Turkey accused of bulldozing cemetery to create ‘mass grave’ – analysis

It appears every time that Turkey has a high level meeting with US officials or a call with a US official Turkish state media is mobilized to invent or discover some new “YPG/PKK terror.”

by Seth Franzman for jpost

Turkey’s state media claimed last week that a “mass grave” of 61 bodies was found in Afrin in Syria, an area that Turkey illegally occupies and which it ethnically cleansed of Kurds in 2018. The Turkish state media claims, without any evidence that “the victims were executed by the US-backed PKK/YPG terrorist organization.”

In fact, say many Kurds, the victims were people killed by Turkey who had been buried in rows of marked graves until Turkey bulldozed the grave markers in 2018. Now Ankara has discovered a grave it allegedly desecrated and is inventing false reports.

The claims by Turkey and its state media, that often behaves as a propaganda arm of Turkey’s ruling AKP party, is not the first time Ankara has invented stories about Afrin. On the eve of a meeting with US President Joe Biden and Turkey’s President, Turkey invented a story of a “YPG/PKK terror attack on hospital” in Afrin in mid-June. Turkish media, such as Anadolu, pushed the story until after the June 14 meeting, and then it suddenly stopped covering it, as if the attack had never happened. It is still not clear who bombed the hospital.
According to photos and video put out by Kurdish activists the graves in Afrin were once marked in 2018 and included those who had recently been killed by Ankara’s invasion of Afrin in 2018. Afrin was a peaceful Kurdish area in Syria during much of Syria’s civil war. Turkey unleashed far-right extremist groups made up Syrians who Turkey had recruited, to attack the area in January 2018. The goal was to depopulate Afrin and then bring in pro-Turkey Syrian Arabs who had been displaced from other areas of Syria. Turkey wanted to use Syrian rebel groups to fight Kurds so that Turkey could work with Iran and Russia in Syria against the US.

The overall goal was to divert the Syrian rebel cause from fighting the Syrian regime to fighting Kurdish forces that Turkey deemed “terrorists.” These same Kurdish forces were fighting ISIS and were backed by the US in eastern Syria. To paint them as “terrorists” Ankara has invented a number of crimes attributed to them, all of which lack evidence.

The mass grave is the latest bizarre controversy. There are ample photos of the area and knowledge of it to show that it was likely bulldozed by Turkey or Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, and desecrated and then dug up this week for some reason. The reason for suddenly “discovering” the “mass grave” may have been connected to the call by Turkish presidential advisor Ibrahim Kalin and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

It appears every time that Turkey has a high level meeting with US officials or a call with a US official Turkish state media is mobilized to invent or discover some new “YPG/PKK terror” and then after the meeting the incident, which was apparently invented, disappears from coverage. The coverage is also usually in English to convince western audiences, with no real push in Arabic or Turkish about the same issue.

Ankara has never allowed independent investigators into Afrin to study these alleged attacks and crimes. Ankara does arrange media tour junkets where it controls access and controls media similar to Iran or North Korea in terms of what is allowed to be covered in Turkish-occupied areas.

It remains to be seen if Ankara will let DNA samples be taken from the bodies it has dug up, or investigate using aerial photos and satellite photos and take testimony from people with independent journalists present. The hospital attack, for instance, has never been investigated fully.

Unlike other areas that the international community calls “occupied,” such as Hebron in the West Bank, there are no UN special rapporteurs appointed for Afrin and no temporary international presence there to examine what is going on. This is largely because the international community has given Turkey’s occupation and ethnic cleansing a stamp of approval unlike the way the international community monitored ethnic cleansing in the Balkans in the 1990s.


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