Syrian Christian Kurd: 'World Stood Silent' as Turkey Intent on 'Ethnic Cleansing'
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Afrin used to be a Syrian city. Kurds, Arabs, Christians and Muslims all lived together in harmony. Not anymore.
"Before the conflict erupted two months ago, everyone in the city lived together in peace," Nidal Bakr, a Syrian Kurdish Christian told CBN News. "Now I feel very sad and depressed about what is happening to my city."
Over the weekend, Turkish forces seized control of Afrin after a two-month offensive against a Syrian Kurdish militia.
"Turkey did not have the right to take control of our city," said Bakr's wife, Jihan. "The world stood silent while they invaded and now there is no one to defend the Kurdish people."
Five years ago, Nidal, Jihan and their four children, were forced to leave Afrin in northwestern Syria because famine conditions had gripped parts of their war-torn nation.
"The Syrian conflict was affecting our ability to access food safely," Nidal told CBN News. "We were facing starvation."
The couple made the heartbreaking decision to leave their homeland for neighboring Lebanon.
"We decided to leave our country and move here to Lebanon because we didn't have enough to eat," Jihan said through a translator.
They live in Beirut where Nidal is a painter and Jihan spends her time making shirts and bags to sell in the market. The couple is active in a local church and run a ministry reaching other Syrians displaced by the conflict.
For several weeks, their hearts and minds have been focused on loved ones trapped in Afrin.
"My parents are still in Afrin and because they are elderly they couldn't leave," said Nidal. "They are stuck. They don't have a car and are too old to walk."
Tens of thousands had already evacuated as the fall of the city neared.
"I spoke to my parents this morning and they said there's no electricity and no water in the city," Nidal said.
The Bakr's are from a small village about 10 miles from Afrin's city center.
"Everything there has been destroyed, our entire village has been destroyed, our home has been destroyed," said Jihan.
Turkey said it targeted Afrin because it was under control of a group called the People's Protection Units (YPG), which it considers a terrorist outfit. YPG rebels have been a key US ally in defeating ISIS terrorists.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan says after the Afrin victory, his forces will expand military operations into other Kurdish-held areas like Manbij, Kobani, Tal Abyad, Rasulayn and Qamishli.
Erdogan said capturing Afrin was a "comma" and "God willing, a full stop will come next," but stressed that they were not invading Syria.
"Our intention is not to invade, but to carry out operations to cleanse terrorists and eliminate terrorist threats to our country," Erdogan said.
Nidal and Jihan have a different view.
"Why can't the world see that Turkey is the real terrorists?" asks Jihan.
Some reports claim Turkey is using former ISIS and other radical Islamic fighters to target Kurds in Syrian towns like Afrin.
The Bakr's say it is clear to them that Turkey has ethnic cleaning intentions.
"Turkey is specifically going after the Kurdish people and their land," Nidal told CBN News. "The whole world is seeing what they are doing and no one is stopping them."
A top Kurdish diplomat expressed similar sentiments, going a step further of accusing the international community of abandoning the Kurds after they fought alongside coalition forces to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS).
"What is happening in Afrin is ethnic cleansing and the great powers are spectators," Khaled Issa, a representative of Syrian Kurds, said at a press conference in Paris Monday. "We are frustrated to see that the same fighters that were courageously combatting Daesh (Islamic State) have been left to the mercy of the Turkish army allied with jihadists, abandoned under the bombs of Ankara."
Issa said the world has a "moral responsibility" to confront Turkey's military operations.
Hours after Turkey seized control, Nidal said attacking forces went on a looting spree of Afrin.
"My parents said Turkish and Syrian rebel groups were going into people's homes and stores and stealing everything," Nidal told CBN News shortly after speaking with his parents. "They are taking people's cars, and everything of value."
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