By Omer Koparan and Eshref Musa
Syrian civilians forced to flee Afrin’s Tel Rifaat district to the nearby town of Azaz by the PYD/PKK terrorist group rallied on Tuesday to show support for a Turkish military operation that remains underway in northern Syria.
Turkey began its Operation Olive Branch on Jan. 20 with the aim of clearing PKK/KCK/PYD-YPG and Daesh terrorists from Syria’s northwestern Afrin district.
Around 250,000 Syrian civilians who fled their homes in 2016 still await the elimination of the PYD/PKK presence so that they might return to their homes.
The eastern part of Afrin is comprised of two districts: Tel Rifaat (currently occupied by the PYD/PKK) and Azaz (which is held by Syrian opposition forces that also control the Idlib province).
Nearly 2,000 internally displaced persons in Azaz took part in Tuesday’s rally to show support for the ongoing Turkish operation, which is being carried out in coordination with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
"We are here to support the Turkish military and the FSA and to demand the return of 250,000 civilians displaced from Tel Rifaat by the PKK," protester Abu Ali (not his real name) told Anadolu Agency.
"For two years, we have lived in tents that don’t protect us from the summer sun and cold winter weather,” Abu Ali lamented.
“We call on [Turkish President] Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish army and the FSA to open a front to liberate Tel Rifaat so that we can return to our homes,” he added.
Omar al-Sin, another protester, also expressed support for Operation Olive Branch, which he hopes will eventually allow him to return to Tel Rifaat.
"We have been driven from our land by Russia-backed PKK attacks and terror,” al-Sin said. “We support the FSA and the Turkish troops who are working to reunite us with our homes.”
Afrin has remained a PYD/PKK stronghold since July 2012, when the Syrian regime left the city to the terrorist group without a fight.