Turkey allows Iraqis to receive ID cards in Kurdish-Arabic town in Syria

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“There are many cases of people who had previously worked with ISIS and Al-Nusra now being settled in Serekaniye; they are also given new identifications as well as houses that are confiscated from their displaced owners.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Turkish-backed local council of Ras al-Ain (Serekaniye) on Monday issued a new resolution that stipulates the local government will offer identification cards for Iraqi refugees living in Ras al-Ain (Serekaniye).

Turkey launched its so-called “Peace Spring” Operation on October 9, causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands and the death of at least dozens of civilians.

In October 2019, the Turkish Defense Ministry said one of the operation goals was to create “the necessary conditions for the return of displaced Syrians to their homes and lands.”

The campaign was put on hold after the US and Russia struck separate deals with Erdogan to allow the withdrawal of Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from a planned buffer zone Ankara refers to as a “safe zone.”

Now, Turkey controls the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain (Serekaniye) but was not able to expand further. Tal Abyad had a small Kurdish minority, while Ras al-Ain (Serekaniye in Kurdish) is more mixed between Kurds, Arabs, and other minorities. After the Turkish operation, new city councils were set up in Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, backed by the Turkish government.

Since the Turkish cross-border invasion on Serekaniye began in October, scores of violations against local civilians have been consistently and credibly reported by residents and observers.

Moreover, many who have attempted to return to their towns under Turkish control faced brutality, arrest, and torture, especially among the Kurdish population.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) translated the local council’s resolution, which shows that Turkey is now settling Iraqi refugees in the town.  Before October 2019, no Iraqis were reportedly living in Serekaniye.

It said: “To all Iraqi brothers residing in Ras al-Ain and its countryside, please come to the Personal Status and Civil Affairs Directorate in Ras al-Ain to app ID cards, as of January 1, 2021.”

For the ID cards, the Iraqis would need to prove their residence “in the area with the address written in detail according to the new format: (neighborhood name, area name, alley number and house number).”

“It’s not confirmed yet, if those Iraqis were already residing the town, before Turkish invasion, or have been relocated recently from Turkey and/or turkey-held areas in western Syria,” a Stabilization Coordinator working for a USAID-funded program in northeast Syria, who did not want to be named, told Kurdistan 24.

“Some observers are concerned those might be also ISIS-linked Iraqis, mainly those being smuggled from Hole camp, into TFSA (Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army) held territories.”

Kurdish journalist Muhyedin Isso told Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday that the goal of Turkey is to change the demography of the town.

His own house was seized this summer and turned into an Islamic religious institute without his permission.

“The border gate between Serekaniye and Ceylanpinar [in Turkey] is now open. Families from Idlib region, people from Damascus countryside and Turkmens from different areas are brought into Serekaniye through that border gate,” Isso said. “They are working on a demographic change in Serekaniye.”

In April this year, there were also reports that Turkish authorities sent 19 buses loaded with roughly 900 Syrian refugees over the border into Syria to be resettled in the country’s northern towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain.

The busses contained Syrian families from Ghouta around Damascus, Idlib, Homs, and the northern Aleppo countryside. Many of them were relatives of fighters of Turkish-backed armed groups.

“As we have recently witnessed, ISIS-related families – either Syrian, Iraqi or other foreign nationals – who are working with the Free Syrian Army, have been settled in Serekaniye,” Isso explained.

“There are many cases of people who had previously worked with ISIS and Al-Nusra now being settled in Serekaniye; they are also given new identifications as well as houses that are confiscated from their displaced owners,” he concluded.

Iso said that his house was one of the “one of 20 thousand houses in Serekaniye which have been illegally confiscated. Defending my house means defending all other house owners whose properties have been unlawfully taken away. They have occupied our lands, and they refuse to leave; they expect that we will give up our houses, but that, we will not do.”

By: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: Kurdistan 24

Editing by Khrush Najari

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