50,000 displaced people in the city. Families are being hosted by relatives and friends, in shops, government buildings and schools.”
In terms of UNICEF response, UNICEF reported that it had planned to start trucking water on March 11 to the most vulnerable neighbourhoods hosting IDPs in Afrin city, but their plan was interrupted on 15 March due to an escalation in attacks on Afrin city. It added that “among IDPs who have fled Afrin, we have reached over 1,000 children and pregnant or breastfeeding women with nutrition support including supplements, high energy biscuits and fortified spreads.”
Dr. Widad thanked UNICEF for their work and urged their mobile teams to reach out to more children in order to assess the psychological impacts, saying that “they are likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.”
- On March 18th, after the Turkish-backed fighters entered Afrin city following a two-month siege, more than 200,000 people were forced to flee, and as such they were left without shelter, food or water, whereas inside Afrin a widespread wave of lawlessness, looting, abduction and pillage broke out. The fighters reportedly pillaged private property and burnt down houses and shops after they were stripped of their contents as part of a broader pattern of violence and intimidation directed towards civilians. DI has recieved reports of cars, trailers and trucks entering the city empty and leaving packed with looted livestock, food supplies, electronic equipments, blankets, personal belongings, carpets and household goods.
- Following Dr. Widad Akreyi’s new call for the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide the civilians in Afrin with the necessary humanitarian aid, Mr. Peter Maurer, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross called on March 19th for greater access to the civilian population of Afrin, where the civilians have the right to neutral, impartial aid and the right to leave or stay, declaring that “the credibility of a Turkish Red Crescent working in Afrin with the Kurdish population is close to zero.”
- On March 19th, Erdogan said that after Afrin, Turkey would target a region stretching nearly 400 km east to Qamishli. His plan – if carried out – would result in more displacement and deaths of innocent civilians.
DI campaign, Save Afrin, continues, and Dr. Widad Akreyi is calling on the world to intervene to end the humanitarian crisis in Rojava by putting an end to President Erdogan’s expansionist ambitions and stopping him from further fuelling the Syrian war that had claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and created millions of refugees and IDPs.
On Twitter: #SaveAfrin #WeWantPeace #UNSaveAfrin #StopTurkeySaveAfrin #DefendAfrin #NoFlyZone4Afrin #NoFlyZone4Rojava