Head of pro-Kurdish party wants Turkey to end Syria offensive

Turkish troops and pro-Turkey Syrian fighters trying to take control of Bursayah hill, which separates the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from the Turkey-controlled town of Azaz, Syria. (AP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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Head of pro-Kurdish party wants Turkey to end Syria offensive

ANKARA: Turkey should accept the territorial gains of Syrian Kurdish forces at its southern border, end its military operation against them and instead resolve problems through dialogue, the new leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party said.
Pervin Buldan’s argument is likely to hold little sway with Turkish President Tayyip Tayyip Erdogan, who launched “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin region last month to sweep the Syrian Kurdish YPG forces away from Turkey’s southern border.
Buldan, elected on Sunday as the new co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is already being investigated for terrorism for making critical remarks of the Syria incursion. Since the operation began, authorities have detained more than 600 people for protesting or criticizing it on social media.
Critics say the moves are emblematic of a wider crackdown launched after a 2016 failed putsch against Erdogan’s government. More than 50,000 people have been detained, including the previous leaders of the HDP.
“The reasonable thing to do is to find a solution through dialogue, and the only possible solution is through agreement. Turkey needs to tolerate the achievements of Kurds in Syria,” she told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday.
Since the onset of Syria’s civil war in 2011, the YPG and its allies have seized swathes of land and set up autonomous cantons in northern Syria, including Afrin.
Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Erdogan has been infuriated by US support for the YPG against Daesh.
Ankara also accuses Buldan’s party of links to the PKK, which has waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast for three decades. The HDP, Parliament’s second-largest opposition party, denies this.
The investigation against Buldan was launched a day after she was elected, with a prosecutor citing her comments against the offensive in Syria, which she has described as an attack on civilian Kurds.


Assad backs down over law to seize refugee homes

Updated 18 October 2018
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Assad backs down over law to seize refugee homes

  • ‘Law 10’ withdrawn, UN humanitarian aid chief Jan Egeland says
  • The law was a major impediment to the return of millions of refugees and internally displaced people who fled their homes

BEIRUT: The Assad regime has withdrawn a law that allowed authorities to seize property left behind by civilians who fled the war in Syria, the UN humanitarian aid chief in the country said on Thursday.

Under Law 10, Syrians had 30 days to prove that they own property in redevelopment zones in order to receive shares in the projects, otherwise ownership was transferred to the local government.

The law was a major impediment to the return of millions of refugees and internally displaced people who fled their homes. Regime officials have insisted the law would not result in the confiscation of property, but was aimed at proving and organizing ownership to combat forgery of documents in opposition-held areas.

Jan Egeland, who heads aid issues in the office of UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, said he had been told of the decision to withdraw the law by Russia, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s key military ally.

“When Russia says that it is withdrawn and there were mistakes made ... it is good news,” Egeland said. “Hopefully this will now be reality on the ground. So diplomacy can win — even in Syria.”

Syrian politician Mohammed Kheir Akkam said the law had issued by presidential decree and he knew of no decree to abolish it. “These claims are not true so far,” he said.

Nevertheless, Syrian refugees across the border in Lebanon welcomed reports that the law had been withdrawn. “We have not heard the news yet, but this is an excellent move,” Abu Mohammed, who is from Al-Qusayr and is the former head the water department in Homs, told Arab News. 

“This move reflects the goodwill of the Syrian regime toward its displaced people abroad. Their discourse is no longer an escalation against us, but an attempt to re-establish trust between Syrian citizens and the Syrian regime.”

Khalid Melhem, from Qalamoun, said the withdrawal of the law was “a gesture of goodwill, on which trust can be built.”

Melhem, an interior designer in Syria, now lives in a tent in Arsal and works as a house painter.  “I own a 300-square-meter house in Damascus, but the authorities demolished it and acquired the land. I could not return to Syria to prove my ownership of the house because they want to lure me into the country and arrest me.”

The regime acquired the property, 600 meters from the barracks of the Scientific Studies and Research Center, in 2017. “They demolished all damaged houses surrounding the barracks and prevented anyone from approaching the property except for a few Alawites, who were allowed to rebuild and reclaim their homes,” Melhem said.