The PKK terrorist organization’s Syrian wing, the YPG, has buried 61 bodies in a mass grave in northern Syria’s Afrin in yet another crime against humanity, the Defense Ministry announced Wednesday.
"Another war crime of the terrorist organization PKK/YPG came to the light," the ministry said on Twitter.
According to the statement, after receiving information that the YPG/PKK terrorists had buried bodies in an empty plot of land in an Afrin neighborhood in January 2018, the area was excavated.
The statement noted that "35 bodies were found in sacks following the excavation conducted under the supervision of the prosecutor," adding that they fear more bodies will be found as excavations in the region continue.
However, according to a statement by the governor of southern Hatay province on Thursday, the number of bodies found has already risen to 61.
"These people that were massacred, were buried just in a neighborhood close to Afrin in graves that were opened with earth diggers and bulldozers. Yesterday, efforts started upon a notice," Rahmi Doğan stated, indicating that the number of bodies could increase.
"The local prosecutor, health units and local police are continuing their work. We want all international organizations and community to see this crime against humanity perpetrated by the YPG/PKK."
Doğan noted that the YPG, in another crime, targeted a hospital in Afrin last month, killing 14 civilians.
Local people living in areas held by the YPG have long suffered from its atrocities, as the terrorist group has a notorious record of human rights abuses in Syria, ranging from kidnappings, recruitment of child soldiers, torture, ethnic cleansing and forced displacement.
A recent United Nations report stated in May that the YPG has been recruiting children to fight among its ranks and that the organization has enlisted at least 400 children in the past two years.
International law prohibits non-state armed groups from recruiting anyone under 18, and enlisting children under 15 is considered a war crime.
The YPG’s use of child soldiers has been repeatedly documented and criticized by international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Turkey aims to prevent the YPG from establishing a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria, which would border Turkey and connect the so-called northwestern Afrin canton to the Ain al-Arab and Jazeera cantons in the northeast.
Ankara describes this as a “terror corridor” that poses a grave security threat to its national security, pointing to its possible impact on the PKK’s activity around Turkish borders.
In its more than 40-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
The U.S. has primarily partnered with the YPG in northeastern Syria in the anti-Daesh fight. On the other hand, Turkey strongly opposed the terrorist group’s presence in northern Syria, which has been a major sticking point in strained Turkey-U.S. relations. Ankara has long objected to the U.S.' support for the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Turkey and terrorizes local people, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee.
Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to the YPG, despite its NATO ally’s security concerns. While underlining that a country cannot support one terrorist group to fight another, Turkey conducted its own counterterrorism operations, over the course of which it has managed to remove a significant number of terrorists from the region.
Afrin was largely cleared of YPG terrorists in 2018 through Turkey's counterterrorism offensive Operation Olive Branch, but the terrorist group still targets the region to disturb the peace established by Turkish forces.
Since its liberation from the terrorist organization, the population of the district has gradually increased 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, along with 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.
Most recently, Afrin has received electricity thanks to efforts by a local council that was established with Turkish support. Residents welcomed the improvement of their lives brought on by this recent development.
The local council established in Afrin in 2018 continues to assist residents. The council delivered uninterrupted cheap and clean electricity to residents via an agreement with a private company in Turkey after long-term studies were conducted.
Industrialists and civilians in the district were saved from the cost, and disturbing noises of generators, which could cause environmental pollution in the region.
After years of not having access to amenities, residents can now enjoy drinking cold water and use electrical appliances to cool off in the scorching summer months.
Electricity was first made available in the district center and efforts are underway to deliver uninterrupted electricity to rural areas.
The widespread use of electricity networks throughout the district will have a positive effect on agriculture and other industries.
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