Washington, DC, March 15– In Defense of Christians (IDC), the nation’s leading advocacy organization for Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East, calls on the Turkish government, army and affiliated militias encircling Afrin city to exercise restraint, respect civilians and ensure that ethnic cleansing of Yazidis and Christians does not take place. Following up on IDC’s January 23rd expression of concern over the Turkish operation, we reaffirm our call for a diplomatic solution to re-stabilize Afrin.

Turkey’s recent “Olive Branch” operation in the Kurdish-controlled Afrin region in Syria has been exceptionally precarious for Christians and Yazidis, who have expressed concerns over the participation of Turkish-backed Islamist militants in Syria who have threatened these communities and targeted civilian areas. Several minorities have already been killed, shrines and religious sites have been destroyed or forcibly converted into mosques, and people’s homes have been looted. As with Iraq in 2014, the situation foreshadows the potential for ethnic cleansing.

Earlier today, IDC’s Executive Director Philippe Nassif stated that “urgent restraint needs to be exercised as the city of Afrin is encircled by Turkey and affiliated militias. With reports of over 30,000 people fleeing the city in one day, we are concerned about attacks against civilians and in particular against religious minorities.”

IDC calls on the International Community to work with Turkey to transport Yazidis and Christians out of the Afrin canton in order to prevent ethnic cleansing. Additionally, the International Community should pressure Turkey and its allies to ensure mass-murder does not take place.

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