Tell Abyad

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Tell Abyad
تل أبيض
Town and nahiyah
Tell Abyad is located in Syria
Tell Abyad
Tell Abyad
Location in Syria
Coordinates: 36°41′51″N 38°57′24″E / 36.6975°N 38.9567°E / 36.6975; 38.9567Coordinates: 36°41′51″N 38°57′24″E / 36.6975°N 38.9567°E / 36.6975; 38.9567
Country  Syria
Governorate Al-Raqqah
District Tell Abyad
Elevation 350 m (1,150 ft)
Population (2004 census)[1]
 • Town 14,825
 • Nahiyah 44,671
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
P-Code C5792
Geocode SY110200

Tell Abyad (Arabic: تل أبيض‎, Kurdish: Girê Spî‎) is a town and nahiya in Syria. It is the administrative center of the Tell Abyad District within the Ar-Raqqah Governorate. Located along the Balikh River, it constitutes a divided city with the bordering city of Akçakale in Turkey.

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

On 16 June 2015, the town was taken over by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in the course of their Tell Abyad offensive, and since then has remained under their control.[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–era Aramean inhabited settlement of Baliḫu, mentioned in 814 BC.[6] Later, various other empires ruled the area, such as the Romans, Byzantines, Sassanids, Umayyads, Abbasids and finally the Ottoman Empire. Tell Abyad remained Ottoman till the end of World War I, when it was incorporated in the French mandate of Syria.

In 1915 deported Anatolian Armenians founded the modern town of Tell Abyad.[7]

Syrian Civil War[edit]

According to a Turkish columnist told the news agency Al-Monitor, 30-45% of Tell Abyad's population was made out of Kurds, and from July 19, 2013 to Aug. 5, 2013 Kurds were driven out of Tell Abyad by Turkish supported factions.[7]

On June 30, 2014, Tell Abyad was captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who raised their flag at the border crossing with Turkey.[8] After ISIL defeated the Kurdish forces, the YPG and Jabhat Al-Akrad, ISIL fighters announced from the minarets of the local mosques that all Kurds had to leave Tel Abyad or else be killed. Thousands of civilians, including Turkmen and Arab families, fled on 21 July.[9][10] ISIL 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 besieged by YPG and its allies.[11] On June 15, 2015, the city was retaken by Kurdish YPG and the Free Syrian Army forces.

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 from 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.[14] 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.[15]


After Tell Abyad was captured it was administered by the YPG as part of the Kobani Canton, despite being a predominantly Arab area. However on 21 October 2015, a council including representatives of local Arab, Kurdish, Turkmen and Armenian communities declared Tell Abyad part of the de-facto autonomous region of Rojava. While remaining under Kobanê Canton's administration, the town will be granted self-governance.[16]


  1. ^ "General Census of Population and Housing 2004: Tell Abyad nahiyah" (in Arabic). Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 15 October 2015.  Also available in English: "Syria: 2004 census data". UN OCHA. Retrieved 15 October 2015. 
  2. ^ "Arab Tribes Split Between Kurds And Jihadists". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "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. ^ a b Taştekin, Fehim (October 29, 2015). "Is Turkey setting a Kurdish trap?". Al-Monitor. 
  8. ^ Tulin Daloglu (2014-06-30). "ISIS [sic] raises flag at Turkish border". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  9. ^ "Selected testimonies from victims of the Syrian conflict: Twenty-seventh session" (PDF). UN Human Rights Council. 
  10. ^ a b "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. ^ a b "Kurdish Fighters Seize Large Parts of IS Border Stronghold". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ "Syrian Kurds battle Islamic State for town at Turkish border". Reuters. 
  16. ^ Tom Perry (21 October 2015). "Town joins Kurdish-led order in Syria, widening sway at Turkish border". Reuters. Retrieved 21 October 2015.