Syria is still on fire just a decade after the outbreak of war. A truck loaded with explosives has killed at least six people, including children, this Saturday afternoon in an industrial zone on the outskirts of Afrin. Three years ago, this northwestern town was the target of a Turkish military operation, supported by Syrian opposition forces, which drove out Kurdish militias and left thousands displaced. Since then the area has not been stabilized. In the images of the attack, shared by social networks, it can be seen how shrapnel hit a civilian transport vehicle, seriously damaging its occupants. Among the remains of the attack, the bodies of two minors were recovered. The survivors, 15 according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, were transferred to the hospital in Afrín. The detonation destroyed other businesses in the area.
No one has claimed the vehicle bomb so far. In previous similar chalice events, Turkey has blamed the People’s Protection Units (YPG / J), the Syrian branch of the Kurdoturk guerrilla PKK, for perpetrating acts of insurgency in Afrin. Last December, a soldier from the Turkish army, which like the EU classifies the PKK as a “terrorist group”, was killed in the course of clashes against the Kurds in that region. Six YPG / J fighters perished in those skirmishes. Afrin is a Kurdish-majority region that organized itself at the beginning of the Syrian war, taking advantage of the power vacuum left by the Syrian army due to a tactical withdrawal to fight against the uprising militias.
Needing to open spaces on Syrian soil to accommodate the displaced and thus prevent new migratory flows towards its territory, and alerted by the vigor reached by a Kurdish-Syrian authority supported by the West in its fight against the Islamic State, Ankara decided to intervene.The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the Kurdish militias for using Afrin, on its southern border, as a sanctuary for the PKK and as a base for preparing attacks against its territory, which in some cases have had Turkish civilians as victims. His military intervention, dubbed the Olive Branch, ended Kurdish rule in just three months. Despite everything, sporadic acts of insurgent violence and, more commonly, looting actions allegedly perpetrated by opposition fighters have not contributed to peace in Afrin. On April 28 of last year, a truck bomb exploded in the air in a market and killed more than 50 residents of Afrín, mostly civilians. Last November, another car bomb killed two people and wounded 17 in the center of Afrín. The blast damaged the office of a Turkish Islamist humanitarian organization.
Meanwhile, Kurdish organizations have blamed various armed groups for taking advantage of their dominant position in Afrin to commit criminal acts, mainly hostage-taking.
Beyond the reported cases of theft, irregular confiscation of property, and arbitrary detention – pointed out by Amnesty International in a 2019 report – the reports of arrests and disappearances of women have been particularly alarming for human rights organizations. Some of these cases have resulted in sexual abuse and even murder, for which the new Syrian lords are blamed. Turkey’s efforts so far to enforce order have allowed many releases, but they have not been enough to guarantee stability. According to the Kurdish-Iraqi media Rudaw, last week, at least 16 ethnic Kurds were arbitrarily arrested, and some of them tortured, at the hands of Amshat, a militia affiliated with the opposition Free Syrian Army. According to the news, its members demanded compensation for the damage suffered by one of their vehicles in the village of Kajara, controlled by them. The pressure allowed his release within a few days.