Tell Abyad

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Tell Abyad
تل أبيض
Gire Spi
Tell Abyad is located in Syria
Tell Abyad
Tell Abyad
Location in Syria
Coordinates: 36°41′45″N 38°51′20″E / 36.69583°N 38.85556°E / 36.69583; 38.85556
Country  Syria
Governorate Al-Raqqah
District Tell Abyad
Elevation 350 m (1,150 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 52,490
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)

Tell Abyad (Arabic: تل أبيض‎, Kurdish: Girê Spî‎) is a Syrian town located along the Balikh River and administratively within the Ar-Raqqah Governorate. It is the administrative center of the Tell Abyad District.

It forms a divided city with Akçakale in Turkey as there is a border crossing.

Before the Syrian Civil War, it had a population of 52,490. The majority of the inhabitants are Sunni Arabs,[1] with a considerable Kurdish minority.[2] A Turkish columnist told the news agency Al-Monitor that Kurds constitute 40-45% of the population,[3] although the governor of the Turkish province of Sanliurfa said that Arabs and Turkmen constitute 98% of the population in the Tell Abyad area.[4]

The town is currently under the control of Kurdish YPG forces.[5]


In antiquity Tell Abyad and the surrounding region was ruled by the Assyrian Empire and settled by Arameans. Tell Abyad could have been the site of the neo-Assyrian's era Aramean inhabited settlement of Baliḫu, mentioned in 814 BC.[6] Later various other empires ruled the area such as the Romans, Byzantines, Sassanids, Ummayads, Abbasids and lastly the Ottoman Empire. Tell Abyad remained Ottoman till the end of World War I when it was incorporated in the French mandate of Syria.

Syrian Civil War[edit]

It was captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on June 30, 2014, who raised their flag at the border crossing with Turkey.[7] After ISIS, led by Sunni Arabs from Iraq and Syria, defeated the Kurdish forces, the YPG and Jabhat Al-Akrad, ISIS fighters made an announcement from the minarets of the local mosques that all Kurds had to leave Tel Abyad on or else be killed. Thousands of civilians, including Turkmen and Arab families fled on 21 July.[8][9] Its fighters systematically looted and destroyed the property of Kurds, and in some cases, resettled displaced Arab Sunni families from the Qalamoun area (Rif Damascus), Dayr Az-Zawr and Ar-Raqqah in abandoned Kurdish homes.[10]

In June 2015, the town was under siege by YPG and its allies.[11] On June 15, 2015, the city was retaken by Kurdish People's Protection Units and the Free Syrian Army.

Allegations of ethnic cleansing[edit]

After the capture of Tel Abyad district, some groups and authorities have accused Kurdish YPG fighters of deliberately displacing thousands of Arabs and Turkmens the areas they captured from ISIL forces in northern Syria, including Tel Abyad district[12][13] — a charge strongly denied by the Kurds.[14] The accusation was not backed by any evidence of ethnic or sectarian killings.[15] The head of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the people who had fled into Turkey were escaping fighting and there was no systematic effort to force people out.[16]


  1. ^ "Arab Tribes Split Between Kurds And Jihadists". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "Kurds eye new corridor to Mediterranean". Al-Monitor. 
  3. ^ "Kurds eye new corridor to Mediterranean". Al-Monitor. 
  4. ^ "US Expresses Concerns About PYD Human Rights". BasNews. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Master. "YPG and rebels take full control on Tal Abiad city". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved June 30, 2015. 
  6. ^ Edward Lipiński (2000). The Aramaeans: Their Ancient History, Culture, Religion. Peeters Publishers. pp. 122–. ISBN 978-90-429-0859-8. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Selected testimonies from victims of the Syrian conflict: Twenty-seventh session" (PDF). UN Human Rights Council. 
  9. ^ "Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic: Twenty-seventh session". UN Human Rights Council. 
  10. ^ "Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic: Twenty-seventh session". UN Human Rights Council. 
  11. ^ Lefteris Pitarakis And Bassem Mrque (June 14, 2014). "Thousands of Syrians flee into Turkey amid intense fighting". AP The Big Story. Associated Press. Retrieved June 15, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Kurds accused of "ethnic cleansing" by Syria rebels". cbsnews. Retrieved June 22, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Syrian rebels accuse Kurdish forces of 'ethnic cleansing' of Sunni Arabs". The Telegraph. Retrieved June 22, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Kurdish Fighters Seize Large Parts of IS Border Stronghold". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ "Kurdish Fighters Seize Large Parts of IS Border Stronghold". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ "Syrian Kurds battle Islamic State for town at Turkish border". Reuters. 

Coordinates: 36°41′51″N 38°57′24″E / 36.69750°N 38.95667°E / 36.69750; 38.95667