Kafr Naya: YPG Prevents Return of Displaced Residents, Shares Abandoned Properties Among Themselves

The majority-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are preventing displaced residents from returning to the village of Kafr Naya in northern rural Aleppo governorate five years after capturing the village. Residents have been unable to return to their houses and farmland, some of which the YPG has reportedly handed out to its loyalists, members and leaders’ families. Remaining properties in the village were converted into military training sites, as well as offices for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The YPG captured Kafr Naya on February 15, 2016 amid battles against rebels in northern Aleppo governorate, and with Russian military support. The fighting forced most residents to flee, alongside residents of more than 30 towns and villages captured at the time by the YPG. Kafr Naya is located west of the Aleppo-Gaziantep highway, and south of Tel Rifaat. It is close to the line of contact with regime forces and Iranian militias, which are concentrated in the towns of Nubl and Al-Zahraa.

From the town’s capture by YPG fighters in February 2016, until early 2018, Kafr Naya residents--who numbered about 5,000--were prevented from returning. Displaced residents remained living in tents near Azaz, a city close to the Turkish border. Some 500 other residents stayed elsewhere, in regime-held areas. They were also prevented from returning home during this period. Today, there are only a few families remaining in the town who never left.

During this two-year period from 2016 to 2018, much of Kafr Naya was converted into a YPG military camp. Fighters’ families took up residence in some of the abandoned homes, and a training camp was set up on the outskirts. The YPG allowed some fighters’ families to use land belonging to displaced residents.

When rebels took control of northern Syria’s Afrin region in 2018, displaced families of YPG fighters and leaders flocked from there to Kafr Naya.

An official in Kafr Naya’s formerly opposition-run council told The Syria Report that a large number of displaced residents’ homes had been converted into offices. Most important of these facilities is the YPG’s Revolutionary Youth office, as well as offices for the Women’s Committee and a centre for training female YPG volunteers in light weaponry.

According to the council official, original residents of the town are mostly Arabs (80 percent) and Turkmen (20 percent).

A correspondent for The Syria Report spoke with displaced families from Kafr Naya, who said that they also lost much of their farm equipment during the battle for control of the town in 2016. The YPG has cultivated their farmland, which totals hundreds of hectares, with crops the town is known for: olives, cumin, wheat, potatoes, foul, black beans, coriander, and barley.