Afrin District

Afrin District (Arabic: منطقة عفرين, romanizedmanṭiqat Afrīn) is a district of Aleppo Governorate in northern Syria. The administrative centre is the city of Afrin. At the 2004 census, the district had a population of 172,095.[1] Syria's Afrin District fell under the control of the People's Protection Units (YPG) around 2012 and an "Afrin Canton" was declared in 2014, followed by an "Afrin Region" in 2017. During Operation Olive Branch, the entire district was captured by Turkey and its allies.[2]

Afrin District
منطقة عفرين
Afrin District in Syria
Location of Afrin District within Aleppo Governorate
Afrin District is located in Syria
Afrin District
Afrin District
Location in Syria
Coordinates (Afrin): 36°30′36″N 36°52′04″E / 36.51°N 36.8678°E / 36.51; 36.8678
Country Syria
Control Turkey
Syrian opposition Syrian Interim Government
Subdistricts7 nawāḥī
 • Total1,840.85 km2 (710.76 sq mi)


The area around Afrin developed as the center of a distinctive Sufi tradition.[3] In modern post-independence Syria, the Kurdish society of the district was subject to heavy-handed Arabization policies by the Damascus government.[4]

Syrian civil warEdit

In the course of the Syrian civil war, Damascus government forces pulled back from the district in spring 2012 to give way to the People's Protection Units (YPG) and autonomous self-government under the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, which was formally declared on 29 January 2014.[5] Until 2018, violence in Afrin was minor, involving artillery shelling by Jabhat al-Nusra[6][additional citation(s) needed] as well as by Turkey.[7][5][8]

Turkish soldiers and SNA fighters at the building in Afrin that had hosted the PYD-led government of the region, 18 March 2018

Afrin was captured by the Turkish Land Forces and Syrian National Army (SNA) as a result of the 2018 Afrin offensive. Tens of thousands of Kurdish refugees fled from Afrin City before its capture by the SNA in March 2018,[9][10] and the YPG vowed to retake it. The YPG subsequently announced its intention to start a guerrilla war in Afrin,[11] leading to the SDF insurgency in Northern Aleppo. The region has seen human rights abuses, including kidnappings ethnic cleansing, torture, forced evictions and killings since the start of Turkish occupation in Afrin.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18]


In the 1930s, Kurdish Alevis who fled the persecution of the Turkish Army during the Dersim Massacre, settled in Maabatli in the Afrin District.[19] Prior to the Syrian Civil War, the population of the Afrin District area was overwhelmingly ethnic Kurdish, to the degree that the district had been described as "homogeneously Kurdish".[20] The overall population of Afrin Canton, based on the 2004 Syrian census, was about 200,000.[21]

Cities and towns with more than 10.000 inhabitants according to the 2004 Syrian census are Afrin (36,562) and Jandairis (13,661).[citation needed]

Throughout the course of the Syrian Civil War, the Afrin District served as a safe haven for inbound refugees of all ethnicities.[22] According to a June 2016 estimate from the International Middle East Peace Research Center, about 316,000 displaced Syrians of Kurdish, Yazidi, Arab and Turkmen ethnicity lived in Afrin Canton at the time.[23] After the Turkish-led forces had captured Afrin in early 2018, they began to implement a resettlement policy by moving their mostly Arab fighters[24] and refugees from southern Syria[25] into the empty homes that belonged to displaced locals.[26] The previous owners, most of them Kurds or Yazidis, were often prevented from returning to Afrin.[24][25] Refugees from Eastern Ghouta, Damascus, told Patrick Cockburn of The Independent that they were part of "an organised demographic change" which was said to replace the Kurdish population of Afrin with an Arab majority.[24]


Aleppo soap

A diverse agricultural industry is at the heart of the Afrin District's economy,[27] traditionally olives in particular, and more recently there has been a focus on increasing wheat production.[28] A well-known product from the area is Aleppo soap, a hard soap made from olive oil and lye, distinguished by the inclusion of laurel oil. While the Afrin District has been the source of olive oil for Aleppo soap since antiquity, the destruction caused by the Syrian Civil War to other parts of Aleppo governorate increasingly made the entire production chains locate in Afrin District.[29][30] At the height of the fighting for Aleppo, up to 50 percent of the city's industrial production was moved to the Afrin District.[31] As of early 2016, two million pairs of jeans were produced per month and exported across Syria.[31] In January 2017, 400 textile industry workshops counted 17,000 employees, supplying the whole of Syria.[32]

In 2015 there were 32 tons of Aleppo soap produced and exported to other parts of Syria, but also to international markets.[31]


Afrin District also served as a center for domestic tourism due to its beautiful landscapes. The tourism was however somewhat constricted due to the YPG's tight control of the borders, and the war; local tourism mostly collapsed during the Turkish invasion of 2018.[33]


The district of Afrin is divided into seven subdistricts or nawāḥī (population as of 2004[1]):

Subdistricts of Afrin District
Code Name Area Population Seat
SY020300 Afrin Subdistrict 427.73 km² 66,188 Afrin
SY020301 Bulbul Subdistrict 203.36 km² 12,573 Bulbul
SY020302 Jindires Subdistrict 319.43 km² 32,947 Jindires
SY020303 Rajo Subdistrict 283.12 km² 21,955 Rajo
SY020304 Sharran Subdistrict 305.18 km² 13,632 Sharran
SY020305 Shaykh al-Hadid Subdistrict 93.52 km² 13,871 Shaykh al-Hadid
SY020306 Maabatli Subdistrict 208.51 km² 11,741 Maabatli


  1. ^ a b c "General Census of Population and Housing 2004" (PDF) (in Arabic). Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 15 October 2015. Also available in English: "2004 Census Data". UN OCHA. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  2. ^ "Turkey takes full control of Syria's Afrin region, reports say". Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  3. ^ Tejel, Jordi; Welle, Jane (2009). Syria's kurds history, politics and society (PDF) (1. publ. ed.). London: Routledge. pp. 100–101. ISBN 0-203-89211-9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04.
  4. ^ "SYRIA: The Silenced Kurds; Vol. 8, No. 4(E)". Human Rights Watch. 1996.
  5. ^ a b Thomas Schmidinger (24 February 2016). "Afrin and the Race for the Azaz Corridor". The New Humanitarian. Newsdeeply. Retrieved 2016-10-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Nusra militants shell Kurdish areas in Syria's Afrin, Kurds respond". ARA News. 30 August 2015. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  7. ^ "Turkish forces shell Afrin countryside, killing and injuring about 16 most of them from the self-defense forces and Asayish". SOHR. 9 July 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  8. ^ Sheko, Zozhan (19 February 2016). "Turkey strikes Kurdish city of Afrin northern Syria, civilian casualties reported". ARA News. Archived from the original on 2016-11-03. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  9. ^ Chulov, Martin (2018-06-07). "'Nothing is ours anymore': Kurds forced out of Afrin after Turkish assault". The Guardian. Retrieved 2021-07-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Hamou, Ammar (3 May 2018). "Kurds locked out of Afrin as Ghouta refugees take their place". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 13 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Al Jazeera (16 March 2018). "Syrian civilians flee embattled Eastern Ghouta and Afrin". Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera Media Network. Retrieved 2 May 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ Omar, Hussein (28 April 2020). "Yezidi shrines desecrated by Turkish-backed groups in Afrin". Rudaw. Retrieved 11 April 2021 – via GenocideWatch.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "Afrin; Three years of Turkish occupation: Daily violations…theft of antiquities…money-laundering and demographic change…while the international community turns a blind eye". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. 18 March 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ "Died under torture in the faction's prison. Faction close to Turkish Intelligence buries an elderly man from Afrin, after refusing to hand over the body to his family". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. 8 March 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ "Violations in Afrin | Turkish-backed factions seize nearly 60 olive fields belonging to displaced people in Sharran district". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. 2021-03-06. Retrieved 2021-04-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ Hagedorn, Elizabeth (2 June 2020). "'An insult to women' everywhere: Afrin kidnappings prompt calls for investigation of Turkey-backed rebels". Al Monitor. Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Frantzman, Seth (8 June 2020). "Kurdish woman reportedly murdered in Turkish-occupied Afrin". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ Kajjo, Sirwan (15 November 2019). "Rights Groups Concerned About Continued Abuses in Afrin | Voice of America - English". Voice of America. Retrieved 2021-07-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ "". DER STANDARD.
  20. ^ "Rojava's Sustainability and the YPG's Regional Strategy". Washington Institute. 2 August 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  21. ^ "Census Bureau: Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-12-19.
  22. ^ Chulov, Martin (2018-03-18). "Syria's new exiles: Kurds flee Afrin after Turkish assault". The Guardian. Retrieved 2021-07-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ Tastekin, Fehim (9 June 2016). "Will Afrin be the next Kobani?". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 2016-10-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ a b c Cockburn, Patrick (18 April 2018). "Yazidis who suffered under Isis face forced conversion to Islam amid fresh persecution in Afrin". The Independent. Archived from the original on 13 June 2019. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  25. ^ a b Ammar Hamou; Barrett Limoges (1 May 2018). "Seizing lands from Afrin's displaced Kurds, Turkish-backed militias offer houses to East Ghouta families". SYRIA:direct. Archived from the original on 13 April 2019. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  26. ^ "Syria's war of ethnic cleansing: Kurds threatened with beheading by Turkey's allies if they don't convert to extremism". The Independent. 12 March 2018. Archived from the original on 5 June 2019. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  27. ^ "Afrin is building its economy on agriculture". Hawar News Agency. 8 August 2016. Archived from the original on 8 August 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2010.
  28. ^ "Agriculture Commission is Looking at the Process of Receiving Wheat from Farmers". Afrin Canton. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  29. ^ "Famous Aleppo soap victim of Syria's conflict". YourMiddleEast. 4 October 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  30. ^ "Will Syria's Kurds succeed at self-sufficiency?". Al-Monitor. 3 May 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-05-08. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  31. ^ a b c Darwish, Sardar Mullah (3 May 2016). "Will Syria's Kurds succeed at self-sufficiency?". Al-Monitor. Archived from the original on 2016-05-08. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
  32. ^ "Rojava: The Economic Branches in Detail". 14 January 2017. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  33. ^ Khaled al-Khateb (26 July 2018). "Day trippers flock to Afrin's orchards as Aleppo restores security". al-Monitor. Retrieved 29 July 2018.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Afrin District at Wikimedia Commons