Now is the time to rise up for Rojava
Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been betrayed by the US, giving the Turkish state a green light to carry out atrocities in Northern Syria, writes Amber Huff and Patrick Huff
October 25, 2019 · shared from Red Pepper with thanks
Protests have been taking place around the world, including in London
The military alliance between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Northeastern Syria and Washington was always one of mutual desperation. The US needed to appear to have a credible Syrian ground game in the eyes of its rivals. Kurds in Rojava needed US airpower and other protections. There was never a political or ideological alliance – only a tactical one.
The US betrayal of the SDF and Rojava has long seemed inevitable. It would be yet another in a century-long series of betrayals of the Kurds by imperial powers in the perennial struggle to control the Middle East. But when it came in early October, Donald Trump’s order to withdraw US forces from Northeast Syria came as a surprise. It comprised the geopolitical equivalent of tossing an incendiary grenade into a lake of petrol.
Now, after sacrificing more than 11,000 fighters in the struggle against ISIS, the SDF and the Kurds find themselves once again abandoned and betrayed by the US. Trump’s rash decision to let somebody else ‘figure the situation out’ was taken as a green light by Turkey’s autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to launch his long-anticipated invasion, occupation and ethnic cleansing campaign in Rojava.
It has also dealt a disastrous blow to US Empire. Many of its European allies have denounced the decision. A joint statement issued by a coalition of US and European lawmakers have condemned Trump’s snap decision. Several former US military commanders have come forward in a rare public critique of the Commander-in-Chief. Even Trump’s closest Republican allies have derided the move, joining with Congressional Democrats to pass a joint resolution condemning the withdrawal. From these reactions across the political spectrum it is clear that Trump is out on a limb and alone on this one.
The pathetic, too-little-too-late, attempts to backpedal have come off as a deadly farce. Washington’s negotiations of a sham ‘ceasefire’ with Erdoğan resulted in the complete endorsement of Turkey’s plan for the large-scale ‘demographic displacement’ of Kurds and other groups in Rojava. Erdoğan’s plan was further ratified when he and Vladimir Putin jointly issued commands for the removal and disarmament of the SDF from border areas, including Kurdish majority cities such as Kobanî.
Beyond facilitating Erdoğan’s dreams of a Neo-Ottoman caliphate, Trump has handed Putin and his client, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, a tremendous gift. Russia is now the preeminent imperial power broker in the region and al-Assad and Erdoğan are poised to divide up the spoils of Rojava.
A history of brutality
Since the modern state of Turkey’s founding nearly a century ago, its policy towards Kurds has been particularly brutal, involving political exclusion, systematic denial of Kurdish identity, language, human rights and life. Kurdish existence is considered an affront to the Turkish state and nationalistic notions of ‘Turkishness’. This long-standing policy has continued and intensified as Erdoğan has gained more and more power in recent years.
Under Erdoğan’s leadership, virtually all of Turkish civil society has come under attack by the state, with the greatest violence reserved for Kurds. The current regime has jailed or investigated tens of thousands of public servants in Turkey, including members of the parliament, the judiciary and academics. Erdoğan is the world’s leading jailer of journalists.
Between July 2015 and December 2016 Erdoğan unleashed a massive wave of state terror against Turkey’s restive Kurdish population. Thirty majority Kurdish towns were bombed and shelled by the Turkish military. An estimated 355,000 people were internally displaced and hundreds were killed.
To defend the indefensible, Erdoğan claimed this was all an anti-terror operation. So it should be no surprise that, yet again, Erdoğan costumes his illegal and unprovoked attack on Rojava in the guise of an anti-terrorism operation. This is all especially ironic since the Turkish state has been a key benefactor of ISIS in the region, whilst the Kurdish-led forces in Northern Syria have been the greatest threat to ISIS.
In reality this invasion is driven by well-established attitudes and policies aimed at eliminating Kurds as a people and destroying the liberated society they are attempting to build in Northern Syria. Kurds in Rojava ultimately seek not separatism, but a decentralised and democratic Syrian society – a ‘democratic nation’. This is what Kurds are fighting for. This is what Erdoğan cannot accept.
Kurds were organising autonomous civil society institutions, often in secret, for decades in Syria before officially announcing their autonomy in 2012 during the early days of the Syrian Civil War. Much like the Spanish partisans in the 1930s, Kurds took the initiative to make revolution inside the larger civil war. The comparison with Spain is also apt for the reason that this was a true people’s revolution grounded in a form of bottom-up communalism called democratic confederalism. The theory and practice of democratic confederalism is based in three pillars: direct communalist democracy, gender liberation, and building an ecological society.
Democratic confederalism rejects narrow statist nationalism and values the real and deep diversity among peoples existing on the ground in the Middle East. Thus, since 2012, even as they were confronted with the existential threat of ISIS, and with the threat of a Turkish invasion always on the horizon, Kurds have pursued a policy of women’s liberation, establishing deeply democratic institutions, inter-community cooperation and peace building. This is the revolution that Kurds have spearheaded, and this is the real threat regional autocrats like Erdoğan truly fear—the threat of a good example and a free society just across the border.
The ongoing occupation of Afrin, one of Rojava’s three original cantons, provides a frightening indication of Turkey’s long-term designs on Rojava. Under the Orwellian banner of ‘Operation Olive Branch’ the Turkish military, aided by jihadist mercenaries, launched a brutal invasion of Afrin on 20 January 2018. After two grinding months of resistance Kurdish forces staged a strategic retreat, as Turkish airpower had proved insurmountable.
Since the occupation began, life in Afrin has deteriorated. An estimated 151,000 people have been internally displaced. The city and surrounding region have been given over to jihadist mercenaries and their families for resettlement. The Jihadist gangs supported by Turkey are known for their well-documented brutality, strict rendering of Sharia Law, and shared goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate. Their record of war crimes, including demographic replacement, murder, rape, theft, and kidnapping in Afrin speaks for itself. Despite the SDF’s success against ISIS, the Turkish military’s advanced weapons and airpower makes Turkey a vastly more formidable threat.
Today in Syria, Turkey’s military and its jihadist proxies have already been busy committing war crimes. Turkish state media has hailed the assassination of Hevrin Khalaf, 35, by jihadists. Khalaf was a young woman and leading politician working to build a broad inclusive Syrian polity. Her car was overtaken on the M4 highway and riddled with bullets.
She and her driver were dragged out of the vehicle, physically abused and executed. This war crime was proudly captured on video. Another video has surfaced that shows the gruesome eradication of dozens of civilians when they came under attack by either a Turkish airstrike or shelling. Yet more video exists showing Jihadists executing prisoners. There is some evidence suggesting Turkey’s use of white phosphorous, a chemical weapon, against civilians. Ethnic cleansing is underway, as tens of thousands of civilians have already been displaced.
Rise Up For Rojava
To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, there are two superpowers on the planet: empire and global civil society. The last few weeks have witnessed a tremendous outpouring of solidarity with Rojava around the world. Without weapons, financial support and the blind eye turned by the international community, Turkey would not be able to pursue its genocidal aims.
We must urgently stand with the people in Rojava and against the atrocities being committed against them. We must recognise that their struggle is our common struggle, and the sacrifices they have made in the fight against ISIS in Northeastern Syria have been sacrifices made for us all.
The international solidarity community has designated Saturday 2 November World Resistance Day and there are many ways to get involved. Donate to Heyva Sor a Kurd, the Kurdish Red Crescent, which is in desperate need of funds to carry out lifesaving work in the war zone.
shared via Red Pepper with thanks
A brief overview of the recent developments in Syria:
- Units of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are withdrawing from the border with Turkey in accordance with the Russian-Turkish agreement;
- The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has deployed on the Turkish border, east of Ras al-Ayn;
- A new Russian military convoy was spotted in the town of Tell Tamr;
- A US-led coalition strike allegedly eliminated ISIS spokesman Abul-Hasan al-Muhajir in the village of Ein al-Baydah;
- Another US convoy entered Syria en route to the Omar oil fields.
Earlier on October 29, a unit of the Russian Military Police came under fire east of Ras al-Ayn.
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The Press Office of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) released the balance sheet of battle in northern Syria for the past 24 hours on the 21st day of the Battle of Resistance against the invasion attacks of the Turkish state and mercenaries.
The balance sheet of the SDF reads as follows:
“Our forces have completely withdrawn from the established locations within the scope of the agreements made by officials, and the border security forces of the Syrian government have been deployed to these areas. However, the Turkish state and allied mercenary groups have been heavily attacking Syrian government forces with all kinds of heavy weapons despite the agreements made and the withdrawal of our forces. In order to ensure border security, to defend the villages targeted by the attacks and to protect Syrian government forces, our forces have been responding to the attacks on the basis of legitimate defense.
The invading Turkish army and gangs continue their attacks uninterrupted, targeting civilian settlements. The gangs attacked the village of Ing al-Hawa with tanks, BMP and heavy weapons. During the ensuing clashes following the response of our fighters, at least 60 mercenaries were killed and 20 others wounded. Attacks of the occupation forces claimed the lives of some soldiers from Syrian border security forces, while some others were taken captive.
TİL TEMİR AND SÊREKANİYÊ
The invading Turkish army and gangs attacked our positions in Erîşa, Salihiyê and Ebd El-Selam villages with tank and artillery fire. Responding to the attacks on the basis of legitimate defense, our forces destroyed a DShK-mounted vehicle, while a group of gangs were killed and some others wounded.
GİRÊ SPÎ AND AYN ISSA
The attacks against the villages ofQizalî, Gor Kîha and Evdikê were retaliated within the frame of legitimate defense and violent clashes took place in this area where 15 mercenaries were killed and many more wounded.
On day 21 of the Resistance of Honor, a total of 75 gangs and Turkish soldiers were killed and at least 20 gangs were wounded.
During the resistance, one of our comrades fell a martyr and six others wounded. In addition, Syrian soldiers were killed and a group of Syrian forces were taken captive in the region.”
How local groups, volunteers are helping displaced in northern Syria
How local groups, volunteers are helping displaced in northern Syria
Article Summary Local organizations and volunteers are mobilizing efforts to cater to the needs of thousands of displaced who fled the Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria. .. REUTERS/Khalil AshawiA child looks toward the camera as people receive aid donated by the Turkish Red Crescent, Tell Abyad, Syria, Oct. 19, 2019.
Since Oct. 9, the area expanding from Sari Kani/Ras al-Ain to Gire Spi/Tell Abyad in northeastern Syria has been witnessing clashes and violent battles between the Turkish army and armed factions affiliated with the Syrian opposition and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
Although Turkey agreed to pause its offensive Oct. 17, the waves of displaced from these areas increased because people feared for their lives. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, around 300,000 people have been displaced from Sari Kani since the clashes broke out.
A video posted online showed a large displacement from Sari Kani to various Kurdish communities. As a result, a group of young people from local civil organizations in Qamishli launched personal initiatives to provide the displaced with some of their needs.
Activist Naz Hami told Al-Monitor, “The idea started with some civil society activists to get a feel of the field situation of the displaced from Sari Kani. We formed a crisis cell made of local organizations in Qamishli, then we collected financial donations from members and examined the needs of the displaced.” Also read IsraelIsraeli politicians only condemn settler violence when it targets soldiers
Hami said, “International humanitarian organizations concerned with the situation of the displaced are usually delayed in their implementation phase due to the routine they have to follow and the special arrangements, including the provision of records and charts detailing needs before resuming work. Therefore, we wanted to provide statistics and records about the number of displaced and their needs to put them at the disposal of international organizations whenever they arrive.”
A source who works at an international organization told Al-Monitor, “All international humanitarian organizations operating in the east of the Euphrates are funded by countries of the coalition such as France, Britain and the US. But when the US decided to withdraw from the east of the Euphrates, and with the return of the Syrian state to the area, the operation of these organizations was directly affected, as they halted their work in the area and withdrew. These organizations do not operate in areas where the Syrian state is present because they are not authorized by the state but rather by the [Kurdish] self-administration. The withdrawal left a gap in relief work and disrupted their actions.”
Regarding the challenges, Hami said, “Most [local] organizations do not have experience in relief work, as their activities are restricted to raising awareness, social unity, restoration and dialogue. International organizations that withdrew were more concerned with relief work. Besides, the necessary plans for first aid response and assessment tools and all forms and data to evaluate primary needs were missing and were based on our modest experience.”
Hami regretted that the support did not include many families because of the funding circumstances and the large number of displaced. She said, “Due to lack of capacities, only the needs of 160 displaced families in Tell Tamer and Girke Lege were covered, which means 750 people. The numbers [of displaced] are large, and the situation is dire to the extent that the majority of families left only with their clothes. They need everything else, and each family requires financial coverage of $350-$400 to buy the essentials. But this is beyond our capacities, and we cannot meet all their needs.”
Hami said there is no financial funding, except for donations from the local community, which includes “material such as clothes and blankets. We bought other essentials such as milk for children and necessities for women, such as cleaning material from our own donations.”
Naz praised the work of the Kurdish Red Crescent and the Office of Humanitarian Affairs’ Organizations for working with activists and coordinating and networking with other organizations; she also lauded the presence of civilian groups in other areas doing the same work.
Activist Anders Walika told Al-Monitor about the public responsiveness to the initiative. She said, “The people gathered around us and offered clothes, kitchen utensils and food. Support is ongoing, and people are asking about what more they can offer. We have a lot of donations from different social groups in Qamishli.”
Wlika added regretfully, “Our work is tough and slow due to the large number of displaced, the huge pressure and the limited statistics. We asked residents not to send their in-kind aid before we complete the statistics and assess the needs to ensure that the donated material is useful for the displaced.”
Activist Osama Ahmad told Al-Monitor, “We divided the volunteers into three groups to handle specific tasks to facilitate the work — field work, statistics and collection, and sorting of aid. We are facing problems with statistics in the villages in southern Darbasiyah, because the displaced did not receive what they need. Volunteer groups are small in the area, and their financial capacities are weak. Besides, the needed expertise under such circumstances is missing, especially after international organizations specialized in funding and support left.”
According to Ahmad’s statistics, “The number of those displaced to Girke reached 1,700, in addition to 12,000 to Tal Maarouf, Tal Hams and Tirbespi. The largest number of displaced landed in Tell Amer because of its proximity to Sari Kani and in Hasakah because of its distance from the Turkish borders with the east of the Euphrates.”
He added, “The needs vary and range from a lack of sufficient number of shelters to lack of foodstuff, mattresses, blankets, milk for children and women’s needs.”
He offered some suggestions to support the volunteering groups such as “boosting coordination and networking among the volunteer organizations and groups, allocating special groups for the areas that are mostly welcoming the displaced and finding out the needs of families hosting the displaced to help them with their expenses and to supply the displaced with essentials.”
Barzani Charity Foundation provided an aid van for the displaced carrying tons of foodstuff and house appliances via 27 trucks, accompanied by a field team with experience in managing emergency situations. They sent urgent relief to the displaced. The director of the foundation called on donors, philanthropists and international companies and organizations to deliver urgent aid to the homeless displaced within Syria.
Shivan Ibrahim is a journalist who holds a master’s degree in philosophy. He writes opinion articles and covers social, political and civil topics in several Arabic and Kurdish periodicals and newspapers.
Read more: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/10/syria-turkey-offensive-displaced-organizations-aid.html#ixzz63IPeGVGg