For the past year, Turkish forces and their jihadist allies have occupied the formerly diverse, peaceful region of Northern Syria known as Afrin. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were forced to flee. Residential areas were flattened, water plants, hospitals, and schools were targeted, and Turkish forces used chemical weapons on civilians. The international community was silent.
An area that was once a safe haven for displaced people from all parts of Syria is now a house of horrors. Today, Turkish-backed terrorists force Yazidis and Christians to convert to Islam, burn forests and fields to destroy local livelihoods, kidnap civilians to extort money from their relatives, rape women, torture prisoners, and loot homes and businesses. Families of proxy fighters have been moved into the homes of people who were forced out, in a concentrated and planned campaign of ethnic cleansing.
The displaced people of Afrin fare little better. The camps in which they live lack sufficient water, electricity, and medicine. Many people have died from treatable diseases or injuries— especially children and the elderly, who are at higher risk. The Kurdish Red Crescent is the only organization providing aid on the ground. Shahba, where the main camps are located, is surrounded by hostile Turkish-backed rebels on one side and Syrian government forces on the other, preventing people and goods from coming in or out.
One year after the occupation began, the situation has faded from the headlines— and those responsible for it have not been held accountable. Documentation of the scope and scale of crimes committed in Afrin is essential, and a plan for justice must be part of any resolution to the Syrian conflict.