A branch of the Society for Threatened Peoples International (STPI) in Göttingen, Germany, has accused Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of promoting the Islamization of the once multi-religious Afrin region of northern Syria, local media reported on Tuesday.
The NGO said one of the AKP government’s moves towards that goal had been the building of mosques in Yazidi villages in Afrin, which was carried out by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), to spread a particularly radical interpretation of Sunni Islam.
Through its German-based Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB), the Diyanet is also trying to bring its radical religious views to local schools, STPI said in a press release on Monday.
Dr. Kamal Sido, the organization’s Middle East expert, said although at least 96 percent of the population of Afrin once comprised moderate Sunni Muslim Kurds, most of them left and were replaced with radical Islamists after Turkey established a military presence in the region.
The Kurdish population dropped to around 25 percent, Sido said, explaining that it shows Turkey is on the verge of achieving one of its most important goals — to make Afrin Kurdish-free.
The number of Yazidi believers in Afrin, which was once between 20,000 and 30,000, is only a few thousand nowadays, according to Turkish media reports.
Sido further said Turkey’s Diyanet determined what was preached in the mosques and new Quran schools in Afrin, adding that there was also substantial hate speech against Israel and the Jews in the mosques during the 11-day Israel-Palestinian conflict that ended with a ceasefire on May 21.