Over 414,000 displaced Syrians have voluntarily returned to areas liberated by the Turkish military, Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu revealed on Friday.
Speaking at a workshop in the Ayvalık district in Turkey’s western Balıkesir province, Soylu stated: “Thanks to the security provided by our cross-border operations, 414,061 Syrians have voluntarily returned to their country so far.”
This was made possible, he explained, by the four major military operations carried out by the Turkish military over the past four years, consisting of Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016, Operation Olive Branch in 2018, Operation Peace Spring in 2019 and Operation Spring Shield in March of this year.
The first three of those military interventions aimed to clear the Kurdish militias such as the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the Turkish-Syrian border for national security purposes. The last operation hoped to establish a safe zone extending 30 kilometres into northeast Syria where displaced Syrians can inhabit.
“The pressure on the field we applied to the PKK, Daesh and their affiliates, our fight against terrorism within the country, show clearly that our security, in essence, starts across our borders,” Soylu affirmed.
He also cited the hundreds of deaths of Turkish civilians and personnel as a result of numerous terrorist attacks committed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Turkish soil in just over a year, confirming that those attacks took more Turkish lives than any lost in its regional military operations.
“The total loss of lives in these eight attacks taking place in 14 months is 369 people, while these did not take place in Iraq nor in Syria, which has been undergoing a civil war for nine years, nor in Afghanistan,” he stressed. “All these have taken place in our country.”
Soylu did not clarify the exact areas to where the displaced Syrians returned, but this comes after it was revealed earlier this month that the Turkish Diyanet Foundation also constructed 600 homes for Syrian families in the opposition-held northwest province of Idlib.