Syrian Kurds have criticised UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, meeting with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, where they discussed the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.
During the meeting between the UN official and Turkey’s president, Erdogan outlined his plans to return an approximate 2 million of the roughly 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to northeastern Syria. This has fuelled concerns amongst Kurds over a deliberate attempt to shift demographics as these refugees are predominately from northwest Syria.
Kurdish authorities claim that Turkey is deliberately trying to shift demographics in order to claim territory. Luqman Ahmi, a representative of the Kurdish governed region in northeastern Syria, has compared this to Turkey’s occupation of Afrin. He told reporters;
“We have seen Turkey do the same in the Afrin region where over 250,000 people were displaced, and have been forced to leave their homes and properties,”
Ahmi further stated that over “300,000 people have already been displaced” due to Turkish aggression. “They have been left without a place to stay, without food, and in the cold”, he told reporters.
“If Turkey truly wants to help Syrian refugees, they must [be returned] to their hometown and villages.”
The rights of refugees guarantee “voluntary, safe, and dignified return” under the UN charter. However, Turkey’s attempts to displace Kurdish minorities may undermine this principle.
According to Nicholas A. Heras, a Middle East security analyst at the Washington-based Center for a New American Security,
“Erdogan wants to rewrite the rules of international law […] If that was allowed to happen, it would set a devastating global precedent.”
Heras also noted that the UN Secretary-General was forced “to pay lip service to Erdogan’s ideas because Turkey is an influential nation”.
Luqman Ahmi stated that whilst he hoped the UN would act to preserve international law, a failure to do so would make the UN “complicit in the crime of demographic change which Turkey is committing”.
Read Kurdistan 24's reporting here.