Members of minority communities have started returning to their homes in northeastern Ras al Ayn, years after the province was cleansed of YPG/PKK terrorists as a result of Turkey’s cross-border operation.
Two Christian brothers from Syria now live in their homeland in peace after the area where they once lived was liberated from the YPG/PKK terror group by Turkey's cross-border operation.
Christian minorities in northeastern Ras al Ayn province suffered the consequences of the occupation of their towns by the YPG/PKK terror group in July 2013.
Naum and Ziyad Melki had to leave their sister behind and flee the violence of the terror group.
They took shelter in a refugee camp in Mardin province in southeastern Turkey.
After learning their sister was detained by the terrorists, Naum Melki returned to try to rescue her in May 2016. But he was detained by the terror group for three years.
The town was liberated as part of Turkey's Operation Peace Spring in October 2019.
Ziyad Melki, who spent six years in Turkey, has returned to his homeland.
'We always dreamed of going back'
Naum Melki told Anadolu Agency that Turks and institutions in Turkey, especially the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency and the Turkish Red Crescent, helped him and his brother from the moment they stepped into the country.
He said they were offered to be sent to Europe by Christian clergymen in Turkey. "We did not go to Europe because we had rights and lands. We refused to,” he said. “We always dreamed of going back to Ras al Ayn one day."
He said the Syrian National Army (formerly Free Syrian Army) and the Turkish Armed Forces cleared the land of terrorists and worked to rebuild the liberated town.
Ziyad Melki noted that churches in the region have been protected by the Turkish military and Syrian National Army.
"As a member of a Christian community, we perform our religious duties just as freely as other ethnicities here,” he said.
Years of war
Syria has been embroiled in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Bashar al Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
More than 5 million civilians have since been displaced.
Since 2016, Ankara has launched a trio of successful anti-terror operations across its border in northern Syria to prevent the formation of a terror corridor and enable the peaceful settlement of residents: Euphrates Shield (2016), Olive Branch (2018), and Peace Spring (2019).
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US, and EU – has been responsible for the deaths of at least 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
The YPG is the PKK's Syrian offshoot.