A year on, Syr­i­ans in ar­eas lib­er­ated by Turkey’s Op­er­a­tion Peace Spring cel­e­brate im­prove­ments

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Politics -

» A YEAR has passed since Turkey launched its third cross-bor­der op­er­a­tion into north­ern Syria, Op­er­a­tion Peace Spring, aim­ing to lib­er­ate the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad from YPG/PKK ter­ror­ist oc­cu­pa­tion. Achiev­ing suc­cess in a short time, the Turk­ish mil­i­tary not only cleared most of the ter­ror­ist el­e­ments from the re­gion but also nor­mal­ized ev­ery­day life, a move wel­comed by the lo­cals, who have ex­pressed deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Turkey’s ef­forts.

“De­spite all the dif­fi­cul­ties, our re­gion has achieved peace at last; we are in peace,” said Abu Mar­wah, a lo­cal farmer in Tal Abyad.

Abu Mar­wah said the lo­cal farm­ers ex­port their prod­ucts to Turkey and pur­chase Turk­ish agri­cul­tural prod­ucts to meet their own needs, as well.

Turkey launched Op­er­a­tion Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to elim­i­nate ter­ror­ists from north­ern Syria east of the Euphrates River in or­der to se­cure Turkey’s bor­ders, aid in the safe re­turn of Syr­ian refugees and en­sure Syria’s ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity.

The op­er­a­tion, con­ducted in line with the coun­try’s right to self-de­fense borne out of in­ter­na­tional law and U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions, aimed to es­tab­lish a terror-free safe zone for Syr­i­ans re­turn in the area east of the Euphrates River, which was then con­trolled by the U.S.-backed YPG ter­ror­ists.

Since the launch of the op­er­a­tion, Turkey has been sup­port­ing ev­ery as­pect of life in the re­gion, from health to education, se­cu­rity to agri­cul­ture. In this re­spect, ef­forts to clear bombs and im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices were launched and ad­min­is­tra­tion du­ties were given to lo­cal coun­cils. “We have re­opened the doors to our shops. The sit­u­a­tion in bazaars gets bet­ter ev­ery day,” said Ah­mad Khalil, who runs a per­fumery in Ras al-Ain. Once dis­placed from the town due to the ter­ror­ist oc­cu­pa­tion, Khalil man­aged to re­turn to his home­town thanks to the nor­mal­iza­tion of life fol­low­ing Op­er­a­tion Peace Spring.

Un­der­lin­ing that there are still bomb­ings that tar­get civil­ians in the town from time to time, Khalil ex­pressed that no mat­ter what, they are de­ter­mined to con­tinue liv­ing in the re­gion. “We be­lieve that in the fu­ture, our trade re­la­tions will also im­prove,” he said re­gard­ing his hopes for the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the town.

The coun­try also rolled-up its sleeves to re­con­struct hos­pi­tals, schools, mosques and roads de­stroyed by the YPG/PKK. Within the scope of ame­lio­rat­ing the re­gion’s so­cial in­fras­truc­ture, peo­ple were given food and cloth­ing by sev­eral non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions while roads and build­ings were re­built. These ef­forts paid off as hun­dreds of dis­placed Syr­i­ans started to re­turn to the lib­er­ated ar­eas.

Host­ing more than 3.6 mil­lion Syr­i­ans and spend­ing bil­lions of dol­lars on their needs, de­spite the on­go­ing con­flict, Turkey now looks to es­tab­lish pros­per­ous set­tle­ments and im­prove the liv­ing con­di­tions for Syr­i­ans in north­ern Syria.

A gro­cer in Tal Abyad, Salih Ham­dan, pointed to the live­li­ness of the bazaar, lo­cated in the cen­ter on the city.

“There are bless­ings and fruit­ful­ness in ev­ery cor­ner of Tal Abyad. The bazaars are al­ways crowded. Thank God!” Ham­dan said.

Agree­ing with Ham­dan, butcher Mo­ham­mad Vasıl also cel­e­brated the com­merce in the bazaar. “Tal Abyad has been re­stored with its peo­ple,” he said, adding that there is sta­bil­ity in the re­gion now and the lo­cals have re­cov­ered for the most part.

To­day, the civil­ians in the re­gion have ac­cess to free health ser­vices in both of the towns. Each town has its own hos­pi­tal, with ad­di­tional mul­ti­ple health care cen­ters. Once used as mil­i­tary bases by YPG/PKK ter­ror­ists, the schools in the towns are also be­ing ren­o­vated and re­vived by Turkey. Thanks to these ef­forts, a to­tal of 422 schools in the re­gion are ready to pro­vide for the needs of thou­sands of school chil­dren.

AKÇAKALE COM­MEM­O­RATES VIC­TIMS

The op­er­a­tion not only sta­bi­lized the at­mos­phere in north­ern Syria but also in some bor­der dis­tricts of Turkey, es­pe­cially Şan­lıurfa’s Akçakale, which faced fre­quent ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the past.

“To­day, thank God, we have a se­cured district and do not see any ter­ror­ist flags wav­ing from across the bor­der. The bor­der gate is open now, there is trade on­go­ing with ma­jor mo­bil­ity. When we put all these on top of each other, we see a very dif­fer­ent Akçakale than be­fore,” said Mehmet Yalçınkaya, the mayor of the district.

Still, the district con­tin­ues to re­cover from its wounds from the deaths of civil­ians killed in at­tacks by the YPG/PKK.

“We have been say­ing for ages that if we would not have in­ter­vened there (north­ern Syria), they (the ter­ror­ists) would in­ter­vene here. Thus, it was manda­tory for Turkey to elim­i­nate the YPG/PKK from the re­gion,” said Mehmet Yoğurt, whose father Halil Yoğurt was killed dur­ing one of the ter­ror­ists’ mis­sile at­tacks on the district dur­ing the op­er­a­tion.

“Al­though our father was killed, we are still happy. Our wound is still fresh, but we are glad that we got rid of the YPG/PKK ter­ror­ists,” Yoğurt said, adding that the district’s sit­u­a­tion is much bet­ter than it was be­fore the coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tion.

Yoğurt also ap­pre­ci­ated the sup­port Turkey has pro­vided for his fam­ily since his father was killed. “If there would be a de­mand now for sol­diers, we are all ready to fight for our coun­try,” he said.

Halil Yoğurt’s wife Şaha, on the other hand, said she is still deeply wounded by the death of her hus­band and yet ex­pressed glad­ness for the elim­i­na­tion of the ter­ror­ists from the re­gion. Dur­ing the op­er­a­tion, YPG fre­quently launched re­tal­ia­tory strikes on civil­ian-pop­u­lated ar­eas in Turkey. Dozens of mor­tars were fired to Akçakale, tar­get­ing not only lo­cals but also the jour­nal­ists op­er­at­ing in the area.

An­other ma­jor loss for the city was the killing of 9-month-old Syr­ian in­fant Mo­ham­mad Omar, who fell vic­tim to a mis­sile at­tack. Omar’s fam­ily keeps his mem­ory alive by plac­ing photos of the in­fant around the house and finds so­lace in the fact that his killers have been elim­i­nated from the re­gion thanks to Op­er­a­tion Peace Spring. “It is not pos­si­ble to for­get him (Mo­ham­mad). He was our son but, if God wanted to take him, there is noth­ing we can do,” said Mehmet Hani, the in­fant’s father, adding that thanks to Turkey’s ef­forts, they fi­nally feel safe in the re­gion.

Hav­ing an­other child shortly af­ter Mo­ham­mad’s death, his mother Fa­time Hani said that her new­born smells just like Mo­ham­mad. “I will never for­get the bru­tal­i­ties of the YPG/ PKK,” the griev­ing mother said.

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