Logging Continues in Afrin, Who Is Responsible?
Lacking censorship, logging continues in the city of Afrin, northern rural Aleppo, while the area’s people keep calling on concerned entities to stop the phenomenon which might put the area’s forest wealth to great danger.
Many question marks are raised as who is responsible for logging, which started following the control of the Turkey-backed factions of the “Free Army” over the city on March 18, 2018, after the removal of the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units.”
Implicit Accusation of the Factions
Enab Baladi met several of the area’s people, owners of agricultural lands and affected by the logging of various species of trees that are decades old. On the condition of anonymity, they pointed a direct finger of blame at the factions in the area.
“J. A”, a resident from Afrin, indicated the increasing number of trees being logged in his land, cultivated with pomegranate, walnut and olive trees, for his land is located near the highway.
“Due to the nature of my work and my residence being in the city, I used to check on my land on weekends only. However, when the Free Army controlled the area, I started going there to count down the trees which have been cut,” he said.
The landowner did not directly accuse any side, stressing that he did not see the persons who are cutting the trees down in his land.
However, according to his testimony, the area is surrounded with the checkpoints of the “Free Army” and the police. So, they are either the responsible side or know who is doing it.
No one dares to complain, he pointed out.
The logging phenomenon is proliferating in the shadow of the increasing timber trade, especially under the weather conditions storming the area.
According to “Abu Haider”, a 35-year-old merchant, wood merchants usually buy firewood from lumbermills or any person offering to sell, without knowing the source of the commodity. He stressed that the idea of timber being stolen relates to the seller’s morals, for merchants are people who buy and sell and are not responsible for logging or stealing the civilians’ trees.
Concerning the prices, “Abu Haider” pointed out that the price of a single tone of firewood ranges from 50 to 80 thousand Syrian bounds, depending on the quality and the type of lumber. The costliest type is olive lumber, which enhances the desire to log olive trees and steal them.
Afrin covers an area of 3850 square meters, the equivalent to 2% of the overall area of Syria. It is known for the quality of its agricultural activities, which are the main source of living for the majority of its population. Olive trees cover most of its agricultural areas, for there are up to 18 million olive trees, according to the “Self-Management,” which used to control the area.
Enab Baladi interviewed al-Shaikh Milad, the former director of the Military Police and the current officer of the Security Committee, asking him the questions raised above.
He confirmed that the factions, today present in the area, are responsible for the logging process and selling the trees, as it presents them with a profitable trade.
“Each faction in the area tackles a sector. We cannot order each other what do, and the solution needs a moral sense,” he indicated.
Milad said that he tried to combat the phenomenon and confiscate the cars belonging to the “Free Army.” But he was met with opposition and massive pressure, which led him to relinquish the matter because there is not an executive force with the capacity to stop the violators.
In June 2018, the military police warned against logging in the area and its rural parts, given that it is totally prohibited to cut any of the forest’s trees in any area, and the police are to confiscate any vehicle loaded with recently logged trees. The driver is also to be kept in detention for a month.
For his part, the economic official of one of the factions under the “National Army”, dubbed “Abu Mohammad,” refusing to reveal his full name, attributed the problem to chaos, loose morality and the uselessness of the Military Police Forces.
Abu Mohammad mentioned that dozens of people, civilians and militants, were captured while logging the forests’ trees in the area’s vicinity; these have been referred to the police or the military police when the captured are militants, but this failed to put a limit to the phenomenon.
“Many problems arose from this issue, and the matter demands resources beyond our energy and capabilities,” he said, adding: “Everyone is accountable, and no faction is innocent. Each faction has members who had or are logging, either for trade or heating. Upon capturing any of them, the lumber is confiscated while they are released, only to log again.”