A number of residents from the Afrin area on Sunday held a "Save Afrin" conference with the aim of discussing the area’s future, rebuilding it and returning its residents, after the expulsion of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara categorizes as a terrorist group.
The conference, held in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, was attended by dozens of figures, including academics and politicians from the Afrin area, in response to the swift developments after the Turkish army and the Free Syrian Army took control over wide parts of the Afrin region, including the city.
Alsouria Net obtained the closing statement of the conference, which included a set of recommendations:
– Ensure security and protect the safety of residents in the city of Afrin and its countryside.
– Open safe passages for the city's residents in coordination with the concerned entities, and remove mines to ensure safe entry and exit.
– Respect the character of all ethnic, religious and sectarian communities in the Afrin area.
– Give attention to education, health, the judiciary and all aspects of a decent life.
– Respect women’s rights and equality with men.
– Abolish all displays of weapons inside the populated Afrin area.
– Release all prisoners of conscience and other parties from Afrin’s prisons and call for national reconciliation.
– Hand over administration of the city and its districts to residents of the Afrin area of all affiliations and orientations (those with skills and academic specialization).
– Establish a local council elected by the people of Afrin to oversee independent and competent civil and human rights groups to administer the city’s affairs.
– Form committees to compensate those affected by recent events in the city and the villages under its authority, and to rebuild the affected areas and ensure the return of residents to their homes and to facilitate their return.
– Establish local police forces from Afrin area residents, unmediated and not under the authority of any party or entity, to protect the city and ensure safety and security.
– Not impose compulsory conscription. The protection of the city must be voluntary, with salaries paid from the city administration’s fund.
– Reconciliation between Afrin's interior, environs and the areas outside the city, spreading a culture of tolerance and eliminating the principle of revenge and elimination.
– Activate the role of all institutions on the basis of integrity and technocrats.
– Freedom of press and media and peaceful demonstration.
– Secure necessary services, including water, electricity and fuel.
– Open humanitarian crossings between Turkey and Afrin to facilitate citizens’ affairs.
Earlier Monday, fighters from the Kurdish YPG militia withdrew from the city of Afrin before the Turkish army and Free Syrian Army groups took control.
Turkey started Operation Olive Branch in Afrin eight weeks ago, and said that it aimed, alongside FSA groups, to expel the Kurdish militias that controlled it.
Ankara considers the YPG to be a terrorist force representing an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a threat to its national security, through these forces continually targeting Turkish territory along the border.
With the control of Afrin, the dream of Kurdish fighters of establishing a statelet in northern Syria has become difficult to achieve, as the city was one of the three cantons which Kurdish forces were trying connect with one another in northern Syria, namely Kobani, Jazira and Afrin.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.