"Local authorities" continue to block the exodus of civilians from northwestern Syria's Afrin, the United Nations Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Monday, referring to the PKK's Syrian offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG).
Responding to a question from Anadolu Agency (AA), Dujarric said the U.N. has no direct contact with them, adding that it was critical that people be able to move freely. He said that so far nearly 5,000 civilians have managed to leave the region in northwestern Syria. Earlier last week, U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said civilians who wanted to flee Afrin continue to be stopped at exit points and were being prevented from accessing safer areas by PYD/PKK terrorists. Civilians refer to the PYD and YPG as the local authorities.
The group has reportedly been using civilians as human shields since Turkey began its operation in Afrin. The militants wear civilian clothes and take positions in residential areas to make it look like the Turkish and the Free Syrian Army forces are attacking civilians.Afrin has been a major base of operations for the PYD and YPG forces since July 2012, when Syria's Bashar Assad regime left the region to the terrorist group's control without a fight. Meanwhile, head of the Turkish Red Crescent Kerem Kınık emphasized that the Turkish Red Crescent was involved in lobbying at the U.N. to create safe passages for civilians to leave the conflict zones in Afrin, particularly for people who wanted to go back to the safe areas in northern Aleppo.
"There are 323,000 people living in Afrin, of whom about 125,000 migrated from the north of Aleppo. These people want to get out of Afrin, they want to return to their old homes in Aleppo. But unfortunately, terrorist YPG elements and the Syrian regime are not allowing them to leave. They haven't opened the roads to Aleppo. In fact, the simplest thing to do here is to evacuate the civilians while there is an ongoing fight against terrorist organizations," Kınık said. "The parties Turkey has been fighting do not allow the civilians to leave the region because they want to use them as human shields," he said. Kınık added that Turkey was the only hope of Syria's oppressed as the world was turning a blind eye to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.
"We are the only hope for these people. We alone have remained behind to bring these people back to life, help them raise their voices and give them their normal lives back," Kınık told Anadolu Agency in the southern province of Hatay on the Syrian border.The Turkish Red Crescent, along with the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), the Turkish Armed Forces, and a number of other aid organizations, have all been involved in the humanitarian aspects of Operation Olive Branch since it began little over a month ago.