Over the past two days, Syrian activists have circulated photos and videos on social media showing illegal logging operations in northern Syria. The posts come amidst popular anger over a possible environmental disaster that could hit the region in the future.
According to activists, some military groups affiliated with the Sultan Murad Division in the Syrian National Army carried out intensive and indiscriminate logging in the vicinity of the touristic lake of Medanki, which is located in the Afrin area, northwest of Aleppo.
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The activists added that, since the beginning of August, many military groups affiliated with the Syrian National Army have cut down hundreds of olive trees in the area of Operation Olive Branch (Afrin).
The relevant photos and videos showed military groups cutting down trees in the woods of the town of Sharan, near Lake Medanki. which angered residents due to the potentially catastrophic effects on the environment and natural surroundings of the area.
Activists published old photos of the Afrin region, which is witnessing the illegal felling of its forests and olive trees. The trend has reached the point of making the area seem semi-barren and desolate when comparing the region’s forests from before to now.
For his part, lawyer and politician Radif Mustafa — vice president of the Syrian Kurdish Independents Association and an employee of the Syrian interim government — said: “Cutting down forest trees in Afrin in general, and Medanki in particular, is a crime punishable by law. It requires urgent judicial action.”
Residents and activists called for holding accountable all those responsible for logging, raising awareness among people to preserve vegetation, and supporting organizations that fight deforestation and logging.
The activists also called for laws to criminalize logging and ensure environmental conservation. They also suggested launching tree planting campaigns throughout the northern Syrian region as an effective strategy to combat deforestation.
Tree planting initiative
Since the Turkish military and Syrian National Army took control of the Afrin area as part of Operation Olive Branch in March 2018, many local authorities and even military institutions have warned against the logging of forest trees in the region and its countryside. The authorities have imposed penalties to ensure accountability, confiscation of any car loaded with illegally felled trees, and the arrest and liability of the responsible party.
Following the logging operations on Wednesday, the Moral Guidance Department of the Syrian National Army — through its official channels — published a statement warning against irresponsible logging operations. The statement noted that “forests are the foundation of life in all its beautiful splendour, because they perform exceptional and necessary functions that help us survive.”
The statement reminded all those who cut down trees of the Prophet’s commandment to his companions in all his battles, by which He said: “Do not cut down a tree.” This edict illustrates the crucial importance of trees to human life.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.