Olive Branch Military Outpost Built atop Afrin Cemetery

By Alexander McKeever

Since the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and allied Syrian Arab and Turkmen militias concluded “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria in late March of 2018, allegations of human rights abuses have widely circulated on social media.

Among these charges is the destruction of graveyards and accompanying shrines throughout Afrin. Videos and photographs have surfaced depicting Yezidi religious shrines looted and vandalised, as well as a cemetery housing of fallen People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) fighters being destroyed with construction equipment.

Using publicly available satellite imagery and photographs taken on the ground, we have examined one such case near the town of Anqele in Afrin. Following the town’s capture by TSK and allied Syrian opposition groups, a hilltop military position was constructed on top of a local shrine as well as portions of a cemetery (located here). The Ali Dada shrine was completely leveled, while numerous graves have disappeared underneath the recently moved dirt. Months afterwards, this occurrence was reported on by local media activists in Arabic and in English. Like many such allegations and reports, it did not receive wider attention.

A communal meal being eaten on the hilltop near Ali Dada shrine in 2014 (source).

Anqele is situated in the Sheikh al-Hadid subdistrict of Afrin and sits on hilly terrain overlooking Syria’s western border with Turkey. It is adjoined in the north to the town of Senare, while the graveyard and shrine in question lie on a hilltop to the east. The hilltop is elevated approximately 60 meters above the town and 90 meters higher than the small valley further east, making it a natural vantage point over the surrounding area. On the other side lies a forested ridge which reaches out toward Afrin city. This portion of the countryside to the west had seen no …read more

From:: Bellingcat

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