Local people in northern Syria's Afrin district are grateful for Turkey's efforts for the normalization of the social life in the region, as three years have passed since the district center was cleared of terrorist group's occupation through Operation Olive Branch.
Local Afrin council member Azad Osman told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the local council has achieved great success in the field of education in the three years following the end of the occupation by the PKK's Syrian branch, the YPG.
After the reconstruction of the damaged schools in Afrin, they opened these buildings to education again, Osman said and added: "Nearly 65,000 people get an education in these schools. With the opening of a university in Afrin, a major issue has been also been addressed."
Also stating that the local people in Afrin had the opportunity to access free health care services, Osman said that the local council, with the support of Turkey, still tries to fulfill other necessities of people in the region.
Recalling the days when people could not meet their most basic needs under the occupation of terrorist groups, he said: "People migrated to other regions to get rid of the organization and live a better life. Fortunately, the people of Afrin now have access to all services. The removal of the organization's compulsory military service after the operation was also one of the things that made the people of Afrin the happiest. Our children are no longer drafted into the army and fighting in the terrorist ranks. Afrin is the home of all Syrians. It hosts people from all regions."
He also thanked Turkey, the Turkish people and the Syrian National Army (SNA) for their efforts.
More than three years have passed since Turkey launched its cross-border anti-terror Operation Olive Branch to clear northern Syria’s Afrin district from terrorist groups. The operation was launched on Jan. 20, 2018, in cooperation with the SNA and successfully ended on March 24, 2018, six days after Afrin was liberated from the occupation of the YPG.
In harsh land and winter conditions, the operation was conducted against approximately 8,000 to 10,000 YPG terrorists stationed in the region. While the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and SNA took all the possible measures not to harm civilians and residential areas, the terrorist group tried to use civilians as shields to prevent the operation. During the operation, the YPG also targeted residential areas, including mosques, schools, hospitals, restaurants and houses, in Turkey’s southern border provinces Hatay and Kilis with shelling and missile attacks, killing seven civilians and injuring at least 124.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a ceremony on March 18 to commemorate the Çanakkale Victory and Martyrs' Day announced that the city center of Afrin was taken under complete control after it was cleared of the YPG terrorists.
After six town centers, 282 villages, 23 strategic mountains and hills, and one dam were cleared of terrorists by the TSK and SNA, Turkish officials and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) rolled up their sleeves to revive the daily life in the region and started to deliver aid packages to civilians in the area.
Thanks to the measures taken by Turkish security forces, civilians, who had to flee the region due to the terrorist group's oppression and the following military operation, started to return to their homes on March 20, 2018. Since then, the population of the district has reached 350,000 with rapid improvements in the region's infrastructure. The priority of the post-operation period for Turkish officials has been to strengthen the security of Afrin, enable the return of civilians and the normalization of daily life.
In search and scanning activities, military bases and ditches dug by the terrorist group and mines and other explosives planted by terrorists were destroyed. In the district, seven local councils have been established to represent democratic rights for the local people. Local councils support various fields and activities including agriculture, industry, trade, culture, sports, health and education for the normalization and revival of life.
In the field of health, a hospital with a capacity of 100 beds and 13 branches was reopened thanks to Turkey's efforts. In the district, a total of five hospitals and six health centers provide free health care services to the local people. While more than 65,000 students in 263 schools are receiving an education in Afrin and the surrounding residential areas, 135 mosques are open to the people's service following reconstruction activities.
Despite all these positive developments, the YPG continues to target residential areas and civilians in Afrin by using Tal Rifaat, located in the southeast of Afrin, as a base. Local people living in areas held by the YPG have long suffered from its atrocities, as the terrorist organization has a notorious record of human rights abuses, ranging from kidnappings, recruitment of child soldiers, torture, ethnic cleansing and forced displacement in Syria. The YPG has forced young people from areas under its control to join its forces within the so-called "compulsory conscription in the duty of a self-defense law."