Turkey has resumed lethal air strikes in Syria’s Kurdish enclave of Afrin. Afrin is already crowded with tens of thousands of displaced people who have fled violence in other parts of Syria over the years. Here, award- winning Kurdish Syrian Journalist Ronahi Hasan argues why the US and EU must urge Turkey to stop
I gathered my strength as much as I could to perform the duty required of me, to verify the outrageous video on social media, where a group of men gathered around a mutilated body of a woman lying on the ground with parts of her body removed, including her breasts. The video was published by the Turkish-allied Syrian rebels with the comment: “Her body is looking beautiful”. Another man remarked happily: “There is another one”.
Their horrific boasts prove that they have committed a crime in broad daylight to reassert sexual male domination by stripping and mutilating Barin Kobani, a Kurdish Female fighter near Afrin. Once again, it is a grisly symbol of the horrors that Syria is suffering from these jihadist fighters. The video was confirmed by The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, who said they received it from a Syrian rebel fighting with Turkish forces in the Afrin offensive.
For more than four years, the Kurdish people’s Protection Forces (aka the YPG) have been battling the Islamic State across Northern Syria to establish a democratic and federal Syria along the lines of the Rojava region in the north. Its makeup largely consists of Kurdish YPG fighters and smaller groups of Arab, Turkmen and Armenian fighters.
The Kurdish peshmergas in Iraq and the YPG in Syria are instrumental in retaking swathes of territories, including Raqqa late last year, from the extremist group ISIS.
But this victory of defeating fanatic organisation seems to be increasingly undermined as terror returns under the new version of Islamic State, the Turkey-backed “Free Syrian Forces” (FSA) who are now allied with the ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Under the Obama administration, the FSA was the main recipient of CIA funding to oust Assad, but this support diminished as ISIS and Al-Qaeda became significantly influential among them.
Not surprisingly, Turkey has taken the initiative to gather those rebels and support them as they did before they armed the Syria opposition, notably the extremist Islamic wings represented in the Muslim Brotherhood at the beginning of the Syrian revolution. At the same time, Ankara has consistently taken measures that provide space for jihadists to advance its interests in the region, and has replaced the secular Turkish society with Ottoman and Islamic heritage because Erdoğan sees himself as the Islamic leader.
After a violent coup attempt on 15 July 2016, Erdoğan was given authoritarian tendencies to bolster presidential powers until 2029. Turkey’s track record of human rights is appalling. It has suppressed Kurds’ identity, arrested many journalists and jailed thousands of students for the crime of free speech. Furthermore, the Turkish president has publicly flaunted his commendation and support for the Al-Nusra Front. According to evidence assembled by Columbia University, Turkey has been “tacitly fuelling the ISIS war machine”. Journalist Ted Galen Carpenter says: “They (Turkey) allowed jihadists from around the world to swarm into Syria through its borders easily. There is also evidence of direct assistance to Jihadists.” As Forbes puts it, “providing equipment, passports, training, medical care, and perhaps more to Islamic radicals”.
During the Iraq war, NATO’s ally Turkey denied America the use of its base to conduct strikes against Islamic terrorist in Syria. Even in the fight over Kobani, their tanks sat quietly just across the boarder without backing the western coalition in their campaign against ISIS. Recently, the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament called the Afrin offensive against Syrian Kurds a ‘jihad’ – the Islamic definition of “holy war”.
Erdoğan is unable to digest this loss and is trying to take revenge on the Kurds. The Turkish state is attacking Afrin because it is afraid of any sort of status for the Kurds. Therefore the Turkish government has accused the YPG of being the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). But the fact that, Syrian Kurds aim for a federal system that embraces all ethnic and religious groups in northern Syria.
Since 2013, Afrin has been a refuge and safe haven for people who have fled ISIS from places like Raqqa, Manbij, Al-Bab and Jarablus. Syrian Kurds have never threatened Turkey’s security as they alleged. Kurds around the world and here in Wales are protesting against this genocide in Afrin for killing children, women and elderly.
Syria’s future has come down to the whims of foreign states -not the Syrian people. The US and the EU should make it clear to Erdoğan that YPG is a central to the West’s efforts to defeat ISIS, and undermining this effort should be a red line. Also, they should persuade Erdoğan to resolve Turkey’s Kurdish conflict. Engaging the YPG would establish a buffer between the war in Syria and Turkey, enhancing Turkey’s security, and fostering a common vision for governance and regional cooperation when Assad is deposed.
This article was publish in the Western Mail 15/02/2018