Turkey’s Controversial Resettlement Policy: Demographic Shifts in Afrin, Syrian Kurdistan

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By ISSG Staff


In a controversial move, Turkey has reportedly resettled around 10,000 Arab Palestinians in the Turkish-occupied Kurdish city of Afrin in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava). This strategic demographic shift has significantly altered the ethnic composition of the region, diminishing the Kurdish majority and sparking concerns about the long-term consequences for the displaced population.


Following the Turkish army’s occupation of Afrin in March 2018, after a two-month conflict with Kurdish forces, a policy aimed at the Arabization of the Kurdish region was set in motion. The policy received financial support from various Arab nations, including Palestine.

Demographic Changes

Abdulrahman Apo, a Kurdish politician no longer residing in Afrin, revealed that in addition to the creation of 22 settlements, every one of the 360 villages in Afrin has been converted into settlements. Notably, 10,000 Palestinians have been resettled in Afrin, contributing to a significant shift in demographics. Apo highlighted that while Kurds previously constituted 97% of the city’s population, they now make up only 35-40%.

Human Rights Concerns

Apo also raised concerns about the abduction of thousands of Kurds since 2018, with a staggering 8,753 individuals reportedly abducted. Although 6,892 were eventually released, 153 of them tragically lost their lives in captivity due to torture. This disturbing trend raises serious human rights issues and underscores the challenges faced by the Kurdish population in Afrin.

Allegations of Demographic Engineering

Observers and monitors have accused Turkey of orchestrating a deliberate demographic transformation in Afrin. Mohammed Fawaz, an eyewitness to the events, noted Erdogan’s heavy weaponry assault, forcing the local population to flee. The establishment of settlements and the transfer of property ownership to proxy forces appear to be part of a concerted effort to alter Afrin’s demographic composition drastically.

International Response

The Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ), a respected rights organization, reported on enforced demographic shifts in Afrin in 2022. Bassam Alahmad, co-founder and executive director at STJ, highlighted the resettlement of opposition fighters and civilians in various parts of the Afrin region following the invasion.

Kurdish Autonomous Administration

It’s important to note that the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD)-led Autonomous Administration in Syrian Kurdistan has been implementing a secular decentralized self-rule. Emphasizing equality between men and women, direct democracy, and environmental responsibility, the administration faces challenges due to external interventions and demographic changes.


Turkey’s resettlement policy in Afrin, particularly the reported settlement of 10,000 Palestinians, has sparked concerns about the intentional alteration of demographics. The impact on the displaced Kurdish population, coupled with alleged human rights violations, raises questions about the long-term consequences of such controversial measures. As the situation unfolds, international scrutiny and diplomatic efforts may play a crucial role in addressing the complex issues arising from the demographic shifts in Afrin, Syrian Kurdistan.

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