In Syria’s Afrin, locals mobilize to defend hometown against Turkey

Syrian Kurds mourn during a funeral in the town of Afrin on January 29, 2018, of civilians and fighters from the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) who were killed in battles in Syria’s border region of Afrin as the Turkish army press an offensive against Kurdish militia in the area. (AFP)
Updated 05 February 2018
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In Syria’s Afrin, locals mobilize to defend hometown against Turkey

AFRIN: Ammunition belts slung over their shoulders, voices cracking from the chanting, dozens of young Syrian Kurds amassed in Afrin’s town square to enlist in the “resistance” movement against a Turkish-backed assault.
They wore mismatched military gear, some in jeans and others with scarves wrapped around their faces.
A few admitted it was the first time they had ever touched a weapon, but said they felt compelled to defend their hometown.
“Afrin is where I grew up, just like my parents and my grandparents before me. This is why it’s a duty for me to fight for it,” says Asmaa, 19.
The first-year journalism student at Afrin University decided last month to leave her studies behind and respond to a call to arms by local Kurdish authorities.
Town officials called for a “mass mobilization” of civilians to fight an assault by Turkish troops and allied rebels on the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin.
They estimate hundreds have joined so far — some deployed to the front lines while others have volunteered for hospital shifts or rescue teams that search for survivors after bombardment.
Asmaa, a black-and-white scarf wrapped around her neck, says she enlisted to take part in the fighting.
“Today, I don’t see myself as a student. I see myself as a fighter,” she says assertively.
The crowd around her splits into two lines — one for young men and one for women — and begin marching through Afrin for an impromptu military parade.
As shopkeepers look on, the youth wave YPG flags and chant, “No to occupation!” and “Long live the heroic resisters!“
“There has been an increasing number of volunteers, and each young man or woman can choose which institution they want to volunteer for depending on their experience and capacities,” says Rezan Haddu, a media adviser to YPG in Afrin.
“Some volunteered as YPG fighters, others provide logistical support like food, transportation, and clothes,” he tells AFP.
Turkey and allied Syrian rebels began their cross-border assault on the Afrin region on January 20, and most of the fighting has been concentrated along the mountainous frontier.
Ankara has blacklisted the YPG as a “terror” group for its ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly and decades-long insurgency against the Turkish government.
Local authorities had to act quickly to hold off the offensive, says Jinda Tulhaldan, a leader in the Kurdish Youth Movement’s Afrin branch.
“We give them a week of military training and teach them how to use weapons,” says Tulhaldan.
“We know a week isn’t enough, but we were attacked and had to defend our city with whatever we had in front of us.”
The Afrin region juts out from Syria’s northern Aleppo province, but it is governed under a semi-autonomous system established by Kurdish factions in 2013.
Under that system, people between the ages of 18 and 32 must spend one year in military conscription, says the YPG’s spokesman in Afrin, Birusk Hasakah.
Hasakah says “hundreds” of recruits had now fully enlisted in the YPG and allied groups, including members of local government who had closed public office and taken up arms.
“Others decided to prepare tea and food to distribute to the fronts, and others are volunteering in the hospitals,” he says.
“We were trained in light weapons from the youth center in Afrin,” says Tirij Hassan, a 22-year-old attending the recruitment rally.
“It’s the first time I carry weapons, but I’m happy about it because I’ll be defending Afrin, its people, and its children.”
Turkey says it does everything it can to avoid hitting civilians.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 68 civilians have been killed including 21 children since Turkey launched operation “Olive Branch” last month.
At least three civilians have also been killed by rocket fire from Syria onto Turkish territory.
More than 100 YPG fighters and about the same number of pro-Turkey rebels have also died in the fight, the Britain-based monitor said.
“Turkish warplanes are bombing Afrin. They are bombing civilians and attacking us and our forces,” says Farhad Akid, a 21-year-old agricultural engineering student in the Afrin city center.
“As young men, we’ve pledged ourselves to resist, to protect Afrin and our people. We won’t allow a single Turkish occupier to enter our blessed land.”


Terror funding has ‘new face,’ warns Saudi Arabia's attorney general

Updated 20 February 2019
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Terror funding has ‘new face,’ warns Saudi Arabia's attorney general

  • Financial crimes a rising threat to global economy, MENA forum told

JEDDAH: The changing dynamics of terror financing and money laundering posed a growing problem for countries and organizations seeking to halt their spread, a regional conference in Cairo was warned.

Saudi Arabia's Attorney General Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mua’jab told the first Middle East and North Africa conference on countering terrorism that new forms of transnational terror funding and money laundering demanded greater cooperation between states and organizations.

The conference, organized by the Egyptian Public Prosecution Office, aims to bolster international unity in the face of the escalating threat of terrorist financing and money laundering operations.

“Saudi Arabia has spared no effort in combating these two crimes,” Al-Mua’jab said.

He said money laundering and terror financing are at the “forefront of global criminal phenomena,” and often complemented each other.

“One of the most important steps the world has taken through its international and regional systems is to engage in initiatives and agreements to combat terrorism financing and money laundering as the artery of the criminal body that strikes the global economy,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia is a key partner in the international coalition against the so-called Daesh terrorist organization and leads, together with the US and Italy, the Counter Daesh Finance Group. It has also implemented laws and procedures aimed at combating money laundering and terrorist financing,” he said.

Al-Mua’jab said the September 2018 report of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Saudi Arabia had praised the Kingdom’s commitment to the recommendations of the group.

“Saudi Arabia has spared no effort in combating these two crimes,” he said. “It was one of the first countries in the world to be affected by terrorist acts. Its experience of combating the crimes has been exemplary.”

He said measures taken by the Kingdom included the 2017 “Law of Combating Crime and its Financing,” regulation of charities and the establishment of a standing committee to investigate money laundering.

The Kingdom’s Public Prosecution Office recently released a manual outlining steps to counter money laundering, including measures for seizure and confiscation, tracking of funds and details of international cooperation. 

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority has also issued a guidebook for Saudi banks to combat money laundering. 

A recent Saudi Cabinet meeting outlined strategic objectives for reducing the risks of the two crimes, he said.