Shahba / Shehba is the area between the towns / cities of Manbij, al-Bab, Azaz, Semann, Jarabulus and Tel Rifat. It is the last free region of the Afrin canton, where lots of refugees who fled the Turkish invasion and military occupation from 2018 are now living.
In the 74 villages of Shehba liberated from ISIS and in the city of Til Rifat, approximately 100 thousand Shehba inhabitants and over 100 thousand Afrin inhabitants live, who are both locals of these regions and from the Turkish-occupied Şhehba areas. There are five refugee camps in Shehba, where the inhabitants of Afrin had to migrate from Afrin because of the Turkish occupation, and some of the refugees who had migrated to Afrin before.
The Shehba region is now largely occupied by the Turkish state and its allies fighting under the banner of radical Sunni Islam. The small part of Shehba north of Aleppo was liberated by democratic forces in 2016, which afterwards became the Shehba Canton (Kurdish: Kantona Şehba, Arabic: مقاطعة الشهباء, Classical Syriac: ܦܠܩܐ ܕܓܙܪܬܐ) .
Formerly the Shehba Canton was seized by Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups in 2012, then captured by Islamic State (ISIS) in 2013. Because of ISIS’ brutal rule, exposing civilians to extensive killings, torture and robbery, the local population left the area and fled mainly to the peaceful safehaven of Afrin Canton. The original population of the area was about 65% Kurdish, 25% Arab, 5% Circassian and Arnaout, and 5% Turkmen.
The 58 villages liberated in 2016 (including Tel Rifat, Kafr Naya, Ahris, Um Hosh and Fafin) are situated in the part of Shehba formally connected to Azaz.
This area recently became the destination for hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afrin, who themselves fled the invasion of the Turkish state, and the bombardment of Afrin City from 18th March 2018. While the conflict has since faded from the headlines, it is still a grave reality for the displaced people who fled to Shehba, where makeshift refugee camps were set up with the limited resources available there. Shehba is a small region north of Aleppo, surrounded by Syrian government forces on one side and Turkish-backed rebels on the other. Liberated from ISIS in 2016, its infrastructure is still devastated, and mines left by ISIS still pose a danger to civilians.
Shehba’s soil is fertile and the area has high crop yields. In the past, wheat, barley, chickpeas and peanuts were cultivated, and the Shehba region was an important contributor to economy of Aleppo governorate and Syria. However, the agricultural infrastructure has been completely destroyed by the civil war
Shahba is a nickname for the city of Aleppo. The Shahba Canton denotes the parts of Northern Aleppo Governorate of Syria that are under the administrative control of the Democratic Autonomous Administrations of North and East Syria.