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Human Rights

Turkish Attacks on Civilian Infrastructure in Northeast Syria Facilitate Demographic Change

Download the full report here.


Systematic Turkish bombing of critical civilian infrastructure in North and East Syria has coincided with statements by senior Turkish officials claiming that infrastructure is a legitimate target or admitting to the targeting of infrastructure sites.

These developments take place in a context of a pattern of violence against civilians, particularly Kurdish civilians, by Turkish and Turkey-backed forces that has led to the removal of Kurdish populations from northern Syria and that is conducted in order to destroy the social base for the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) or any other form of Kurdish self-rule.

Turkish strikes on protected sites have killed and injured civilians and been described as a violation of international law by various human rights watchdogs. Their second-order impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions, through widespread deprivation of access to electricity and fuel, is immense. Of particular concern are the impacts of the strikes on food security and access to clean water.

These impacts are reasonably predictable results of any partial or complete destruction of the targeted sites. They have impacted civilian populations previously targeted by Turkish military operations and supercharged the impact of other harmful Turkish policies in North and East Syria.

If existing damage is left unaddressed and strikes are allowed to continue, Turkey’s actions will contribute to renewed humanitarian and security crises in the region.


All parties should immediately cease hostilities in northeast Syria. The international community, particularly the United States and other members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, should work to ensure that an end to conflict is permanent by building on and strengthening existing weak or failed ceasefire agreements. This could include mechanisms for the monitoring of the Syria-Turkey border to ensure compliance with agreements and efforts to resolve the status of Turkish-occupied areas and their displaced populations through allowing NGOs access to these regions and pursuing peacebuilding and governance programs within them.

The international community should commit resources to restoring critical infrastructure, particularly energy, power, and water infrastructure. Rebuilding should be done in a way that responds to the needs of the most impacted populations and is resilient to potential future bombing campaigns.

To deter future attacks, Turkish officials involved in the bombing of critical infrastructure should be held accountable for their actions and made to understand that further attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure will have meaningful consequences. To promote accountability, the United States can:

  • Impose sanctions under Executive Order 13894 on all Turkish officials responsible for the targeting of critical civilian infrastructure in northeast Syria.
  • Support civil society in efforts to document Turkish strikes on critical civilian infrastructure, the cumulative impact of these bombing campaigns on civilians in the region, and the pattern of violations leading to demographic change in Turkish-occupied regions of northern Syria.
  • Provide support for legal proceedings against Turkish officials involved in the bombing of critical civilian infrastructure.

Download the full report here.

(Photo: Burak Kara/Getty Images)

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Kurdish Peace Institute



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