Skip to main content

Turkey faces growing Kurdish insurgency in Syria's Afrin

An investigative journalism site reports that hundreds of violent attacks claimed by several anti-Free Syrian Army groups in Afrin mirror the modus operandi of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Turkish forces patrol an area in Afrin, Syria March 22, 2018. REUTERS/ Khalil Ashawi - RC19CBF8C260

Ever since the Turkish military and allied factions from the Free Syrian Army drove the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) out of Kurdish-dominated Afrin in March 2017, there has been almost no independent reporting on how the enclave is faring under Turkish occupation. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch are among a handful of international bodies that have offered valuable insight on the massive human rights abuses — rape, theft, extortion, kidnappings and the forced displacement of locals in favor of Syrian Arabs bused in from areas retaken by the Syrian Arab Army — allegedly inflicted by the FSA under Turkey’s watch. The UN said some of these actions amount to war crimes. But aside from propaganda being churned out from opposing sides, even less is known about a low intensity insurgency that is being waged by several Kurdish armed groups against the FSA and Turkish forces inside Afrin.

Using satellite imagery and open sources, the online investigative media outlet Bellingcat has sought to lift the veil on the 10-month insurgency in a report that was published on March 1. The study focuses on the attacks claimed by three anti-FSA groups. They are the YPG, Ghadab al-Zaitoun (Wrath of Olives) and Hezen Rizgariya Efrine (Afrin Liberation Forces). Together they have claimed responsibility for almost 220 attacks carried out between late March 2018 and the end of January 2019.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.