AANES official among those killed in Turkish drone attack in South Kurdistan

The deputy chairman of the Executive Council of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria was martyred in the deadly Turkish drone attack in the countryside of the Sulaymaniyah city in South Kurdistan on Friday.

  • ANF
  • Saturday, 18 Jun 2022, 11:57

Four people were killed and another person injured in a drone attack on a car near the village of Berlut in the north of the Kelar town near Sulaymaniyah city of South Kurdistan (North Iraq) on Friday morning. It was not initially known who the victims were, and which state the drone belonged to. The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) announced today that one of the four victims was Ferhad Şiblî, the deputy chairman of the AANES Executive Council. Turkey reportedly bombed a civilian vehicle from the air. No information is yet available on the identities of the other dead and injured.

Ferhad Şiblî was in Sulaymaniyah for medical treatment and talks, the AANES stated: “The attack aims to systematically destroy the Autonomous Administration and our people. The Turkish state is disregarding all international legal standards and is carrying out a genocide. The Autonomous Administration calls on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) government and Iraq to fulfil their responsibilities and take a clear stance on the Turkish terrorist attacks.”

Iraqi airspace is controlled by the USA. On Wednesday, a Turkish drone bombed the Sinune town in Shengal (Sinjar), killing one child and injuring seven people, some of them critically. Shengal is the last contiguous settlement area of the Yazidi people.

Most read


Global Coalition returns to Syria’s Kobani

Jun 16, 2022

A patrol of the Global Coalition forces in northern Syria – North Press
A patrol of the Global Coalition forces in northern Syria – North Press

Raqqa, Syria (North Press) – The return of the Global Coalition to the Kobani region, north Syria, for the second time after its withdrawal from it in October 2019 is a source of relief and welcome from the residents of Kobani and its countryside.

The Global Coalition stationed in the French cement manufacturer Lafarge near Kobani. It was the main base of the coalition in Syria, but it withdrew during the Turkish invasion of the cities of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) and Tel Abyad in October 2019.

On Wednesday, two helicopters of the Global Coalition landed at nine p.m in the Lafarge company. Four hours alter the helicopters took off, said Abdulrahim Ahmed, a resident of the town of Jalabiya, 40 km south of Kobani.

Civilian activists circulated a video clip showing the Global Coalition planes taking off from Lafarge company.

For a month, the company’s outskirts have witnessed noticeable movements by the Global Coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which makes the local residents believe that they are working on establishing a military airbase.

After the withdrawal of the  Global Coalition in 2019, the Russian forces and the Syrian government entered the areas of Kobani, Manbij, the countryside of Tel Abyad and Sere Kaniye, in coordination with the SDF to stop the Turkish incursion.

The Russian forces stationed in most of the military bases and posts of the coalition forces, which US officials considered at the time to be a Russian occupation of American bases.

However, the base of the Global Coalition in Lafarge remained under the control of the SDF.

The withdrawal of the Global Coalition in October 2019 from its bases in Kobani and Sere Kaniye, was a shock to the residents of the region. It opened the way for the Turkish forces and Turkish-backed opposition SNA factions to occupy the cities of Sere Kaniye and Tel Abyad, which caused the displacement of nearly 300,000 people, according to UN reports.

This is the second time for the coalition’s helicopters to return to carry out operations against ISIS members in the area under the control of the SNA. The first operation targeted the leader of ISIS, Abdullah Qaradash, in Idlib, while the second one targeted Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi, the Wali (governor) of Raqqa in Jarablus.

Ahmed says that the residents were happy on the nights of the second and third of last February when 6 helicopters of the Global Coalition landed at Lafarge base south of Kobani, for the first time after the withdrawal. The residents believed that the coalition begun to return to its bases in their areas.

In his interview with North Press, Ahmed expresses his satisfaction with the Global Coalition’s use of Lafarge, which is only hundreds of meters away from his home to launch operations against ISIS. This use comes in tandem with Turkish threats to launch a new military operation in northern Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said May 23 that Turkey would soon launch a new military operation into northern Syria to create a 30-kilometer (19-mile) security zone along the border.

Late on Wednesday night, the Global Coalition announced the success of an operation that resulted in the arrest of a prominent leader of ISIS in the city of Jarablus, northern Syria

U.S. officials identified the suspect as Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi, whom they said also was known as the Wali of Raqqa, Washington Post newspaper said.

An overnight raid by United States special forces in northwestern Syria led to the death of the Islamic State terror group’s top leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, President Joe Biden said on February 23. 

On June 1, Mahmoud Kobani, a leader in the Kobani Military Council, which is affiliated with the SDF, told North Press that they have permanent coordination with the Global Coalition forces to oversee the implementation of the ceasefire agreement with Turkey.

Following the Turkish invasion of the cities of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) and Tel Abyad in October 2019, Turkey signed a ceasefire agreement with the Russian and American sides.

Reporting by Zana al-Ali


Turkish threats negatively affect our campaign against ISIS – Mazloum Abdi

Jun 2, 2022

General Mazloum Abdi – North Press

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – On Thursday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi showed concern about recent Turkish threats saying they pose high risk on northern Syria.

“We are concerned about new Turkish threats which pose high risk on northern Syria,” Abdi said in a tweet.

Mazloum Abdi’s tweet comes following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement in which he said that Ankara would soon launch new military operations along its southern borders to create “30-km deep safe zone in response to threats coming from these regions.”

The SDF Commander-in-chief added that any Turkish attack will divide Syria and cause the displacement of the inhabitants.

“Any offensive will divide Syrians, create a new humanitarian crisis, and displace original inhabitants and IDPs,” he noted.

During the past days, Turkey has promoted for a new military operation against north and northeast Syria, geography held by the Kurdish-majority Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES). 

Mazloum Abdi stressed that any “New escalation will also negatively affect our campaign against ISIS.”

On May 31, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned Chief Advisor to the Turkish President, Ibrahim Kalin against any further escalation in Syrian north. 

Sullivan reiterated the importance of refraining from escalation in Syria to preserve existing ceasefire lines and avoid any further destabilization.

Reporting by Jwan Shkaki


Administrating Rojava’s Revolution: An Interview with Emine Osê

Washington Kurdish Institute

By: Dr. Shilan Fuad Hussain

Emine Osê, is the deputy co-chair of the Executive Council of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), commonly referred to as Rojava. In this interview, she was asked about an array of topics from women’s rights, the fight against ISIS, ongoing Turkish attacks, and internationalist volunteers. As one of the Kurdish women leading the most inspiring democratic experiment in the Middle East, her remarks help illuminate the struggles and successes taking place throughout Western Kurdistan, which have relevance to America and the entire world.

Q:For those Americans who are not familiar with the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria( AANES), can you briefly describe what it is?

A: We are the democratic governing body of north and east Syria, which ensures all people’s rights are protected. For Americans, they should also know that we have been the main player in the international coalition led by the United States to defeat ISIS terrorism and we have sacrificed thousands of heroes to end their reign of terror. The American people should support us and push their government to strengthen their political and economic ties with our Administration, as we have been loyal partners against defeating ISIS terrorism.

Q: The AANES recently made International Women’s Day (March 8) a national holiday in Rojava. Can you explain the significance of that move and how women are freer in north and east Syria than in other parts of the country?

A: Women’s Day for our people is a national and community holiday. Because our revolution is first and foremost a revolution of women. A revolution led by free women, who embody all the historical responsibilities that come with such a sacred cause. One of our main goals is strengthening the moral and political leadership of women. Through the experiences of previous years, from 2012 until now, women in Rojava have become an inspiration to the entire world.One main reason is the YPJ, who played a pivotal role in the defeat of ISIS. Another is our governing Administration co-chair system that guarantees equal participation of women in every department and institution. Women in Rojava are the ones who decide their own fate and destiny.

Q:  Since the start of 2022, the Turkish military has carried out 30 drone strikes and artillery shelling on places like Ain Issa, Manbij, and the Shehba Canton – killing 9 and injuring 28 people. Can you discuss the ways that these attacks affect the people in AANES areas?

A: Yes, this is true. In fact, the Turkish occupation army has been committing war crimes for years since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. Turkish-backed forces commit one crime after another in Afrin, Ras al-Ain, Tal Abyad and all the areas that they occupy and oppress.Even inside the de-escalation zones, we find many human rights abuses. This shows the flaws in theso-called cease-fire and memoranda of understanding that Ankara made with Washington and Moscow. Ever since October of 2019, when Turkey occupied Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad, their grand plan has been clear. They want to fulfill the 1920 Misak-ı Millî Ottoman Oath, that views the lands of northern Syria and northern Iraq (from Aleppo to Mosul) as part of Turkey. To do this, Ankara is targeting our region with attacks to destabilize society and create an atmosphere of horror, which forces civilians to flee.

Q: Turkey recently launched an invasion of Southern Kurdistan (north Iraq) and has threatened to attack Rojava as well. Has Russia or the United States given your Administration reassurances that they would prevent a Turkish land invasion of AANES areas? And what actions would you like to see Moscow and Washington make to prevent that?

A: It must first be acknowledged that the Turkish invasion of Southern Kurdistan (Kurdish region of northern Iraq) and the constant attacks on our regions are clear violations of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter related to legitimate self-defense. They are illegal under international law and should be viewed as such. As for reassurances, we have not received any from Washington or Moscow, who both bear partial responsibility for Ankara’s actions, since they have reached agreements with Turkey to related to their assaults on these areas. In the end, if the US or Russia continues to fail at stopping Turkey’s war crimes, we will have to unilaterally defend our gains and ensure our security militarily by expelling Turkish forces. However, we would like to solve these issues diplomatically without bloodshed, and we are open to dialogue, but it is important that Turkey first stops its systematic intimidation and withdraws from all the Syrian areas it illegally occupies.

Q: The Al Hol Camp is currently housing 56,000 prisoners with connections or loyalty to ISIS (with half of them being minors). How is the AANES ensuring that these youth will not become the next generation of ISIS fighters? And what are some ways that the AANES would like the US and EU to help with this large problem?

A: Al Hol is a dangerous ticking time bomb for the entire world. Everyday we are faced with frightening dangers from this camp. The most recent incident was an attempted escape of the industrial prison in Hasaka, which could have unleashed thousands of ISIS criminals upon the globe. As an Administration, we have repeatedly stated our solutions: (1) Each country should accept the return of all detainees who hold their nationality. (2) The anti-ISIS coalition of nations should help construct an international terrorism court, so that ISIS militants can receive a fair trial and their victims can receive justice. (3) The Administration needs international assistance to help in the rehabilitation of ISIS-related children, so that they can eventually be reintegrated into society.

Q: In January, ISIS attempted to rescue thousands of their prisoners from a prison in Hesekê. In what ways is ISIS making a comeback in North and East Syria?

A: Turkey is trying to resurrect ISIS to use them as a proxy against us like they have previously. Since the liberation of Baghouz, we have discovered hundreds of passports held by ISIS fighters with stamps from Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul. Turkey should be considered the primary party that is most responsible for organizing, assembling, training, and directing ISIS throughout Syria. We have released many reports with full evidence documenting this issue.

Q: On April 17, the AANES wished all Christians a happy Easter. What are some of the ways that the AANES ensures protection and full rights for Christians in North and East Syria?

A: Guaranteeing the religious rights of all people is a crucial component of our Administration. We affirm that the self-management of all ethnic and religious groups is of primary importance to us, to ensure that all cultures of our community in north and east Syria feel represented and secure. If you go back to the original Social Contract which gives our Administration its mandate from the people, you will see that the rights of Christians are fully protected. To guarantee this we have adopted a democracy which seeks to guard the rights of all geographical areas, all religious groups, and all ethnicities. To accomplish this, we have both elections and agreed upon quotas to make sure all groups are represented and heard, despite their size. No group is excluded from our democracy. We do not allow the majority to suppress the rights of the minority.

Q: Internationalists from around the world recently held their First Internationalist Conference of Rojava and spoke of how they have been inspired by the Rojava Revolution. What are some ways that people around the world can help Rojava and if they want to travel there to help, how can they do that?

A: There are several ways that our international supporters can help. (1) Organize conferences around the world that display the pivotal role that Rojava and its revolution has played in defeating ISIS terrorism and creating gender equality. (2) Support the security and stability of the Autonomous Administration by pushing for all sanctions on the Syrian Regime to be lifted from our areas and encourage nations to form direct economic partnerships with us. (3) Increase the representation of internationals in our region by travelling here and joining in the cultural, civil, and economic work of our project. (4) Putting pressure on Turkey to end its brutal occupation and stop threatening our region. (5) Putting pressure on the Assad Regime to accept a serious dialogue to fully end the war in Syria and establish autonomy in our areas.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here represent those of the interviewee and not necessarily those of the Washington Kurdish Institute


Syrian Kurdish unity talks crumble as Turkey escalates anti-PKK campaign

The breakdown between sides serves Turkey’s agenda of keeping its Kurdish foes divided and weak.

Syrian Kurds demonstrate on June 10, 2021, in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli.

Syrian Kurds demonstrate on June 10, 2021, in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli against the Turkish offensive on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) areas in northern Iraq. – DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images

Amberin Zaman@amberinzaman

Dan Wilkofsky@Dwilkofsky1

May 12, 2022

Turkey’s military escalation against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has deepened the gulf between Syrian Kurdish groups and put the kibosh on US-mediated talks that were aimed at forging unity in northeast Syria between the ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD) and an array of opposition parties known as the Kurdish National Council (KNC).

In a series of interviews, each side blamed the other for the hiatus, which serves Turkey’s agenda of keeping its Kurdish foes divided and weak. It also discourages the United States from deeper political engagement in the affairs of Kurdish-led northeast Syria, where an estimated 900 special operations forces are deployed to aid in efforts to prevent the Islamic State from staging a comeback.

The finger-pointing comes amid a spate of arson attacks against KNC offices across the northeast that the latter has blamed on the Revolutionary Youth Movement (Ciwanen Soresger).

The organization sees itself as an enforcer of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan’s ideals and operates on the margins of the autonomous administration in northeast Syria in a gray zone outside its direct control. The KNC says at least eight of its offices, including those of parties operating under its umbrella, were targeted last month alone. PYD officials deny all responsibility, saying investigations into the attacks are ongoing and several suspects have been arrested.

The launching of the attacks coincided with Turkey’s latest offensive against the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan called Claw-Lock, which aims to cut off the guerrillas simultaneously from the Turkish and Syrian borders as well as from their main headquarters in Qandil, which abuts Iran.

Salih Muslim, a top-ranking member of the PYD’s presidential council, told Al-Monitor, “We don’t know who these people [attacking KNC offices] are, but there is immense popular anger over Turkey’s attacks and there is a widespread perception that the KNC and their Roj peshmerga (forces) are fighting against the PKK together with the Turkish army.”

Muslim said at least 20 Syrian Kurds fighting within the ranks of the PKK had died in the Claw-Lock campaign so far. “We also hear of wounded Roj peshmerga being treated in [Turkish] hospitals in Hakkari and Yuksekova.”

Muslim repeated his claims from an April 20 interview with Al-Monitor that the autonomous administration had offered to provide security to guard the KNC offices, but that those offers had been spurned.

Sleman Osso, a member of the KNC Presidential Council, who is also secretary of the Yekiti Kurdistan Party-Syria, rebutted Muslim’s account. “The media noise that happened during the last campaign last month — there was a lot of noise from the American side and international bodies. So they tried to give the international community and press the idea that they put guards in front of our offices as if they don’t know who is burning these offices. But we know, and they know, that the Revolutionary Youth are the ones committing these violations,” Osso told Al-Monitor.

“The violations are ongoing from time to time. When there’s pressure on them, the violations stop. Then they feel freer and the violations start up. The goal is to scare Kurdish citizens, the KNC, and push them toward refusing negotiations,” he claimed.

He denied that Roj peshmerga, a Syrian Kurdish force that is linked to the KNC parties and based in Iraqi Kurdistan, were participating in battles against the PKK. “A few days ago, the peshmerga-Roj families in Kobani were summoned and threatened and pressured — asked to pressure their kids to leave the peshmerga,” Osso added without specifying by whom.

The unity talks were initiated by Mazlum Kobane, commander in chief of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the wake of Turkey’s 2019 ground invasion of a swath of territory lying between the northern border towns of Ras al-Ain and Tell Abyad. The purpose from his vantage point was threefold. The first was to win broader legitimacy for the autonomous administration; the second to present a common front with the KNC in future talks with Damascus; and the third to weaken Turkish claims that the PKK is in charge of the area, with a view to fending off further attacks and ideally to developing amicable ties mirroring those between Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. The latter reason served as an incentive for the US buy-in.

Washington’s own relations with Ankara were in a downward spiral because of continued American support for the SDF, which Turkey claims is also dominated by the PKK. A deal between the SDF and the KNC, which has close ties to the KRG as well as the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition, would help ease tensions, or so Washington believed.

But US policy now looks caught up in its own contradictions, as it silently endorses Turkish moves against the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan while apparently hoping that Turkey’s attitudes toward Ocalan-aligned cadres, including Kobane, a former PKK commander, can change. Kobane is on Turkey’s “most wanted” list, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is growing more hawkish by the day.

As things currently stand, the most obvious parallel between Iraqi Kurdistan and Rojava (the Kurdish name for the Syrian Kurdish region) are the seemingly endless divisions besetting the main political groups, which play into their greater enemies’ hands.

SDF commander Kobane, however, has cut a very different figure, outgrowing his guerrilla fatigues to emerge as a political leader respected by Syrian Kurds, Arabs and Christians alike — one who is seen as the best guarantee for the continued presence of US forces in Syria.

“We all depended on him at the beginning of the dialogue. I see him now weakened,” said a senior KNC figure who asked not to be identified by name.

“General Mazlum is a highly effective diplomat who is endlessly pragmatic and open to compromise. This not only makes him a leader, it makes him an invaluable partner to the United States,” said an NSC official speaking on background to Al-Monitor.

In fact, the talks did get off to a good start with the PYD making most of the concessions at Kobane’s urging, as previously reported by Al-Monitor. Osso, who is a member of the KNC’s negotiating team, acknowledged that “the reason for the success was that the American side, and the SDF leadership, were serious about pressuring the other side to reach an agreement around a political vision acceptable to all Syrians.”

Sources with close knowledge of the talks said it was the KNC that “got cold feet” with many speculating that they walked away in October 2020 under pressure from Turkey. This was mainly exerted via the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq (KDP), which dominates the KRG and whose forces control the main border crossings between northeast Syria and Iraq through which coalition forces and critical aid are supplied.

It did not help that the KNC insisted that a final agreement should stipulate that the autonomous administration commit to purging all PKK elements from within its ranks.

“Why do we say the PKK and PYD need to be disconnected? Because we know that we can agree with the PYD when the PKK’s dominance of the PYD ends,” said Osso.

The KNC stance fed PKK suspicions that the talks had become a vehicle for its destruction.

Osso claims it was the PKK that sabotaged the talks. “After they noticed there was seriousness in reaching an agreement, at that point, PKK symbols started to [reappear] openly in Kurdish cities and towns. Provocations began in an attempt to tank the talks.”

Despite the setbacks, in June 2021, Kobane and David Brownstein, the State Department’s then resident envoy in northeast Syria, co-signed a document in which the sides committed themselves to continuing to serve as guarantors for the unity talks. (Kobane signed the document as “Mazlum Abdi,” the other name he goes by.)

The document, a copy of which was seen by Al-Monitor, stated that a new round of negotiations “begins from the point at which it stopped.” It also calls for ensuring “the non-repetition of violations against the Kurdish National Council in Syria, including encroaching on or burning its offices, and guarantee the non-arrest of its members for political reasons.” Osso, Muslim and a Biden administration source confirmed the document’s authenticity.

Osso said Kobane and Brownstein “promised to release this document to the media and then begin negotiations again. But the document was not published because of [the PYD’s] continued violations, and the document lost all of its meaning before it was announced to the public.”

The SDF did not respond to Al-Monitor’s request for comment.

In breaking their silence, the KNC appears to be drawing on the last and sixth article of the document, which entitles the side to publicly name and blame the other in case of any breaches. Osso said the KNC will not resume the talks unless the document is made public.

The fact that it is even willing to consider doing so points to several things. One may be that the KNC feels increasingly sidelined as the autonomous administration continues to lay the ground for elections in the northeast through a series of consultations with other stakeholders that are meant to culminate in the declaration of a new social compact. Another may be a shift in KRG’s own calculations.

But it’s the PYD that is now dragging its feet. A PYD official called Khabat declared recently that his party had paused the negotiations “because of the KNC support for the occupiers.” He was referring to Turkey. “If the KNC doesn’t stop supporting Erdogan’s [Justice and Development Party] and supporting the occupiers, and opposing Rojava — without stopping those things, the negotiations won’t continue.”

The State Department’s new resident envoy, Matthew Pearl, has met with the sides in a bid to restart the talks but has made little headway. “In the talks, he carries messages from one side to the other. But he has no strategy,” the senior KNC official complained.

In March, a delegation led by the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs with responsibility for the Levant Ethan Goldrich, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq Jen Gavito, and the National Security Council’s Director for Syria and Iraq Zehra Bell traveled to Rojava to meet with Kobane.

“The United States government strongly supports Kurdish unity talks, and we remain in contact with parties on the best way forward to advance intra-Kurdish dialogue, including through our diplomats on the ground in northeast Syria,” a state department spokesperson told Al-Monitor.

“The Department of State condemned attacks on the KNC offices on April 21 and continues to play an active role in addressing grievances by both sides in order to increase stability in the northeast,” the spokesperson said.

Related Topics

Read more:


Rojava and Şengal are encircled

The KDP is encircling Rojava and Şengal. On the border with Rojava, the number of military bases has been increased from eight to 66. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government is building a wall on the border between Şengal and Rojava. % buffered

  • Friday, 29 Apr 2022, 16:22

In the past two years, South Kurdistan’s ruling party KDP has transformed the border with Rojava into a fortress. Under Turkey’s direction, a siege situation has been created against Rojava similar to the one against the Medya Defense Zones. On the 33 kilometers of border between Rojava and South Kurdistan, 66 military bases of the KDP, which collaborates with Turkey, were created. In addition, there are hundreds of military positions. Special units of the KDP are massing armored vehicles in the region and thermal cameras are being installed. However, the bases are not used by the KDP alone, but also simultaneously by the Turkish intelligence service MIT and the Turkish army.

Before the Syrian war, the border between West Kurdistan and the KDP-controlled areas in South Kurdistan extended from Pêşxabûr (Sêmalka) in the tri-border area of Syria, Turkey and Iraq to the village of Şihêla. The area from there to the Rabia (al-Yaroubiya/Til Koçer) border crossing was controlled by the Iraqi army. There were only eight Saddam-era military posts on the border until 2012, which were then taken over by the KDP. With the beginning of the Rojava revolution in 2012, the KDP increased the number of border outposts to around 20. But that was not enough; between April and May 2014, the KDP began digging trenches between southern Kurdistan and the canton of Cizîrê in Rojava.

The Iraqi side of the border was also liberated by YPG and YPJ

With the ISIS attacks on Mosul beginning in June 2014, the Iraqi army withdrew and fled from the entire line, from the Şihêla area on the border with Dêrik to the Rabia border crossing. KDP troops and very few PUK troops were deployed in the area.

When ISIS began its onslaught on the Yazidi town of Şengal on August 3, 2014, the KDP withdrew its 12,000-strong force from this region as well in flight, leaving the Yazidis to face genocide. The area between Şengal, Til Koçer and Rabia was occupied by ISIS. Just like the Iraqi army, the peshmergas also withdrew from this line. The YPG and YPJ, in order to save the Yazidis from genocide, began to open a corridor from Til Koçer to Şengal in a fierce battle with ISIS. By the afternoon of August 3, 2014, the fighters had liberated the villages of Tawis, Kail and Mahmudiyê from ISIS, about 15 kilometers from Rabia. In Rabia, fighting with ISIS continued for a long time. Rabia and the border crossing were completely liberated on September 30, 2014, with the participation of a part of peshmerga from the PUK and KDP.

Rabia was liberated and handed over to the peshmerga

The YPG and YPJ bore the brunt of the liberation of Rabia and therefore controlled a large part of the settlement. However, they retreated across the border into Rojava and handed over the strategically important settlement to the peshmerga. In this way, an 86-kilometer-long border strip from Pêşxabûr to the Rabia crossing came under the control of the peshmerga.

KDP withdrew for the second time

Due to the distribution of territories between the PUK and KDP, the border once again passed completely to the KDP and the PUK withdrew. As part of the KDP-initiated independence referendum, the Iraqi army was mobilized in October 2017 and marched into many disputed areas, including Kirkuk. The KDP left the border strip between Dêrik and Til Koçer and retreated to the village of Mahmudiyê, 15 kilometers from Rabia.

33 kilometers of border under KDP control

From mid-October 2017 until today, the KDP has controlled an area in the Pêşxabûr Triangle near Dêrik to the village of Mahmudiyê near Til Koçer. The borderline between Rojava (Qamişlo region) and Şengal was controlled by Hashd al-Shaabi between 2017 and 2021 and then by the Iraqi police. This border line begins at Derîk and extends to Rabia and from there to near Şengal.

After talks with Turkey

After the KDP’s relations with Turkey deteriorated in connection with the “independence referendum,” the Barzani party attempted to compensate for the discrepancy through hostility toward the PKK, the Rojava revolution and the Kurdish freedom struggle. With regard to border policy toward Rojava, Turkey and the KDP pursued a common approach. After Nechirvan Barzani was summoned to Ankara and held talks with Turkish regime leader Erdoğan and his foreign minister Çavuşoğlu, military bases and observation posts were established along the border with Rojava. New military forts and checkpoints were established in the hills around Pêşxabûr up to the village of Mahmudiyê. Troops and heavy weapons were deployed to these bases. The bases were equipped with technological equipment, including thermal cameras. In particular, the bases of Xanikê and Şilikiyê were upgraded.

Stationing of MIT and KDP Intelligence Service

The MIT and the KDP intelligence service “Parastin” were stationed primarily in the bases of al-Qale and Şilikiyê on the Tigris River. They began interrogating travelers from Rojava to southern Kurdistan, especially members of the Self-Defense Forces. A runway for Turkish reconnaissance aircraft was established on Bêxêr Mountain, which faces the border with Rojava.

Complete encirclement after the Şengal agreement

On October 9, 2020, an agreement was reached between the Iraqi government and the KDP, under the direction of the Turkish state, to dissolve the self-government of Şengal and divide control of the region. The agreement was signed under the supervision of former Dutch Defense Minister and UN Special Rapporteur Jeanine Antoinette Hennis-Plasschaert and had the support of the U.S., British and German governments. As early as December, the KDP again deployed special forces to the border area and increased the size of outposts. In the past two and a half months, three new bases have been established near the village of Mahmudiyê. Together with these outposts, this means that at least 66 bases and hundreds of positions have been established along the 33-kilometer border of the KDP area with West Kurdistan. This means that the border to Rojava is de facto completely sealed off.

Economic embargo prevails

Time and again, the KDP closes the Sêmalka/Pêşxabûr border crossing and practices an embargo against Rojava. After the al-Kadhimi government in Iraq joined the KDP’s and Turkey’s anti-Kurdish policies, the al-Walid border crossing near Şengal was also repeatedly closed. People from Rojava who want to cross the Sêmalka border crossing into South Kurdistan have to apply months in advance and obtain permission from the KDP’s intelligence agency Parastin.

Iraq builds wall

To increase pressure, the Iraqi military began building a wall along the border between Şengal and Rojava in March. The construction was prepared with the laying of barbed wire and the installation of camera towers. The aim is to build a wall 3.75 meters high and 250 kilometers long, which will isolate the Şengal region and make it dependent. Since 2019, the KDP has already tried to encircle the Medya Defense Zones with its special forces and repeatedly laid deadly ambushes against the guerrillas.

Triple encirclement serves Turkish expansionism

The triple cut-off is intended to effectively sever the link between Şengal, Rojava and the Medya Defense Zones. For this purpose, the AKP/MHP regime has enlisted the KDP and the Iraqi government.



Rojava Information Center


Infighting between a number of SNA groups in the Turkish-occupied city of Afrin has left several dead & more injured. Clashes between Mu’tasim Billah & the 9th Division left 2 militia members of the former group dead & 10 others wounded.

Concurrent clashes also occurred between al-Jabhat al-Shamiyah & the 51st Division. Turkey has reportedly closed its borders to members of the SNA, particularly of al-Jabhat al-Shamiyah.


U.S., Russia Allies Witness Friction in Northeast Syria

Friday March 4th, 2022 by ASHARQ AL-AWSAT (London-based pan-Arab)

Clashes between the Syrian regime and the SDF occurred in al-Hassakeh, according to Asharq al-Awsat.

U.S., Russia Allies Witness Friction in Northeast Syria
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) deploy outside Ghweran prison in Syria’s northeastern city of Hassakeh. (Photo by – / AFP)

Syrian government forces used automatic weapons to attack a military checkpoint in the village of Kozliya in the northern countryside of al-Hassakeh governorate. The outpost was run by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is backed by the Washington-led International Coalition.
The attack resulted in the death of a government officer and soldier and two SDF fighters.
“Damascus has launched a provocative attack against the SDF in the vicinity of Kozliya, which is located west of Tal Tamar,” said a commander in the Tal Tamar Military Council which operates under SDF rule.
“Our forces immediately responded to this attack, as a result of which two of our fighters were martyred and another was wounded, while two soldiers from the regime forces were killed, and two others were wounded,” revealed the commander who requested anonymity.

Read Also: Deir-ez-Zor Protests Against SDF Enter Fifth Day

The clashes that took place on Tuesday resulted in four deaths, including an officer with the rank of first lieutenant.
The commander indicated that the command of the forces “is following up the investigation to clarify the cause of this serious incident, and based on the results of the investigations, necessary action will be taken.”
The official SANA news agency said that a “patrol of U.S. forces accompanied by members of the SDF militia tried to penetrate points controlled by the Syrian army” in the Hassakeh governorate.
It did not mention whether there were victims but said the SDF attacked after soldiers blocked the patrol’s passage.
The SDF confirmed the toll in a statement. It did not mention the presence of U.S. personnel and called the incident “a dangerous provocation by the Syrian regime.”
The war in Syria is estimated to have killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions more since it began with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests in 2011.
It quickly spiraled into a complex conflict that pulled in numerous actors, including jihadist groups and foreign powers.
Russia intervened militarily in Syria more than six years ago to shore up President Bashar al-Assad.
Neighboring Turkey views some Syrian Kurdish fighters as “terrorists” and has launched several operations against them.

This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.


HRW calls on SDF to ensure humane treatment of Hasaka prison detainees

RUDAW 04-02-2022


Also in Syria

Syria jihadist group denies knowledge of strike on IS chief

UNICEF calls on foreign countries to repatriate children following Hasaka prison siege

SDF arrests two explosives-clad ISIS suspects in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor

SDF investigates, arrests own members following Hasaka prison break attempt

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The New York-based rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday voiced major concern about the fate of recaptured Islamic State (ISIS) detainees following the Hasaka prison siege around two weeks ago.

Five days since the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced complete control over the al-Sina’a prison in Hasaka, northeast Syria (Rojava), HRW expressed concern over a lack of transparency from the Kurdish-led force over the fate of the detainees and their whereabouts in the aftermath of the assault, and has called on the force to permit international humanitarian groups to visit the detainees and provide them with care.

“The Syrian Democratic Forces began evacuating men and boys from the besieged prison days ago, yet the world still has no idea how many are alive or dead,” Letta Tayler, Associate Director of the Crisis and Conflict Division at HRW said in a statement published on Friday.

Tayler added that, “the detaining authorities in northeast Syria should end their silence on the fate of these detainees, including hundreds of children who were victims of ISIS.”

Sources have told HRW that the detainees are being held in a new, more secure, UK-funded prison facility near al-Sina’a.

Siyamend Ali, head of media for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a core component of the SDF, told HRW that “everyone is in safe places,” and “they received good care.”

The SDF accused ISIS of using the detained boys as human shields, adding that measures were taken to ensure their safety as the Kurdish force advanced deeper into the facility.

ISIS attempted to break thousands of its affiliates and members out of al-Sina’a prison, known to locals as Ghweran prison. The SDF arrested 26 people who were “active in smuggling and transferring detainees out of Ghweran prison,” it said in a tweet on Sunday.

On Monday, the SDF raised the death toll from the brazen prison break attempt to 495 people, with 121 SDF fighters, prison guards, and civilians, as well as 374 ISIS members.

According to the rights organization, the now-defunct prison facility in Hasaka housed around 4,000 male ISIS suspects, including 700 boys, most from Syria and Iraq and the rest from dozens of other countries.

SDF officials have placed the figure at around 5,000 prisoners.

The Kurdish force last week called on the international community to accelerate repatriation efforts of their ISIS-affiliated nationals. 

On Thursday, the Netherlands repatriated five Dutch women and eleven children from Roj camp, which holds thousands of suspected ISIS-affiliated members and their families. Tayler welcomed the news, commenting that, “16 more Dutch home; many more to go. As Netherlands demonstrates, adults can be prosecuted upon return.”

By Julian Bechocha


Four years of horror: Why & how Turkey occupied Afrin

NEWS 23 Jan 2022, Sun – 08:53 2022-01-23T

By Dr. Thoreau Redcrow

As we reach the four-year anniversary of Turkey’s sadistic occupation of Afrin in Rojava, it is helpful to look back at how this terrifying reality came to be. Not only is the state of Turkey illegally establishing their own terrorist vilayets throughout northern Syria, which feature every human rights abuse the mind can conjure up, but they are doing so as a NATO member and with the acquiescence of Western states who claim to be fighting a “war on terror” against the very thing which Turkey represents. And since it is in the Kurdish city of Afrin where Turkey’s sociopathic barbarism and pathological hatred of Kurds is most on display, this open-air crime scene is a helpful case study. As if you want to diagnose an illness, you must first understand its symptoms.

Why Turkey invaded Afrin

The city and lush mountainous area around Afrin has been a Kurdish cultural hub for more than a millennia. Over the centuries, Afrin developed as the center of a distinctive Sufi “Kurdish Islam”, which was less conservative, and more secularly tolerant than surrounding regions. In fact, Afrin has always had the fewest mosques of any place in Syria and its inhabitants were typically not strict adherents to religious conventions. Consequently, vibrant Yazidi, Alevi, and Christian communities historically thrived there as well. This embedded culture of accepting diversity was rooted all the way into the present, when Afrin became a welcoming haven for refugees fleeing the violence throughout Syria’s Civil War.

In the spring of 2012, the Syrian Government pulled out of Afrin, which laid the foundation for what would later become the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) to take over in January of 2014. From 2014, until Turkey’s military invasion in January of 2018, Afrin blossomed into a flourishing and peaceful Canton of around 700,000 people. Because of the lack of sectarian tensions and area’s reputation for being accepting of cultural and religious differences, around 400,000 refugees and IDPs of all ethnicities within Syria escaped to Afrin. As such, although Afrin was a majority Kurdish city and Canton, it was also home to Arabs, Assyrians, and Turkmen.

Unfortunately, the harmonious social fabric that was being constructed in Afrin was seen as an existential threat by the Turkish regime of Tayyip Erdogan across the border, for two reasons. For starters, it showed that the Kurdish-led Democratic Confederalist experiment taking place throughout Rojava / northern Syria was a viable model for the entire Middle East region. And, secondly, this progressive-minded philosophy was a direct rebuke of the ultra-conservative and nationalist AKP & MHP alliance of Erdogan’s coalition, which was centered around Turkish ethnic chauvinism against Kurds and a fascistic re-interpretation of Salafi Islam, that was embodied by groups such as ISIS and other radical jihadist proxies—who by 2018 were the only allies Turkey had left in Syria.

Thus, Erdogan decided that he would use the Turkish military alongside a coalition of Islamist jihadists to invade, encircle, destroy, ethnically cleanse, and occupy the Canton of Afrin in January of 2018—with the goal of establishing a semi-annexed Turkified quasi-colony, with outside settlers who were indebted and thus loyal to his regime.

How Turkey invaded Afrin

The Turkish invasion was cynically carried out under the pretext of protecting its national security from the local forces in Afrin. However, the Turkish Government never provided evidence about the existence of any threats to its national security from Afrin, as none had occurred. Nevertheless, because Ankara was averse to risking the lives of their own soldiers, they contracted out Afrin’s invasion to a coalition of radical Islamist groups numbering upwards of 25,000 – that were trained, armed, and paid by Turkey. These groups included various jihadist militants such as Ahrar al-Sham, the Sham Legion, and ex-ISIS fighters—as was reported by The Independent. Behind them were around 6,400 soldiers of the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and members of the neo-fascist Grey Wolves from Turkey, who relied mostly on artillery shelling, a relentless bombing campaign from Turkish jets—since Afrin had no anti-aircraft defenses—and heavy armor salvoes, since Afrin’s defenders also lacked tanks.

Turkey’s illegal military invasion of Afrin—which was absurdly named “Operation Olive Branch”—officially began on January 20, 2018, and was a flagrant violation of international law, i.e. attacking the territory of a sovereign state without the authorization of the official authorities. To achieve victory, Turkey’s military deliberately targeted densely populated cities and towns, killing around 500 innocent civilians, including women, children, and the elderly in the first weeks. Turkey also indiscriminately shot refugees fleeing from conflict areas and used chemical gas to attack Kurdish resistance fighters. In doing so, Turkey and its affiliated Islamist extremist groups breached the Geneva Conventions and committed a litany of war crimes—as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The ideological motivations of Turkey’s invading force was soon evidently clear, as the jihadists who comprised the vast majority of ground troops viewed the Kurdish population of Afrin as “atheists” deserving of death. This was portrayed in a series of videos where the Turkish proxies threatened to cut off the heads of Kurds who they described as “infidels”; or another where several international Islamists sung praises of previous battles where they had fought, including Tora Bora (the former headquarters of Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan), Grozny in Chechnya, and Dagestan in Russia. This aforementioned video was concluded by them declaring “And now Afrin is calling to us”.

Then as the fighting began, several videos soon emerged showing Turkish-backed militants mutilating and posing for selfies with the bodies of Kurdish YPJ women fighters, with one in particular portraying a young woman codenamed Barin Kobani, who had her breasts cut off – followed by chants of “God is great”. With such heinous beliefs as their driving force and coupled with overwhelming military superiority, Turkey’s military would encircle and fully occupy Afrin after sixty-three days of bombardment.

During those attacks a number of credible observers would warn of Turkey’s abuses, such as The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who cautioned, “In the city of Afrin, which was captured by Turkish forces yesterday, scores of civilians have been killed and injured due to airstrikes, ground-based strikes, and explosive hazards, and thousands have been displaced.” This matched the diagnosis of Human Rights Watch (HRW), which criticized Turkey for having, “failed to take necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties” during the offensive, with HRW’s deputy Middle East director Lama Fakih opining how, “It appears that vulnerable civilians are facing displacement and death because of the way Turkey’s latest offensive is being conducted.”

What Turkey has done since occupying Afrin

Turkey’s occupation of Afrin and its surrounding 282 towns and villages officially began on March 25, 2018, and the brutal policies and actions of their subjugation in the four years since have turned this once thriving oasis of ethnic and religious solidarity, into a dystopian nightmare where over 300,000 mostly-Kurds have been displaced.

The oppression was foreshadowed from the moment the city fell under Turkish control, as the first action of the invading Islamist forces was to destroy Afrin’s statue of the mythical Kurdish figure Kawa the Blacksmith, which is central to the Kurd’s Newroz (New Year) festival, and according to legend symbolizes the struggle for freedom against tyranny. Fittingly, from that day forward, Erdogan’s regime, the Turkish Army, and their allied militant proxies have carried out a systematic campaign of unrelenting state terrorism.

As I previously noted in my September 2019 speech before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Afrin’s Kurdish population are suffering social oppression, economic robbery, and cultural annihilation.

Socially, the Kurds of Afrin are suffering arbitrary arrest, assaults, torture, rapes, human trafficking, sexual enslavement, assassinations, enforced disappearances at checkpoints, late-night abductions by criminal gangs, burning down of their villages, and neighborhood demolition to build walls around the city.

Economically, the Kurds of Afrin are suffering looting of stores, seizure of homes, stealing of cars, pillaging of livestock, confiscation of land, forced sharia taxes, extortion of businesses, over 5,000 kidnappings for ransom, deliberate arson of over 11,000 hectares of forest, and the systematic theft of Afrin’s olive oil industry – which is then illegally sold in Europe.

Culturally, the Kurds of Afrin are suffering demographic ethnic cleansing, Turkification of the education system and street names, destruction of Kurdish cultural monuments, vandalism of tombs, pillaging of grave sites, desecration of Alevi and Yazidi holy shrines, cutting down of sacred ribbon trees, and the archaeological excavation and smuggling of over 16,000 historical artifacts – which are then illegally sold to museums in Turkey.

On other occasions, Afrin’s residents are threatened by gangs of “brokers” into obligatory land sales at set prices, which are supervised by MIT Turkish intelligence with the goal of transferring legal ownership to new settlers. Meanwhile, the largest and most luxurious homes are often commandeered by mercenaries under the pretext of turning them into military headquarters or torture chambers, as SDC US representative Sinam Sherkany has written about with regards to her own family home.

Moreover, a 2019 report to the High Commissioner’s Office of the United Nations Human Rights Council noted how, “The victims of abductions by armed groups and/or criminal gangs were often of Kurdish origin, as well as civilians perceived as being prosperous, including doctors, businesspersons and merchants”, while also noting how, “young men arrested on suspicion of being affiliated with Kurdish structures were forced to pay a fine of $400 in order to be released.”

The motivations for all these actions are: terrorizing Kurdish residents to incentivize them to leave in order to accelerate resettlement plans, accruing financial gain to pay off Turkey’s many radical Islamist militias who are motivated by state-sanctioned “jihad”, and obliterating Kurdish cultural identity and archaeological multi-ethnicity to enable a Turkification strategy for a de-facto annexation of Afrin.

With regards to resettlement and population transfers, from the start of Afrin’s occupation the Turkish Army and its allied militants began emptying all Kurdish villages with the goal of bringing in loyal Arab outsiders from other parts of Syria. At least half of these mercenary families numbering over 40,000 were brought to Afrin from eastern Ghouta, eastern Qalamoun, and southern Damascus, and have connections to jihadist factions such as the Al Rahman Legion and the Army of Islam. In other instances, families from Idlib, belonging to the al-Nusra Front and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) have been resettled in Afrin, while families from other Turkish-occupied Syrian cities such as Azaz, al-Bab, and Jarablus were given abandoned villages that persecuted Yazidis were forced to flee from. In many of these instances, markings were painted on the outside of stolen homes, which was reminiscent of what ISIS did to the Christians of Raqqa and Mosul.

With regards to funding Turkey’s state-sanctioned “jihad”, at the onset of Afrin’s assault, Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (aka Diyanet) called all mosques in Turkey to read The Quran’s chapter 48 on conquest (Al-Fath) and asked that all Muslims pray for invading Turkish soldiers. Fatwas were then issued by the Istanbul-based Syrian Islamic Council supporting various war crimes, such as one in February of 2018, defending the looting of private property as “jihad for the sake of Allah” and merely the “spoils of war”; and ones in May and June of 2018, which describe the mostly-Kurdish PYD as “spiteful”, “secular”, “corrupt”, and “deviant”—thereby justifying a range of mistreatment and theft in relation to them.

Turkey’s Diyanet is also overseeing a coordinated effort to impose Sharia law and strict Islamic dress (veil) on women, similar to what ISIS did, while destroying ancient religious Alevi and Yazidi shrines and replacing them with private mosques—as the first step to forced conversions. At one point it became so egregious that a retired Turkish General himself spoke out, decrying afterwards how, “It is as if we are preparing the region for militant jihadists [like ISIS], and my colleagues who served in the area suffer from the moral humiliation of the way the operation evolved.”

With regards to Yazidis—who ISIS tried to eradicate themselves through genocide—their shrines named after Barsa Khatum, Jil Khaneh, King Adi, and Qara Jerneh, plus Sheikhs Hamid, Gahrib, Barakat, and Manan, have all been destroyed under Turkey’s occupation; while the Yazidi villages of Qastel Jindo, Alqino, Bafalon, Sinka, Qatma, Basoufan, Ghazawiyeh, Iska, Arsh Qibar, Ishkan Sharqi, Shih Al Dir, and Ain Dara have been completely uprooted and emptied.

As for Alevis, the shrines at Yagmur Dada, Ali Dada and Aslan Dada in the Bulbul district were looted and destroyed. In both cases of Yazidis and Alevis, gravesites were vandalized and destroyed, because authorities said they violated a new law requiring a lower height, which mimics the legal justifications that ISIS used against idolatry as well. The discrimination and desecration has even extended to the sacred perennial trees in many villages where Alevis tie little ribbons to and make wishes, which Turkey’s Islamists have cut down as a result.

Turkey’s desecration extends to the archaeological realm as well, which began during the invasion when Turkish airstrikes destroyed many ancient buildings including the Julianus Church—which is one of the oldest Christian sanctuaries in the world, the famous Iron-Age Ain Dara Temple, the Syriac Maronite tomb of Saint Maron, and site of Brad (which were UNESCO World Heritage Sites). Less notable Roman-Era Byzantine monasteries and cemeteries were also destroyed, ostensibly because they pre-dated Islam to the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE.

This practice coincides with how Turkey has pillaged through 35 historical mounds in various parts of Afrin including Ereb Shexo, El-Didriye, Zivinge, Ibedan, Sewan, Qurbe, Ster, En Hecere, Kefer Rume, Cumke, Sindiyange, Durumiye and Meydanke. In these situations the grave areas are bulldozed and exhumed in search of gold and precious objects. Politically, Turkey also destroyed the shrine dedicated to the Kurdish revolutionary and writer Mehmet Nuri Dersimi (1893-1973) alongside his wife Farida, showing the ethnic connection to such symbolic defilements.

Lastly, with regards to Ankara’s Turkification strategy, the claim of them liberating “Syrian” territory was called into question from the first moment of conquest in Afrin, when the Turkish military raised the Turkish flag over government buildings and not the flag of their so-called “Free Syrian Army”. The Turkish state then began forcing schoolchildren to carry the Turkish flag in propaganda videos, while praising pictures of Erdogan. This was followed up by changing the official names of places from Kurdish into Turkish, banning the Kurdish language, issuing Turkish ID and temporary residence cards, and appointing a Wali (Custodian) and Qaim Maqam (Governor) in Afrin and linking it to the Turkish province of Antakya.

All of these point to the unfortunate reality that the Turkish state has no intention of ever leaving Afrin, as they intend to permanently occupy it, similar to how they have Hatay (Liwa Iskenderun) since 1939 and northern Cyprus since 1974. Which is all the more reason why the international community must stand up now and demand that Turkey leave Afrin and all the other areas of Syria they have terrorized and seized.


SDF operation continues after ISIS prison attack in Heseke

The circle around ISIS has tightened as the operation against members of the mercenary organization continues in Hesekê after an attack and mass outbreak attempt at Sina prison.

ANF HESEKÊ Saturday, 22 Jan 2022, 13:56

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which had arrived in the evening to provide support, sealed off the neighbourhood and the area around Sina prison with a wide security corridor. After the attack, the SDF and Asayish maintained control around the prison. The SDF announced on Friday that 89 mercenaries who tried to escape from prison have been captured.

Sporadic clashes continue in the Ghweiran neighborhood between the Asayish, SDF and the ISIS mercenaries. The siege around the group has been tightened and particular attention is paid to civilian safety in the ongoing operation.

According to reports from the ground, many ISIS members have been killed and another group has been captured. The international anti-ISIS Coalition jets and helicopters have carried out strikes in the area since yesterday.
In the meantime, the General Command of North-East Syrian Internal Security Forces released a statement on Saturday, saying that they have foiled the attacks with the support of the Syrian Democratic Forces and a number of terrorists have been captured. In addition, a search operation has been launched for the mercenaries hiding in the neighborhoods around the prison.

“7 of our members were injured and our comrade Xalid Ilêwî martyred during the events. Three civilians who did not allow ISIS mercenaries to enter the neighborhood have also fallen as martyrs,” said the statement.

The statement by Internal Security Forces added, “Our forces have completely encircled the Ghweiran neighborhood. The operations launched to capture the mercenaries in the neighborhood continue unabated. We promise to follow in the footsteps of our martyrs to ensure security in the entire region.”


YPG International: With the spirit of the resistance of Afrin, against all occupation in Rojava

The YPG international released a statement to pay tribute to the resistance of Afrin and the fallen fighters, including international martyrs Şehîd Hêlîn Qerecox, Şehîd Kendal Breizh, Şehîd Baran Galicia, Şehîd Şahîn Huseynî.

  • ANF
  • Thursday, 20 Jan 2022, 10:31

Today is the fourth anniversary of the day the Turkish state launched its invasion of Afrin (Efrîn). The YPG International released a statement and paid tribute to the resistance of Afrin and the fallen fighters, including international martyrs, Şehîd Hêlîn Qerecox, Şehîd Kendal Breizh, Şehîd Baran Galicia, Şehîd Şahîn Huseynî. 

The statement reminds that Afrin is “a region which local comrades call ‘the heart of the revolution’. Together with its jihadist mercenaries (many affiliated with Daesh or Al Qaeda) the Turkish army began its campaign of terror and occupation against the people of Efrîn and the democratic revolution being built by the people of Rojava. For two months the brave fighters of the Women’s protection units (YPJ) and the people’s protection units (YPG) defended the freedom of their homeland with an immense resistance.

Shoulder to shoulder with the people of Efrîn were our Internationalist comrades, participating in the defence against the fascist attacks. The hope which the revolution in Rojava represents makes the building of a truly free society worth all sacrifices. A revolution in which genuine democracy, ecology and the liberation of women are the foundations which our comrades strive towards. As internationalists, we join in the struggle against fascism and for an alternative way of life to capitalist modernity.”

The statement added: “YPG International has been present since the war of liberation against Daesh and the aggression of the Turkish state and its Islamic gangs. We continue to defend Rojava against all threats and play our role in the growth and success of the revolution. Shining examples and sources of constant inspiration are the comrades who gave their lives in the defence of Efrîn. Our international martyrs, Şehîd Hêlîn Qerecox, Şehîd Kendal Breizh, Şehîd Baran Galicia, Şehîd Şahîn Huseynî are amongst the many brave comrades who sacrificed everything. Their willingness to fight far from home against a ruthless and highly equipped enemy for our common ideals is still today, four years later, a huge source of motivation for all comrades here in Rojava, and abroad. We follow the path that our martyrs have paved for us; continuing our struggle is the way in which we remember and honour our fallen friends.”

The statement continued: “Now, after four years of occupation by the Fascist Turkish state and its jihadist gangs, the people of Efrîn still face atrocities on a daily basis. A system of ethnic cleansing of the region is being carried out, alongside disappearances, tortures, rapes, and the destruction of the graveyards of our martyrs. The Fascist Turkish state acts as a colonising power, forbidding and destroying the Kurdish culture, plundering resources, displacing the local population, and politically and economically annexing the region. Despite acknowledging the crimes against humanity being carried out by the occupiers, the international state community refuses to act. With new threats of invasion from the Fascist Turkish state, the freedom of Rojava is once again in danger today.”

This is why, said the statement, “we as an internationalist force place our trust and effort in solidarity and comradeship from people across the globe to assist in our fight, whether that means coming and joining the struggle here in Rojava, or supporting it from afar – there are many frontlines in the fight for a free society. The revolution in Rojava represents more than just the freedom of North and Eastern Syria, but is an example of hope and inspiration for all oppressed and exploited people across the world. All comrades of YPG International are dedicated to put action behind our words, and will remain a fighting force to defend the revolution from fascist attacks in all its spheres. Whilst the states do not act when confronted with the crimes in Efrîn, it is the people of the world who take action, sacrifice their lives, and make a difference in the defence of freedom.”

The statement concluded: “The anniversary of the war on Efrîn is for us once more a reminder of what misery and pain such an occupation brings to the people. We especially also remember and seek strength from our fallen friends – as we say in Kurdish, Şehîd namirin (Martyrs never die). As YPG International we make a promise to the people of North and Eastern Syria and to all of our comrades across the globe – We will defend the success of the Rojava revolution at all costs.”


Northwest Syria witnesses shelling between government and opposition


A Russian raid on west of Idlib
A Russian raid on west of Idlib

IDLIB, Syria (North Press) – The de-escalation areas in northwest Syria witnessed military escalation and exchange of shelling between the Syrian government forces and Turkish-backed opposition factions on Sunday.

The opposition factions’ sites in the villages of al-Enkawi, Qalidin, al-Daqmaq, al-Hamidiya and Khirbat al-Naqus in the  Ghab Plain, west of Hama, were bombed by the heavy artillery shelling and missiles of the government forces ,North Press reported military sources of the opposition.

“The opposition sites in the villages and towns of Fatterah, Kafr Oweid, Sfuhen, Kansafra and Fleifel in the Zawiya Mountain area, south of Idlib, were bombed. The government bombardment also hit the opposition’ sites in the area near al-Kabina in Jabal al-Akrad, north of Latakia,” the sources added.

The bombing coincided with intense flight of Russian reconnaissance planes over the region, according to the same sources.

“The opposition factions announced targeting the Syrian government forces’ sites near Khan al-Sabil ,southeast of Idlib. The Syrian government forces’ sites in Jabal Abu Ali, north of Lattakia, were also hit with while mortar shells by the opposition factions ” according to the sources.

For about a week, separate areas in northwest Syria have witnessed  military escalation, which left dead and wounded from both sides.

Although the de-escalation zone in northwest Syria is subject to a Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement signed in March 2020, the area witnesses frequent mutual bombardment despite the entry of the ceasefire into force. 

Reporting by Bara’ al-Shami


YPJ General Command issues message for New Year

The YPJ General Command said in its New Year’s message that they are ready to fulfil all their responsibilities “for a free and dignified life”.

  • ANF
  • Saturday, 1 Jan 2022, 09:52

The YPJ (Women Protection Units) General Command said in its New Year’s message that they are ready to fulfil all their responsibilities “for a free and dignified life”.

The YPJ General Command especially called on women to organize and build their self-defense forces.

The message said: “We will fight for the freedom of women and society to be guaranteed, whatever the cost.”

The message added:

“In 2021, occupation and all kinds of enemy attacks continued uninterruptedly in Northern and Eastern Syria. Many valuable patriots lost their lives in these attacks. Likewise, our esteemed commander Sosin Bîrhat and other comrades fell as martyrs. But thanks to our esteemed martyrs, the resistance, the will of our people, and the self-sacrificing spirit of our freedom fighters, the enemy’s plans will not achieve their goal. With this in mind, we commemorate our martyrs with respect and renew our promise that we will follow their path. Again, we salute the work and sacrifice of our people led by women.

In addition, in 2021, especially in the Middle East and all over the world, women were subjected to all kinds of oppression, violence, massacre, rape and other attacks. The male-dominated system has turned women’s lives into hell with such violence against women. Women all over the world have stood up to these attacks and have demonstrated unparalleled resistance. Women in Northern and Eastern Syria, especially Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and Armenians, fought relentlessly against the invasion attacks and the patriarchal mentality.”

The statement continued: “Women all over the world need to build a legitimate defense system in order to be able to wage a permanent struggle against the understanding of power and the occupying fascist system. Now we call women freedom time. Women now have an organization and an army. The reality of the revolution in Northern and Eastern Syria has shown that women can lead a democratic and free society.

Our self-defense system has reached a level thanks to the heroism of thousands of martyrs, creating great hope for all women in the region and the world. From today on, whatever the cost, we are ready to fight for a free and dignified life for free women and society, and we will fulfil our responsibilities.

We call on women whose hearts beat for freedom to organize themselves and build their self-defense forces.

In 2022, we celebrate the new year of all humanity and working women and say JIN JYAN AZADI.”


REVIEW : Yorkshire Rebel – the Life and Times of John Lindley 1770-1853 by Ron Riley (Blue Poppy Publishing Devon 2020).

The first limited edition of Ron Riley’s ‘Yorkshire Rebel’ appeared in 2013 , the year of the  50th Anniversary of E P Thompson’s seminal ‘Making of the English Working Class’, in which he set out to rescue early working class radicals from ‘the condescension of posterity’. The present revised, updated and new format edition was launched in 2020 to mark the bicentenary of the Yorkshire Radical uprising, which is the central theme of the book.  Ron Riley’s work is therefore very timely as he sets out to rescue one of those revolutionaries, not only from condescension but also from obscurity, vividly locating him in that time of profound economic, social and political changes which have become subsumed under the title of the Industrial Revolution.

The picture Ron Riley paints is in stark contrast to the Jane Austen view of the period.  He describes the trials and tribulations of working class life and work in careful detail, reconstructing conditions in the West Riding communities which shaped Lindley’s view of the world.  The reader can almost feel the heat of the nail-makers workshop where Lindley learned his trade.

The wider backdrop of movements and ideas is also clearly described, bringing to life the political ferment which influenced Lindley’s ideas and set him and hundreds of others on a course of action which could have proved fatal.  Although we have no record of Lindley’s personal thoughts, the milieu in which he circulated gives us some idea of what his concerns and ideals must have been.  Ron Riley again depicts this with precision – the mounting anticipation of the insurrection, the disillusionment of defeat and the anxiety of the treason trials.

Ron Riley also follows Lindley on the convict ship and into exile in Van Diemen’s Land showing that he was no ordinary convict, but a man with some standing and respect both in the community he left and, as his early return home testifies, the one he was transported to.

The immense changes during Lindley’s remaining lifetime are also brought into the picture.  ‘Yorkshire Rebel’ is not merely the story of one man, but an account of the working class in the West Riding as a whole.  Ron Riley has not been content to rest with John Lindley as a small twig on a family tree.  He has generated not only a rich foliage and colourful blossoms but also described the ecology in which John Lindley and other working class radicals flourished.  ‘Yorkshire Rebel’ is an important contribution to our working class heritage and a valuable reminder of the struggles for freedom which still have a resonance today.



and from >

It has been a tough twelve months for bricks and mortar bookshops so I would love to think that potential readers would like to put orders their way. If you want to read the book but money is tight, you can also buy a paperback edition on Amazon for a bit less than the hardcover. £19.99 for the hardcover and £15.99 for the paperback.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Jinwar-Garten3-1024x768-1024x768-1-920x425.jpg


Zagros Hiwa: ‘Human values, natural rights and law should not be a turned into a bargaining chip’

KCK’s Zagros Hiwa spoke for the first time to Medya News, for all those readers who are not only interested in reading but also listening to what he had to say on key matters, uncensored.

1:06 pm 07/12/2021

Zagros Hiwa: ‘Human values, natural rights and law should not be a turned into a bargaining chip’

Audio Player00:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.

Mark Campbell

In response to the questions we sent, Zagros Hiwa, spokesperson of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organisation that includes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), talked to Medya News in this exclusive interview.

Aged 45, Zagros Hiwa was born in the Kurdish region of Iran and studied English language and literature from the University of Sanandaj before he earned his Masters degree in teaching English as a foreign language.

Hiwa joined the PKK in 2001 following the arrest of Abdullah Öcalan in 1999. As he reportedly said in an interview in 2016, Öcalan’s arrest “spoke volumes about the abandonment Kurds have historically been subjected to.” He said that after reading Abdullah Öcalan’s books and discussing his ideas with fellow Kurds, he decided to join the Kurdish movement in 2001,’

What does the increasing flow of asylum-seekers from Iraqi Kurdistan in the past few months and the recent student protests in Sulaymaniya and other cities indicate? How do you assess the economic and political situation in Iraqi Kurdistan with a debt crisis going on for at least seven years, and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s compliance with Turkey’s aggressions for years and the maintenance of its negative stance against the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria? The KDP has recently issued a statement, saying Turkey does not have a problem with the Kurds but with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and that Rojava has to cut off its relations with the PKK. How do you evaluate this statement in particular and the general debate it refers to, that draws a line between the Kurds and the PKK?

Well, there are two main reasons for the situation on the Belarus and Poland border. Many of those stranded on the border are Kurds from South Kurdistan [preferred usage of the KCK spokesperson in addressing Iraqi Kurdistan]. Instead of discussing the everyday politics of Belarus and Poland, or Russia or Europe we have to go to the root causes. Where do these people want to go?

They want to go to Europe and the West. Why Europe? Because they think that they can have a better life there, much better from that of their own country. Here we come to the first root cause. The forces of capitalist modernity have for hundreds of years looted the resources of the countries of Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and carried them to the West.

They have built a paradise-like life for themselves in the west, at the cost of turning life into hell in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The luxury life in Europe cannot be built based on the continent’s own resources. Unless they loot the resources of the countries of the Middle East, they cannot build such a life there.

Evading hell and going to paradise is a dream of humanity. We have this in sacred books. We cannot criminalise this intention. When you build a paradise on earth at the cost of turning the life and land of others into hell, it is quite normal that people would want to desert hell and enter paradise.

People from all walks of life, be they old or young, men or women, sell all the properties they have, risk their own life, risk drowning in the oceans and freezing to death in the forests in order to reach paradise in Europe. So, the forces of ‘capitalist modernity’ are responsible for this exodus, for they have set the ground for it. Therefore, they are the first to be held responsible for this situation.

Secondly, the dictatorial regimes of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and Latin America have confiscated and monopolised what has been left behind of these stolen resources. They use these remnants to live a posh life for themselves and deprive other people of living an honourable life. They deprive people of all the opportunities and resources of their countries. People are left hungry and jobless. They destroy the dreams of the young for a better future, for they are so indulged in corruption. They curtail freedoms, oppress any voice of dissent, build their own network of nepotism, favouritism, and kleptocracy. They are not democratic.

As far as Kurdistan is concerned, these two factors ruining the fabric of society are at full force. Also, there is an additional factor in Kurdistan. The Kurdish land has been occupied by four states and the Kurds have been subjected to cultural and political genocide.

Forcing people to leave Kurdistan and replacing them with jihadist Arabs is one dimension of this genocide. Particularly, South Kurdistan has been turned into a laboratory for implementing capitalist modernity and imposing it on the people’s life via an undemocratic KDP-led administration which is a collaborator with the main enemy of the Kurds, that is, the Turkish state.

Turkey and the KDP are working together to deplete the Kurdish land from its own human and economic resources. The KDP has made a 5-year security and economic deal with Turkey and has totally become a part of Turkey’s long-term genocidal policies against the Kurds.

The KDP has let the Turkish army build around 70 military bases in South Kurdistan, from Zakho in the north to Mosul in the south. It also gives full support to the intelligence and espionage activities of the Turkish secret service MIT [the National Intelligence Organisation] in South Kurdistan and Iraq.

So, when the youth see that their land has been occupied by Turkey, their resources looted by tribal rulers, and they have been left jobless without a future, they decide to leave their own land and go to Europe. Forces of capitalist modernity, the occupiers of Kurdistan and collaborators like the KDP have turned the land of paradise, have turned Kurdistan, into a hell. And people from all walks of life want to leave this hell.

The recent protests in Sulaymaniyah are concerned, the students’ reaction against this system of corruption and kleptocracy which has deprived them of their stipends for nearly seven years. University students observe that, on the one side, there are the teenage sons of KDP rulers who own universities, companies, private jets, and oil wells and on the other side, nearly half a million students cannot afford paying the bus and taxi fees. They see this great injustice. That’s why they have decided to stage protests.

Do you think there is a chance of having a consensus between the Syrian administration and AANES, when the former is trying to bring back the past and the latter is trying to build something new? The US administration still hasn’t formally recognised AANES and consequently the ‘international community’ has followed its lead, with all its attendant consequences. Do you believe the Biden administration will recognise it this or next year?

Much has changed since the start of the uprising in Syria in 2011. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives. Millions of people have been either internally displaced or been forced to leave their country. The social and economic fabric has to a large extent been ripped apart. The country’s infrastructure has been destroyed. This has direct implications for the political system too.

President Bashar Assad had already declared that getting the country back to the pre-2011 era is impossible. He had posed the idea of decentralisation. We think this is a good starting point. Syria is like a mosaic of different peoples, different ethnic and religious identities. We think it is high time the authorities in Damascus appreciate these diversities and show tolerance towards a political and administrative system which foresees some degree of self-rule and local administration for these components.

So, Damascus must refrain from imposing Arab nationalism on the peoples which are of other ethnic and religious origins. All the peoples of Syria can get united under the broader idea of Syrian identity.

The US-led international coalition has narrowed down its mission to only fighting ISIS and cooperating with its partners to this end. They have not yet been fully engaged politically with the administrative body of Northeast Syria. Also, the United Nations-led Geneva talks, after many meetings, failed to incorporate Autonomous Administration of North East Syria.

Excluding AANES from the Geneva talks means that big powers, including the USA and Russia, prefer their own interests over the interests of the Syrian peoples. So, the AANES represents a model for the Syrian crisis. This model is based on fraternity between the peoples, democracy, and the freedom of women within the framework of territorial integrity and unity of Syria. If anyone wants a solution for the Syrian crisis, they have to take this model into account and work to ensure that it is represented in international platforms for the solution of the Syrian crisis.

Also, Turkey poses a threat to the solution of the Syrian crisis. There will be no real solution to this crisis as long as Turkey continues its occupation of Syrian lands and its support for radical jihadist terrorist groups. The United States of America and Russia both have competing agendas about the role of Turkey in the Syrian crisis.

The United States uses Turkey to put pressure on the Assad regime and Russia. It turns a blind eye on Turkey’s accommodation of ISIS and Nusra leaders in the areas it has occupied, from Idlib to Serêkaniyê. On the other hand, Russia uses Turkey’s threats of more invasion as a leverage against AANES and tries to take more concessions from it. One wonders why an occupier like Turkey is given a role in Geneva, but an administration which represents nearly all the peoples of Syria and governs one third of Syria is shunned away from Geneva.

The Biden administration’s dealings with the AANES politically will depend on its larger Middle East and North Africa policies. If they want an end to the Syrian crisis, they will deal politically with AANES, but if they want the crisis to continue, they will restrict their interaction only to military matters.

Whatever the policies of big powers may be, the peoples of Northeast Syria and Rojava should know that their own self-organisation, the own self-defence and education is the most crucial factor in bringing about a solution to the Syrian crisis. Having achieved this level of organisation and awareness, they should look for ways to reach an agreement with the authorities in Damascus, based on the democratisation of Syria, based on freedom, and justice. The future of Syria is spelled by the fraternity between Kurds and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, Shiites and Sunnis.

What do you think the economic and political situation in Turkey will be now, as the crash of the Turkish currency and the slide towards hyper-inflation signals a severe economic crisis?

The key words to answer this are Erdogan’s remarks on 9 February 2019, when he lamented those who criticised his government over the rising prices of basic goods, particularly vegetables and fruits. In front of a pro-AKP crowd, he called on his critics: “Do you know how much a bullet costs?”

Well, this question explains the underlying reason for the current economic crisis in Turkey, reasons for high inflation, for the free fall of the Turkish Lira. The AKP-MHP fascist rule has invested a lot in their genocidal war in Kurdistan. They have usurped all of Turkey’s resources to fight the Kurds, to evict the Kurds from their ancestral lands, on which they have lived for more than 12,000 years.

They have given many political and particularly economic concessions to foreign powers in order to get their support for their genocidal campaign against the Kurds. According to the findings of the London-based Democratic Progress Institute, the Turkish state’s war on the Kurds has cost the country three trillion dollars.

Well, to quote from state authorities, we can refer to the Parliament’s speaker, Köksal Toptan, who had stated, in 2007, that this war has cost the country 250 billion dollars. He was followed by Cemil Çiçek, who said a year later that the amount was 300 billion dollars. Three years later, in 2011, Faruk Çelik stated that the cost has been 400 billion dollars.

Erdogan himself kept the figure at 300 billion dollars in his 2013 speech. Now, at a time when Erdogan reaches out to the United Arab Emirates for a 10 billion dollar loan to slow down the fall of the lira, you can imagine the status of the Turkish currency had Turkey not used all this money for its genocidal war against the Kurds.

As long as the Kurdish question is left unresolved, the economic crisis in Turkey will further deepen and people will face high inflation, they will face unemployment more than any time before. We can say that the political and ideological mind-set of Turkish authorities and of the Turkish state are the main cause of the economic problems and the lira’s collapse.

The only cure to the current economic crisis is a change in the mind-set and mentality of Turkish authorities towards democratisation, human rights, women’s rights, and more importantly, towards the solution of the Kurdish question. They have to abandon the policy of denial and genocide against the Kurds.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) has been called upon to take the aggravated life imprisonment sentence given to the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan as an item in its agenda. Do you believe that the CoE may push Turkey more to comply with international laws and the decision of the European Court of Human Rights? How do you evaluate international ‘silence’ regarding the ‘special law’ applied in Imralı Prison for 23 years?

The Kurdish question in its modern form is the making of European countries. The Treaty of Lausanne sacrificed the Kurds, their identity, their existence, politically and socially, for the interests of big powers and regional states.

The land of the Kurds was divided into four parts and the Kurds were left with a destiny of denial, assimilation, and genocide. Great European powers like Britain, France and Germany are party to this treaty and are therefore responsible for the plight and sufferings of the Kurds.

Leader Apo [Abdullah Öcalan], as the leader of Kurds, took the problem to the European political platform after 76 years and called on the EU-member states to contribute to the solution of the problem they had created for the Kurds and the whole Middle East. But his call not only fell on deaf ears but also these states denied him a safe stay in Europe. Europeans states which claim that they are the cradle of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law failed in the face of a real test to these values.

In order to deny Leader Apo a stay in Germany, German courts cancelled the arrest warrants they had issued for him some ten years earlier. Germany violated and trampled its own laws and denied Leader Apo entry to the country. Their aim was to deprive him of any platform to express himself, even in German courts.

Like Germany, many EU countries paved the grounds for his kidnapping by the CIA by not recognising his asylum rights. So, they are accomplices in his illegal abduction by the CIA. In fact, by travelling to Europe, Leader Apo wanted to give Europe a leverage over the USA with regard to the Kurdish question.

Playing a positive role in the solution of the Kurdish question would have given Europe more leverage in the Middle East policies. It would have been a win-win solution project for the Kurds and Europe. Leader Apo’s abduction is a violation of the laws of Europe. If there is any trial in this case, EU member-states should sit in the dock, not in the bench. They have violated all legal and humanitarian values by abetting in the handing over of Leader Apo to Turkey.

There is an arbitrarily designed special law applied to an illegally kidnapped leader, a regularly updated detention regime for a person taken hostage. The hostage-takers are always bringing about new rules and arbitrarily putting forward new ransoms. They are taking revenge on him on a day-to-day basis.

There are arbitrary punishments and bans on visits. For example, pacing up and down a courtyard, an activity which is the most natural right of a detainee, is used as an excuse to dictate more punishments on him, be it a ban on family visits or lawyer visits.

Lately, his lawyers have been informed that they have imposed a 6-month-long visit ban on him. He himself describes the detention regime in Imrali as resembling that of Guantanamo, or even going far beyond it.

All these facts show that Leader Apo is treated as a hostage. He is a political hostage, abducted by the conspiracy of international powers, particularly the USA, Britain and Israel. In his person, society has been taken hostage by the state. He is the beating heart and thinking mind of society. And what they want as ransom is his abandoning of his struggle for freedom, democracy and women’s liberation, and ecology.

The 23-years long solitary confinement regime imposed on him is a crime against humanity, against free humanity. It cannot be justified by any national or international law. Leader Apo’s imprisonment situation represents sheer lawlessness and the infringement of all universally-accepted human values and international law.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe should handle the case as an urgent matter of law and human rights, of the communal and political rights of the Kurdish people. Leader Apo is the leader of the Kurdish people, he is no ordinary hostage.

Until now, the Council of Europe has adopted politically motivated stances with regard to the case. They have made it a matter of a political bargain with Turkey. Human values, natural rights and law should not be a turned into a bargaining chip.

On 3 December, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe determined that Turkey has not fulfilled the requirements of the `right to hope`, a decision taken in 2014. That is, Turkey has violated the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee of Ministers. This means that Turkey has acted against the laws of the Council of Europe and the Council of Europe has failed to enact and enforce its own law.

Also, three years ago, the CPT ruled that Leader Apo and the other three detainees’ detention situation amounts to that of torture. But nothing has been done.

The last ruling of the Committee of Ministers is important and we have to follow whether they will honour their own decision or not. Also, this ruling is far from sufficient. It is a delayed and belated decision. Instead of calling on Turkey to act immediately to improve the situation in Imrali and work for the freedom of Leader Apo, it has given Turkey one more year.

The Kurds cannot wait for one more year. We have to step up our struggle. At issue is the destiny of a people and the torture regime and solitary confinement imposed on its leader. This torture and solitary confinement must end. The CPT should visit Imrali and investigate the situation there, they should update the Kurdish people about what is going on in Imrali.

In fact, when it comes to defending human values and human rights, especially defending the rights of the Kurds, the peoples of Europe, the intellectuals, academics, journalists, human right activists are ahead of the states and official bodies. The peoples have always stood in solidarity with the struggle of the Kurdish people and have identified with the aggravated solitary confinement imposed on Leader Apo.

As in the last years, this year, too, 700 representatives who had joined the conference of Unite, the Union in Britain, called on the Turkish state to free Leader Apo and start peace talks with the representatives of the Kurdish people.

On behalf of our movement I would like to salute and thank all the members and representatives of Unite the Union. The Kurdish people will never forget their sense of solidarity, freedom and justice. Their campaign is highly appreciated.

The KCK’s Committee of Health has previously appealed to the international organisations such as the OPCW, the CPT and Doctors Without Borders to launch an investigation into Turkey’s use of chemical warfare against the Kurdish fighters in Iraqi Kurdistan. Why do you believe your calls have not found any correspondence with these institutions to date? How would you assist these organisations if they ever decide to form an independent committee to investigate the use of chemical warfare?

Unfortunately, the Kurds have been one of the prime victims of chemical gas attacks in the world. These attacks have either been abetted by or neglected by the international powers. In 1938 during the massacre of Dersim, the Turkish state used gas to kill those civilians who had taken refuge in the caves. The documents of Germany’s role in providing the Turkish army with those chemical gases have just recently begun to emerge.

Also, we have the 1988 chemical attack by Saddam, against Halabja. The international mainstream media and international powers highlighted the matter only when they had changed their policies towards Saddam. Saddam did that massacre before their eyes, with those gases these powers had given to him.

Turkey has been using chemical weapons against the Kurdistan Freedom Guerrillas since the 1990s. Particularly, since 23 April of this year, it has used chemical weapons, of five different types, against the Kurdistan Freedom Guerrillas, it has used them 323 times, resulting in the martyrdom of 38 of our comrades.

Despite the many facts and data documenting these war crimes, and despite the many calls by the Kurdish people on international powers and international institutions to investigate the use of chemical weapons, unfortunately, no international or regional actor, particularly bodies responsible for the prohibition of chemical weapons, e.g. the OPCW, have batted an eyelash at the widespread use of these weapons by the Turkish army.

Their silence and lack of action are a sign of their complicity in the use of chemical weapons. We know how Turkey bribed the OPCW during its October 2019 attack, two years ago, on Serêkaniyê in Rojava Kurdistan, to ensure its silence over the use of white phosphorous and chemical weapons against the civilians and freedom fighters there.

Hereby, we call on all responsible international bodies, particularly the OPCW, to come to the areas that have been attacked with chemical weapons and conduct independent investigations. We are ready to make all the contributions that are needed for such an investigation. We call on world public opinion to put pressure on their respective governments not to provide Turkey with chemicals and the technology that can be used in chemical attacks on the Kurds.

What is your message to those countries who have placed the PKK on proscribed lists after requests from Turkey? Why should the PKK be taken off the list of proscribed organisations in the EU and US? Does the listing of the PKK as a ‘terrorist organisation’ frustrate any meaningful peace initiatives that could be initiated to resolve the ‘Kurdish question’ in Turkey?

The PKK is a movement which struggles to defend the existence of the Kurdish people and ensure their freedom.

Waging this struggle, the PKK has developed its own paradigm of democratic, ecological and women emancipatory society. The PKK is the most legitimate and just struggle of a people whose very existence has been denied, language has been banned, and whose cultural and political identity has been subjected to genocide.

Since the Lausanne treaty, Turkey has been spearheading this policy against the Kurds. So, the PKK is the name of resistance against this policy. The PKK is the freedom movement of a people struggling against state terror.

Putting the PKK on the terror ‘list’ is an arbitrary decision taken only to appease the Turkish state. This designation has no legitimate and legal base, but only serves the economic and political interests of NATO member countries.

The Belgian court ruled against such a decision in January 2020, but it fell on deaf ears.

Keeping the PKK on that ‘list’ means giving legitimacy to the denial and annihilation policies against the Kurds, as lately articulated by Hulusi Akar, who said that there was no place in the world called Kurdistan. So, this means abetting, being an accomplice to all those crimes that have been committed by the Turkish army, intelligence, and junta against the Kurds. From 1993 on, the PKK has declared 10 unilateral cease-fires to facilitate the solution of the Kurdish question and the democratisation of Turkey.

But Turkey has responded to these cease-fires by escalating its military operations against the guerrillas and the detention, imprisonment and killing and forced disapperence of political activists and civil society members, journalists, human rights defenders and civilians.

The developments of the last 10 years in the Middle East have completely proved the invalidity, illegality and illegitimacy of NATO’s designation of the PKK as a terrorist organisation. Everybody knows that Turkey was, and still is, the main sponsor and supporter of radical jihadist groups from the Nusra Front, to ISIS and to the Taliban. Turkey was the main route for ISIS members to enter Syria and Iraq and Turkey still harbors thousands of ISIS and Nusra and Al-Qaida members either on its soil or in the territories it has occupied in Syria.

Everybody knows where Baghdadi was killed, just 5 km from the Turkish border in an area controlled by Turkey! The PKK is the organisation which has spearheaded the struggle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. It was the PKK which rushed to the defence of Sinjar and Kobani, in Iraq and Syria.

6,000 PKK cadres have sacrificed their lives in the fight against ISIS and the Nusra Front in Iraq and Syria. These are undeniable facts.

But at the same time, the PKK is on the ‘terror list’ of NATO, while Turkey is still considered a strategic ‘partner’ and valuable ‘ally’ of NATO. How come the main supporter and sponsor of ISIS is a NATO ‘ally’ but an organisation which has fought most against ISIS is kept on the ‘terror’ list? This fact shows the degree to which this designation is arbitrary, it is interest-driven, and it is illegitimate, devoid of any political, social, cultural, historical, and legal grounds. It shows the hypocrisy and double-standards of NATO member countries.

Now, all the peoples in the Middle East and all around the world are coming to understand the injustice made against the Kurds by designating the PKK as a ‘terrorist’ organisation. More and more people are campaigning in different forms and platforms to draw attention to this injustice and delist the PKK.

Recently, a campaign on social media was run by the Kurds and their friends all around the world, calling on related authorities to delist the PKK. This campaign garnered huge support from 30 countries.

Also, 54 organisations have established the `lift PKK ban` initiative and on 27 November, thousands of Kurds, socialist, ecologists, anti-fascists, and libertarians gathered and marched in Berlin to lift Germany’s 28-year old-ban on the PKK. We salute and appreciate all those activists participating in this march. We appreciate their valuable efforts.

Also, in France, 120 intellectuals, academics, politicians, unionists, journalists and civil and political activists. They wrote a letter to President Biden and called on him to delist the PKK. This was a very important and meaningful campaign. We salute and thank all the signatories and appreciate their efforts.


Syria: An Investigation on the Attack on Afrin’s Al-Shifaa Hospital

In an investigation into the perpetrator of 12 June and 25 July attacks on al-Shifaa hospital, an analysis of the armaments used in the attack constitute evidence that Russian and Syrian government forces were responsible

October 20, 2021 365 views Download as PDF This post is also available in: Arabic Font Size AAA

The Attack Against Al-Shifaa Hospital

On 12 June 2021, at approximately 7:00 PM Syria local time, several artillery rockets struck  al-Shifaa Hospital[1] in the city of Afrin, controlled by Turkey and allied Syrian opposition armed groups of the Syrian National Army (SNA). The attack resulted in 15 deaths and 40 injuries, including staff, as well as devastating damage to the hospital and surrounding buildings. In the days following the attack, Turkish authorities and allied SNA groups prevented journalists from entering the hospital to cover the attack, and conflicting reports emerged alleging who was responsible for the crime.

The attack on al-Shifaa Hospital was part of an offensive against Afrin. Other attacks targeted civilian sites in the city on the same day at approximately 6:00 P.M., killing at least one person and wounding others. Tragically, many of the civilians injured in attacks earlier in the day sought treatment at al-Shifaa hospital before being killed in the strikes on the hospital itself.[2]

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) reported the attack against al-Shifaa Hospital on its Facebook page and posted photos of the resulting damage.[3] SAMS claimed that the strike was a ground attack and testified that two members of its medical staff were killed. On the same day, SAMS released a press statement condemning the attack and providing additional details on the attack.[4]

Subsequently, the White Helmets, officially known as Syria Civil Defense, published a field report on the attack against the al-Shifaa Hospital. The report cited a provisional count of causalities: 15 deaths, including four women, a child, seven men, and three unidentified people. The report also stated that the rockets were fired from areas jointly controlled by the regime and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).[5]

Immediately after the attack, military and political authorities in the area made differing claims on who was responsible for the strikes. The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) of being responsible while Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Turkish national mass media accused the People’s Defense Units (YPG) of conducting the attack with BM-21 Grad rockets and artillery shells.[6] However, the SDF refuted the accusations through the director of its media centre, Farhaad Shami, who denied the SDF’s presence in Syria’s northwest.[7]

Mazloum Abdi, the SDF’s commander-in-chief, echoed Shami’s refutation in a post on his Twitter account.[8] Furthermore, a Facebook page, using Abdi’s name, accused Russian forces of carrying out the attack against al-Shifaa hospital. Importantly, this Facebook page does not belong to Mazloum Abdi and is a fake account, even though it has been cited in numerous articles on the incident.

Since the attack on al-Shifaa Hospital and as of the completion of this report (the last week of August 2021), the Turkish Army and its allied Syrian rebels (present in Afrin and Euphrates Shield area) and the Syrian Army, allied militias, and the YPG (present mainly in the Shahbaa region and rural Aleppo)  have continued to exchange fire.

Locating al-Shifaa Hospital

The al-Shifaa Hospital is located on the western edge of Afrin city, among civil and military buildings of the Turkish government and the SNA. According to STJ’s field researchers and other credible sources, al-Shifaa Hospital is surrounded by the Afrin Security Directorate/Criminal Security Investigation, the Political Security Building, the governor’s guesthouse of the Hatay Wali, the Turkish Intelligence/the Public Security Directorate (in Turkish: Kent Güvenlik Yönetim Sistemi Binası), a Turkish security base (formerly Azhar Afrin School), and the Palace of Justice of Afrin/Civil Court.[9] It should be noted that the hospital’s back door is connected to the building of the Afrin Security Directorate/Criminal Security Investigation.

Image 2 – A satellite image shows locations of the civil and military buildings around al-Shifaa Hospital. Taken on 5 August 2021. Credit: Planet Labs Inc.

STJ investigated the attacks targeting al-Shifaa Hospital between 12 June 2021 and the last week of August the same year. Relying on visual evidence and testimonies from witnesses, survivors, and medical staff, the investigation analyzed the conflicting accounts of events and played out multiple eventualities to identify the perpetrator.

Due to the limited amount of evidence available, STJ cannot definitively identify the perpetrator responsible for the al-Shifaa Hospital attack on 12 June 2021. However, after thoroughly investigating evidence of the case, STJ’s team of researchers concluded that the Syrian regime and, indirectly, Russia are the most likely culprits of the hospital attack, which killed 15 and injured dozens more — many of them civilians and medical workers.

To read the report in full as a PDF, follow this link.


[1] The al-Shifaa Hospital coordinates: 36.509754927708514, 36.85811570072415.

[2] The “double tap” is a bombardment tactic in which a location is struck twice; the second time occurring after first responders have arrived at the scene of the strike and that results in the largest number of dead and injured. Syrian and Russian forces are the main parties who have utilized this tactic throughout the ongoing Syrian war.

[3] A post by the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) on its Facebook page, 12 June 2021, (last accessed: 27 July 2021).

[4] “Two Staff Killed, Eleven Injured in an Attack on al-Shifaa Hospital in Afrin”, SAMS, 12 June 2021, (last accessed: 27 July 2021).

[5] A bloody Day in Northern Syria; 79 Civilians Killed and Wounded, Medical Facilities and Humanitarian Workers in the Area of Targeting, Syria Civil Defense, 12 June 2021, (last accessed:27 July 2021).

[6] Syria’s Afrin: al-Shifaa Hospital Stopped Working after being Targeted by the PKK, Anadolu News Agency, 13 June 2021, (last accessed: 27 July 2021).

[7] A statement released by the media office of the SDF, (last accessed: 27 July 2021).

[8] The full tweet: “The SDF categorically denies that any of its forces were responsible for/or involved in, the tragic attack in hospital in Afrin. We are deeply saddened by the loss of innocent life. We condemn the attack without reservation. Targeting hospitals is a violation of international law.”

[9] Some facilities and buildings have both official and street names.


Erdoğan’s war for votes – a weekly news review

11:59 am 16/10/2021

Erdoğan’s war for votes – a weekly news review

For Turkey’s President Erdoğan, every problem merits the same solution: launch an aggressive military campaign and blame the Kurds. If that campaign is against the Kurds, so much the better. As support for his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government plummets, along with the value of the Turkish Lira, and a struggling economy with rising inflation leaves households struggling and people drained of hope, this week’s bellicose statements directed at North and East Syria were sadly predictable. It need not have been this way. Between 2013 and 2015, peace talks with Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) offered a window of opportunity and optimism. But, since Erdoğan ended the peace talks in response to HDP election success and the Kurdish victory over ISIS in Kobanê, he has dug himself into a hole of perpetual war, and at every setback, his response has been to keep on digging. He aims to fuel a surge of anti-Kurdish nationalism, and to use war conditions to hem in opposition forces and centre himself as national leader.

The resilience of the PKK guerrillas has ensured that Turkey’s attempts to expand their military occupation in the mountains of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has failed to bring Erdoğan the rallying victory that he craves, so the Turkish military is resorting to a systematic use of chemical weapons to attempt to suffocate the guerrillas in their rock-cut tunnels. And now, Erdoğan is attempting to manufacture a case for further Turkish aggression against the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. I will concentrate this week on the Turkish threats against Syria, but I want to begin with their growing use of chemical weapons, which has been enabled by an almost total lack of international response and censor.

The PKK is reporting daily chemical attacks, with gas forced directly into tunnel entrances and gas bombs lowered down on ropes. Since 20 September, they have reported bigger explosions and new types of gas. The chemical attacks have also affected local residents – those who have tried to remain with their homes and land despite the fighting. In an area close to Turkish attacks, 548 people had to go to hospital with ‘excessive tearing of the eyes, blurred vision, sudden headaches, nosebleeds, difficulty in breathing and rashes’. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which dominates the Kurdistan Regional Government and is dependent on Turkish support, has tried to limit knowledge of what is happening, even, it is claimed, threatening to punish village headmen if they speak out about the attacks.

In contrast to the international outcry over reports of chemical weapon use by the Syrian regime, use of chemical weapons by NATO-member Turkey has gone almost unremarked. Swedish MEP, Malin Björk, raised concerns in a written question to the EU Commission, but this was brushed off in the reply by High Representative Josep Borrell. Die Linke’s Gökay Akbulut has also put a written question into the German parliament – answer awaited.

Every day sees the Turkish government and its mercenary militias break the ceasefires negotiated by Washington and Russia that ended Turkey’s last major attack on North and East Syria. Just over a week ago, in the approach to the second anniversary of the launch of that attack, a spokesperson for North and East Syria’s Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claimed that in those two years Tel Tamr, Zeran and Ain Aissa had come under 433 ground attacks with heavy weapons and drones, while the SDF had had to repel 86 attempts to advance over the ceasefire line.  He claimed that the attacks were aimed at causing instability and population displacement and that they also hampered the continuing fight against ISIS. There has been no visible attempt to censor or restrain Turkey, despite protests at the lack of action outside Russian military headquarters.

Despite all these attacks, which are well-documented by the Kurdish media, Turkey is attempting to present themselves as the aggrieved party. Last Sunday, a missile hit a Turkish armoured vehicle in occupied Syria, killing two Turkish police officers and wounding three others. Munitions also hit Turkish-occupied Jarablus and an area across the Turkish border. Turkish media and the Turkish Interior Minister were quick to blame the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG), which are now incorporated into the SDF.

On Monday a car bomb exploded in Afrîn. People on the ground reported that it “was coming from the city of Idlib from the areas controlled by HTS [Hayat Tahrir al-Sham] and was monitored by several cameras and was destined to detonate a building containing members of Jaysh al-Islam of the Turkish occupation forces”  But Turkish media blamed the YPG and this was repeated by Russia’s Sputnik News.

The SDF categorically deny involvement in these attacks – and have always attempted to avoid any action across the border, which would clearly be dangerously provocative. A statement made by the SDF on Friday concludes, ‘Although it is the Turkish occupation that is constantly attacking our safe areas, it is trying to twist the facts by showing our forces as attackers. We call on the international public opinion, and first and foremost the Turkish people, to verify facts and expose lies.’

It will have come as no surprise when, following Monday’s cabinet meeting, Erdoğan warned, “The latest attack against our police and the harassment targeting our lands have reached the bottom of the glass. We will take the necessary steps as soon as possible. We have no patience for some places that are the source of terrorist attacks against our country from Syria. We are determined to eliminate the threats arising from these places either together with the forces active there or by our own means.”

Erdoğan’s threat was reinforced by his Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who told press on Wednesday, “We will do whatever is necessary to clear these regions of these terrorists.” In Çavuşoğlu’s propaganda-speak ‘Each of our actions against PKK/YPG, like our actions against ISIS, is also important for Syria’s border and territorial integrity.’ Thus he not only equates the PKK and the Syrian-based YPG (and classifies both as terrorists) but also presents Turkey as against ISIS when they have been shown to have assisted them, and tries to portray Turkey’s invasion and occupation of parts of Syria as somehow preserving Syria’s territorial integrity.

As Ferda Çetin explains in Yeni Özgür Politika, the current rhetoric is very similar to that used by Turkey before their last invasion.  The target this time appears to be Tel Rifat. Russia has been putting pressure on Turkey to keep their agreement to withdraw from Idlib and the adjacent M4 highway, and the suggestion is that they could allow Turkey to move into Tel Rifat in exchange. Turkey has already built up their troops in the area.

What happens will depend on the whether Russia and the United States allow Turkey access to the airspace. Both want to keep Turkey on side. Russia, as allies of the Syrian regime, does not want to see more of the country under Turkish occupation. They have used Turkish pressure as a tool to force concessions from the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, but in recent weeks, Russian forces have increasingly targeted Turkish-occupied areas. After Donald Trump’s withdrawal of US troops allowed the last Turkish invasion and produced widespread accusations of the betrayal of the Kurds, the withdrawal was partially reversed. The 900 US troops now in the region are expected to function as a guarantee against further invasion, but it hasn’t stopped the constant low-level attacks. Both the US and Russia allowed the 2018 invasion of Afrîn.

The military alliance between the United States and the SDF has provided a major source of tension between the US and Turkey, and the US has never given whole-hearted support to the Kurds. Asked about Erdoğan’s threat, the State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, told the press that they ‘condemn[ed] the cross-border attack against our NATO Ally, Turkey’, and observed – in an example of the dangers of false equivalence – “It is crucial for all sides to maintain and to respect ceasefire zones.”

In an interview with Mezopotamya News Agency, Hişyar Özsoy, Foreign Affairs co-spokesperson for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), injected a more optimistic note, “Turkey may soon find the USA and Russia against its policies that prolong this war and deepen the contradictions. Syrian authorities have begun to speak loudly for Turkey to leave the region. It seems that there is an agreement between the great powers in Syria. This has significantly reduced Turkey’s range of action,”We must hope that, this time, diplomats are working hard for a peaceful solution.

With Turkey’s previous incursions into Syria, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) was an enthusiastic cheerleader, but the pro-Kurdish, leftist HDP have been quick to make public condemnation of Erdoğan’s threats. HDP co-chair, Pervin Buldan, told a party meeting, “There is a power that clings to war as it loses power… The economy has collapsed, the government says war. People say elections, power says war. People say livelihood, they say war. We say; The people don’t want you, they don’t want your war policies.

In a timely reminder of what the Turkish occupation of Syria has brought, an Afrîn human rights organisation has announced that for the months of August and September they documented 291 abductions and five murders in occupied Afrîn.

In parallel with their external aggression, Turkey continues an internal oppression that somehow manages to keep finding new ways to inflict cruelty. Sunday was the anniversary of the suicide bombing of a mass peace rally in Ankara in 2015. The rally was called by the HDP and Trade Unions – three weeks before the November election – to protest Turkey’s ongoing war against the Kurdish towns in the country’s south-east. The bombs killed over a hundred people and wounded over five times that number, and while blame for the actual bombing is generally agreed to lie with ISIS, the EU intelligence unit has concluded that, “Given the circumstances such as the lack of search of the buses carrying the demonstrators and the almost complete absence of police at a massive rally, there is reasonable reason to believe that the AKP forces specifically deployed Daesh militants in this case.”

Police tried to prevent people attending the commemoration of the massacre, which was held outside the railway station where the bomb went off, and people who wouldn’t be turned back were detained. One journalist who had gone to record the event reported that he was threatened by police, with one policeman declaring ‘I will cut you into four pieces’.

This week saw more round-ups of politicians and activists,  and more people imprisoned. Yakup Almaç, deposed HDP co-mayor of Van’s Özalp district was sentenced to eight and a half years.  Film maker, Veysi Altay, was sentenced for a year for the poster for his film on three women fighters in Kobanê, which included a YPG flag.  And police raided an Ankara wedding on the grounds that some of the guests were wearing traditional Kurdish clothes.  The mistreatment of prisoners is growing, with prisoners increasingly isolated.  Seriously ill prisoners, such as the former mayor of Cizre, are denied medical treatment.

Meanwhile – and much more in the international public eye – there has been a general election in Iraq. Although this was held early as a concession to the major demonstrations against the government in 2019, there was little faith that it would be able to bring the needed changes, and many people did not vote. The official turnout was 41%, but many people did not even put their names on the register. This low turnout enabled the well-organised party of populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to make substantial gains – despite their brutal role in suppressing the 2019 protests. While Sadr is sympathetic to Iranian religious politics, he is against any external interference in Iraq – from Iran or the US. The biggest losers in the election were the pro-Iranian groups linked to the pro-Iranian militias. Among the Kurdish parties, the KDP gained seats – though on a lower total number of votes – the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – which has been undergoing internal power struggles – lost seats, Gorran, which had once posed as an alternative to the latter two, ended up with nothing, and the New Generation Movement of businessman Shaswar Abdulwahid gained seats. As before, bigger parties were able to manipulate the system that is supposed to give representation to minorities, and use it to get in candidates that they backed. Coalition negotiations are expected to take months.

The Yazidi Freedom and Democracy Party (PADÊ) has called for the Şengal result to be cancelled. They claim major problems with unrecognised registrations, polling station locations, and coercion.

This has been a worrying week for what has happened, for what could happen and – yet again – for the silence of international organisations and world powers. Last weekend, people across the world demonstrated their support on social media for Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdish freedom movement. This support will need to be converted into action if that silence is to be broken.


YPG Spokesperson: Erdoğan wants to attack Rojava to save himself

YPG spokesperson Nûrî Mehmûd responded to the latest statements from Turkey’s president Erdoğan signalling a new operation against North and East Syria: “Erdoğan is preparing a new ‘invasion’ against our lands to save himself from the crisis he is in.”

1:56 pm 14/10/2021

YPG Spokesperson: Erdoğan wants to attack Rojava to save himself

“The Turkish government sees the Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria (AANES) as an obstacle,” said YPG spokesperson Nûrî Mehmûd to Yeni Özgür Politika in an interview.

Medyanews has already reported the controversial statements made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last Monday and the message he sent about a possible operation. Speaking to the media after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Erdoğan signalled a new military operation in Syria.

“We have run out of patience. Turkey is determined to eliminate the threats from northern Syria, either together with forces active there, or by our own means,” he said.

Nuri Mehmûd, spokesperson for the People’s Defence Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel – YPG), discussed Turkey’s possible new attacks on North and East Syria and the latest developments in the region. In response to Erdoğan’s threats, Mehmûd stated that the YPG sees the people of Turkey as separate from President Erdoğan, but pointed out that Erdoğan has seized control of all the institutions in Turkey.

“Recently, Erdoğan’s statements have been accepted as law. He acts alone in Turkey’s name, leaving all institutions dysfunctional,” he said.

Noting that Turkey is becoming increasingly isolated due to the economic crisis it is struggling with internally and its loss of standing in external diplomacy, Mehmûd said, “Erdoğan did not get what he wanted from Biden or Putin either. With his latest statements he plans to create grounds for attacking Rojava in order to secure his power.”

Mehmûd stated that the deep crisis created by Erdoğan affected the Middle East as well as Russia, Europe and the US.

“I don’t think the US will listen to Erdoğan much any more. And Russia will not give up its interests,” he stated.

Nuri Mehmûd said that for a long time, everyone has been aware that Erdoğan’s plans A, B, C, and D are all to expand Turkey’s borders and in this context eliminate the status of the AANES.

“When he saw recently that ISIS had failed in this, he himself entered the field using the recources of the Turkish state. Erdoğan is using Turkey for his own aims. He sees it as a tool. Turkey’s internal security and external security are mere tools to Erdoğan. He seeks to establish the ‘Sultanate of Erdoğan’. He aims to increase his influence in the Middle East and strengthen his domination of the region.”

Mehmûd also gave examples from the two operations launched by Turkey in the previous years.

“Erdoğan is constantly looking for reasons to attack the Autonomous Administration. He has gathered around himself the remnants of ISIS and other gangs. He aims to finish the business quickly as he did in Afrin (Efrîn) and Ras al-Ayn (Serêkaniyê).”

Mehmûd reiterated that “the threats Erdoğan talks of from time to time, such as refugees and terrorism, have never been an issue at the border with Rojava”, though he mentions them occasionally, trying to convince the world, ready for further attacks.

He defines the operations as an invasion:

“Rather than aiming at Turkey’s interests and those of the Turkish people or destroying terrorism, he is conducting this invasion in order to save himself. Erdogan’s main purpose is to increase his votes and maintain his power by creating turmoil and an extraordinary situation.”

Explaining that it is Turkey that lays the plans for the actions of armed groups in the region, Nûrî Mehmûd said: “Gangs that are not accepted in Libya and Tunisia are protected by Turkey in Idlib and Aleppo in the Middle East, and used against the people of the region. Erdoğan is trying to make himself prominent through guarantorship, using the diplomatic weight of the Turkish state internationally. However, in practice, he is committing crimes against humanity.”

He also criciticised Russia and the US for remaining silent in the face of crimes committed by Turkey.

“As guarantors, the attitude of America and Russia is highly inadequate. They do not want to see what Turkey is doing in Efrîn, Jarablus, Ras al-Ayn and Aleppo. They are not fulfilling their role as guarantors against Turkey’s attacks.”

Finally, Mehmûd emphasised that Turkey does not like the idea of the establishment of national unity among the Kurds.

“Turkey aims to break the connection between Rojava and Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey does not like the idea of national unity among the Kurds” he said, but added that Turkey cannot launch any attacks without NATO granting permission for the operations.


Joe Biden’s pledge of support reassures Syria’s embattled Kurds

October 1, 2021 4.26pm BST

Author Cengiz Gunes Associate Lecturer, Faculty of Social Science, The Open University

The hasty and badly organised US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August prompted fears among Washington’s other allies about the durability of US friendship. Kurdish troops in northeastern Syria, facing multi-pronged opposition from Islamic State fighters as well as the Assad regime and the prospect of Turkish incursion, have felt particularly vulnerable.

So recent meetings between senior US officials and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which resulted in a pledge by US president, Joe Biden, that the US would not abandon them have gone a long way to allaying those fears.

There are about 35 million ethnic Kurds living in Kurdistan, an area comprising parts of northeastern Syria, northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey and western Iran. At various times groups in different parts of this area have pressed for independent statehood, but on the whole the majority – at present, at least – are relatively content to occupy autonomous regions. In Syria this is the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) otherwise known as Rojava.

US involvement in Syria and military support for the Kurdish-led forces has paid significant dividends for both sides. Supported by around 2,000 US troops on the ground and an air campaign, the SDF has proved to be an most effective buffer against Islamic State in Syria and played a decisive role in ending its territorial control in March 2019. But there has been an ever-present fear that the US will pull out, leaving them at the mercy of their enemies. This fear was stoked in October 2019 when former president Donald Trump ordered US troops to withdraw from the region, effectively giving the green light to a Turkish invasion and capture of a large area of AANES territory. In the event, Russia brokered an agreement between Turkey and SDF. Turkey got a safe zone along the border and SDF agreed to withdraw 20 miles south of the border. The US, meanwhile, maintained enough of a military force to continue supporting the Kurds’ efforts to stabilise the region. But the possibility of an abrupt US withdrawal has been shaping Kurdish actions ever since.

The election of Joe Biden in November 2020 raised the hopes that the US would adopt a steadier approach in its dealings with the Kurds in Syria. And it seems that, on appearances at least, the US is willing to do so. Meetings between US state department officials and the SDF leadership in August and September 2021 ended with the US emphasising its “commitment to the campaign against ISIS and stability in the region” and assuring the SDF that “there will be no changes in Syria” in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

What’s in it for America

The US military support and security umbrella it provides may have been a critical factor behind the Kurds’ success, but safeguarding Kurdish gains is not the reason behind the Biden administration’s decision. There are several other factors at play. Firstly, the threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continues, despite the group’s loss of its territorial control. Iraq’s short and medium-term security and stability remains a key US priority and an abrupt withdrawal from Syria would aid the resurgence of IS in Iraq.

The US military presence in Syria is also needed to curb Iran’s influence in both Iraq and Syria and address the security concerns many US allies – particularly Israel – in the region feel as a result.

Syrian Democratic Forces commander Mazloum Abdi with other SDF officers celebrating military victory against ISIS in 2019.
Victory for the SDF: thanks to help from the US. EPA-EFE/Ahmed Mardnli

The continuation of the US military support and financial aid is crucial to the region’s stability and could act as a springboard for accommodating Kurdish rights and the inclusion of the AANES into Syria if political pluralism and a decentralised governance model is accepted.

AANES’s prospects are closely tied to its inclusion in the UN-led peace process for ending the civil war in Syria. So far, its efforts have not managed a seat at the table. A more concrete commitment from the US in the form of political support for the inclusion of AANES representatives at the UN peace talks could change the situation in its favour.

Thwarting Turkey’s plan

But AANES has more urgent concerns. Turkey continues to threaten, seeing the SDF as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas that it has been battling in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan since 1984. Turkey invaded the Kurdish-controlled regions of Syria in 2018 and 2019, and small-scale attacks by Turkey and Turkish-backed Syrian groups on the rural areas of AANES territory continue daily, as do the human rights violations committed against the Kurdish civilians in the areas under the control of the Turkish-backed Syrian groups. On August 19, drone attacks by Turkey killed three SDF commanders and two fighters.

Eliminating the influence of the SDF in Syria remains a key objective for the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But the US presence, and its commitment to the region’s stability, will act as a deterrent against a new large-scale Turkish military operation. Previous Turkish attacks in the AANES territory were made with Russia’s tacit support and encouragement, something which is thought less likely to be granted now the US has clearly stated its support for the SDF. And US troops on the ground in eastern Syria will also deter the Assad regime from destabilising AANES in a bid to take its territory back under full control.

US military support means Turkey’s attempts to label the SDF as “terrorists” are less likely to succeed. Erdoğan has used Turkey’s military operations against the Kurds in Syria as a sop to his strongly nationalist base – and he has repeatedly used western support for the Kurds as an example of the west’s antipathy towards Turkey.

With the likelihood of a Turkish military operation lessened, Erdoğan’s ability to please nationalists with an easy victory against the Kurds is less likely. Erdoğan retains a firm grip on power in Turkey, but there are reports that Turkey’s opposition parties are working with Kurdish groups. If a united opposition can inflict defeat on Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party in the next election in 2023, then this would be one more step towards a peaceful future for the Kurds


Ilham Ahmad uncovers SDC policy in Washington Institute


President of the SDC Executive Committee, Ilham Ahmad – North Press
President of the SDC Executive Committee, Ilham Ahmad – North Press

WASHINGTON, US (North Press) – On Monday, the president of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), Ilham Ahmed, uncovered several political titles that the SDC will follow for the next stage, most notably the openness to dialogue and the holding of general elections in the areas of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

Ahmad’s speech came at a conference hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington D.C, where an SDC delegation is visiting it.  

An SDC delegation had held meetings in Washington with members of the Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress and officials in the US administration.

Dialogue with Turkey and the “Syrian regime”  

Ahmad expressed the Syrian Democratic Forces’ readiness to dialogue with Turkey and to resolve all disputes with it through peaceful means and dialogue.

She added that this is in exchange for ensuring the handling of issues related to the Kurdish people and the occupied Syrian territories by Turkey, such as Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain), Tel Abyad and Afrin.  

The SDC official urged the international community to ensure an open and inclusive dialogue between the Kurds in Turkey and the Turkish government, pointing to the ability of such an understanding to establish a long-term stability and security in the region.

Answering a question by North Press about the US administration’s vision of the relationship with the Syrian government, Ahmad said that the Autonomous Administration officials reiterate that they do not oppose any dialogues in the interest of the political solution in Syria.    

She pointed out that they share the US administration’s fears of “the strict positions of the Syrian regime and its adherence to the centralization of Syria.”

She considered it necessary for the US and Russia to cooperate in the matter of dialogue with the “regime” and to push it to accept the involvement of other political parties.

American presence  

Ahmad stated that she had high-level meetings with officials of the US administration who confirmed that the US will remain in northeast Syria, contrary to what was rumored in Washington after the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“We heard pledges from the administration officials regarding the continuation of the US presence in north and east Syria, and providing economic support to the region.”

She noted to the symbolism of the US presence in Syria, which “establishes a kind of positive balance in the Syrian issue” and its difference from the war in Afghanistan.  

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)

Responding to a question by David Pollock, the symposium organizer, about the SDF’s relationship with the PKK, Ilham Ahmad said that it is important to remember that the PKK was originally established to defend the rights of the persecuted Kurds in Turkey. “Its goal was also to establish a kind of democracy in Turkey so that the Kurds and other communities, that suffer from oppression, enjoy it.”

“The PKK confronted terrorism and extremism in several areas where the Kurds are present, sacrificing everything including the death of its fighters,” Ahmad added.

She believed that this puts them in front of a “moral attitude towards the party.”

“We, as peoples of northeast Syria, are Syrians of different backgrounds and orientations. We rule part of the territory of Syria, and we have no enmity towards Turkey,” she noted.

Electoral process

The SDC official indicated that they intend to hold an upcoming electoral process that “will be open to all communities of the region to participate in.”

She confirmed that the Autonomous Administration welcomes an “neutral international monitoring to ensure the democracy and transparency of the elections.”

Regarding the intra-Kurdish dialogue, she said that its suspension will not push the Autonomous Administration to stop or postpone the elections.

She explained that it is not fair to make the communities of the region, such as the Arabs, who constitute a large part of the region’s population, waiting for elections and their democratic representation until the Kurdish parties come to an understanding.

Ilham Ahmad stressed that “we decided to hold the elections and make it open to every party that wants to participate.”

Reporting by Hadeel Oueiss


People of Tirbespiyê praise work of Autonomous Administration

The people of Tirbespiyê said that communal life has developed with the cooperation and social participation of institutions affiliated to the Autonomous Administration.

  • ANF
  • Saturday, 4 Sep 2021, 12:24

The Syrian crisis has had an impact on all of Syria, especially Northern and Eastern Syria. The war that started in March 2011 has meant destruction and plunder for the past ten years.

The Autonomous Administration, which was established in the Jazira Canton on 21 December 2014, started organization and service projects based on the commune system. As a priority, it started to work to meet the basic needs of society, such as services, bread, water and electricity.

In the villages of Tirbesipê, work was carried out to ensure the participation of the people in social activities. The people, in solidarity with each other, established condolence houses in more than 50 villages and football fields in more than 10 villages with the support of the Autonomous Administration.

At the same time, the people supported the public municipality to work on road maintenance and sewer infrastructure. In some villages, such as Beyandor, the Autonomous Administration provided assistance to families in need through committees affiliated with the communes.

Fesîh Hisên, a resident of Tirbespiyê district, pointed out to ANHA the importance of social work and said that they will continue their efforts to find solutions to the current problems in all provinces and districts.

Giving an example of the projects and service works they have realized through social participation, Fesîh Hisên noted that the people living in the villages of Sîtka and Etbê helped the institution to solve the electricity problem experienced after a storm in the region. Hisên called on all segments of society to participate in social life activities in order to solve their problems and develop service and economic projects.

Another citizen named Kadar Hisên, who lives in the village of Şîtka, said that they helped the institutions affiliated to the Autonomous Administration and worked day and night to rebuild the football field. Hisên added that, after the success of the first project, they are now trying to open a park and a culture-art center in their village


Olives stolen from Afrin on the world market

The main source of income for the Turkish occupation regime in Afrin is the theft of the olive harvest. The “yellow gold” from the Kurds’ mountain is brought directly from Turkey to the world market. Germany serves as a cornerstone for distribution.

  • Monday, 2 Aug 2021, 12:49

Since the occupation of Afrin in March 2018, the Turkish state has established a regime of looting and exploitation. Olive and olive products were the main source of income in the region before the invasion. With the Turkish invasion, Afrin’s olive groves have been plundered and have become a source of funding for militiamen from the Turkish-established mercenary “Syrian National Army” (SNA). The SNA militias loot the region’s olive production and bring it to the world market via Turkey. The pirated goods range from “organic products” such as the so-called Aleppo soap from Afrin in health food stores and drugstores, to olive oil in German supermarkets. While the resellers do not respond to press inquiries on the issue, the German government admitted that there are no hurdles for the official import of olive products looted from Afrin. Aleppo soaps are joined in Europe by new products from the occupied territories, most of which are sold in Arab-, Turkish- or Kurdish-owned supermarkets. On many of the products, the place of production is directly named as “Afrin”, countless other looted products from the formerly self-governing canton go on sale under other labels.

The wealth of Rojava in the eyes of the colonialists and occupiers

Before the war began, Rojava had represented the breadbasket of all of Syria and was exploited by the Baath regime in a colonial manner. While the regions in Cizîrê served wheat monoculture, mainly olives were cultivated in Afrin, as well as fruit for the Syrian market. Before the war that began in 2011, Rojava had supplied 40 percent of agricultural production in general and 60 percent of cereal production in Syria. Today’s autonomous region of northern and eastern Syria has 80 percent of the country’s oil reserves. The colonial relationship is exemplified by the wheat monoculture imposed by the regime. For example, the wheat produced in Cizîrê was not processed in the region, but in the Syrian metropolises, only to be reimported to Rojava, sometimes more expensively, as flour. Therefore, despite the vast quantities of grain, the lack of grain mills posed a serious problem for Rojava after the revolution. However, not only the regime laid claim to the exploitation of the wealth, but also the neighboring states, first and foremost Turkey, which is trying to claim all of northern Syria for itself on a line drawn roughly at the level of Aleppo.

Thus, it was Turkey that first invaded Syria with the aim of occupying it. To this end, Ankara initially supported groups such as ISIS, al-Nusra and other jihadist militias and then intervened in the war itself after their military defeat. Afrin was bombed by over 70 warplanes in early 2018, only to be occupied and looted by the Turkish army and a conglomerate of far-right and jihadist mercenaries. Since then, the Kurdish population has been systematically displaced and those who remain are exploited through robbery, protection and ransom extortion.

Robbery worth hundreds of millions of euros

There were at least 18 million olive trees in Afrin before the invasion. In addition, the region’s olives are used to produce the world-famous “Aleppo soap.” For centuries, Afrin’s olive oil has been considered the “yellow gold.” Ankara and its mercenary troops share the revenues, while the families who remained in the region after the invasion can keep only a fraction of the proceeds for themselves. The value of the looted “booty” was put at about 90 million euros. This included the cannibalization of soap production facilities and the extortion of ransoms through countless kidnappings. The actual amount is therefore likely to be much higher.

According to economists, olive oil production in 2018 in Afrin was around 50,000 tons and was estimated to be worth 130 million euros. The French magazine Le Point published a research report on the subject in January 2019, stating that 20,000 tons of olive oil from Afrin worth 60 million euros had been sold in Turkey.

Entire factories put at the service of the occupation regime

In November 2018, ANF published documents showing that the Turkish state and its mercenaries had concluded an agreement on the looting. This protocol promised the mercenary groups the revenues from olive oil production in 2018 and 2019. Thus, $22 million in revenue was to be generated for the mercenaries from the sale of olives to Spain alone. Thus, the exploitation gained its international level, which is still prevalent today. The looted factories in the city were put at the service of the occupation regime. A June 28, 2021, ANF report noted that the owners of 50 of the city’s 100 olive oil factories remaining in Afrin fled to Shehba and Aleppo. Their factories were confiscated.

Necib Şêxo, who owned one of the olive factories and formed an interest group with other displaced olive oil producers, told ANF in June 2021, “They put pressure on the population and force them to sell the olive oil produced in Afrin at a very low price. It is collected at the Nûri Arap factory in Jindires. From there, it crosses the border into Turkey through the opposite crossing in the village of Hamam in the Turkish province of Hatay.”

Germany is cornerstone in distribution of looted products

Today, olive oil stolen from Afrin is sold in almost all European countries and in the United States and Canada.  Germany is one of the main pillars of the looting and thus the financing of mercenary groups of the SNA. This is not by chance, because Germany is also the most vehement supporter of Turkish fascism.

Looted olive oil is distributed from Magdeburg

Germany is the hub for the distribution of oil via the Internet, virtual media and markets. Thus, “Zêr Afrin” (gold from Afrin) is openly offered in Germany. The olive oil is collected and distributed from a large depot in Magdeburg. The products looted from the occupied Kurdish region are first brought to Turkey and transported to Europe by the Turkish Standards Institute (TSE). “Syria” is stated as the country of origin of the products. The company, located at Liebknechtstraße 99 in Magdeburg, did not respond to inquiries.

The Wuppertal-based company Salet Al Ghouta also sells olive oil stolen from Afrin. Here it is sold under the name “Jibal Afrin” as “olive oil from the mountains of Afrin” for 15.28 euros in two-liter canisters.

Robbery through official channels

The olive products are brought to Europe on trucks and ships. They appear to pass through customs through official channels. 

The answer of the German government to corresponding inquiries to the Ministry of Agriculture confirms this. The answer says that companies from third countries exporting to the EU do not need a permit to import non-animal food products. Customs and state authorities alone make “assessments” in individual cases. Statistically, the imports are not recorded.

Similar inquiries to the French and Belgian authorities were not even answered. None of the companies selling olive oil responded to corresponding press inquiries either.

Sales in Canada, Denmark and France

The “Jibal Afrin” brand products looted from Afrin are also sold in Canada. Syria is stated as the country of origin. The products bear the seal of the Turkish standards authority TSE and the label states a company called “Mir Paketleme İTH. İHR. VE TİC. LTD. ŞTİ.” This group is based in Hatay, a Turkish border province with occupied Afrin. On the website of “Jibal Afrin,” olive oil looted from Afrin is offered for $13 per liter. Nine kilos of “organic, green soap” are said to cost $75.

In France, olive oil stolen from Afrin is sold under the name Yaman on a website called Mira. “Syria” is given as the place of production of the oil. The description speaks of “first-class natural olive oil of the Yaman brand (Afrin-Aleppo),” where 13.50 euros for three liters, 22.50 euros for five liters and 81 euros for 18 liters of olive oil are demanded.

Another company is “Jobri Food“, which operates in Denmark with headquarters in Viborg. This company sells “Afrin products” and also has a German network. The products are packaged and tested in Turkey. From the presentation of the company, it appears that it has representatives throughout the European Union and its owner is from Afrin. Jobri Food presents itself as one of the leading companies in the EU. A note states, “We are proud to offer food of the highest quality from well-known Afrin crops.”

All olive oils produced in Turkey are suspect

Similarly, olive oil products looted from Afrin have been found in the U.S. and many other countries in Europe. There are a large number of Internet users who advertise the purchase of such products on digital networks. Many products that do not bear the name “Afrin” also come from looting. This makes it difficult to determine the true extent of the export of looted goods. All olive-based products manufactured in Turkey or approved there should be considered suspect in this light.

EU states aiding and abetting terror financing

The failure of European states to take action against this makes them accomplices to the crimes in Afrin and helpers in terror financing. This is because the products stolen from Afrin finance both an oppressive regime and groups that commit the most serious war crimes, including members of the so-called ISIS, al-Nusra, and far-right and jihadist SNA militias such as Ahrar al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sharqiya, which was most recently placed on the U.S. sanctions list. Thus, the sale of these products may constitute both a war crime and a crime under national law.

Europe does nothing

Following a decision by the EU Court of Justice, EU states are obliged to label products from occupied Palestinian territories as such. This regulation aims to inform consumers correctly about the origin of the products. Since the same practice does not apply to products looted from Afrin, it is not difficult to imagine that many consumers are unwittingly supporting looting and occupation.

Lawyer Malterre: The crime can be charged

Jean-Louis Malterre, a lawyer with the Paris Bar Association, states that the looting and marketing of Afrin products violates the international law of war. He says, “It violates the conventions that regulate military actions; this is looting.” Malterre recalls the LafargeHolcim case. The multinational cement company had continued to operate its Çelebiyê site in southeastern Kobanê until 2014, paying money to third parties on the ground to negotiate deals with Islamist groups to keep production going. Thirteen million euros in baksheesh reportedly flowed between 2011 and 2013 alone. The bribes continued even when ISIS overran parts of Syria in June 2014 and proclaimed the establishment of a caliphate.

Against this background, LafargeHolcim is accused of “complicity in crimes against humanity” for its activities in Rojava. According to lawyer Jean-Louis Malterre, the sale of the looted olive products could have similar consequences.

Malterre explains that the products brought into the EU from Afrin are also “products of looting and theft,” adding that “those who directly participate in the looting and those who profit from the looting can be prosecuted.” To get the process rolling, however, he said, criminal charges must be filed by those involved.”


Autonomous Administration of NE Syria demands recognition by the UN

The construction of a self-determined social model began nine years ago with the Rojava revolution. The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria is demanding official recognition of the autonomous region by the UN.

  • ANF
  • Sunday, 18 Jul 2021, 13:26

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria is demanding official recognition of the autonomous region by the United Nations (UN) and signaling its willingness to work with all sides for democracy and justice in Syria.

The statement released by the Autonomous Administration on Sunday includes the following:

“Syria has experienced great pain due to the centralist system of government in the Baath period. In the last ten years, the people have been denied and displaced, and the country has been turned into a center of crisis and chaos by the regime. The people of Syria have been living in very difficult conditions for ten years. Terror and occupation have been increased, Syria has become the center of the third world war. The people’s desire for democracy and change remains an unfulfilled dream. There is no solution and no stability. Syria is an area where regional and international powers are trying to impose their interests.

On July 19, 2012, the revolution of Rojava began and spread to all areas in northeastern Syria as it progressed. This revolution is oriented towards democratic change in Syria, self-determination of society, defending the unity of the country through the project of fraternity of peoples and building a democratic nation. In order to realize the dreams of the Syrian people indiscriminately and initiate a peaceful change, this revolution relies on the development of a decentralized system, which it has presented as an alternative.

“Fraternity of peoples as a fundamental principle”

Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the Rojava revolution has seen itself as a social revolution and has avoided power struggles. It is fighting for a united and democratic Syria and rejects all other options. Unfortunately, the regime and the forces calling themselves the opposition are pursuing a different path. Even today, they are against serving Syria and its people. Along with this, they are preparing plans that will increase the pain of the people of Syria and prevent a solution and stability.

The essential principle of the July 19 Revolution was the brotherhood of peoples and the building of a democratic system. Thus, it referred to the need of all peoples in Syria – first as the Democratic Autonomous Administration, and later as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. Shortly after the Syrian crisis began, the people established their own system and fought terrorism. They have defeated ISIS and women have taken a leadership role in society.

“Until the occupied territories are liberated”

As the Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria, we dedicate the ninth anniversary of the July 19 Revolution to the entire population. We will continue to pursue the free and democratic revolution and the goals of the martyrs. We insist on defending the gains won at great sacrifice of the people and will continue to work to liberate the occupied areas around Afrin, Serekaniye and Gire Spi and to allow the return of the displaced people.

Just as we fought ISIS in the past years starting from the revolution of Rojava and thwarted all plans of destruction, we will succeed now. We call on the peoples of northern and eastern Syria to unite and defend the project of brotherhood. At the same time, we call on all parties in Syria to work for justice, democracy and the liberation of the occupied territories.

As the autonomous Administration of North and East syria, we are ready to cooperate with all Syrian parties for justice and democracy in Syria. We hereby state that we remain committed to the UN Decision No. 2254 to resolve the Syrian crisis. We appeal to the UN to recognize the region of northern and eastern Syria.”


Explainer: What is Happening in Manbij?

Members of the Manbij Tribal Council


Between the 31st of March and the 1st of June, violent protests erupted in Manbij, which left at least three civilians dead and over a dozen injured. Concurrently, Russian troops attacked a security point of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), and the Turkish army shelled and continues to shell the villages around Manbij. In its aftermath, the local administration established public discussions; a fact-finding committee to investigate possible misconduct by their security forces; and a higher committee, consistent of representatives from a variety of civil and military institutions, as well as tribal representatives, in order to discuss 17 demands the public had related to the Tribal Council. During a visit to Manbij in mid-June, RIC found relative calm in the city, where all institutions we spoke to, including the Tribal Council, were eager to work together to resolve the issues which lead to the protest. It also found that the protests were, to a large extent, directed and encouraged by outside forces – namely, the Damascus government (GoS). Nonetheless, the issues the protesters riled around are domestic and by no means entirely a construct of foreign actors. Issues surrounding conscription, high prices for basic goods, and arbitrary arrests of civilians are indeed present, though not insurmountable. More worryingly, RIC recorded an uptick in frontline attacks emanating from Turkish-controlled territory. It seems apparent that both GoS and Turkey are actively attempting to destabilize Manbij and undermine the AANES.


Manbij region lies on the western banks of the Euphrates river and is home to no more than half a million people. The population is mainly Arab, though Kurds, Turkmen, Circassians and Chechens make up significant minorities. Besides the major city of Manbij, 8 small towns and 360 villages dot this region. Echoing its stature during the Hellenistic period, when ancient Ieropolis/Hierapolis served as a chief station of the Seleucid Empire, modern Manbij’s location is strategically appealing to all parties to the Syrian conflict.

As a nexus point between trans-Euphrates North and East Syria (NES) and the Kurdish-dominated regions of Afrin, Shehba, and the Aleppo neighborhoods of Sheikh Maqsud and Ashrafiyeh in Syria’s northwest, as well as housing Tishrin dam to the southwest of the city, Manbij is of crucial importance to the Autonomous Administration. Likewise, the Damascus government and Turkey eye Manbij as a likely target for invasion, due to the aforementioned location and Arab-majority population. Uniquely, Manbij is beset by a double frontline: to the north and west, the Turkish-backed ‘Syrian National Army’ (SNA) constantly threaten the region, with Turkey proper not 12km behind. On the southern flank, the government of Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia, seeks to widen its influence.

During the course of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, the Free Syrian Army controlled Manbij from July 2012 to the spring of 2013, when al-Qaeda offshoot al-Nusra Front took possession of the city. ISIS overran the region in January 2014 and remained in power until June 2016. During this time, Manbij served as the caliphate’s main marketplace for plundered antiquities, which were sent to the city and sold on to buyers in Turkey and the West. This lucrative business made up a large part of the group’s initial funding. Starting on May 31st, 2016, the newly-created Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Manbij Military Council (MMC) – a coalition of Manbij-native former FSA and Kurdish factions – liberated most of Manbij at great cost to their troops with the help of (US) Coalition forces. This initial sacrifice won the SDF, the MMC and the AANES widespread acclaim among the local population, who largely saw the soldiers as liberators.

Having been liberated the earliest – only a year after the defence of Kobane – Manbij region has seen the most reconstruction and development out of the four Arab-majority regions of NES (Manbij, Tabqa, Raqqa, and Deir ez-Zor). One of the Administrations greatest achievements has been the peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Manbij’s diverse communities, such as Kurds and Circassians, who had remained unrecognized and oppressed under both GoS and ISIS control, as well as the blending of its own democratic paradigm with an indigenous tribal system encompassing 64 different tribes. Women, too, have experienced autonomy and political freedoms unknown to them during the rule of Assad, let alone the years spent under brutal jihadi-salafist groups. The AANES has furthermore introduced multiple lasting civil structures, such as democratic assemblies and autonomous women’s institutions.

Yet problems were also soon apparent. Before ISIS rule, during the early stages of the Syrian Civil War, Manbij had elected its own democratic council and hosted Syria’s first independent trades union. Local activists complained that these gains were not restored, but rather replaced by the AANES’s own councils. The lack of adequate water and electricity provision due to Turkish-water blockage has also taken its toll. In addition, residents complain about high prices for fuel and other necessities compared to neighboring regions. Overall, a distrust of the new democratic paradigm is apparent among some residents.

Insurgents, SNA & Turkey

As with most of the Arab-majority regions, Manbij has experienced a spike of insurgency-style attacks following ISIS’ defeat, before the United States (US) withdrawal. The remnant of ISIS represent an ever-looming menace and it enjoys some popularity across certain parts of the Manbij countryside. Though less active than in other Arab regions of NES, ISIS sleeper cells are nevertheless present here. RIC recorded 8 confirmed sleeper cell attacks in Manbij in 2020.

Nonetheless, although US forces withdrew from the city in October 2019, local officials say Manbij has been relatively stable both before and after the Turkish 2019 invasion of northern Syria. Yet Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) militias in regions Turkey occupies in Al-Bab and Jarabulus often shell positions of the MMC, while the MMC regularly detains sleeper cell members with links to Turkish intelligence services and Turkish-backed militias. The fact that Turkey is looking to do more than destabilize the region is not a matter of conjecture. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had signaled Manbij as Turkey’s next target in Syria in 2019.

SAA & Russian Involvement

Following a 2019 SDF-Damascus agreement, Syrian Arab Army (SAA) troops numbering up to 10,000 have been deployed along the border; along the frontlines of the zone of Turkish occupation; in garrisons outside Manbij, Tabqa and Raqqa; and along supply lines leading from Damascus-controlled Syria up to the frontline with Turkey. SAA troops are banned from entering the cities themselves, and confined positions along the contact line outside Manbij and the Turkish border, and outside of the cities themselves.

MMC spokesman Sherwan Darwish told RIC that “coordination centers” have been set up with both Russian and SAA troops. Russian forces entered a former US base near Arima in October 2019 – formerly one of the Coalition’s largest – which has allowed “the same level of coordination” that the MMC enjoyed with the American forces. “Our joint efforts [with the Russians] have been positive,” Mr. Darwish said in 2020, while adding that locals remained fearful of further violence. Russia maintains three known military bases in Manbij region, all west of the city.

Location of Russian bases in Manbij region

Yet the relationship between AANES and Damascus/Russia, if ever truly cooperative, has recently deteriorated. Officials in Manbij accuse the GoS of attempting to destabilize the region by inciting the Arab population, especially Arab tribes, to reject the AANES’ system. A recent US intelligence report suggests this might be true. Likewise, the relationship with Russia has soured, as AANES officials believe the superpower is colluding with Turkey to expel the SDF. In February 2021, Russia had pulled its troops out of neighboring Ayn Issa, on the frontline with SNA-occupied territory, because the SDF refused to let SAA troops in to defend against Turkish-backed attacks. Russia soon redeployed its soldiers, though the threat of a Russian withdrawal, which would allow for a Turkish advance, remains.

Nonetheless, Manbij – away from the frontlines – has so far remained relatively undisturbed. Visitors to the city are witness to rapid reconstruction (though perhaps not as rapid as neighboring Kobane) and a lively downtown. Yet beginning on May 31st, the region saw protests demanding and end to military conscription, as well an improvement of the economic situation.

Chronology of the Events of Early June 2021


A week after Syria’s presidential elections, during which the AANES had cut access from NES to SAR (territory under Bashar al-Assad’s rule), 25 people in the city of Manbij congregated for a protest after prayer, and many more in Hedhud, a village more sympathetic to Assad, 7km northeast of the city. There, a military vehicle was attacked by protesters, which lead to a death and three injuries as the soldiers inside opened fire. The The Manbij Military Council (MMC) and SAA both allege the vehicle was the other side’s.

In the aftermath of these casualties, nearby villages came together and marched on the NES military recruitment center in Tal Rafay, next to Hedhud, and scorched it, a security point, and a nearby car. MMC consequently imposed a 48-hour curfew.


On the internal border between SAR and NES at Tahya, a thousand of SAA troops amassed at the border, though not further action was taken.

East of the city, in Mashrafah, up to 500 people overran an Asayish checkpoint and set fire to surveillance cameras and a car. On Facebook, a person claiming to be a relative of the car owner alleges it was a civilian vehicle. Yet the car’s blue license plate reveals it to be a military vehicle. A firefight ensued as protesters stormed the checkpoint, which Asayish and GoS security forces share. The MMC told us they are unsure who began the shooting – whether protestors, the Asayish, or GoS scurity forces. In footage of the event, prolonged and heavy shooting can be heard from multiple weapons, though it is not visible who the shooters are. This firefight left 2 civilians dead and 15 injured.

Using the unrest as justification, Russian troops entered the city in violation of their agreement with the AANES. In a consequent firefight between Russian and SDF troops, one SDF soldier was injured.

In the aftermath of the morning’s protest, people congregated once more to march on the hospital in which the injured were being treated, smashing storefronts and surveillance cameras along the way, as well as throwing rocks at Asayish forces. Videos show Asayish forces retreating from protesters so as to prevent a confrontation.

The MMC releases a statement condemning the “criminal cells attack on security and military headquarters, receiving instructions from external parties, which resulted in casualties and injuries.”


The Manbij administration met with tribal elders, who put forward a 3-point plan to end the protests. The demands were the halting of military conscription for the inhabitants of Manbij region, the release of some prisoners (including some arrested before the protests), and establishing an investigative committee to make clear what transpired. Special Forces (HAT) were deployed to the city.

The MMC allege that agitators connected to the GoS attempted to further incite mourners during funeral prosceedings.


In a press statement, the AANES’ Tribal Council called for peace and blamed the Damascus government for “wanting to fuel unrest in Manbij in the wake of the election, to destabilize the region.”


Tribal sheikhs and notables put together a list of 17 demands and submit them to the Civil Administration of Manbij. They are:

1. The need to satisfy the families of the wounded and martyrs materially and morally, and to hold the soldiers who attacked peaceful demonstrators accountable by a fair and public trial

2. Abolition of compulsory conscription in Manbij region and end to conscription of young men in all regions of northeastern Syria

3. Cancellation of the customs value on all pharmaceutical and medical supplies

4. Installing all the teachers’ agents and securing school supplies for the success of the educational process

5. Stop arbitrary arrest and limit it to the court’s decision, and inform the detainee’s family about the place of his arrest and the crime against him within a week of the period of his arrest

6. Ending the work of the political police and the phenomenon of masked soldiers

7. Effectively activating the role of the Health Committee, according to competencies, following up on drug prices, and securing medication for chronic diseases for free

8. Securing fuel and domestic gas and distributing electrical energy in a fair manner

9. Improve the material of bread and increase its quantity, knowing that at the present time it is not suitable for human consumption

10. Preventing the army from roaming with their weapons between residential communities and not using them as shields for them in the border areas

11. Facilitating the work of humanitarian organizations in Manbij and working with them to compensate the owners of buildings damaged as a result of the hostilities

12. Returning confiscated property, homes and real estate to their owners

13. Return of the people of the town of Al-Shuyoukh to their homes, properties and lands

14. Compensating the owners of buildings that were intentionally demolished by bulldozers in the recent hostilities

15. Return the documents confiscated by the SDF to their owners

16. Considering the guarantee valid without a specific period of time and reducing the burden of renewing it on citizens

17. Repeal all laws that conflict with Islamic law, such as the penalty for polygamy and inheritance

As a result, conscription was temporarily halted across NES. A 20-member higher committee to discuss the 17 points was assembled, including a representative each of the MMC, the Manbij Civil Council, the Legislative Council, the Asayish, the Committee of Religious Affairs, the Intellectuals’ Union, the Reconciliation Committee, and an elder chosen by the tribes, as well as the 12 representatives of the tribes. After almost two weeks of deliberations, the tribal leaders could not agree on the staffing of an investigative committee. Thus, the investigations will carry on without tribal involvement. Nevertheless, the full demands will be discussed by all parties in the higher committee.

In the week following the protests, a series of roadside IEDs led to a death and one injury among NES security forces. Since the protests, and especially in the past week (of late June 2021), the front with Turkish-backed SNA has seen a sudden spike in violence. The SNA has shelled various towns north of Manbij, as well launched recurrent land assaults against the region, which have all been repelled. The reason for this escalation is heretofore unknown, though some analysts have speculated that Manbij may be the sight of a coming invasion.

Green: Events of 31.5; Purple: Events of 1.6; Red: Turkish ground & aerial attacks 31.5-31.6; Red crescent: Turkish bases around Manbij; Light blue: Liwa al-Shamal base

Fact box: understanding the tribal system in NES

The tribal system is crucial for understanding the situation in the Arab regions of NES, since the tribes constitute the main building-bloc of local society. They are top-down and patriarchal in structure, with loyalty to the tribe and bloodline superseding other concerns, resulting in frequent and deadly feuds between tribes. Some tribes are close to the GoS, while others have long had an antagonistic relationship with the central government.

Particularly following the collapse of central government in Syria, tribes have played a key role as local power-brokers, maintaining their own armed forces and providing for their members, though ultimately most tribes have been forced to bow to more powerful state and non-state actors as they have gained and regained control over the tribes’ traditional territory. Weakness and competition within the tribal structure left the population extremely vulnerable to exploitation by jihadi Salafism, although ISIS was ultimately unable to rally lasting support from the tribes.

Tribes are a fact of life in Arab regions like Deir ez-Zor. Despite their top-down, patriarchal structure and conservative outlook, they can also play an important role in promoting ideas of local self-determination and community justice which are prioritized by AANES. In Manbij, representatives of the tribes sit in the executive, legislative and justice councils. If the AANES can bring tribal sheikhs onside, they will have a much easier time governing these challenging regions. Due to their size, many tribes have several components, and keep their cards close to their chest by negotiating with both the AANES and the GoS. Yet some tribal leaders are also persecuted and unable to return to GoS because of their cooperation with the AANES.

Tribes occupying the hinterland between Kurdish-majority and Arab-majority territories have helped to ensure continued practical contact between the GoS and AANES to keep utilities and oil flowing, while some major tribal militias (notably the al-Sanadid forces) have long been allied with SDF against ISIS and Turkey.

All institutions RIC spoke to in Manbij said the Tribal Council was critical in ending the recent protests. In Manbij, the 12 largest tribes sit in this council, out of a total of 64, though the two largest tribes, Bou Sultan and Bou Bena, have historically closer ties to Damascus and have a strained relationship with the Administration.


RIC spoke to multiple institutions on the ground. MMC, Asayish and the SDF’s Military Conscription Office told us the conscription issue was used as a pretext for protests which were about economic issues, though also instigated by outside forces. The Damascus government, especially, they said, is using NES’ comparatively weak economic situation to sow discontent among the population. Conscription has been practiced in Manbij since 2017. The attempt at forcing the Administration to halt military conscription from among Manbij and other Arab areas is because “outside forces do not want the people to feel attached to this political project, they don’t want them to be able to defend themselves,” as per an official at the Conscription Office. He pointed out that, if Manbij were to come under Damascus’ control, more rather than less of its citizens would be forced into military service. Meanwhile, an Asayish official alleged that unspecified sleeper cells storm into houses in Manbij dressed in their uniforms in order to evoke hatred for the Asayish. All three institutions told us the people of Manbij have been disillusioned by what they see as the Damascus government’s apparent effort to manufacture discontent.

We also spoke with the leaders of Manbij’s largest tribes. They say their tribesmen are in fact worried by military conscription, as this interferes with many young men’s education, business and marriage. The root cause, they say, is that the presence of the AANES is still perceived to be temporary. “The Administration cannot provide Manbij’s residents with national identity cards or passports,” says one sheikh. Parents are thus reluctant to let their sons serve in their armed forces and lose the opportunity to access GoS services if the region were to come under Damascus’ control once again. If they can, parents send their children to GoS universities, but the AANES does not waive military service for students enrolled in these universities. In addition, the tribal elders tell us the people of Manbij tend to marry younger, and resent the fact that newly-wed young men must spent time apart from their wives.They also bring up the fact that, for families with only one son, having him conscripted can be detrimental to their business. “Solving the issue of conscription,” the tribal leaders tell us, “is the most important thing.”

Nevertheless, other factors do play a role. Manbij citizens were angered by AANES’ recent price increases for fuel and gas, though these were quickly walked back after widespread condemnation. Yet the cost of Diesel and cement remains high, compared not just to when Manbij was under GoS control, but also to neighboring areas of NES, where these goods are cheaper. “Cement goes for $140/t in Manbij, but only $115/t in Raqqa,” one sheikh told us. The tribes also reiterated the people’s other main demands: the release of prisoners held for unknown charges, having those killed be declared martyrs, and an official apology.

Yet the tribal leaders also pointed to outside interference. Of Manbij’s 64 tribes, 2 in particular are close to Damascus – Bou Sultan and Bou Bena. It is from these tribes, the leaders told us, that the protesters come from. Their homelands stretch east and south of Manbij city. Bou Soultan, in particular, is centered around Hedhud, the sight of the first major demonstration. “70% of the problems have been resolved,” one of the Council’s sheikhs said, “but they [Damascus] use the persistent problems to destabilize.” Disinformation plays a considerable role. For instance, one of the 17 demands outlined by the protesters called for revoking laws which conflict with the Islamic Shari’a, highlighting polygamy. Yet polygamy – a practice banned in the Kurdish areas of NES – is perfectly legal in the Arab areas, save for persons working in the AANES or their armed forces. Rather than betraying the Administration’s authoritarian intentions, the current legal status of polygamy in Manbij is a testament to the AANES’ democratic attempts to marry traditional local practices with their vision of women’s liberation. Similarly, contrary to the popular opinion, the MMC’s long-standing policy is that young men from families with only one male offspring are not conscripted into military service.

The rise of Damascus-linked sleeper cells has been a common denominator across all of NES’ Arab regions. Asayish officials in Ayn Issa tell RIC that the GoS is playing similar games in their city. For the moment, Manbij exists in a delicate tension between Damascus, Moscow, and Ankara. Both the GoS, as well as Turkey would like Manbij to come under its control. Russian and the SAR are unlikely to let Manbij fall into the hands of the SNA, though the sudden pull-out of Russian troops out of Ayn Issa in February demonstrates that they are not above gambling on the AANES’ fear of another Turkish incursion. All parties, including ISIS, see Manbij as ground ripe for intrigue and popular revolt. It is therefore likely that these outside influences will continue to effect sometimes violent rejections of the current democratic system. As we publish this piece, local protests are staged in the wake of every Friday prayer, demanding the SDF leave Manbij – most likely, internal sources tell RIC, at the behest of Turkey.

Nevertheless, it is also worth noting that, for all of the Administration’s shortcomings both before and during the protests, the number of people who took to the streets in the first week of June 2021 were anything but representative of Manbij as a whole. As previously stated, most protesters seemed to belong to one of the two defiant tribes. It is also worth pointing out that women, for the most part, did not participate. More importantly, in the aftermath of these protests, the AANES hosted a public dialogue, and continues to be involved in the investigative committee, as well as the higher committee to address the people’s demands, proving their commitment to a democratic resolution.

Invariably, the greatest hurdle facing the AANES’ democratic paradigm is the lack of belief in its longevity. Outside interference and attacks, even if not able to conquer the region, nevertheless disturb people’s confidence in the current political system. RIC finds a closer collaboration with tribal leaders is necessary, not only because they played a crucial role in ending the protests, acting as the bridge between the people and the Administration, but also because their sacrifice – some having lost their lives to ISIS sleeper-cell attacks, others persecuted in SAR for their involvement with the AANES – can be essential in instilling much-needed faith in the current political project. July 1, 2021/


Aldar Xelîl: Occupation of Iraqi Kurdistan will overwhelm Rojava

Aldar Xelîl, the Co-leadership Council member of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), has stated that Turkey’s operations in Iraqi/South Kurdistan pose a national security problem for the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria: “If South Kurdistan is occupied, Rojava will be overwhelmed.”

12:52 pm 29/06/2021

Aldar Xelîl: Occupation of Iraqi Kurdistan will overwhelm Rojava

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) Co-leadership Council member Aldar Xelîl responded to questions from ANF regarding the detention in Erbil (Hewlêr) in South/Iraqi Kurdistan of Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and PYD representatives and the reported presence of Turkish National Intelligence (MIT) representatives at their interrogation. He also answered questions about the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP’s) violations of border-crossings at the Simalka (Sêmalka) border point and the aims of Turkey’s ongoing military operations in the Zap, Metina and Avashin regions of Iraqi Kurdistan.

As Turkey’s attacks of occupation continue, why did the KDP feel it necessary to send the media to the defence areas, and how would losing in South Kurdistan affect the Kurds and Rojava?

The purpose of the attacks currently against South Kurdistan is occupation. Erdoğan wants to occupy South Kurdistan. Their plan is to occupy all of South Kurdistan including Rojava, north-east Syria before the end of 2023. The only reason this has not happened yet is because of the resistance. If we had not resisted, Erdoğan would have reached Mosul and Kirkuk by now.

One of the reasons that South Kurdistan has been protected so far is the resistance in Rojava, another is the resistance of the guerrillas in the mountains of Kurdistan. The resistance now in Avaşîn, Zap and Metîna is also the resistance to protect the achievements of South Kurdistan.

South Kurdistan struggled for years to liberate itself from Saddam’s regime. It sees that Erdoğan’s regime is coming for it, that this is still more dangerous and that it will annihilate the Kurds. However, the attitudes of the forces of South Kurdistan and of the government, who ought to stand against this, differ from each other. In particular, the KDP currently supports these attacks. When the Turkish state attacks, it does not raise its voice and complain to the United Nations, to Baghdad, to the Arab states, to international institutions and say, ‘Why is the Turkish state coming to our mountains? Why is it bombing our villages?’ Theirs is not an attitude worthy of Kurdistan. The national attitude of Kurdistan is to stand up for its people, its country and its soil.

Erdoğan, the President of the Turkish Republic, conducts military interventions in various regions, always with the excuse of ‘national security.’ All well and good, but does not the occupation of South Kurdistan and Rojava create a national security problem for the Kurds?

Why did Erdoğan go to Libya? Erdoğan says, ‘In my opinion, if the changes in Libya did not happen, it would be damaging for Turkey’s security,’ and for this reason, he goes and intervenes. He goes there and gets right inside. In Somalia … He even went to Sudan before the Sudan regime changed. He does the same thing everywhere. He says, ‘I am protecting my security’.

If we think of Rojava being North-East Syria, is our national security damaged when Erdoğan attacks the guerrillas in the mountains of Kurdistan? It is also a part of Kurdistan. So, our security is damaged. Basically, if Erdoğan gains in Europe, it is not good for us. If he gains in Africa, it is not good for us. If he gains in America, it is not good for us. It will damage us.

Erdoğan has occupied Afrin (Efrîn). He has occupied Ras al-Ayn (Serêkaniyê), Tell Abyad (Girê Spî), Jarabulus, (Cerablus), al-Bab (Bab) and Azaz (Ezaz). Erdoğan is threatening us.

First: He comes to South Kurdistan and attacks the guerrillas. Second: He evacuates the villages in South Kurdistan. Third: He shoots civilians. Fourth: He establishes military bases. Fifth: He expands these bases. South Kurdistan is, in any case, not a large area. What is the meaning of establishing 30 bases? It means that he is occupying South Kurdistan. There will be no government left in South Kurdistan tomorrow. If the South falls, is this in the interests of Rojava? We do not want the South to fall and be broken. We do not want it to be occupied by the Turkish state. We do not want the South to be occupied any more than we want Afrin to be occupied. If they are occupied Rojava will be overwhelmed.

The Autonomous Administration (AANES) and PYD representatives were detained in Erbil. They were detained two weeks ago. Why were they detained? They represent the Kurds and the people there. They have not done anything bad, anything wrong, they have not committed any offence. They have not interfered in anything. They have not meddled with any internal affairs.

On 10 June, KDP forces detained AANES and PYD representatives in Erbil, and they have not been heard from since. Why is the KDP organising special receptions for the enemies of Kurds and detaining Rojava’s representatives?

Rojava’s representatives are in custody and we do not know what has happened to them. In fact, according to information I have received (I’m not 100% certain), Turkish intelligence officers came and interrogated our colleagues. This is a dangerous situation. We do not know where our colleagues are now. We do not know what kind of interrogation they are under, what they are being asked.

What is happening at the Simalka border point, what practices have the KDP introduced there?

We are also experiencing great difficulties at Simalka. The questions prepared for people going to and fro are intelligence related questions. They are humiliating questions. People are shocked when, crossing a border, they are asked questions like, ‘How many people are there in your family? What are you thinking? What do you eat? Who are your relatives and tribe? What party are you involved with and what are your duties to them? When do you hold meetings? Who is your supervisor? What neighbourhood do you live in? What is the name of your [political] commune? Where is your assembly?’

They are using these questions to pressurise our people. The people do not accept this and are unsettled. The issue of Simalka is a serious problem. All the forces of Kurdistan should stand against this. The PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) is also there, and what the PUK are doing there, I don’t know. The PUK is also a partner in this government. The duties of the PUK are not just to make political speeches in Rojava and develop relations with the Rojava parties. It should have a role within the government. Why are the governments taking our people, why are they treating us like this at the border point?

Women going to and fro are searched in a way that is not done anywhere else. There is always respect for women. There is sensitivity in the searching of women everywhere. An attitude of unity and solidarity displays opposition to these violations. Anyone can create good sentences and pull them together in speeches, addresses and leaflets. The most important thing is the practical attitude.

The Simalka problem, the representatives detained in Erbil and the KDP’s support for the Turkish attacks on the guerrillas are all making us uneasy. We cannot normally see. We, the people of Rojava, Northeast Syria, are forced to see this reality and danger.


Mazloum Abdi appeals to International Coalition to repatriate ISIS families from camps in North and East Syria

Mazloum Abdi, the General Commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has appealed to the International Coalition to repatriate ISIS families from camps in North and East Syria.

1:42 pm 28/06/2021

Mazloum Abdi appeals to International Coalition to repatriate ISIS families from camps in North and East Syria

Mazloum Abdi, the General Commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), shared a message he sent to the International Coalition that is meeting in Rome to discuss the nature of the struggle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Abdi urged the Coalition to repatriate tens of thousands of ISIS members and their families who are currently being housed in North and East Syria. “The anti-ISIS Coalition will meet tomorrow to discuss progress towards the enduring defeat of ISIS. To ensure sustainable victory, we must not forget that tens of thousands of women, children and ISIS fighters remain in SDF and North and East Syria internally displaced people (IDP) camps and detention centres,” said Abdi onTwitter.

Abdi appealed to the Coalition to help return the ISIS families and members to their home countries as well as to “fund education and de-radicalisation programmes, and support stability and strong economic recovery in the liberated areas to address the root causes of extremism.”

Italy will co-host and co-chair (with the US) the Plenary Ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS alongside the United States on Monday in Rome. Hosted by the Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio, the meeting primarily aims to discuss how to sustain pressure on the remnants of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and how to counter ISIS networks elsewhere, including in Africa.

More than half of the 83 members of the Coalition will be attending the meeting at ministerial level, two years after the last formal meeting took place.

A statement by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) on 18 March called upon the international community to continue with its repatriation efforts for children and their mothers from al-Hol Camp, which it deemed “insufficient”, Rojava Information Centre reported.

AANES furthermore reiterated the need for international expertise to assist in setting up a criminal court to try ISIS members. Netherlands on 5 June repatriated four Dutch citizens, a woman and three children from Roj Camp.

This was the second time that the Netherlands has repatriated citizens from camps in North and East Syria: two Dutch orphans had previously been repatriated in June 2019.

Uzbekistan on 30 April also repatriated 24 women members of ISIS and 68 children from AANES.

Kurdish authorities have called for an international tribunal to bring ISIS suspects into its custody. This proposal has never been taken seriously by the international community.

Having not been officially recognised, AANES – where the majority of foreign ISIS members are detained – has not been able to prosecut ISIS members. Although the Kurdish-led coalition has repeatedly appealed to countries to repatriate their nationals detained as ISIS members in AANES, most countries have refused to act.


HRE: 7 invaders killed, two bases destroyed

A soldier, a staff member and 5 mercenaries were killed, while 3 mercenaries were injured in the actions carried out by HRE in Mare, Shera and Azaz.

  • ANF
  • Friday, 25 Jun 2021, 17:09

The Afrin Liberation Forces (HRE) reported that at least one soldier, one personnel and 5 mercenaries were killed, and 3 vehicles were demolished in their latest actions against the invading Turkish state forces.

The HRE statement detailing the actions between June 19-24 includes the following:

“Based on legitimate self-defense, our forces continue to respond to the attacks of the invading Turkish army and their mercenaries. Our troops organized actions against several targets in different regions.

On June 19, our forces organized an assault against a base of the invading Turkish army in Mare, which Turkey seeks to reactivate. A construction machine was destroyed, and another was hit in the action. Furthermore, a soldier and a staff member of the invading Turkish army were killed.

We carried out an effective action against a mercenary group in Mare on June 20. Multiple mercenaries were killed while several others were injured. Detailed information on the number of dead and injured could not be obtained.

On 20 June, an action against the mercenary group ‘Asif al-Shimal’ was carried out in Omer Simo village of Shera district. 3 mercenaries were killed, and one other was injured during the action. Moreover, a military base where the mercenaries are stationed, and a vehicle were demolished.

On June 24, an effective action was carried out against a group of mercenaries gathered in the village of Kefr Xoşer in Azaz. One mercenary was killed, and 2 others were injured during the action. The base where the mercenaries are stationed was also destroyed.

A soldier, a staff member and 5 mercenaries were killed, while 3 mercenaries were injured in the actions carried out by our forces in Mare, Shera and Azaz. In addition, 3 vehicles and 2 bases were destroyed.” 


SOHR: 140 Turkish-backed mercenaries return from Libya to Syria

Back-and-forth transfer operations: 140 Turkish-backed mercenaries return from Libya to Syria, while 200 others leave Syria to Libya.

  • ANF
  • Sunday, 20 Jun 2021, 19:37

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that nearly 140 Syrian fighters of Turkish-backed factions have returned from Libya to Syria in the past few days. The sources of SOHR have also confirmed that the return of this batch has not been a part of a plan to evacuate Turkish-backed mercenaries from Libya, as nearly 200 other mercenaries have been sent to Libya instead.

The observatory noted that all the fighters of the batch transferred recently to Libya are of the factions of al-Amshat, Sultan Murad and al-Hamza Division. Accordingly, the withdrawal of Turkish-backed mercenaries form Libya has been still suspended, despite all international appeals and Libyan-Libyan understandings.

On June 7, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the return of a group of Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries from Libya to Syria. In the previous 48 hours, nearly 95 fighters affiliated to the factions of “al-Hamzah Division, al-Majd Brigade, Sultan Murad, al-Muatasem Division.”

SOHR added that the return of those fighters was a part of back-and-forth transfer operations, as another group of 100 fighters from the same factions were dispatched by the Turkish government to Libya.

On the other hand, SOHR reported that al-Hamzah Division arrested several fighters who returned back with the latest patch after committing severe violations in Libya.

The back-and-forth transfer operations coincided with the international continuous demands to withdraw mercenaries from Libya. However, such demands met with Turkish government’s indifference, despite the considerable coverage by media, especially by SOHR.

This was the first time for the return of a large number of fighters since May 25, as the return process was limited only to individual returns under fraud medical reports.

On May 27, SOHR reported that foreign mercenaries were present in the Libyan territory, despite the Libyan-Libyan understandings, the ongoing international calls and the media coverage. Moreover, the return of Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries was completely suspended, except for some individual returns by some mercenaries who provided falsified medical reports and bribed the leaders of Turkish-backed factions, amid widespread discontent among the Turkish-backed “mercenaries” in Libya over the suspension of their return and the unpaid financial dues in return for the services they provided for the Turkish government.

On the other hand, the Syrian mercenaries who were recruited by the Russian” Wagner” company for protecting and serving the Russian interests in Libya, haven’t retuned back, reported the observatory.

On April 28, SOHR reported that the return of Syrian mercenaries from Libya is still suspended, whether Turkish-backed “mercenaries”, or those who were recruited by the Russian “Wagner” company and sent to Libya.

SOHR said that only a small number of mercenaries returned to Syria, after they provided medical reports and falsified some of them by bribing the leaders of Turkish-backed factions, amid widespread discontent among the Turkish-backed “mercenaries” in Libya. Their return to Syria still suspended since March 25, since the return of last batch of fighters about five weeks ago, after a complete suspension of the return of these mercenaries since mid-November.

In mid-April, SOHR reported that fighters of Turkish-backed factions, who are in Libya, were paying bribes to doctors in order to falsify medical reports enabling them to return to Syria.

On March 8, SOHR reported the Turkish government sending patch of 380 mercenaries to Libya.

On the other hand, SOHR affirmed that the return of the Russian-backed Syrian mercenaries who had been recruited by the Russian “Wagner” company and sent to Libya, has been also completely suspended.


American internationalist: Fighting ISIS is not enough

US internationalist Sipan Van Spronson pointed out the necessity of fighting not only against ISIS, but also against Turkish fascism, and said that joining the YPG was an opportunity for him.

  • Saturday, 12 Jun 2021, 08:51

The Rojava Revolution is a revolutionary process that embraces not only the peoples of the Middle East, but all the peoples of the world. Internationalists from all over the world have joined the revolution. One of those affected by the Rojava Revolution struggle is American internationalist Sipan Van Spronson. Van Spronson, who came to Rojava 15 months ago, spoke to ANF about his choice to join the YPG and his experience in Rojava.

Van Spronson said: “I came because I believe in the ideology of this movement, I believe in the establishment of a stateless democracy based on the liberation of women, and I believe in self-defense for the people of the middle east against ISIS and Turkish fascism.

When I first arrived in rojava its almost difficult to describe; there was such an intense feeling of freedom that I felt, being here with my comrades who I knew were here to fight for the same things as I, and even within the society it was clear that there was a much more democratic and liberated approach to life and it was truly wonderful to just be within a system and within a people who decide to live that way.”

The internationalist continued: “For me, joining the YPG was a wonderful and invaluable experience. It was an opportunity to fight for something I believe in. In opposition to such a violent and repressive way of life. This nationalism, this hyper religious approach, this idea of one flag one people one state. And, to be able to participate in a movement that instead fights for the liberation of women for the creation of an autonomous peoples, and an autonomous way of living.”

Addressing the American people Van Spronson said: “I guess if I were to say something to the American people, or all people in the west even, I would say that we are running out of time. The time for complacency is over, if we truly care about freedom, about liberation, about basic equality and basic democracy then we can no longer rely on the work and the blood of others; it must be done with our hands and our own blood. So if we want to call ourselves revolutionaries, fundamentally human, even, then the time is now to get out there, to work, to do something. You don’t have to join a military force but we can no longer be complacent. One other thing I would like to talk about is the importance of the ecological approach within this movement. Especially as a young person I really think a lot about climate change, about the horrible catastrophes that this will, and already is beginning to bring to the people around the world. And so that aspect of it is also really important to me, to fight against this capitalist consumption of the environment, of the land around us.”   

The internationalist reminded that “the fight against ISIS is ongoing, and in spite of these frequent reports from the American government, the American military that “we’ve done it we’ve defeated ISIS” and so on, its not true. First off, a lot of the work that’s being done is by our forces, and the work is far from over. We still have sleeper cells that are beheading civilians and doing horrible acts of violence and so I think that what needs to be understood is that if we start a job, we have to finish it, and finish it in its entirety. And that includes our approach to the Turkish state as well, who not only in the past has actively supported ISIS but even now within the various chete groups, the various jihadist groups they support in northern Syria there are ex ISIS members that are just simply looking to to restart their movement, and you can see that within the free Syrian army and many of the other groups that turkey supports. I mean what’s important to understand is that this is a fight that’s ongoing, and we will fight to the very end.”

Van Spronson said: “I think one of the other things we’ve seen is a tendency for America to forget its allies, for instance in Afrin and Serekaniye, these places where the American army basically paved the way for Turkish invasion. And I think that from an international perspective, and an internationalist perspective I think it’s important to understand that if we as, for instance Americans, if we want to see freedom for the Kurdish people, for the people of the middle east then we need to come and actually do something about it because its clear that our states will continue to only work for themselves.”


German doctor Michael Wilk reports from Rojava

Dr. Michael Wilk, a medical doctor from Wiesbaden, reports from the tent cities of Waşokanî and Serêkaniyê near Hesekê on the situation of the people in the autonomous region of northeastern Syria, which is characterized by Turkish attacks and lockdown.

  • ANF
  • Wednesday, 21 Apr 2021, 08:18

The Waşokanî camp for refugees houses 14,000 people in tents under the most adverse conditions. The second camp, Serêkaniyê, with 11,000 residents, is also located near Hesekê, a city/suburb with a population of approximately one million. The camp is named after the city of the same name, which was invaded by Turkish army and Islamist troops of President Erdogan in October 2019. Serêkaniyê was a beautiful, Kurdish-majority town located right on the border of Turkey. On the other side of the political demarcation line, Kurdish people also live, separated from their relatives in Syria by a border drawn by victorious powers after the end of the Ottoman Empire.

Example of social change

The Kurdish population was oppressed on both sides. However, with the increasing loss of power of the ruler Assad, starting from the Arab Spring, a self-determined autonomous movement was able to establish itself in the north of Syria, which declared grassroots democratic principles and the equality of men and women as its goals. It subsequently succeeded not only in driving out the terrorist Islamist ISIS at great cost, but also in asserting itself against the Assad regime. The expansion and consolidation of the area in northeastern Syria, the inclusion of all ethnic groups living in the area in the attempt to create a self-determined society and, above all, the changed social position of women developed positively. This is a much-appreciated example of social change in self-determination, in extreme contrast to the social structures of the surrounding countries and virtually a nightmare for the Islamists and the authoritarian autocrats of Erdogan’s ilk.

Alliance commitments to the Erdogan regime

Rojava’s badly damaged infrastructure was partially rebuilt, and houses, schools and even clinics were repaired, largely under the government’s own steam and with the help of international donations. State aid from abroad was almost completely absent, the high toll in the fight against ISIS with over 10,000 dead and 20,000 injured was not repaid with reconstruction aid, the alliance obligations to the Erdogan regime, the NATO partnership, the economy and above all Turkey’s gatekeeper function towards refugees weigh too heavily.

Germany and EU are complicit in Turkish crimes

The West’s ducking and stalling policy continued even when Erdogan invaded Rojava’s territories militarily several times. The invasion of Afrin in spring 2018 and that of the area between Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî in 2019 displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their ancestral territories, leaving many dead and seriously injured. The EU and the German government did nothing and not only made themselves complicit in the invasion and crimes by continuing to supply weapons. Thousands who could not find accommodation with relatives or have the means to build a new house are still living in schools, or worse, in tent cities. Like just here in the Waşokanî and Serêkaniyê camps with 25,000 people.

Economic burden due to lockdown

Next door, in the Corona Clinic of the Kurdish Red Crescent (Heyva Sor a Kurd), people are struggling to breathe. The nurses of the Kurdish Crescent are doing everything they can with scarce resources. The declared lockdown is necessary, but economically burdensome for the region, which is exhausted by the war and Erdogan’s attacks.

If nothing else, the use and distribution of the saving vaccine reflects the global relations of power, privilege and domination. So far, about two-thirds of the vaccine has been delivered to just six countries worldwide. Here in the Waşokanî camp, no vaccine has yet arrived, nor has it reached the rest of the region. Yet it is so urgently needed.



Heval Tekosin

The following history complements all of the other more formal, Positivistic(1), aspects of the revolution. It paints a picture of an important and powerful aspect of the Rojavan revolution. It cannot be seen from outside. It cannot be held, defined or quantified. It has no process, no direct material certainty, no written system or rules. This history is an attempt to explain why the system of governance in Rojava is not, has not and will not develop in to an Oligarchy. It is the riddle of human kind, Michel’s Iron Law of Oligarchy(2), and for the second time(4) in history that I know of, it is being defied.When I use Woman™ and Man™ in this text it does not literally mean women and men. The Rojavan revolution, “The Friends”, Abdullah Öcalan, invites everyone equally, irrelevant of ethnicity, Class™, background, intelligence, wealth, men and women; to adopt the concepts that it gathers in its social construct Women™, and to reject the brutal ideas that it gathers in its social construct Men™. For example, it rejects Male™ concepts of superior and inferior, domination by anyone, competitiveness, individualism and insecurity, positivism(19), authority and especially the Nation States that men created. In Rojavan revolutionary networks men are just as welcome as women, there is no distinction or bias.

A dominant woman is rejected just as a dominant man is. As a man living and working in Rojava for a year now I can confidently report that this culture frees men and women together, it does not place them in competition in any way. This proposed method is especially relevant, welcome and effective in the context of the Middle East.Imagine a war happened in your country. Far away from you on the other side. And that all the State soldiers and police left your area leaving behind substantial amounts of weapons(1) and equipment. Your side of the country is also full of crude oil, hidden under endless dusty wheat fields, unprotected and unmanaged(23) now that the soldiers have left. Enough to sell, and independently power a society with(16).You and your friends take control of the oil fields. That is, the people you watch movies and eat popcorn( 8 ) with. Many friend groups do this, copy this, join in with you and you are all connected up, and growing as a huge friend group network. One of the friend groups buys 1000s of white people carrier cars, all the same, and distributes them to any friend group that is interested, with blue number plates to indicate that it is a vehicle belonging to “The Friends”.

No one sets up any official rules, no one gets elected, no one writes “Government” on any buildings, everyone meets only at everyone else house(15). The rest of Society with its free markets continues as normal, but without Nation State interference now. I often stand at the road as the sun goes down watching The Friends continually zoom back and forth(9) in their white people carriers. 1000s of them visiting each others houses, discussing, planning, thinking, reading, watching movies and eating popcorn.Rooms in the Middle East, rich and poor, are very minimal. Around the edges, patterned soft sleeping mats, generous cushions and big fluffy blankets where people sit to chat, and later sleep. Huge central shared trays appear with omelettes(20), roaming-goat cheeses and fresh spun breads. Olives from Afrin and oils from Kobane. The conversation is often loud, always curious and excited, occasionally with singing. The mornings often look like a party happened, with people scattered around all the rooms, crashed out.Some Friends are asked to take responsibility for some things by some other Friends. Sometimes life and death important things. No one ever votes. No one ever brings an agenda, on paper or in their minds. Everything is agreed between Friends, often with neighbors popping in and joining in, and must be agreed that way. So understandings slowly and gently assemble themselves, flowing through the symbols and constructs in the free and ever developing languages(3) uninhibited by the dictates of dictionaries. This is what Rojavans mean when they say Social-ism. This is how Woman™ organises.”Villages are noisy places Tekoşin!” – Heval BK explaining that real democracy is loud. It is necessarily human scale like a village or city small neighborhood, intimate and face-to-face, where people are always talking with each other, always in each others houses or between, always excited.

The Friends then begin developing relationships with economic infrastructural organisations: farms, engineering business, logistics, warehouses, shops, etc. When a business joins The Friends network, everything changes for them. The people working there get over-flowing Veg Boxes and all household necessities delivered to their homes every week, according to what they say they need(10). Their rent and bills are paid for them(11) and they get weapons(21) and free cigarettes(6). Other Friends across the network visit and work with them. Trust, positivity, intuition, intimacy, emotional intelligence and education replaces money and property within the networks of networks. “Accounts are a cold thing and building and organising is a warm thing” – Rojavan education 2021(18). So the revolution deals with all accounting needs for teams(7), leaving them to build, organise and create. Excited young women, fresh out of Rojava University, run around installing and teaching Open Source accounting software for engineering companies and farms alike. It virally spreads through the society. Communities and links strengthen in society generally and the economy runs more and more on friendship as the edges between the revolution and the society blur. This is how Woman™ carefully and patiently abolishes money and property.”There is only one law in Rojava Tekoşin. You must be our friend” – Heval AIn 2013, one year after the revolution, Heval H returned from technology work in Dubai to protect his family home in Qamishlo, Kurdistan and one of The Friends approached him to explain the revolution. He was easily convinced. He got some close friends together, armed themselves, and began convert operations surveying Turkish-ISIS military positions and activities using their own cars and false IDs to visit other cities under or near enemy control.

After a few months they found other friendly military units and started supplying them with information. The team also started buying, developing and using technology from the local Souke (market) to improve their capabilities. No one asked or told anyone, filled out any official forms, joined anything, asked for or received uniforms, because that is not how this society works. The information was extremely popular and Heval H’s division grew quickly, other groups helped fund it or joined in, and it became an integral part of the military operations here in Rojava. The SDF (Syrian Defence Forces) is the umbrella group for whatever it is that the people are doing to protect themselves. This is how Woman™ protects herself against the Nation States of Men™, in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, aware of the chaotic reality of war.”Half the people in this şehid lik (graveyard) were my personal friends Tekoşin, all killed by Turks. I *hate* them. But I cannot allow myself this hate because we *must* go forward together” – Heval AAANES (Autonomous Administration of North East Syria) is the administrative umbrella group for all the activities civilian society is choosing to do.

Rojava has a thriving free-market economy. One that is progressively de-monopolising and moving away from money and property. The freedom of the market was never the problem in Capitalism. Rojavan business owners do not wake up with times, numbers and graphs in their minds. They do not “supply” “customers” with “services”. The have their community friends in their minds. The feeling of safety and happiness of their families is related deep down to their friendship in the community, not to their profit-loss account. Women™ can free Men™ from the pains of Capitalism.In 2019, after 8 years of revolution, The Friends did something unprecedented. They directly intervened in the economy. The Friends never forced people to stop using money under threat of jail. They never frightened landlords with violence. They didn’t frighten business owners and their families by forcing them to obey prices or forcibly taking their life long business ventures away from them.

All these things, that previous revolutions have done, require violence and create fear and conflict. It is not The Friends’ style. This is not the way Women™ do things.The Turkish embargo on Rojava had created a smuggler-trading class that was growing big and powerful. So The Friends reluctantly started trading and transporting products themselves as well and opening cheap supermarkets providing all basic needs to the people in all the major cities The Friends lived in. It was carefully and patiently introduced and widely welcomed. No one protested, no one attacked anyone, no opposition armies formed.”Social Construction is more powerful than any army or police Tekoşin.” – Heval SI arrived in Rojava a year ago in February 2020 with no understanding whatsoever of what I present in this article. Some theories from Bookchin, Öcalan and the like gave me better eyes, but no understanding of what it actually felt like in practice. During that year I have often sat in meetings next to people with enormous responsibilities in Rojava. I never realised because they don’t wear any medals, rarely say anything and they certainly don’t directly make decisions or proposals. A Friend with great responsibilities in the revolution often sleeps on my couch at the moment. He is there in his jeans and un-tucked shirt in the morning with a big smile, makes tea and asks me what I need. I was very surprised when Heval H told me what his responsibilities were. He is so calm. “You have a lot to learn about our culture Tekoşin…” It seems that the “higher up” people are in this society, the less they speak and the more attentive they are. They always make me so aware of my own spiralling, uncontrolled, embarrassing optimisation and egotism. Or “acis” as the Kurds say, which also means powerless. It will be a long time before anyone regards me as fit to take on responsibilities in this society.

It is like the reverse of the Capitalist system, where the higher up people go in Capitalism, even the first step, the more arrogant, dogmatic, charismatic, aggressive, confident and stupid people become. And the wisest people get thrown in jail at the bottom! The Capitalist democracy, where people vote for the wisest person, seemingly has the opposite effect to that intended.There is an intentional tacit power hierarchy in Rojava within The Friends movement. Each project or area has a “Responsible”, in both military and civilian works, and the Responsibles have Responsibles in a hierarchy. This hierarchy has substantial tacit power in it from the tops down. Many reasons, information and decisions are unknown to the people further down the hierarchy.Rojava works on Responsibility without Authority. A seemingly ridiculous and rude concept to my European mind. How can you fix something if you have no control over it?? Let alone be held responsible for the failures of people in your team who you have no control over?? But, as always, human beings do something completely different to what is expected. Responsibility *without* authority is one of the keys to ensuring attentive, humble, emotionally intelligent bottom-up democracy. Woman™ understands emotional psychology and the society organism very well. This is why millions of Woman™ were killed in the 15th century(5) to make way for Men™s Positivism(19) revolution.In Rojava it seems that the cultural keys(24) have been discovered to a good leadership hierarchy that gets things done patiently, changing and growing together into shared solutions, leaving no one behind or outside.

Democratic Confederalism is just the harmless summarising administrative patterned cloth that floats on top of this chaotic social activity. The endless, interweaving populism underneath is the intentional power system in Rojava. This is how Woman™ allows decisions to assemble themselves.”The European Anarchist idea of not having leaders is silly.” – School responsible, Rojavan Education 2021.After a year and much education, a sense of patience and endless curiosity toward others had strongly underpinned my psychology. I noticed myself naturally telling people stories instead of solutions I wanted them to adopt. I was sitting through entire meetings happily curious, completely free from the tyranny of my own ideas, interests or intentions. About 1 month ago the whole of Rojava suddenly opened up to me. Speeding around in cars with people excitedly introducing me. It really happened that abruptly and clearly. Somehow Rojava had decided that I was finally ready.”The problem is not the problem. Your attitude to the problem is the problem.” – Captain Jack Sparrow.

These vast flowing cultural under-currents(12) had always been widely and deeply present in The Middle East. Especially in rural agri-cultures like Rojava(13), excluded from Modernism. And, of course, these currents exist in many similar situations all around the world, un-suppressed still by the insidious tentacles of Nation States. Rojava had a Women™s revolution to bring forth these under-currents, formalise them into an ideology, and give them a name: Jineology, with Democratic Con-federalism as its anti-system protection network. They call this “jiyana xwezayî”, the natural life.”He is doing şerm Tekoşin!!!” – Everyone excitedly talking about my friend, the young wonderful Heval B, sitting humbly and not talking, refusing cigarettes, tea and food to demonstrate his sense of social humility in the presence of new friends arriving on the project. I miss him.The European Left has always had the right ideas with its cooperatives, communes, intentional communities, community vegetable growing and so on, but so much energy was consumed by conflict within the groups that their growth was stunted and they became much less attractive. Various painful positivistic attempts to make decisions, like Consensus decision making, failed to analyse the real fundamental epistemological(22) issue and, instead, just brought that cultural failure into sharper contrast.

Many 1970s European Feminist groups(17) did address this in a similar way to Rojava but they got lost in time as Capitalism steadily and meticulously neutralised the considerable threat they posed.”Men cannot be free until women are free.” – Abdullah ÖcalanRojava is reaching out to everyone across Europe and the world. Its new civil-society to civil-society Diplomacy sections want to talk with you. We are circumventing the dominant Men™ Nation States and talking straight to citizens and civil society groups. The path to change will be the same: to “kill the Dominant Male™” (quote from Abdullah Öcalan) within all of our personalities, men and women, to allow these cultural under-currents to blossom again. “95% of this war is against our own personalities, 5% is a mechanized war” – Rojavan Education 2021. “If our personalities are not good, we cannot create anything good.” – Rojavan Education 2021. The reverse is also true. Capitalism’s strength is inside us, and so is its downfall. Rojava will celebrate a decade of revolution next year.

A decade of survival against incredible material odds. A growing spreading society more and more devoted to its ideology as the armies of Nation States are rendered impotent against the gentle, patient, viral spread of its friendship, beauty, joy and rationality.If you are reading this then you are connected now(14). This revolution cannot and will not develop without you. Don’t worry if you do not have the same set of circumstances in your region that brought Rojava in to revolution. Every context is different, opportunities will come. Only preparation is necessary.

(1) – Some of the friend groups secure weapons. Weapons from the soldiers as they left, weapons from Lebanon, weapons from elsewhere. They call themselves the Peoples Protection Units (HPC) and they anchor themselves in the local communities they live in. They spring up everywhere, with different ethnicities, areas, uniforms sometimes, and ideas but all happy that the other groups exist and coordinating (SDF).

There are much more pressing dangers on the horizon than differences of opinion about number plate colours. Other more regional connected armies form (YPG/YPJ) over time. Some rules are created, some loosely followed, many rules are different and many rules are discussed over tea. Other groups setup “police” (Asayish) and begin making things safer. Other groups talk to them and make some arrangements for other different coloured number plates. Everyone is happy everyone else is doing stuff. ISIS-NATO try to kill everyone but fail. In the early years 40% of The Friends income was spent on security. This year finally it is substantially less. Source: The Friends

(2) – Michels’s theory states that all complex organizations, regardless of how democratic they are when started, eventually develop into oligarchies. Michels observed that since no sufficiently large and complex organization can function purely as a direct democracy, power within an organization will always get delegated to individuals within that group, elected or otherwise. Source: Wikipedia(3) – Kurdish and Rojava has many inter-connected and developing dialects without centralised dictionaries. So the people develop the language together naturally as concepts and society changes. Routinely, Rojavans feel free to pick and use words from ~

3 different and changing dialects (Afrin, Qamislo, Kobane for example) and 3 different languages (Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish for example) in any single sentence, depending on their audience and direction. Source: Personal experience. I speak Kurmanji fluently and bits of Arabic and Turkish.

(4) Ancient Athens was the other one. Surprisingly there are huge differences in the way they solved it, not least with the exclusion of women and slaves. They did it within a rhetoric of extreme superior and inferior, domination over slaves and women, loud aggression, wealth disparity and competition. But, nevertheless, with harsh competition, terrible punishments and grand social rewards the poor demonstrably dominated the rich leisure class for 200 years with only 1 very temporary coup and similar social contradictions to Modern Europe. One of the important similarities with Rojava was that it was active, widespread populism of an intimate human scale (limited to 20-40,000 men). Every citizen could expect to be on the 50 citizen inner circle of government “prytany” twice in his life and almost constantly involved in 1 or more groups. Obers book, Mass And Elite In Ancient Athens (1989), is especially good on this. It suggests that the decisions in Athens were really made in the swarming down-town barbers shops, not in the famous Assemblies. The assemblies really only summarised what had already been accepted in society with its development of language, symbols, social constructs and speeches through the system of Logographers (speech writers) who mingled with the people to ensure that their speeches would be accepted in the assemblies. Ober does an incredible job of demonstrating this with network and systems theories. Osborne also writes well on this subject especially about the social reasons how the Athenian revolution developed out of a fragmented warlord past. Source: Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens: Ober 1991, Athens and Athenian Democracy: Osborne 2010

(5) – This was the witch hunts. Reports of the Number of deaths vary greatly. The period before these hunts saw Monasteries of women actively researching and educating and their active involvement in community. It also saw the beginnings of Positivism, male science, the Nation States building on the structural foundations of hierarchical religions. Source: Rojavan Education, 2021

(6) – The revolution spends substantial amounts of money on cigarettes. This is an increasingly contentious issue as Abdullah Öcalan has demanded that revolutionaries stop smoking. He also stated that “… the un-necessary slaughter of animals must stop”. Many Cadros are becoming vegetarian as a result and there are positive signs that Cadros are also beginning to stop smoking. Source: The Friends

(7) – I have visited 3 “companies” now, all doing engineering infrastructure, to install their accounting systems for them. Different systems of course, lots of receipts and variation, no central repository. Source: Personal experience(😎 – We do actually eat a lot of popcorn in Rojava. And, in fact, last week, myself and 10 life long Kurdish revolutionaries sat around and watched Ice Age II together laughing and chatting. Of course notwithstanding critiques of Hollywood, Positivist culture, food supply chains and so on. Source: Personal experience

(9) – The Friends have their own lane at all police road blocks which is usually empty. Fuel is free for The Friends. Source: Personal experience

(10) – I always ask for tubs of chocolate. It always comes, with big smiles. My logistic store has 10 tubs in it. I need to stop eating so much chocolate. Source: Personal experience

(11) – Landlords and the housing free market exist in Rojava although slowly reducing. Rents are increasing dramatically in Qamislo to the east as refugees flee the Turkish occupied cities of Aleppo, Kobane and Afrin. Source: The Friends(

12) – The writers Abdullah Öcalan and Murray Bookchin write well on this subject. Öcalan describes a history with 2 opposing flowing rivers of cultural philosophy beginning 5000 years ago in Sumeria. That of Nation Statism and Patriarchy, and that of Communalism and Jineology. Source: The Sociology of Freedom (2020), Prison Writings The Roots of Civilisation (2007): Abdullah Öcalan

(13) – Rojava was and is 70% agriculture, almost all wheat production. Kurds especially were formally excluded from many positions in society like governmental posts and are mostly a very poor subsistence society. Source: Revolution In Rojava: Pluto Press 2016

(14) – Heval Tekosin

(15) – Interestingly the Alawi religion does this also, with no central church buildings, holding meetings only in each others houses. Source: Heval BK, head of Sterk revolutionary TV station, Rojava.

(16) – For a full list of The Friends expenditures the yearly accounting reports for AANES can be seen on They are usually in the region of ~$120 million per year. The Friends fixed many roads, setup the RCell mobile Internet provider, and many other public services. Rojavan crude oil is sold at 10% of the market price because of the embargo.

(17) – Anecdotal. Comments ad research welcome!

(18) – Rojavan education 2021: In February this author, Heval Tekosin, attended 40 days of education, Jineology personality analysis, critiques and a platform. The process caused much self-analysis, awareness and changes in my personality and I feel much more free, patient and relaxed in my mind now. In short, the agendas, desperation to talk and impose, and optimisations in my mind have calmed. “Men cannot be free until women are free.”

(19) – Positivism is a complex term worthy of a book. In short, it is the physical, factual world, the world commonly understood in Europe as “science”. It excludes the meta-physical, that is morality, emotion, philosophy and so on. Anything that cannot be mathematically defined and measured is excluded. It allows only one human motivation, self-interest, which it regards as the single, and mathematically provable, evolutionary goal of each and every human. It turns people and society into robots and graphs, and life in to a series of numbers, TO-DO lists, times and categories. It reduces, categorises, homogenises and essentialises. The Positivist mind is caught in never ending spiralling mathematical optimisations of every aspect of its life, from time to money to happiness. The rejection of Positivism is central to Abdullah Öcalan’s and Jineology’s philosophy, where Positivistic thought and Technology are embraced as a tool rather than a master

.(20) – I am Vegan. Many many sheep wander the wheat fields in the outskirts of cities and countryside and there are many small farms with chickens, sheep, dogs and pigs. However, most of the eggs in Rojava still come from large industrial farming facilities at the moment. This is ugly to almost all of the Rojavans I have met so far and they want to move to small scale roaming free animal farms. Small scale production is also part of the Ecological ideology here. There is no understanding of the conscious state of animals yet in Rojava but there are local projects starting to try and address these issues, especially aimed at helping dogs initially.

(21) – One AK47 or M16 per person. These usually line the walls of bedrooms and work places

.(22) – Epistemological: The way we understand reality

(23) – The planned regional oil management town of Rmelan housed all the Syrian Regime management offices and staff for coordinating the regions oil down from the Northern Syrian oil fields through to Damascus by road. Once empty, taking over and re-coordinating the oil flows was clear for The Friends.

(24) – Share stories not personal conclusions, read emotions not only information, change and learn without ego and not be defensive, imagine themselves as part of a society not an individual, listen instead of waiting to impose, and consider themselves and everyone else as dynamic and capable of moral learning without needing to push.


Turkey Creates a Humanitarian Catastrophe in Occupied Syria

by Jonathan Spyer
The Jerusalem Post

Originally published under the title “Turkish-controlled Islamist Militia’s Ravaging of Afrin.”

Turkish-backed Syrian security forces patrol the highly secured market area of downtown Afrin. (New York Times)

Located in the northwest corner of Syria, the Turkish-controlled Afrin area is largely off limits to foreign journalists.

Turkish forces occupied Afrin in late 2018, in an operation dubbed Olive Branch, destroying the Kurdish authority which had previously ruled there.

Since that time, Afrin has been ruled by a coalition of Syrian Arab Sunni Islamist groups, with the Turkish authorities as the real power behind them. Significant Turkish investment in the infrastructure of the area, along with the frozen diplomacy of the Syrian conflict, suggests that the current situation will last for some time.

Global media and governments have ignored very grave violations of human rights in the Afrin area.

Evidence is emerging to suggest that very grave violations of human rights are taking place in the Afrin area, on a systematic basis. The situation remains largely ignored by both the global media and Western governments.

According to Jiger Hussein, a refugee from Afrin who now coordinates an investigation team looking into cases of kidnapping and abduction in northern Syria, “We have strong evidence indicating the involvement of the Turkish authorities and their client extremist militias in the international crime which is taking place in Turkish-occupied Afrin – including rape, trafficking, and torture to death.”

Operation Olive Branch began on January 20, 2018, and concluded on March 18, 2018, with the defeat of the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) at the hands of the Turkish military and its Syrian Arab Islamist auxiliaries.

The Turkish takeover of Afrin led to the expulsion or flight of around 200,000 Kurds from the area.

The immediate result of the Turkish takeover was the expulsion or flight of around 200,000 Kurds from the area, reducing the Kurdish population from an estimated 350,000 to around 150,000 today.

The vast scale of population displacement as a result of the Syrian civil war (around 13.5 million Syrians from a prewar population of 22 million have left their homes in the last decade) has served to obscure the significance of this act of sectarian cleansing. It differs from other acts of forced movement of population from Syria in that it was directed not by a pariah regime under Western sanctions, still less by an unaffiliated militia. Rather, this large-scale forced movement of a population was conducted by a NATO member state and US ally.

Following the expulsion of more than 50% of the Kurdish population of Afrin, Turkey undertook the resettlement in Afrin of Syrian Arab refugees from the Ghouta area (close to Damascus), Deir al-Zor and from the Aleppo Governorate. Around 100,00 people have established homes in the area since the conclusion of Operation Olive Branch.

Turkey has resettled the Afrin area with around 100,000 Syrian Arab refugees.

Conditions of life for the remaining Kurdish and Yazidi population in Afrin under the rule of Turkey and its Islamist auxiliaries in the Syrian National Army remain precarious in the extreme.

A recent report by ACAPS (Assessment Capacities Project), an independent NGO, noted: “The Kurdish population… face constant harassment by local militia groups, putting them at risk of losing their livelihoods and access to food and shelter…. The Kurdish population of Afrin is at risk of personal threats, extortion, detention and abduction from local SNA factions present in the district…. Kurdish residents in Afrin are particularly vulnerable to problems related to shelter. Kurdish residents have experienced repeated and systemic looting of their property. Those who fled their homes in 2018 are reported to have had their homes occupied by fighters and their families and by displaced people from Syrian-government-held areas.”

The US State Department “2020 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Syria” confirmed that “The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria corroborated repeated patterns of systematic looting and property appropriation” by SNA members in Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn, and that “after civilian property was looted, SNA fighters and their families occupied houses after civilians had fled, or ultimately coerced residents, primarily of Kurdish origin, to flee their homes, through threats, extortion, murder, abduction, torture and detention.”

The ACAPS report notes in particular confiscation of agricultural lands. The nonlocal origins of SNA fighters has resulted in widespread cases of serious misuse of resources. For example, according to a Voice of America report, no less than eight million of Afrin’s 26 million olive trees have been cut down by SNA fighters, in order to provide firewood or for trading purposes. Afrin was an area traditionally strongly associated with olive farming.

It is important to underline here that the SNA – “Syrian National Army” – despite its name, is not an independent Syrian military formation. Rather, this 70,000-strong force represents the remnants of the Sunni Arab insurgency in northern Syria, today organized, armed, financed and directly controlled by the Turkish authorities.

Kurdish and Yazidi women are systematically targeted by Turkish backed Islamist militias.

The widespread and apparently systematic targeting of Kurdish and Yazidi women is a particular feature of the activity of the Turkish backed Islamist militias.

According to the State Department Country Report, “The COI, STJ, the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), and other monitors documented a trend of TSO [Turkish-supported organization] kidnappings of women in Afrin, where some women remained missing for years.”

Noting “multiple firsthand accounts of kidnapping and arbitrary detention” by Turkish-supported militias in the area, the State Department report named the “Sultan Murad, Faylaq al-Sham, Firqat al-Hamza, and al-Jabha al-Shamiya, and the SNA’s Military Police” organizations as cited by human rights organizations for involvement in the kidnappings.

“Victims of abductions by TSOs [Turkish-supported armed opposition groups] were often of Kurdish or Yazidi origin or were activists openly critical of TSOs or persons perceived to be affiliated with the People’s Protection Units or previous Kurdish administration of Afrin,” the report continued.

The UN Commission of Inquiry reported the transfer of persons held by the SNA factions to official Turkish custody, “indicating collaboration and joint operations between the Turkish government and the SNA which could, if any members were shown to be acting under the effective command and control of Turkish forces, “entail criminal responsibility for commanders who knew or should have known about the crimes, or failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or repress their commission.”

The Turkish government denied these reports.

Since the occupation of Afrin by Turkish-backed forces in March 2018, more than 150 women and girls have been kidnapped. (Missing Afrin Women Project)

An NGO specifically created to document the situation facing women in Afrin noted the kidnapping of 88 women by Turkish-supported armed groups in the course of 2020. As of January 2021, according to the organization’s website (, the whereabouts of 51 of these women remains unknown.

The organization notes that 14 of the cases involve direct allegations of torture, and three involve direct allegations of sexual violence carried out by militiamen in the employ of Turkey. Two of the alleged victims remain missing. The Hamza Division and the Sultan Murad Division are the organizations alleged to have been involved in these three cases.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Turkey to investigate these allegations. No investigation is known to be currently under way.

Syria has been witness over the last decade to some of the most heinous violations of human rights seen in recent history. The ethnic cleansing of Afrin, and the current and ongoing systematic harassment of the remaining Kurdish and Yazidi population, including the deliberate targeting of women, stand among the darkest chapters in this woeful story.

Jonathan Spyer is a Ginsburg/Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.


German internationalist in Rojava: “I can only advise you: Come here!”

Internationalist Goran Kobanê is from Germany and lives in Rojava. He advises others to come to the autonomous region of northeast Syria themselves to get involved in the grassroots democratic project and learn from it.

  • Saturday, 1 May 2021, 18:48

Goran Kobanê is an internationalist from Germany and has been living in Rojava for six years. In an interview with ANF, he explains why he went to northern Syria in the summer of 2015 and what motivates him to stay there. He advises all people to come to the self-governing region of northern and eastern Syria to see and learn from the grassroots democratic project and the women’s revolution.

“I am originally from Germany and came to Rojava, to Kobanê, about six years ago, in the summer of 2015. The crucial point and motivation was the battle for Kobanê. That was in the media at the time, it was in the press in Germany, in Europe, internationally, and somehow everyone was aware of it. IS was at the height of its power at the time. They had taken so many cities in Syria, in Iraq, and Kobanê was something like the decisive battle. At the time, it was said that if Kobanê fell, ISIS would be well on its way to marching directly to Europe. And that motivated me at the time to come here and see how I could help.”

The fight for Kobanê: “It was madness”

The resistance in Kobanê was very impressive for him, says Goran Kobanê and continues: “The friends fought with simple, light weapons against tanks and a superior number of opponents. The courage that the friends had here, that was madness. They went into battle partly expecting to die, but they knew they were falling for a good cause and were willing to make that sacrifice. They knew that if they didn’t fight, then all of Kurdistan would be in danger, then Kobanê would be in danger. And who knows how many civilians would have been murdered.” Above all, he said, he was impressed that so many internationalists from different parts of the world wanted to resist.

Meanwhile, Germany continued to support the Turkish state, Goran Kobanê said, “And the Turkish state has demonstrably provided logistical support for ISIS. They took care of the wounded, they provided border crossings, and that was obvious to the world. And yet the German state continued to support the Turkish state. There was no military help, which the friends here would have needed to resist.

German society, it must be said, has already taken this on board. They followed it, they sympathized with the Kurds and with the resistance, but someone really stood up and said: I’m taking a risk, I’m taking a risk and maybe I’ll come here and help,’ that’s something very few people have done. That was another motivation for me to say: Now more than ever. I have two healthy hands, I can come here. I am healthy, why not. I have no excuse to say I can’t help here.”

The defeat of ISIS in Kobanê was like the breaking of a myth: “Until then, ISIS had only won, won, won. They were advancing and it was thought that they could no longer be stopped. And then, thanks to the heroic resistance of the Kurds and their friends, they were defeated and had to retreat. Later, they were pushed back further and further, and that was more or less the beginning of the end for ISIS. And if Kobanê had fallen, who knows how it would have turned out.”

“Germany has itself blackmailed by Erdogan”

Even after the ISIS has been defeated territorially, the Turkish state supports and protects Islamist troops, who today would only call themselves something else, the internationalist continues: “In my opinion, this has only one goal: to break the Kurdish resistance, ideally to wipe out all of Kurdistan and to destroy this really successful model of self-government. Germany nevertheless continues to support the Turkish state, even though it’s obvious that they’re committing human rights violations here, that they’re expelling people here, that they’re murdering people.”

“The German government is allowing itself to be blackmailed by the Erdogan government with the refugees in Turkey. That’s over three million. Turkey and Erdogan are constantly threatening to open the borders, and this allows Germany and the EU to be blackmailed. Pressure should be put on them very clearly and they should say: withdraw from Afrin, withdraw from Serêkaniyê, withdraw from the occupied territories, or our economic relations will be broken off. But unfortunately, the German state is not doing that. They don’t do anything. They cooperate with Erdogan as if nothing ever happened. German society could do more, it definitely has to do more. People have to go out on the streets, they have to put pressure on the politicians. What are the weapons financed by? They are financed by tax money. The bottom line is that it’s everyone’s fault that people are dying here because the weapons come from Germany.”

Germany supports Turkey primarily for economic reasons, says Goran Kobanê: “Germany makes billions with these arms deliveries. Turkey has bought dozens of tanks to use against northern Syria. Germany is making billions and doesn’t want to risk economic relations. The human lives in northeastern Syria do not count and it is accepted that hundreds of people would be killed and entire areas depopulated.

“Take to the streets, put pressure!”

Asked what he expects from people in Germany, the internationalist answers, “Take to the streets. Protest. Put pressure. Here, dozens of people are dying every day, displaced, and this is happening with Germany’s guilt. Show the politicians and those responsible what you think about it. It’s up to you, it’s in your hands.”

The German internationalist adds, “There are many internationalists in Rojava who have taken the risk of coming to the region. They are happy here and contribute their share. They can contribute a lot and learn an extreme amount here. They learn about the system of self-government, which is an example of how a democratic, good, equal world can work. How the role of women is promoted here in the Middle East, you don’t see that anywhere else. And that’s just a wonderful example of how it can be. I can only advise you to come here, check it out, even if it’s just for a few months. It’s incredible.”


How to deal with ISIS: Lessons from Rojava

4:08 pm 29/04/2021

How to deal with ISIS: Lessons from Rojava

Rahila Gupta

The Kurdish-led administrations in both Syria and Iraq faced an existential threat from the savagery of ISIS fighters at the height of their power. Yet, in victory, the Rojava revolution in NE Syria seeks to defuse, through rehabilitation, the time bomb ticking away in the mini-ISIS caliphates being set up by cooped up prisoners – men, women and children – physically defeated but not necessarily ideologically shaken.

While across the border in KRG-controlled Iraq, the time bomb is defused by summary trials and execution.

The case for ISIS fighters to be treated humanely isn’t just future-proofing against the pent-up anger of ISIS generations to come although that would be a welcome side-effect, but is an example of what a justice system committed to transformation of society should look like.

Nassra Khalil, co-chair of the Justice Council in the Euphrates region of Rojava (AANES), explains poetically in an email interview, that their system is driven by ‘the aim of eliminating the soil in which grievances grow and working out solutions that address the root of the problems by tackling these problems and the social structure in which they arose.’ However these admirable aims are constantly undermined by the lack of resources.

British media’s frenzied interest in ‘jihadi brides’ shone a light on the dire conditions in the Al-Hol camp in Rojava which holds over 60,000 ISIS prisoners, women and children, particularly the infamous Shamima Begum who lost her last baby to pneumonia there. This fits in with public expectations of Syrian refugee camps but very few narratives dig deeper to reveal the true picture.

Many Western countries have refused to repatriate their citizens in a shortsighted case of political expedience leaving foreign fighters and the Rojava administration in limbo. Shamima Begum was stripped of her citizenship in a shameful decision by the Supreme Court in February.

Rima Berakat, Co-Chair of the Justice council, responsible for law and order in all of Rojava, outlined the scale of the problem in a Zoom interview. They have approximately 12-15 thousand ISIS prisoners (mostly Syrian and Iraqi, but including 50-80 foreign fighters) awaiting trial. Since 2014, they have tried 8000 Syrian nationals and there are 1000 prisoners on trial at this moment. There are simply too many detainees and too few resources for the overstretched Rojava administration to attempt ideological cleansing of ISIS fighters on a large scale. As ISIS fighters remain a huge security threat, with uprisings in overcrowded prisons and escape attempts, Rojava, ever-pragmatic, has been unable to put its rehabilitation programs into operation apart from the ‘most basic teaching of language, culture and philosophy’. They have adopted a conventional legal strategy of trial and conviction but with humane sentences recognizing differences between those who laid bombs or laid food on the table for ISIS.

They have introduced amnesties for low-level ISIS operatives who have served half their sentences. This is partly to avoid their further radicalisation in prison, living cheek by jowl, with hardened ISIS fighters. This does not include ISIS ideologues or those who were engaged in war crimes, drug trafficking, honour killings, and espionage. Their risk levels are assessed, which includes an assessment of theirs’ and their families’ ideological commitment to ISIS, before they are released into the community. It is also in keeping with Rojava’s ‘decentralized, confederal decision-making on the local level’ reports the Rojava Information Centre: those areas which were liberated by SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) from ISIS are mostly populated by Arabs who have historically been hostile to Kurds and also do not share their revolutionary ideals. A key demand that emerged in consultations with these communities was amnesty for low-level ISIS members.

Responding positively to that demand, according to the Rojava administration, promotes better community relations and is one way of countering ISIS ‘attempts to sow discord, sectarianism and violence.’ To date 4000 women and children and 630 odd men have returned.

Small scale rehabilitation is carried out for groups of up to 20 women who sign up voluntarily in the Al-Hol and Al-Roj camps by Waqfa Jin, a local women’s group. They undertake consciousness raising sessions which talk about women’s empowerment and education, subverting ISIS teachings indirectly. They also run sewing and handicraft making sessions to skill them up for life outside the camp. In the smaller, better resourced, Al-Roj camp, the women who attend must follow rules such as no ‘black clothes’ and no niqabs, the closest they get to challenging ISIS ideology head-on. Such sessions, of course, do not begin to encroach upon the consciousness of those ISIS women in the now infamous Al-Hol camp who have reintroduced the strict dress and moral codes of their previous lives on pain of death. The Rojava administration is keen to set up separate camps for those ISIS women who are showing signs of rejecting their ISIS history so as to complete their process of deradicalisation. But they lack the resources.

The limited resources that they do have, have been poured into the Huri Centre, where 100 young boys from the age of 11 upwards, known as the Cubs of the Caliphate, who were battle hardened fighters and suicide bombers are being rehabilitated. The decision to staff the centre with women with whom the boys refused to make eye contact or shake hands when they first came to the centre was their first indirect lesson in gender equality. Apart from providing a peaceful environment where misbehaviour is resolved through discussion, not punishment, the young men are exposed to music and the arts – subjects that were banned under ISIS. In fact, the biggest challenge for the administration is the diehard ideological commitment of the foreign ISIS members, be they men, women, or children. Local fighters often joined ISIS for financial reasons because of their attractive salaries or protection of their families and are generally easier to deradicalise.

Across the border in KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) which operates the same penal code as the central government in Iraq, many ISIS prisoners have been executed after a summary 15 minute trial according to Human Rights Watch. All ISIS suspects are tried under the counter-terrorism laws and no distinction is made in terms of severity of charges. The process by which they are identified as ISIS members is flawed, very little evidence is provided at trial, and confessions are extracted by torture. There are widespread allegations of ill-treatment. Human Rights Watch recommends a more conciliatory approach, similar to that in Rojava, to prevent problems in the future. It is well known that prisons have been the hothouse for incubating terrorists of the future: AQI, the predecessor of ISIS, was hatched at Camp Bucca.

The Iraqi system is corrupt: prisons are paid per inmate so there are financial incentives to delay trials; prisoners are made to pay for better food, visits from relatives and access to mobiles. Several hundred ISIS prisoners have been executed since the fall of Mosul in 2017. In November 2020 alone, 21 prisoners were sentenced to death. There has also been an unquantified number of extra-judicial killings of ISIS members by the Iraqi army, wreaking revenge after victory.

Yet the UK government has poured £31million into KRG/Iraq since 2016 via UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) but not Rojava, despite UK’s commitment to global security, its avowed opposition to the death sentence and the importance it places on stabilisation of areas liberated from Daesh’s control. The government website states ‘we will not consider providing any stabilisation assistance in Syria without a credible, substantive and genuine political process firmly underway.’  This makes no sense at all given that there is a substantive political process under way and the UK was part of the coalition which put boots, arms, and training on the ground in the battle against Daesh in Syria. That is exactly the point that Rima Berakat makes, ‘We fought against Daesh together, we captured their fighters together, we must prosecute them together also. One side cannot carry the burden alone.’

I asked the foreign office, ‘If Britain will not take back its ISIS citizens, please explain why it won’t fund the humane regime in Rojava?’  A Government spokesperson responded with an answer to a question I hadn’t asked, ‘Those who have fought for or supported Daesh should face justice for their crimes. We are clear that this should happen in the most appropriate jurisdiction, which will often be in the region where their offences have been committed.’

In fact Rojava is poised to do so. Berakat said it is ‘our right, as victims, to prosecute Daesh because they have violated the laws in this region.’ After years of calling for an international court to be set up in Rojava went unheeded, she announced their intention to put the foreign fighters on trial.

The ISIS fighters should consider themselves lucky as they are unlikely to face as humane a jurisdiction anywhere else. If they open their minds up to the Rojava democratic experiment on earth, they may find that they are no longer interested in 72 virgins in heaven.


North press agency | وكالة نورث برس

Home/Reports/Northern Syria’s Armenians commemorate 106th anniversary of Armenian Genocide HomeReports

Northern Syria’s Armenians commemorate 106th anniversary of Armenian Genocide

2021-04-24 1 minute read

Armenians commemorate the genocide in Tel Goran village - North Press
Armenians commemorate the genocide in Tel Goran village – North Press

HASAKAH, Syria (North Press) – On Saturday, theArmenian Social Council and Armenian military force  commemorated the 106th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Tel Goran, in the countryside of Hasakah city, northeast Syria.

24 April 1915 is held as the starting date of the  genocide, since on that day Ottoman authorities arrested and deported from Constantinople (now Istanbul) to the region of Angora (Ankara) around 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders. Most were murdered.

The Armenian Genocide was the systematic mass murder and expulsion of more than 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turkey, according to historical documents.

Manuel Demir, the commander of northeast Syria’s Armenian military force known as the Martyr Nubar Ozanyan Brigade, said that “we, as an Armenian military force, celebrate this memory to deliver a message to the world that we have not forgotten and we will not forget what happened to our Armenian ancestors at the hands of the Ottoman Empire…we reject and denounce the ongoing Turkish aggressions, which are similar to the criminal policy of the Ottoman Empire of 1915.”

He added that the genocide was not committed against Armenians only, and that its massacres in Syria, whether by its occupation of Ras al-Ain (Sere Kaniye), Tel Abyad, or Afrin, and its continuous attacks on Ain Issa, confirm the restoration of Ottoman politics and its massacres.

 Arif Qasabiyan, of the Armenian Social Council, says that “the extermination was committed against other peoples such as the Romani, Syriacs, Assyrians, and Kurds.”

“The Ottoman policy continues to exterminate the rights of other peoples and eliminate their cultures, histories and languages, as in Shengal, Sere Kaniye, Tel Abyad and Afrin.”

 Its worth mentioning that the European Union parliament voted “by a wide majority” on 16th April 2015 overwhelmingly in favor of recognizing the mass-murder of Armenians by Ottoman Turkey as a genocide, commemorating the centennial of the genocide.

Reporting by Dilbreen Moosa


PYD member denounces international silence regarding Turkish attacks

The Member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Berivan Hassen, denounced the international silence about the recent attack launched by the Turkish occupation state on the house in which the leader Abdullah Ocalan stayed, and asked whether community is satisfied with the crimes Turkey is committing against the peoples of the region?

WOMAN 20 Apr 2021, Tue – 03:46 2021-04-20T03:46:00 MAYSAA AKKARI AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterShare to WhatsAppWhatsAppShare to TelegramTelegram

In a repeated scene of the scenario of the Turkish hostility to north-east Syria, the attacks of the Turkish occupation state continue amid international silence that may open the way to a threat that may affect global security, according to political analysts’ point of view.

In addition to the continued bombardment of Ain Issa and al-Shahba, a reconnaissance aircraft belonging to the Turkish occupation army targeted the house in which Leader Abdullah Ocalan stayed in the village of Albalur, west of Kobane city in 1979, while crossing the borders of Northern Kurdistan to Rojava, known as the leader’s house, at dawn on the 16th of this month.

Concurrently, the Turkish occupation army and its mercenaries stationed on the western bank of the Euphrates River in villages of  the occupied city of Jarablus shelled with mortars Boraz village and the surrounding villages in the west of Kobane city.

The Turkish occupation army and its mercenaries continue their attacks on north-east Syria, amid the silence of the Russian guarantor and the international community, despite two separate ceasefire agreements between the Turkish occupation, Russia and America.

‘International silence is a green light for more crimes’

The Member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Union Party, Berivan Hassen, said: “Turkey’s targeting of the house in which the leader stayed is a clear indication of Turkey’s fear of the thought and philosophy of Mr. Abdullah Ocalan and the idea of ​​achieving democracy that poses a threat to its authority.”

Berivan Hassen indicated that Turkey was not content with imprisoning the leader Ocalan and imposing strict isolation on him, but also attacked every place that has a footprint or memory of him.

Berivan denounced the international silence regarding Turkey’s attacks on the region, and said: “We see Turkey continuing to launch its hostile attacks on the region and its people, in addition to imposing strict, illegal isolation on leader Abdullah Ocalan amid international silence from all world countries and human rights organizations.”

Berivan Hassen stressed that the world powers must take a firm stand towards the violations and crimes committed by Turkey against the region and its people.

At the end of her speech, Berivan Hassen asked in an indignant tone, “Are the international community satisfied with the crimes committed by Turkey against the people of the region?” Adding, “They give the green light to Turkey to commit more crimes through their silence.”

It is worth mentioning that an unmanned aerial vehicle of the Turkish occupation state bombed a civilian house south of Kobane city on the 22nd of last January, which resulted in the injury of a civilian, and preceded it the massacre committed by a Turkish drone in Helenj village on the 23rd of June of last year.




SYRIE. Le gouvernement syrien harcèle les quartiers kurdes d’Alep

24.04.2021 à 13h40 0 35

SYRIE / ROJAVA – Le régime syrien qui a suit une déroute dans le quartier Tayy de ville kurde de Qamishli où il voulait créer le chaos, veut se venger en s’en prenant aux quartiers de Sheikh Maqsud et d’Ashrefiye à Alep abritant une importante population kurde.   Selon l’Organisation des droits humains d’Afrin, les forces des forces gouvernementales syriennes représentées dans la quatrième division et la branche de la sécurité de l’État ont décidé vendredi de harceler la population de Sheikh Maqsud et Ashrefiye à Alep, à la suite des affrontements intenses qui ont éclaté en la ville de Qamishlo entre les Forces de sécurité intérieure, les Asayish et le groupe de mercenaires du régime syrien depuis mardi dernier.   Après que le quartier Tayy ait été débarrassé des mercenaires de la Défense nationale, la quatrième division a verrouillé le point de contrôle de Jazira menant à Sheikh Maqsud tandis que Awaridh est restés ouvert, ce qui a créé de longues filles d’attente au milieu d’opérations d’inspection et de contrôle.   Des sources locales ont rapporté que des Kurdes ont été arrêtés à Bustan Basha, Ashrefiye, Midan, Catstello et près du carrefour Jendul où des voitures ont été immobilisées et des civils à bord arrêtés.   Régulièrement, le gouvernement syrien a utilisé Sheikh Maqsud et Ashrefiye comme une carte contre l’Administration autonome du Nord et de l’Est de la Syrie (AANES) chaque fois que ses milices créent des émeutes et du chaos à Hasaka et à Qamishlo.  


Clashes escalate between Asayish and pro-government National Defense in Syria’s Qamishli


Members of Asayish Special Forces deployed in al-Tai neighborhood in Qamishli – North Press
Members of Asayish Special Forces deployed in al-Tai neighborhood in Qamishli – North Press

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – Al-Tai neighborhood, south Qamishli, northeastern Syria, has witnessed violent clashes with medium and light weapons between the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) and the pro-government National Defense forces (NDF).

Since the early hours of Friday morning, NDF snipers stationed in  al-Tai neighborhood have intensified their targeting of civilian residential buildings surrounding al-Wehda roundabout in the city center.

According to field sources, late Thursday night, Asayish advanced and were close to the al-Tai roundabout.

Late Thursday night, Sheikh Hayyes al-Jaryyan, a prominent figure of the Bani Saba’a tribe, was assassinated, succumbing to his wounds after he was targeted by snipers from the pro-government NDF near his home northeast of the National Hospital.

On Tuesday, ten-year old Abdulsalam was killed by the targeting of the pro-Syrian government NDF near al-Wehda, Roundabout in Qamishli, while others were wounded.

Since Tuesday, Qamishli has been witnessing clashes between the Asayish and militants from the pro-government NDF.

On Thursday, Asayish found a quantity of weapons and ammunition in Lilo Detachment in al-Tai neighborhood, amid continuing clashes with the NDF.

The circle of clashes between Asayish and the NDF expanded to include Helko neighborhood as well, where before it was confined to al-Tai neighborhood.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are sharing control of the city with the Syrian government forces, who control a small part of it, while the SDF controls most of the city. 

Reporting by Hogir al-Abdo


North East Syria Internal Security Forces: This operation aims at saving people from ISIS threats

The Internal Security Forces launched a ‘Humanitarian and Security Operation’ in Hol camp. The operation also aims at saving those living in the camp from the threats posed by ISIS members.

  • ANF
  • Sunday, 28 Mar 2021, 09:49

North and East Syria Internal Security Forces launched an operation called “Humanitarian and Security Operation” in Hol camp. The operation is being carried out with the collaboration of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the People’s Defense Units (YPG)

Spokesperson for the SDF Gabriel Kino, spokesperson for the YPG Nuri Mehmud and the Jazira Region Assembly General Command Member Ewinar Derîk attended the statement made on the operation. The statement was read by the General spokesperson of the Internal Security Forces, Elî El-Hesen.

The statement said: “The Syrian war has been going on for about 10 years. This war resulted in thousands of victims and millions of Syrians forced to leave their homes and to migrate around the world.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) defeated the ISIS terrorist organization on a territorial basis with the support of the International Coalition two years ago. However, ISIS continues to pose a great threat to the whole region and the world. Secret cells of ISIS still target civil society administrators and civilians in Northern and Eastern Syria every day. The Internal Security Forces continue to fight these terrorist organizations in cooperation with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Hol Camp has represented a serious threat to the region and the world for a long time. More than 60,000 people stay in the camp, with children making up the majority of the population in the camp. There are ISIS mercenaries or members of mercenary families. These people aim at defend the ISIS organization and revive it when the time will be deemed appropriate. They are doing so by establishing a special administration for them. ISIS policemen called Al Hesbe established their own special courts. At the same time, they teach children in the camp the Islamic State precepts. This represents a big threat as aims at creating a new generation of terrorists all over the world. Children must be saved from this fate.

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria met all the needs of the camp within its own means. Internal Security Forces also ensure the security of the camp with the support of SDF. However, the Hol camp has turned into a center where ISIS is being reorganized. Civilians inside the camps are attacked, murders are carried out. This situation poses a danger to everyone inside the camp. There have been 47 murders in the camp just since the beginning of this year.

Today, with the SDF, YPG, YPJ, the Internal Security Forces launched an operation called ‘Humanitarian and Security Operation’ which aims at breaking the ISIS influence in the camp. The operation will continue to protect civilians. With this operation we aim at saving the camp residents from the threats posed by ISIS.”


YPJ: Çiçek Kobanê verdict not coincidence

Women’s Protection Units, the YPJ, indicated that putting fighter Çiçek Kobanê  on trial is a breach to the international law, calling on the international community to condemn this action and to release all female detainees held in Turkish State jails, assuring perseverance with fighting for the sublime human norms and feminist emancipation.  

WOMAN 26 Mar 2021, Fri – 11:32 2021-03-26T11:32:00 NEWS DESK

On the verdict given by the Turkish authorities to the fighter Çiçek Kobanê, General Command of the YPK issued a statement reads:

” another blatant breach against the international human law and the Law of Armed Conflicts is being committed by the Turkish Occupation State by putting member to the YPJ Çiçek Kobanê on trial that was captured on October 21st, 2012, in a Tal Ayad village in North Eastern Syria by a mercenary group affiliated to the Turkish Occupation Army, in the Turkish Occupation Operation in the region, on which she was transferred into Turkey illegally to be receive a life imprisonment by the Turkish court on March 23rd, 2021, without committing any offense or crime against Turkey or any Turkish individual or causing it any damages”.

” since our comrade that was captured in an armed conflict, this authorizes her to be treated in accordance with all agreements and norms relevant to prisoners of war that give her protection and proper treatment”.   

”Since Syrian territories were occupied by the Turkish Occupation Forces and the affiliated mercenary groups in North Eastern Syria, Syrian citizens are systematically being transferred into Turkish territory, and detained illegally, that all have been proven and condemned by the UN and other human rights associations that called on Turkey to stop all these violations but it ignored that intentionally and put our comrade on trial and gave her a life imprisonment sentence, on which we call on all active and concerned associations more notably those members to the UN, to condemn the Turkish action and to release immediately all Syrians detained illegally in Turkey”.  

All these actions will not deter us, rather they will make us more determined to proceed fighting against occupation and oppression as we well know that these actions are in revenge against ISIS defeat that was sponsored by the Turkish State that is still attempting to revive it’s sleeper cells in the region,  the verdict given to our comrade is not an accidence as the whole world commemorates the ISIS Baghouz Defeat”. 

”we call on all women to show solidarity via condemning this action that is a revenge against all women, the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention proves this, based on this, from this moment onward, we will increase our resistance and determination on the course adopted by our comrades and those in captivity in the Turkish State jails for thye sake of sublime human values and the feminist emancipation”.


Why has the Turkish state escalated its attacks on Ain Issa?

Baz Jindirêsê, one of the SDF commanders, stated that the Turkish state and its gangs had to retreat after suffering huge blows during the three-day attacks.

  • Wednesday, 24 Mar 2021, 07:47


Since the invasion of Girê Sipî, Ain Issa has been bombed by the occupying forces again and gain. However, the attacks have intensified since November. The villages of Mışerfe, Cehbel, Mieleq and Seyda are especially targeted. What is the goal of the Turkish state in Ain Issa?

Ain Issa has a strategic location. It connects many cities. For this reason, there have been constant attacks. However, these attacks failed because of the resistance of the SDF fighters. The attacks have intensified in the last five months. They started to carry out intense attacks on the villages of Mieleq, Mişerfe, Seyda and Cehbel around Ain Issa. Because these villages are the closest to the M4 highway. Since they could not occupy Ain Issa directly, they tried to encircle the city by trying to occupy these villages at first. All of their attempts were frustrated by the great resistance of the SDF fighters every time.

The invaders launched another aggression on March 19th. It is of course significant that they carried out this attack especially during the Newroz process. The whole world knows very well that Newroz is important and sacred for all Kurds. March 21 is celebrated with great enthusiasm by the Kurds all over the world. The occupiers specifically chose this date to destroy the enthusiasm and demoralize the people.


SDF fighters defeated them. The attacks were intense. They got very close to the Seyda village. As a result of the great resistance of our fighters, their attacks have been frustrated. They had to retreat, suffering a large number of casualties. During the attack on the 19th, two armored vehicles belonging to them were destroyed, they had 15 dead and many more injured. They attacked again on the second day. They suffered a great blow in this attack as well. Two of their vehicles were destroyed and they retreated with nearly 18 casualties. On the third day, they attacked again in the morning hours and this attack was repelled thanks to the heroic resistance of the SDF fighters. They also used fighter jets. However, despite all their attempts, the SDF fighters did not allow them to advance and occupy these villages.


In November last year, three observation points were established under the supervision of Russia to prevent the attacks of the Turkish state and its gangs, but after the establishment of these, both the attacks and the number of military bases of the Turkish state in the region have increased. Russia remains silent as before. How do you evaluate this situation?

As we said, these attacks have been going on for a while. And their purpose was to occupy Ain Issa, take strategic road lines and separate cities from each other. However, when they failed to do so, they tried to take control by establishing military bases on the M4 international road. They have set up 5 military bases so far. The purpose of these bases is to control the M4 highway, to control transportation and to prevent the use of the road by intimidating the people.

Russia established three military observation points in partnership with the Ba’ath regime, supposedly in order to prevent the Turkish state’s attacks and to check whether the Turkish state remains committed to the 2019 agreement. However, after the establishment of these points, the situation has become even worse than before. The attacks became more intense, and the Turks increased the number of their military bases. Supposedly, these observation points were established to ensure the safety of the people and to enable them to live more comfortably in their villages. However, it was also seen in the attack on the 19th that this is by no means the aim. People fromthe Seyda and Mieleq villages wanted to return to their homes. We then tried to provide the conditions for them to return to their villages. The Russians also accepted this so that the people would not be harmed and that they could return home safely. While the people were going back to their villages, the Russians supposedly accompanied them. However, as soon as the people returned, they were attacked by the Turkish forces and allied gangs. Although the Russians saw these attacks, they remained silent.


Does Russia’s pressure to give the area to the Ba’ath regime continue?

Some time ago, news was disseminated by the Ba’ath regime and some media outlets close to Russia that the SDF would give Ain Issa to the Ba’ath regime. These fake news were made by Russian hand. Actually, this is what Russia wants. Our people and everybody know very well that the SDF would not easily hand over a place where it shed its blood. Russia’s aim is to strengthen the Baath regime in the field and to leave the control of the area to the regime. Russia wants to put pressure on us through these attacks. Thus, it wants to strengthen the regime’s hand in the field. Russia paves the way for these attacks and remains silent on the attacks of the Turks. However, whenever an attack is launched, they witness the resistance of the SDF fighters. They also see very clearly that our lands will not be given away so comfortably. Our resistance will continue until there is only one person left. We will continue to protect our people until the end. There have been attacks on the area for a long time and these attacks continue. Our attitude is clear. We will never back down. We will keep the promise we have made to our people until the end, and we will always continue to follow our martyrs, we will protect these lands.


SDF: 34 Turkish-backed mercenaries killed in Ain Issa

SDF published a balance sheet on the three days of fighting around the northern Syrian town of Ain Issa. According to the report, four SDF members were martyred, and there were at least 37 casualties in the ranks of the occupation forces.

  • ANF
  • Monday, 22 Mar 2021, 19:52

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) published a balance sheet on the fighting around the town of Ain Issa from March 18 to 20. According to this, at least 37 members of the Turkish and allied jihadist occupation forces were killed in the clashes. Another 18 attackers were injured.

“In an attempt to justify their attacks against Ain Issa, the Turkish occupation state and its mercenaries spread claims that they were attacked by our forces and heavy casualties were suffered in our ranks. These statements do not correspond to the facts in any way. The side that is both attacking and suffering heavy casualties is the Turkish state. Such statements serve the sole purpose of hiding their own losses and distorting the truth,” emphasized the statement by the SDF.

The SDF continued, “The Turkish occupation army and its mercenaries carried out intensive attacks on the M4 highway and on the north of Ain Issa in the period between March 18 and 20. Our forces displayed unprecedented resistance to the attacks carried out with heavy weapons and repulsed them in the spirit of Newroz.”

According to the statement, 16 mercenaries were killed and 7 others injured as SDF fighters responded to the attacks on the villages of Seida and Mealik on March 19. The occupation forces targeted civilians with heavy weaponry, killing a child and injuring five civilians.

Having suffered heavy losses during clashes, the Turkish forces and allied mercenaries carried out attacks with tanks, howitzers and mortars on March 20. The response of our forces left 10 mercenaries dead and another 4 injured in the Seida village. On the other hand, 8 mercenaries were killed and 5 others injured in the village of Mealik. In addition, 2 panzer vehicles were destroyed and another 2 damaged.

On the same day, sabotage by SDF fighters killed 3 mercenaries and injured 2 others.

On March 21, Turkish army heavily shelled the villages of Misherfa, Seid, Mealik, M4 highway and vicinity of ain Issa. Sporadic clashes took place till the noon.

During three days of clashes, 4 SDF fighters were martyred, and 4 others injured.


SDF chief welcomes Europe call for Turkey to withdraw from Syria

yesterday at 08:46 Rudaw

A+A- ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday welcomed a recent European Parliament decision condemning Turkey’s military occupation in northeast Syria and abuses against the Kurdish population. 

“We welcome the EU parliament’s resolution calling for the withdrawal of the illegal Turkish occupation forces from northern Syria and share the EU parliament’s concerns over ethnic cleansing attempts by Turkey against Kurds in Syria,” tweeted SDF General Commander Mazloum Abdi early Sunday morning.

He was reacting to a resolution adopted by the European Parliament on Thursday that called on “Turkey to withdraw its troops from Northern Syria which it is illegally occupying outside of any UN mandate.”

Turkey, with its Syrian proxies, has conducted three offensives into northern Syria since 2016. The first, Operation Euphrates Shield, saw Turkey seize control of territory in northern Aleppo province from the Islamic State group (ISIS). The goal of the operation was to push ISIS militants away from the border with Turkey and prevent Kurdish forces from taking control of the territory. 

The second, Operation Olive Branch, was in 2018 against Kurdish forces in the northwest enclave of Afrin. The most recent operation, Operation Peace Spring, was also against Kurdish forces along the Syria-Turkey border between the towns of Gire Spi (Tal Abyad) and Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain). That offensive ended with ceasefires brokered by Washington and Moscow that gave Turkish-backed forces control of the territory seized during the operation with Russian and Syrian regime forces acting as a buffer along the border. 

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes because of Turkey’s military operations. 

Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies are accused of committing human rights violations in the territories they seized. Charges include hostage taking, torture, rape, destruction of property, arbitrary arrest, and pillaging. A United Nations commission in September 2020 said these charges may amount to war crimes and called on Turkey to reign in its proxies.

The European Parliament said it is “worried that Turkey’s ongoing displacements could amount to ethnic cleansing against the Syrian Kurdish population” and stressed that “Turkey’s illegal invasion and occupation has jeopardised peace in Syria.”

Turkish-backed forces are also accused of illegally transferring tens of people to Turkey to face trial on alleged links to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish armed force that Ankara believes is a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Human Rights Watch documented at least 63 cases of illegal transfers.

The European Parliament condemned the transfers as a violation of international law and urged “that all Syrian detainees who have been transferred to Turkey be immediately repatriated to the occupied territories in Syria.”

The parliament also condemned the Syrian regime’s “long-standing discrimination against Kurdish Syrians.” Under the regime, tens of thousands of Kurds in Syria were denied citizenship as part of systemic discrimination against the minority.


Why is Syrian military deploying in Kurdish-held areas?

The Syrian government seeks to strengthen its military presence in Ain Issa and the area overlooking the M4 international highway, which are under control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. al-monitor A Russian soldier stands guard as troops escort a convoy of Syrian civilians leaving the town of Tal Tamr in the northeastern Hasakah province, to return to their homes in the northern town of Ain Issa in the countryside of the Raqqa region, via the strategic M4 highway on Jan. 10, 2021. The town of Tal Tamr is on the front line between the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian factions supported by Turkey.  Photo by DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images. Khaled al-Khateb


Mar 12, 2021

ALEPPO, Syria — The Syrian government, with the support of Russia, is trying to boost its military presence in the areas of northeastern Syria controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which can be considered a violation of the agreement signed by the regime with the SDF under the auspices of Russia in October 2019. The agreement provides for a specific deployment for the regime’s army and without heavy weapons along the Syrian-Turkish border to prevent a Turkish offensive. 

The regime allegedly violated the agreement by sending in early March a military convoy heavily armed with weapons toward Ain Issa and the outskirts of the M4 highway connecting the governorates of Hasakah and Aleppo, which heralds the return of arrests and escalation between the two sides.

Khaled al-Homsi, a journalist who works for the opposition-affiliated Orient website in the Tell Abyad area near Ain Issa in the northern Raqqa governorate, told Al-Monitor, “The regime’s military reinforcements began to reach the area adjacent to the M4 highway in the countryside of Raqqa and Hasakah governorate in northeastern Syria since the beginning of March. These reinforcements have so far included some heavy artillery bases, missile bases and troop carriers. The regime forces have also implemented a new redeployment operation, and the largest force is stationed in the villages of al-Maalak, al-Hoshan and al-Khalidiyah, which are adjacent to the M4 highway. The regime forces are also stationed in the Electricity Company in the vicinity of Ain Issa.”

A military official in the SDF stationed in Ain Issa told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “The SDF leadership is not pleased with the Syrian regime bringing in military reinforcements with heavy weapons to the area even though these reinforcements are so far relatively modest. The regime cannot just change the balance of power on the ground. Some leaders in the regime forces said the reinforcements are to counter any attempt by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Turkish army [to attack the area], but the SDF fears that the regime will continue its policy of strengthening its military presence in the area with Russia’s support.”

It seems that the Syrian military is trying to pressure the SDF and impose a new military reality in the Ain Issa area, as long as it has not achieved — with Russia‘s help — what it has been aiming for since the end of 2020, which is forcing the SDF to withdraw from Ain Issa and preventing the opposition factions and the Turkish army from taking control. The regime strengthening its military presence near the M4 highway prevents a military operation by the opposition and the Turkish army in order to expand and control the area. The efforts of the Syrian regime reflect its interest in the vital and strategic roads that it cannot afford to lose in light of the stifling economic crisis.

Never miss another story

Col. Mostafa Bakkour, a defected Syrian regime officer, military analyst and researcher living in Idlib, told Al-Monitor, “The SDF will not respond to the pressure of the Syrian regime and will not allow it to expand and boost its military presence in its areas of control. If the regime continues to send reinforcements and heavy military equipment, tension will erupt between the two sides in the area. As a result, Russia would intervene as a mediator, despite its public support for the regime. Russia is pursuing a policy of mediation, or at least so it claims, to preserve its interests and at the same time exploit any action and disagreement between the conflicting parties.”

Ali Tami, spokesman for the Kurdish Future Movement in Syria, told Al-Monitor, “The regime’s military moves in the Ain Issa area and near the M4 international highway aim to further pressure the SDF to resume oil exports to the Syrian regime, which is trying to boost its military presence in the area in order to prevent oil exports from the SDF to the Syrian opposition areas in the countryside of Aleppo and Idlib. The regime and Russia do not want the oil to flow to the opposition areas.”

On March 5, Russia struck the Hamran crossing linking the SDF with the opposition near al-Bab and the rudimentary oil refining stations in the countryside of Aleppo. The attack may also point to the regime’s plan to pressure the SDF to stop exporting oil to the opposition and resume exporting to the regime-held areas. 

On March 7, the SDF resumed the supply of oil to the regime-controlled areas after a monthlong hiatus, which caused a fuel crisis in the regime-held areas. 

Firas Faham, an Istanbul-based researcher at the Jusoor Center for Studies, told Al-Monitor, “The regime’s attempt to reinforce its military presence near the M4 highway comes in the context of pressuring the SDF to withdraw from Ain Issa. There seems to be a Turkish-Russian understanding; either Russia expels the SDF from Ain Issa, or Turkey launches a military operation.”

Faham added, “Yet it seems that Russia is trying to avoid a Turkish military operation because it does not welcome Turkey’s growing influence, especially since the Turkish army and the FSA making their way into more areas would pave the way to connect the Peace Spring area with the Euphrates Shield area in the countryside of Aleppo. This is why pressure is being exerted on the SDF to withdraw or at least reduce its military presence in Ain Issa, which will lead to the return of the regime’s institutions to the area.”

It seems that the SDF understands Russia’s intentions in northeastern Syria, and the Russians prefer to avoid the military option to keep channels of communication open with the Kurds and not allow the United States to use this against them and turn the Kurds into enemies. The SDF is also well aware that Russia does not welcome the expansion of Turkish influence and will thus not allow for any military operation. At this point, the SDF will show resistance to the regime’s demands regarding its control of Ain Issa.

More from  Khaled al-Khateb
Read more:


YPJ fighters celebrate March 8 in Hesekê

Fighters of the Women’s Defense Units (YPJ) in Hesekê celebrated March 8 with an impressive military ceremony. The highlight was an address by YPJ General Commander Newroz Ehmed.

  • ANF
  • Sunday, 7 Mar 2021, 16:01

Fighters of the Women’s Defense Units (ku. Yekîneyên Parastina Jin, YPJ) celebrated International Women’s Day March 8 with an impressive military ceremony in Hesekê on Sunday. The spectacular performance by hundreds of female fighters was attended by numerous personalities from the military structures, civil society and the local population. The highlight was a speech by Newroz Ehmed, one of the general commanders of the YPJ.

Ehmed began by thanking Clara Zetkin as the initiator of International Women’s Day and all other women pioneers for women’s rights and equality. “But we don’t limit women’s struggle merely to celebrations like those of today,” Ehmed continued. “March 8 has become a symbol of all human values and an achievement for all humanity in the person of women. However, the attacks of the male-dominated mentality continue. However, it should not forget that women have fought for their rights at great sacrifice. March 8 is not a day that the patriarchal mentality has ‘graciously’ left to us.”

Capitalist modernity wants to destroy women’s liberation struggle through well thought out methods, said Newroz Ehmed and continued, “We as women in Northern and Eastern Syria know this approach from Afrin, Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî in the form of patriarchal violence, rapes and kidnappings by the fascist Turkish state and its mercenaries only too well and will not forget it. This fact underlines that a free life will not be possible as long as the male-dominated mentality continues to exist. In order to end the existence of the patriarchal mindset, we must continue to educate and organize based on the memory of our fallen companions who sacrificed themselves to defeat this mentality and defend the revolution in this way. As women, we are closer to freedom today than ever before. If there is to be a life, it must be a free life. This freedom can only be achieved with the participation of all sectors of society.”

“The fact that the YPJ’s paradigm – “Free women are the basis of a free society” – is the right path to a free life is also shown by the international support for this idea. The participation of women from all over the world in the resistance for free life, first and foremost friend Lêgerîn (Alina Sanchez), highlights once again the importance of women’s values in building a society. The struggle of the YPJ in northeastern Syria will pave and enlighten the way to freedom for all women of this world,” said Ehmed.

After the speech, there was a cultural program, including a theater performance, folklore performances and a performance by a choir. The celebrations were concluded with joint Govend dances.


Salih Muslim: The conspiracy against Öcalan and the Kurdish people has failed

Salih Muslim, a member of the PYD co-presidency council, said: “Every moment Leader Apo continues to remain under those conditions is a great shame for us.”

  • Saturday, 13 Feb 2021, 11:02

Reminding that the conspiracy forces wanted to destroy the Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan after 1990, PYD co-presidency council Member Salih Muslim underlined that “the Kurdish people have reached the mechanism to develop democracy in the Middle East. Those forces could not tear the head off the body. That is why the aggravated isolation imposed on the Leader has been going on since 2015. They do not allow a single word of the Leadership to come out, because under all circumstances he continued to lead the people and the Movement.”

PYD co-presidency council member Salih Muslim spoke to ANF about the anniversary of the international conspiracy which led to the capture of Öcalan.

What was the purpose of the forces involved in the international conspiracy?

First of all, we condemn the international conspiracy against Leader Apo once again on the 22nd anniversary. It is a dark day for the Kurdish people. The Kurdish people’s leader is still in their hands, and the conspiracy continues as long as his captivity continues. In this sense, we have to do everything we can. The conspiracy was made against all Kurds and peoples of the region in the person of the Kurdish people’s leader. In time, it became clear what the purpose of the conspiracy was and who planned it. In fact, it had already been mentioned and evaluated by the Kurdish people’s leader many times.

The peoples of the region needed democracy and freedom. Hegemonic powers wanted to rule these peoples as they wanted. In the 90’s they were talking about the redesign / restructuring of the Middle East. They were working on a restructuring plan in 1995 to consolidate their interests. These forces feed on conflicts and contradictions between peoples to achieve their interests. In this way, they would strengthen their rule over the peoples. The Kurdish people, on the other hand, were experiencing an awakening with the Kurdish Freedom Movement and was leading this process.

The Kurdish people actually served as a dynamo force for the people’s struggle for freedom and democracy. Of course, it was leader Abdullah Öcalan who provided all this and brought the people to this situation. Therefore, they wanted to eliminate him. The leadership was leading the peoples with his idea, philosophy, discourse and ideology. For this reason, it was an obstacle to the plans of the hegemonic powers.

After 1980, all peoples started to rise up and joined him. The Kurdish people tied all their hopes to this revolution and acted accordingly. There was both ideas and ideology and a force to mobilize this idea and ideology; and that force was the Kurdish people. For this reason, they first wanted to eliminate the Kurdish people’s leader and then dismantle the organizational unity formed within the Kurdish people. In this way, they would be able to rule the people as they wanted.

The biggest defenders of this conspiracy were international forces. The Turkish state was given the duty to be the guardian in this conspiracy. At that time, we remember Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit saying, ‘They dropped a bomb in our lap, we don’t know what to do’. The laws on Imrali today are neither the laws of the Turkish state nor the laws of Europe; are special laws. In fact, we cannot even speak of laws, because there is no law. The conspiracy was not successful. They could neither eliminate Leader Apo, nor split the Kurdish people. The conspiracy did not achieve the desired result, but it goes on. Of course, we also see this and we are fighting in this direction. The struggle of the Kurdish people continues.

How did the Kurdish people’s leader play the role of spoiling this conspiracy?

After 1990, their only effort was to destroy Leader Apo. The Leader, while protecting the movement and himself, carried the struggle to such a position that the Kurdish people have reached the mechanism to develop democracy in the Middle East. The Leader managed to send his defences to the people through its lawyers and courts. The enemy could not tear the head off the body. That is why the aggravated isolation on the Leader has been going on since 2015. They do not allow a single word of the Leadership to come out, because despite all circumstances he continued to lead the people and the Movement.

Therefore, the conspiracy is still going on. They want to prevent the Kurdish people from using their dynamism to lead the struggle for freedom and democracy, they want to eliminate this force. They can’t do that, however. The revolution taking place in Rojava is obvious. The leadership’s democratic nation project is being put in practice in Rojava. This project seems to be the best model for the people. For this reason, they are getting more and more nervous and increase their attacks. These attacks are against the democratic nation project. The democratic nation project will develop not only in Rojava, but throughout Syria and the Middle East.

What should be done to protect the Rojava Revolution and its achievements?

Of course, the more you claim, protect and struggle, the more success you will achieve. This is possible with the organization of the people. The victory of Kobanê was the result of this. Although there was not the level of organization we would like, there was some degree of organization. For this reason, the Kobanê resistance took place, it was claimed, it was successful. The more we expand this organization, the more we can include other peoples, the more successful will be this struggle.

However, there are many forces in Syria: America, Russia and other states and powers. We should never stay away from them. It is necessary to have a political experience and a political view. You have to meet and be in dialogue with them for your own benefit, just as they give and take for their own benefit. You will give and receive according to your own opinion and philosophy, but your door will also be open to everyone. The North East Syrian administration, has not interrupted dialogue with anyone until now. If we are to be hostile, let’s know why we are hostile, and if we are going to be friends, the same applies.

Our top priority task is the organization of peoples and change in mentality. If we can achieve this, it is possible to live within the framework of the democratic nation project with our own culture, beliefs and colours. At the same time, we should not forget that every moment that Leader Apo spent in such conditions is a great shame for us.


Syrian Kurds ready to accept U.S.-led talks with Turkey, commander says

  • Feb 26 2021 01:06 Gmt+3
  • Last Updated On: Feb 28 2021 04:00 Gmt+3

General Mazlum Abdi, commander-in-chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spoke to Mutlu Çiviroğlu of Voice of America about recent developments in North and East Syria, often referred to as Rojava.

The transcript below has been translated and amended from MedyaNews for clarity.

I would like to ask your opinion about the new U.S. administration and especially your relations with U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS). I also want to ask about the operation you started against ISIS in Deir-Ez-Zor. And what situation is now in Rojava?

As you know, ISIS has not been defeated and their attacks continue. Recently, they targeted our civilian workers, and two women political leaders were martyred. As the attacks continued, we launched a major operation against ISIS.

The ISIS group consisted of six people and attacked our friends, we killed four of them, one of them managed to disappear and we caught the other one. Many other people were also arrested in the region. In general, I can say that the danger of ISIS continues and the terrorist organisation is trying to revive itself. They are coming from territory under the control of the Syrian regime, and Iraq. But with our operations with our allies from the US-led coalition against ISIS continue successfully.

The widespread opinion was that ISIS was defeated. Former U.S. President Donald Trump frequently made statements about the end of ISIS. What has happened now ISIS can launch attacks again? The U.S.-led coalition made statements that the alliance with you will continue. What role should U.S. politicians take against these attacks?

Coalition forces withdrew after Raqqa and Kobani were liberated from ISIS and the group benefited from this withdrawal and recovered. As I mentioned, they come to our region from territory under the control of the Syrian regime, and Iraq. The political future of the region has not yet been clarified, so ISIS benefits from that as well. In order to prevent the resurrection of ISIS, we need to first clarify the political future of the region. Coalition forces should continue their work. If they support the civilian administration in the region, we can wage a more effective fight against ISIS.

It is known that President Joe Biden and his administration are aware of the Kurdish problem. You said that the situation in Syria should be resolved politically. What are your political expectations from the new U.S. administration? What can this administration do differently from the past as part of the solution process in Syria?

We welcomed the new administration. We hope that the wrong policy in the past will be set right. We hope the United States will play an important role in the solution process in Syria. Following a solution, the Syrian regime should have a status in the regions we liberated from ISIS with the help of the coalition. The rights of the Kurdish people and the rights of other peoples in our region should be protected by law and the problems in Syria should be solved completely. We want Washington to conduct an effective policy on this issue.

You said that some mistakes were made under the previous administration. Trump’s desire to withdraw U.S. forces generated strong reactions in Washington and across America. What was the effect of the decision on you and on civilians?

There were some issues we dealt with during the previous administration. The people here, Kurds and Arabs, relied heavily on the U.S. forces, and this trust still exists. But this trust was damaged when the United States allowed Turkish forces to attack Serekaniye and Afrin.

We are trying to restore the trust between the U.S. forces and the people. Hundreds of thousands of people in Afrin had to leave their homes and now live as refugees. There were 90 to 95 percent Kurds in Afrin, but now that rate is around 30 percent. The Turkish state implemented demographic changes through Turkmen and Arabs.

Hundreds of thousands of people from Serakaniye and Gira Spa had to migrate during the attacks in 2019 and now they are staying in refugee camps and their condition is not good. They are waiting to return to their homeland. A new policy conducted in this new period should see people returned to their homes and regions returned to their natural state.

What can the new administration do concretely in a short time? If you had the opportunity to meet Biden, what would you request concretely?

We want the problems in the region to be resolved through dialogue. We ask the United States to assist this dialogue and to ensure peace in the region. We are waging a fight against terrorism here and they can support us against attacks from our neighbours, which is urgently needed. Unfortunately, the previous administration paved the way for threats to the region. This should not be repeated. In order for the struggle against ISIS to be effective, the United States has to provide support to the political administration here.

You talked about attacks from neighbours. Turkey says that Kurds in Syria pose a threat to its security. Are the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Syrian Kurds a threat to Turkey?

We have said this before, we pose no threat to Turkey. Turks know this better than we do. The Turkish state attacked our lands. We are not a party to the war waged by the Turkish state against other Kurdish forces. We want to solve the problems with the Turkish state through dialogue. I think the United States can play an effective role in advancing this dialogue, and we remain open to it.

So you are ready to respond positively to the Biden administration’s call for a dialogue with the Turkish state?

Of course. We have lands occupied by the Turkish state. We want to solve the problems with the Turks through dialogue, we are ready for dialogue and there is no serious obstacle to this. We want to solve problems without fighting.

White House National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan previously touched on the rights of the Kurds and called for a new settlement process between the Kurds and the Turkish government. Does the SDF see such a process positively? Would you take part in this process?

The truth is, the situation in all four parts of Kurdistan is interconnected. The Kurdish political movement has had a great impact in Turkey. It is difficult to have a solution in other parts without a solution in Turkey. The solution in Rojava is also related to the solution in Turkey. A solution initiated with (Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader) Abdullah Ocalan will have a positive impact on other parts, especially Rojava. This is the best method to solve the problem between the Kurds and the Turkish state.

Why do you think that such an initiative would be important for the safety of the American people? Why would the United States support a political solution in Syria?

If the problem is solved in our region, it will impact the world. We think that if the problem in northeast Syria is not solved, the problems in the whole country will not be solved. If there is no solution, ISIS and other elements will become stronger and continue to threaten the security of the American people.

I would like to ask about the situation of Yazidi Kurds and Christian minorities in the region. According to reports from Afrin, the situation is severe. What would you like to say about the current situation of Christians and Yazidis?

The representation of Christians and Yazidis in the SDF is high. ISIS and other Islamic radical groups attacked Yazidis and Christians. They were severely persecuted. They joined the SDF to protect themselves. Our people in Shengal were also subjected to persecution due to the attacks in Serakiniye and Afrin. Their villages were plundered and they faced the threat of genocide. Now they are living under pressure in other areas, some of them stay in refugee camps in our region. We know that Yazidi and Christian minorities are on the agenda of democratic organisations. They must protect the struggle of minorities.

You mention that the situation of the Kurds is interconnected. How are your relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (in Iraq)?

We have a close relationship with (Iraqi) Kurdistan, including growing commercial relations. The Kurdistan Regional Government (in Iraq) can provide political and commercial support to Rojava. They have (autonomous) status there and have experience and opportunities. Of course, Rojava needs their support. Some negotiations are happening, we want a stronger relationship. We know that the Turkish state wants Kurds to fight against each other. The Turkish state wants clashes between the forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) forces.

Despite this, the fact is that (Iraqi Kurdish) Peshmerga forces do not want to be part of such a game. We want the Kurdistan Regional Government to develop good relations with all parties, especially with Rojava.

How are your relations with the Syrian government? There have been some conflicts recently.

The Baathist regime has not changed its policy yet. They want the region to be same as before 2011 and don’t recognise Kurdish rights or the rights of other minorities. Our people immigrating from Shehba, Afrin, and Aleppo were encircled, placed under embargo, and had civilians arrested. We protected our people and then some problems occurred between us and the regime. We do not want to be at war with the Damascus government. We want to solve our problems through dialogue, for them to accept the rights of Kurds, and recognise our region.

Some criticised you and said you are unable to utilise the friendships of the United States and other great powers. How do you evaluate this criticism?

We get support from our American friends for the SDF and Rojava, and we are grateful for this. The United States has supported us in difficult times. U.S. politicians and soldiers supported our struggle. We are aware of some of our shortcomings. We want to be in close contact with the Unite States more frequently, especially in 2021. We want our political forces to negotiate with U.S. senators and other political forces. There were some bureaucratic obstacles in front of us, and we hope that those obstacles will be cleared.

Last year, the U.S. Congress invited you to visit. If there is an opportunity, do you have any plans to visit Washington?

We were at war at the time and there were some bureaucratic problems. But now is the time to discuss with the Americans. If I have the opportunity to meet with U.S. politicians, and if I can discuss the problems here with them face to face, I would of course be delighted to.

You were in contact with Trump several times. Have you ever had contact with Biden? Or do you expect contact in the coming period?

We talked with the new U.S. administration. I hope we will have a stronger relationship in the coming days and we can start talks at a higher level.

A new book titled”The Daughters of Kobani” was published recently. You also spearheaded the war in Kobani, which was important in letting the world know about Kurds. What would you like to say about these works and Kobani?

Many thanks to the author of the book, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. She also interviewed me when she came here. I told her my views on Kobani. Friends in the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), and SDF also helped her. She wrote a very important and valuable book. I think it is worthy of the women who resisted in Kobani. We are honoured with these works and wish them to increase.


The New York Times Whitewashes Turkey’s Occupation of Northern Syria: A Reality Check

by Debbie Bookchin

A recent article in the New York Times whitewashes the ethnic cleansing, displacement, and abuse of women that has brought misery to what was once a thriving, largely Kurdish region in Northern Syria. The Times piece was first published online as “Turkey’s Army Invaded Syria. Now, It’s a Lifeline for Millions There,” (February 16, 2021) before undergoing two headline changes and eventually landing on the front page of the print edition on February 17, 2021 as, “A Safe Zone That Can’t Protect Against Misery.” Violating basic principles of journalistic ethics—principles that include interviewing people on the receiving end of a war zone invasion—the article reads like a press release from the Turkish regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ignoring the enormous suffering endured by the thousands of original inhabitants of Afrin as a result of the Turkish-led occupation.

Prior to the Turkish invasion in January 2018, Afrin was part of the broader, Kurdish-led area known as Rojava or more formally, the Autonomous Administration of North and east Syria (AANES), whose fighters have been our best allies in the defeat of ISIS. The AANES, a region of about 5 million people, is a pluralist democracy that enshrines the rights of all ethnic minorities and has been especially effective in promoting women’s rights. Practices like forced marriage, polygamy, child marriage, and honor killings are outlawed. Laws mandate autonomous women’s councils, and the inclusion of at least 40 percent female representation in every legislative body, as well as female co-chairs in all administrative positions.

The invasion of Afrin by Turkey in January 2018, caused an estimated 180,000 people, mostly Kurdish, to flee their homes; most of them now live in internally displaced persons camps in other parts of Syria. Today, as Amnesty International has documented about those who remained: “Residents in Afrin are enduring a wide range of violations, mostly at the hands of Syrian armed groups that have been equipped and armed by Turkey (including) arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, and confiscation of property and looting to which Turkey’s armed forces have turned a blind eye.” The intentional destruction of Kurdish and Yezidi religious and architectural sites, forced demographic changes including relocation of Arab families to Afrin from other parts of Syria, and compulsory use of Turkish language, even in schools, have been widely documented and signal Turkey’s intent to annex the region permanently. 

The most egregious violations by Turkey have been against women. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria describes Turkey’s war on women in Afrin as creating a “pervasive climate of fear which [has] in effect confined them to their homes.” The 25-page report adds: “Women and girls have also been detained by [Turkish-backed] Syrian National Army fighters, and subjected to rape and sexual violence – causing severe physical and psychological harm.” To humiliate and demoralize the population, the Turkish-backed militias have engaged in such practices as forcing detained men to watch the gang-rape of a female minor, the report notes, saying it amounted to “torture.” Women’s rights researchers have documented that in 2020 alone, 88 women and girls whose identities are known were kidnapped by Turkish-backed armed groups, a rate of approximately one incident every four days. This included six minor girls of whom five were still missing as of January 1, 2021.

The Turkish invasion of Afrin has been a humanitarian catastrophe. No amount of propaganda from the authoritarian regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can erase the evidence on the ground of the grotesque human rights violations being perpetrated by Turkey, and it is shameful that the Times so completely missed the real story.

The AANES has long sought political recognition and autonomy within the borders of Syria. If the U.S. truly stands for human rights—and particularly women’s rights—it is time for the Biden administration to demand the withdrawal of Turkish forces from this area, grant the AANES political recognition, and press for the AANES to have a seat at the negotiating table on the future of Syria. 

Debbie Bookchin, a long-time journalist and author, is a member of the steering committee of the Emergency Committee for Rojava. She was in Rojava in March and April 2019.


Medya News speaks to SDF spokesperson and Catholic Assyrian Christian, Gabriel Kino

  • January 29, 2021

Mark Campbell

Mr Gabriel Kino, spokesperson of the SDF, is a Catholic Assyrian and was a leading representative of the Syriac Military Council (SMC) during the early days of the Syrian Civil War. The SMC was established to protect the Assyrian Christian people from the attacks and persecution from the Islamic State and Jihadist groups that had established themselves in Syria.

He oversaw the formation of the Syrian Democratic Front, which included a wide section of Syrian society, including different Arab tribal and secular groups, Assyrian, Yazidi and Syriac groups, and the YPG and YPJ defence forces.He led military campaigns with the SMC and SDF and was one of the leaders that led the military offensive to liberate the ISIS HQ of Raqqa and went on to accept the defeat of ISIS at Baghouz in Deir Ezzor.

He very kindly agreed to an interview for Medya News.

Kino Gabriel has personally witnessed the sacrifice of his people and forces in the fight against ISIS in Syria and knows, first hand, the consequences of any invasion and attack by Turkey and their affiliated radical Jihadist gangs for the hard-won religious freedoms that the Autonomous Adiministration of North and East Syria (AANES) are respected for by religious rights groups around the world. I began by asking him about the threats to religious freedom following the ISIS attacks near Hasakah.

Following the murders of Hind Latif Al Khadir (Head of the Economy committee of Til Shayir) and Sa’da Faysal Al Hermas (Co-president of Til Shayir People Council) by forces affiliated to ISIS, what threat does Turkey’s continuous attacks on North and East Syria pose to the religious freedoms enjoyed by the people of the SDF-controlled Autonomous Administration of North East Syria (AANES)?

Gabriel Kino: I think the threats that Turkey is making and the military operations that Turkey has launched so far in areas such as: Northern Syria; Afrin; around Manbij; the Northern countryside outside of Aleppo, and the area between Tal Abiyad and Ras al Ayn, has already threatened and reduced the religious freedoms of the peoples in these areas.

This reduction in religous freedoms is something they are already living through. The situation has already deteriorated for several religious groups in those areas occupied by Turkey including the Yazidis and the Christians including other prominent groups living in those areas, especially the Yazidis in the areas around Ras al Ayn and Afrin. And also the other Christian communities and groups based around Ras al Ayn and also other Kurdish Christian groups who were living in Afrin.

Of course, the continous threats made by Turkey are adding to the problem of people’s fears of a new military operation. And yes, I think, those threats is mostly problematic for those groups such as the Kurds, the Christians, the Yazidis the Armenians, and others who live in North and East Syria.

Of course, it also affects the Arab population also, although the other groups are mainly feeling more threatened because the Turkish military threats are directed specifically against them. On the other hand, the groups who are supported by Turkey, which are known for their terrorist and extremist radical mentality, they pose a threat for those groups in particular of North and East Syria in particular, we have witnessed what they have done. We have seen how these groups, including Jabat al Nusra and ISIS have been part of the military operations and attacks launched by Turkey and part of the groups and militias supported by Turkey.

It is widely recognised that the AANES has been able to build a tolerant inclusive society in NE Syria, unparalleled in the Middle East, promoting and enjoying religious freedom, gender equality, and human rights. Do you think that this model could be a positive example for the wider region?

Gabriel Kino: I think the democratic administration is really a unique example and experience in the Middle East. Different groups that previously had problems with each other have been able to come together, work together in order to make this administration work. This is completely unique, and I think we can take this positive example and look for where we can apply it to other parts of the Middle East and other parts of Syria so other groups can benefit.

I think this way of administration could potentially be a solution for the Syrian crisis in general. Of course, I think we need more work and more support in order to be more inclusive and more able to develop our political and administration experience, but again I think the work that has been done is great.

And with the support from democratic countries and Europe I think we can make the administration even better than what we have now.

Despite almost daily attacks by the Turkish state on NE Syria, especially recently around the town of Ain Issa, and the recent indiscriminate bombing of Tel Rifaat with civilian deaths, we do not hear condemnation from any of the anti-ISIS coalition members that the SDF have been fighting with, nor from Russia, which is supposed to be a guarantor of the ceasefire agreed last year. How do you interpret this silence?

Gabriel Kino: I think it is safe to say that it is not just about North and East Syria. I think it is the worst Syrian situation that has been governed so far by complicated relations and complicated intersections of global and regional interests/powers and governments involved in the Syrian crisis.

I think this is one of the main reasons there is so direct condemnations of Turkey for their attacks on North and East Syria.

Lastly, are you able to give us any indication on the progress of any talks with the Syria government on any possible negotiated agreement on autonomy and protections of religious freedoms, hard-won since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War?

Gabriel Kino: I think mainly and have to say that this is not my area of expertise or knowledge. I think it is a question for the political administration, but as far as I have information there isn’t really any progress in the talks.

There have been several attempts to have mutual talks or talks that were to be mediated by Russia but I think so far they have not worked out.

I think in the future we will see more progress and development but again I think this question is better suited for the Syrian Democratic Council or the Executive Council of the Administration of North and East Syria.


Syria: Are water supplies being weaponized by Turkey?

Water outages in Syria’s northeast are often leaving around half a million people without potable water. Is Turkey using the outages as a weapon to destabilize the region, as some claim?

Around 1 million people are suffering from water outages in the Al-Hasakah region

Around 1 million people in the Kurdish-governed region of Al-Hasakah in Syria’s northeast have again had their water supply cut off — as they have around 20 times in the past 12 months. 

“This is a humanitarian disaster,” Sara Kayyali, a Syria researcher at Human Rights Watch, told DW. As of this Sunday, some parts of the region are experiencing the eighth straight day without water.

Problems with the supply from the nearest water station, Alouk, have been growing since Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel proxies took charge in October 2019, after the so-called Operation Peace Spring that targeted the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the region. While the water station has been under Turkish control since then, it relies on the SDF-controlled Mabrouka Electricity Station for its power. Turkey’s objective behind Operation Peace Spring was to create a 30-kilometer (19-mile) wide “safe zone” under Turkish control inside Syria.

Water from tanks is not only up to three times more expensive but also of inferior quality, leading to diseases

“Since then, a cornerstone of humanitarian capabilities has been repeatedly cut off, and water outages create ramifications across the entire population,” Kayyali told DW. 

Syria claims that Turkey is behind the water outages, and accuses Turkey of having a major interest in destabilizing the region with the (mainly Kurdish-Syrian) population of around 1 million in cities such as Al-Hasakah, more than 45 villages and many official and unofficial refugee camps. Officially, Turkey doesn’t take any responsibility for the repeated outages and claims they are due to technical issues.

“I have to note that Turkey denies the accusation of cutting water to the region and says the Alouk station has merely been under maintenance and faces a lack of electricity from a dam not under Turkish control,” Guney Yildiz, a political analyst and IPC-Stiftung Mercator Fellow at the Centre for Applied Turkey Studies and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told DW.

“On the other hand, Turkey openly declares its intention [in Turkish media — Editor’s note] to eradicate the administrations set up in northeast Syria and is most probably willing to use various means to accomplish that. Destabilizing the region is part of that strategy,” Yildiz added. Watch video 02:08

Turkey’s public position on the northeastern Syrian administrations remains unclear. DW contacted the head of media and communications for the Turkish presidency, Fahrettin Altun, for clarification, but has received no response so far. 

“The threat of an independent Kurdish region near Turkey is an idea that may encourage more uprisings from within Turkey’s sizable Kurdish population, so Erdogan is looking to prevent a Kurdish state in Syria,” Charles Flynn, a researcher at the region’s Rojava Information Center, told DW.  

Flynn considers fears of an independent Kurdish state as one of three reasons. “With the creation of Turkish-backed militias that recruit from extremist groups such as ISIS, Erdogan can’t have these militants come home to Turkey and start operating. And economically, war is always good for the economy, and the Turkish economy hasn’t been doing so well with the US sanctions and the COVID-pandemic,” he said. 

Infografik Karte Kontrollierte Gebiete in Syrien durch die Türkei EN

Humanitarian crisis amid pandemic 

The latest overview from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Syria, dated January 12, reported 12,462 COVID-19 cases. Some 8,227 cases were reported from northeast Syria, as of January 9. 

“Access to water is all the more critical in [the] context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN continues to advocate to the relevant parties to ensure the provision of water from Alouk in line with international humanitarian law, and across Syria, to ensure that all civilians have access to basic services,” Danielle Moylan, OCHA’s spokesperson, told DW. Watch video 09:44

As early as last March, UNICEF’s representative in Syria, Fran Equiza, warned of the consequences of leaving 1 million people without water and relying on temporary solutions, particularly in times of a pandemic. “The interruption of water supply during the current efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease puts children and families at unacceptable risk. Hand-washing with soap is critical in the fight against COVID-19,” he said.

Temporary responses organized by local authorities and human rights organizations, such as tankers carrying water to surrounding villages, are no real substitute. The water is more expensive, of a lower quality and is not suitable for drinking. 

“This issue is difficult to solve without international intervention to end this human suffering for the people in those areas,” Taha Odeh Oglu, a researcher of Turkish affairs and international relations, told DW.

As of Friday afternoon, Alouk’s water station is reported to have started operating again. However, it will take up to three days for the water to arrive to the people in the Al-Hasakah region. 


Matthew Petti | From the February 2021 issue

Why Is America Still In Syria?

Trump brought chaos to a region already on the brink, and the unintended consequences of his actions will reverberate for years to come.


(U.S. soldiers patrol near an oil production facility in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah Province; Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

In September 2020, a Syrian rebel group called the Hamza Division showed up in an unexpected place: the disputed post-Soviet territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, 600 miles from Aleppo. The rebels had been offered $1,500 per month each to fight for Azerbaijan against Armenia in the two countries’ border war over that disputed territory, several different news outlets reported.

Sayf Bulad, commander of the Hamza Division, has an interesting past. He served as a commander in a CIA-backed rebel group, appeared in pro–Islamic State propaganda, trained with the U.S. military, and fought other U.S.-backed rebel groups in Syria on behalf of the Turkish government. Now he was helping two former Soviet republics fight each other for money.

Bulad’s story is a symbol of the chaotic U.S. policy toward Syria and its unintended consequences.

U.S. policy toward Syria was torn between two often-clashing goals during the Obama administration: The CIA and State Department were focused on ending the Assad family’s decadeslong rule, while the U.S. military was trying to crush violent religious extremists such as the Islamic State.

President Donald Trump inherited this awkwardly stitched-together policy and added in an element of chaos. The president himself said he wanted to end “endless wars” and claimed he was ready to pull U.S. forces out of Syria at the first opportunity. But he hired a collection of hawkish advisers who thought of Syria as a battlefield on which to make Iran and Russia bleed.

“He hasn’t been able to bring American troops home, because his own bureaucracy resists him,” says Aaron Stein, director of research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “He never set up a bureaucratic process to actually implement what he wants to do.”

The result has been a disaster.

In 2018 and 2019, Trump ordered U.S. forces out of Syria, only to walk back the order both times. The Kurds have been left in a deadly limbo, unable to count on U.S. protection from Turkey but also blocked from looking to outside powers for help. Meanwhile, American troops have found themselves in increasingly dangerous confrontations with their Russian counterparts in the country.

U.S. policy has not only failed to stop the conflict; it has helped prolong it, leaving millions of Syrians at the mercy of White House palace intrigue. President-elect Joe Biden will have to find a way to extract the United States from Syria without reigniting the civil war—or getting sucked back in.

‘The Time Has Come’

The United States began backing Syrian rebels because many in the Obama administration believed that they could help quickly bring down an oppressive tyrant. Instead, the U.S. intervention fed into a bloody, yearslong international conflict.

U.S.-Syrian hostility dates back decades. Syria is a close ally of Russia and Iran and helped support the insurgents during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. But direct U.S. involvement in Syrian internal politics began with the Arab Spring.

As in other Arab countries at the time, Syrian activists rose up in protest against corruption and political repression. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad cracked down with brute force. Part of the Syrian army deserted, and the uprising became a full-blown civil war.

U.S. officials “looked at Bashar al-Assad as a hapless dictator who was not going to survive any of this,” says Frederic Hof, who served as an envoy for Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations at the time. President Barack Obama declared in August 2011 that “the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” although he also made it clear that “the United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria.”

Nevertheless, in an effort to hasten Assad’s end, the Obama administration imposed economic sanctions banning nearly all trade with Syria. The Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush administrations had previously imposed some sanctions on the Syrian government for supporting terrorism, but the new sanctions put the entire country under a blockade.

Other countries lined up more forcefully behind the anti-Assad opposition. Saudi Arabia, seeking to hurt Assad’s ally Iran, sent arms to the rebels. So did Turkey and Qatar, who saw the uprisings of the Arab Spring as a way to increase their own influence.

In 2013, Obama gave the CIA a green light to join in directly arming Syria’s rebels. Many details of the “Timber Sycamore” program remain classified, but it reportedly cost billions of dollars over four years. Assad’s forces lost control of much of the country in this time.

Hof and Robert Ford, the last U.S. envoy in Syria, claim that the U.S. arms program was not a decisive factor. It was “overwhelmed by support provided by regional actors such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey,” Hof says. Other experts, including Stein, disagree. In particular, they say, U.S.-made anti-tank rockets played a key role in helping the rebels push back the Syrian military.

But the regime did not fall.

“Rather than Bashar capitulating,” Stein explains, “he said, ‘I’m going to the Russians and the Iranians'” for help. “It was the boomerang of the success of the CIA program.”

Ford had believed early in the conflict that Assad could not win a war of attrition—and that the opposition could convince Assad’s allies in Russia and Iran to stay out of the fight. This prediction turned out to be incorrect. Iran soon began sending military advisers, volunteers, and mercenaries to back Assad. By late 2015, Russian jets and combat troops were also in the country.

“We made a terrible, terrible analytical mistake,” says Ford.

Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime eventually retook most of Syria’s major cities through years of brutal siege warfare. As many as 200,000 civilians died in the process, in addition to the tens of thousands who perished in Assad’s prisons during this period, according to the pro-opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights and the British-funded Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The chaos also allowed religious fundamentalists to take a prominent role in the Syrian opposition. Syrian nationalist rebels vetted and backed by the United States fought alongside sectarian Islamist groups.

“We effectively created auxiliaries to these hardline groups that were taking territory,” Stein says. “Even though the hardliners were smaller in number, they were more effective.”

These “openly sectarian figures…just scared the hell out of Syrian minorities, who as a result stuck with Assad,” explains Hof, who resigned from the government in 2012 and now teaches at Bard College.

Religious fundamentalists became especially powerful in Eastern Syria, where U.S. military intelligence warned in August 2012 that Al Qaeda in Syria was going to “declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria,” according to a declassified report.

At the same time, Syria’s long-oppressed Kurdish minority was starting to take up arms. They were led by a left-wing guerrilla group called the People’s Defense Units (YPG).

The YPG began to clash with Al Qaeda, whose Syrian branch broke off to form the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in early 2014. The Kurdish militants sought autonomy for their region under a secular system of self-rule, while Al Qaeda and later the Islamic State wanted to establish a pan-Islamic theocracy—just as the U.S. military intelligence report had warned.

U.S. diplomats were flying blind when it came to the region, according to Ford, now a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. American intelligence agencies had not even been able to provide him with “two pages” on the political dynamics of northeastern Syria. But pressure was building on Obama to act, especially as the Islamic State executed journalists on tape and began a genocide against the Yazidi minority in neighboring Iraq.

The administration did not really understand which factions it could work with in Syria, according to Alexander Bick, then the director of Syrian affairs at the White House National Security Council. But eventually, the American military saw that the YPG was drawing Islamic State fighters “like a magnet” to the besieged northern Syrian city of Kobanê in late 2014. The United States opened a line of communication with the Syrian Kurds through intermediaries in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the YPG began helping direct U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State.

At the same time, the U.S. military was trying to work with other Syrian rebel groups. It spent $500 million on a program to train and equip a new army of pro-America, anti-Assad fighters. The results were disastrous. The first batch of fighters was quickly defeated and robbed by Al Qaeda in July 2015. Other alumni of the program, including the Hamza Division, went on to fight as mercenaries throughout the region—turning up, eventually, in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“We would hear, ‘I have 5,000 men’…and it turned out there would be like 20,” said former Middle East envoy Brett McGurk during a October 2019 speech at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Or the forces that we wanted to work with were so riddled with extremists that our military repeatedly said, ‘There’s no way we can work with these people.'”

Finally, the U.S. helped the YPG form a coalition with Assyrian Christian and Arab fighters called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). With minimal U.S. involvement—mostly in the form of military advisers and air support—the coalition sliced the Islamic State into pieces.

SDF fighters found themselves at the gates of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital, by October 2016.

Obama had launched two interventions in Syria. The first, a covert attempt to overthrow Assad, failed miserably. The second, the war against the Islamic State—which sought to fix problems partially created by the first—succeeded only when the administration set limited goals, employed modest means, and relied on a campaign led by locals.

‘Orderly Transfer of Power’

Trump may have criticized America’s interventions abroad during the 2016 election, but his administration picked up almost exactly where Obama had left off. McGurk stayed on as the White House’s point man for military operations in Syria and Iraq, and Trump signed off on his roadmap, with a few important adjustments.

The new administration launched airstrikes against pro-Assad forces in April 2017 and April 2018 in response to chemical weapons attacks on civilians. Trump saw himself as reestablishing a “red line” that Obama had muddled.

Trump also started backing the YPG, who were still the most effective fighters in the SDF, more directly. American weapons flowed to the Kurds, while about 400 U.S. Marines joined the front lines in Raqqa, the first-ever conventional U.S. boots on the ground in Syria. “Donald Trump wanted to end the war in Syria as fast as possible,” says Stein. “That’s why he signed off on arming the YPG directly.”

The international coalition declared victory at Raqqa in October 2017 and moved on to hunt down the remnants of the Islamic State in the oil-rich, Arab-majority rural province of Deir al-Zor, Syria. The campaign there, which dragged on for more than a year, was temporarily put on pause when Turkey invaded the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin in January 2018. American officials described the Kurds’ mini-war with Turkey as a “distraction,” but the conflict would later become a major headache for the United States.

Trump then began to talk about withdrawing from Syria—while at the same time escalating against Iran.

In April 2018, the president appointed longtime hawk John Bolton as his national security adviser and promoted CIA Director Mike Pompeo to secretary of state. Both saw Iran rather than the Islamic State as America’s greatest enemy in the Middle East. They began a “maximum pressure” campaign meant to roll back Iranian influence across the region, which included forcing Iranian troops out of Syria.

Pompeo put two hawkish officials in charge of Syria policy: James Jeffrey, a veteran cold warrior who had served as U.S. ambassador to both Turkey and Iraq, and Joel Rayburn, a retired Army officer who had helped advise the U.S. military “surge” in Iraq.

McGurk supported brokering a peace deal between the Syrian Kurds and the Russians, but he met opposition from the new faction of Iran hawks in the administration. Jeffrey even asked the Kurds not to make a deal with Assad, telling them to rely instead on U.S. protection, the Daily Beast later reported. The hawkish faction also saw the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces as a “terrorist group,” as Bolton put it.

The YPG was close to an insurgent group in Turkey called the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Ironically, U.S. diplomats had predicted confidently in November 2007 that the Syrian Kurds would “not rally around the extremist tendencies of the PKK,” according to a cable later published by WikiLeaks. But in fact, both the PKK’s “libertarian socialist” ideology and actual PKK veterans held enormous influence over the Syrian Kurdish rebellion.

By 2018, Turkey was extremely unhappy with the growing power of the SDF, which it saw as an extension of the PKK. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan got Trump on the phone to complain about it in December 2018. Trump, eager to fulfill a campaign promise to bring American troops home, agreed to pull U.S. forces out of Syria, which would leave Turkey free to invade. Photo: The nearly deserted Syrian city of Kafranbel, south of Idlib, during a pro-regime offensive; Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

That decision set off a bomb within the administration. Many officials felt blindsided by the sudden announcement and anxious about “betraying” the SDF to Turkey. McGurk quit in frustration. So did Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Bolton, Pompeo, Jeffrey, and Rayburn stayed, however. The Iran hawks were now in full control.

The hawks began to work on an agreement called the “safe zone,” a project to let everyone have a cake and eat it, too. The deal would bring Turkish troops into northern Syria as part of an international peacekeeping force, which could push the Kurdish YPG away from the border. American forces would stay in the short term to help implement the plan.

“While we played this string out, or developed a better idea, which might take months, we had a good argument for maintaining U.S. forces,” Bolton later wrote in his memoir. He added that he had hoped an “orderly transfer of power” from U.S. forces to Turkish troops would prevent Assad, Iran, and Russia from retaking northeastern Syria.

Turkey and the United States finally agreed to a deal in August 2019, and the SDF coalition dismantled its fortifications along the border with Turkey.

Trump’s advisers were hoping they could keep U.S. forces in Syria to fight Assad without angering Turkey—all while appearing to bring American troops home. Bolton wrote in his memoir that he was “deliberately vague” to both Trump and the media when it came to the number of Americans that would be necessary to implement the safe zone.

In an interview he gave to DefenseOne shortly after resigning from the State Department following the 2020 election, Jeffrey admitted that he had been “playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there.” As part of that effort, U.S. military leaders and Bolton pushed to count U.S. forces at Al-Tanf, a remote desert base far from the SDF-controlled zone, separately from the rest of the U.S. deployment to Syria.

Trump wanted out of Syria, but instead of organizing an orderly withdrawal, his advisers tried to take the fight against Assad out of the public eye.

As part of an effort to resurrect the anti-Assad rebellion, Trump administration officials had pushed the SDF to work with Turkish-backed Islamists against Assad. The effort didn’t go well. In one tense September 2019 meeting, according to a report from The National Interest, Rayburn screamed and broke a writing utensil in frustration after Syrian Kurdish officials refused to join forces with the Islamic hardliners.

Erdoğan, meanwhile, was publicly agitating to expand the safe zone. He got his wish and more during an October 6, 2019, call with Trump, when the U.S. president gave him a green light to invade Syria outright. It remains unknown what exactly the two leaders said, but the White House announced immediately afterward that “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria.”

American forces had dismantled the SDF’s anti-tank fortifications as part of the safe zone deal two months earlier, rendering the Syrian Kurds defenseless. Now the United States was ushering in Turkish tanks and Turkish-backed militants.

Over 100,000 Syrians fled the invasion. They had seen the same forces unleash chaos, mayhem, and ethnic violence on Afrin a year earlier.

“I’ve met numerous people who were displaced when Turkey invaded in October [2019] and personally blame Trump,” writes Amy Austin Holmes, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson -International Center for Scholars, from Syria.

The Trump administration was willing to allow Turkey to invade northern Syria. But the administration did not want the Syrian Kurds to turn to Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime for help, which would undo years of efforts to roll back the influence of Assad and his allies. U.S. policy, in other words, was not only to refuse to protect the Kurds but also to deny them protection from others.

A U.S. diplomat tried to convince SDF leader Mazloum Abdi to hold off on asking Russia to step in. Turkish forces were only going to move 30 kilometers into Syria and the invasion would stop after that, he claimed.

The Kurdish general was not having it. “You will not protect us and you won’t let anyone else protect us. Your presence has turned everyone else in Syria against us,” Abdi responded, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable leaked to CNN. “Either you stop this bombing [by Turkey] on our people now, or move aside so we can let in the Russians.”

The SDF signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Assad regime soon after, allowing Assad’s troops to join the fight against the Turkish invasion. Russia and Turkey then agreed to a safe zone of their own—along the same lines as the U.S. proposal—and the Syrian Kurds watched as Russian troops moved into their region as protection against the Turkish Army.

The Trump administration had managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead of planning for an orderly U.S. withdrawal and encouraging the Syrian Kurds to negotiate a peace deal with other factions in the country, Trump’s advisers tried to use the SDF to continue their anti-Assad campaign. Their efforts ended not with a Kurdish-led rebellion against Assad but with the Kurds looking to Assad and his allies to shield them from their archrival Turkey.

‘Take the Oil’

Trump’s pullout of Americans from Syria following his deal with Erdoğan was short-lived. U.S. troops eventually moved back in, including to areas near the Turkish border now guarded by the Russians. Trump repeatedly claimed that their mission was to “take the oil” or guard the “oil region.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) and other hawks had used the promise of oil profits to sell Trump on their plans to keep U.S. forces in the region, according to Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, which lobbies for the Syrian opposition in Washington.

“If you want to feed the baby medicine, you put the medicine in candy or something. That’s what happened with the oil,” Moustafa told me in November 2019. “It’s like, ‘Oh, you want to take the oil? Yeah, take the oil. We’ve got to take the oil.’ So that ended up becoming the reason that he would keep anyone there.”

The actual oil in the region is not worth much. Syrian petroleum production was falling even before the civil war, and the Islamic State at its peak only made about $1.5 million per day from Deir al-Zor’s wells.

But its location is important. Deir al-Zor lies right along the line of contact between the SDF and the Assad regime. By holding that “oil region” as well as the U.S. base at Al-Tanf, U.S. forces can surround Iran’s military supply lines on two different sides. This makes Iranian forces in Syria vulnerable to an attack by U.S. forces or allies.

Assad is also sensitive about the oil, as his regime has had trouble meeting its people’s fuel needs. Russian mercenaries attacked the SDF on Assad’s behalf in February 2018 to try (unsuccessfully) to take the oil fields in Deir al-Zor.

To make matters more complicated, foreign companies are forbidden from dealing with the oil under European and U.S. economic sanctions. So the Syrian Kurdish oil ministry has been forced to rely on smugglers, whose leaky storage tanks and backyard refineries have become a serious threat to public health.

The situation looked as if it could change in April 2020, when the U.S. Treasury Department issued a special sanctions exemption to a little-known company called Delta Crescent Energy. Jeffrey and Rayburn then met with politicians in neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan to discuss opening a route for Delta Crescent Energy to export the oil, The New Republic later reported.

Graham and Pompeo finally went public with those discussions during a Senate hearing in July 2020. “I talked to General Mazloum yesterday, with the SDF,” Graham said. “Apparently they’ve signed a deal with an American oil company to modernize the oil fields in northeastern Syria. Are you supportive of that?”

“We are,” Pompeo responded. “The deal took a little longer, senator, than we had hoped, and now we’re in implementation.”

Delta Crescent Energy partner James Cain told Politico that the company’s goal was “to get the production back up to where it was before the civil war and sanctions.” But there was a problem: The Syrian Kurds, who control that land, were not completely on board. Ahed Al Hendi, a Syrian-American activist who works with the SDF, called Pompeo’s announcement premature. Abed Hamed al-Mehbash, the Arab co-chairman of the SDF’s civilian administration, told local media only that he planned to “study requests by many Russian and American companies.”

Mazloum Abdi, the Kurdish general, later confirmed to Al-Monitor that Delta Crescent Energy was involved in northeastern Syria but said that talks were “advancing slowly.”

The SDF knew that announcing an oil deal with America—and no one else—would be provocative. Indeed, it has been. Assad’s foreign ministry quickly denounced the agreement as a scheme to “steal Syria’s oil” and “an assault against Syria’s sovereignty.”

In August 2020, an Iranian-backed militia fired rockets at a U.S.-controlled oil field in Syria. That same week, pro-Assad gunmen got into a shootout with U.S. troops at a checkpoint in Qamishli, near the Turkish border.

The week after, a Russian armored truck rammed into a U.S. humvee, injuring at least four Americans. Russian and U.S. troops in Syria had seen tense encounters with each other before, but this was the first violent clash between the two armies.

Russia and Iran did not tie the clashes directly to the oil deal, but the message was clear: A more entrenched U.S. presence in Syria would meet harder resistance.

According to a September 2020 report by Eva Kahan at the Institute for the Study of War, Russia, Iran, and Turkey have also been secretly backing Arab insurgents against the SDF in Deir al-Zor. Russia hopes to use the instability “to compel senior SDF leadership to accept a new deal in Syria that constrains U.S. forces or ejects them,” Kahan wrote. In other words, the continued U.S. presence has induced Russia to play good-cop, bad-cop with the Kurds.

Several local leaders have already died in mysterious shootings. In response to the violence, U.S. forces have beefed up their presence in Syria, deploying Bradley Fighting Vehicles and advanced radar systems in September.

One bad decision after another has led to the current situation. The failed U.S. effort to take out Assad helped open the space for the Islamic State, which was only defeated when the U.S. pivoted to supporting Kurdish forces. Instead of allowing the Kurds to consolidate their gains and negotiate with Assad, the U.S. tried to use them as proxies against Assad and to make a quick buck from their oil. The situation has angered both Turkey and Assad’s allies, causing them to set aside their differences and turn their sights on pushing out the U.S. presence.

National security officials kept pushing grandiose goals even as U.S. leverage crumbled away. “This isn’t a quagmire,” Jeffrey said at a May 2020 event at the Hudson Institute. “My job is to make it a quagmire for the Russians.” He later praised “the stalemate we’ve put together” as “a step forward” in the region.

As Rayburn explained at a June 2020 event hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Trump officials think they can use sanctions to “deny the [Assad] regime access to international financial markets until a political solution can be reached.” Pro-Assad and opposition negotiators have been meeting in Geneva to work on a new Syrian constitution, although the SDF and the Kurds have never been included in those talks.

But Ford—the former U.S. envoy who learned the hard way that Iran and Russia were unlikely to abandon their interests in Syria—is skeptical that U.S. economic sanctions will be enough to pressure Assad into accepting anything. “I think we are trying to do something with tools that will not deliver the results we want,” he says. “They can sanction the hell out of the Assad government. He doesn’t give a shit about his people!”

Syrians have faced massive inflation, fuel shortages, and breadlines over the past few months, in addition to a spiralling coronavirus crisis. (A banking crisis in nearby Lebanon is partially to blame for their woes.) But the U.S. is unlikely to lift the economic pressure: Congress passed even more sanctions aimed at deterring foreign reconstruction investment under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019.

The Biden administration may not change other aspects of the strategy, either.

Antony Blinken, the president-elect’s nominee for secretary of state, gave a speech to the Meridian Group in May 2020 outlining his approach toward Syria. “Any of us—and I start with myself—who had any responsibility for our Syria policy in the last administration has to acknowledge that we failed,” he said. “We failed to prevent horrific loss of life. We failed to prevent massive displacement of people, internally in Syria and of course externally as refugees. It’s something that I will take with me for the rest of my days.”

And yet his prescription was more of the same.

Blinken claimed that the United States still has “points of leverage,” including troops on the ground near oil-rich regions and the ability to marshall resources for Syria’s reconstruction, that could lead to better outcomes next time around. He argued that U.S. leaders should demand “some kind of political transition that reflects the desires of the Syrian people” and said that it was “virtually impossible” to imagine normalizing relations with Assad’s government.

Hof, another Obama administration alum, believes that the United States can turn the SDF-held zone into “an attractive alternative to Assad” for all Syrians. U.S. diplomats could push for this new government to take over Syria’s seat at the United Nations while U.S. forces stay to carry out a “stabilization” mission and “keep the Iranians and the regime and the Russians out.” (“We also have the ability to respond militarily to the regime with great effect and force if it resumes a program of mass civilian homicide,” Hof says. “We can do a lot of damage with cruise missiles.”)

But Ford wants America to focus on the “only really useful things we can do” at this point: to help refugees fleeing the civil war and to “negotiate with the Russians some kind of deal” that would allow the Kurds to govern themselves in peace.

Ford has recently taken a liking to the writing of Robert McNamara, the U.S. secretary of defense during the Vietnam War who later became a critic of the war effort. “Vietnam was a problem that ultimately we could not fix,” Ford says. “That’s kind of where I’m at with Syria right now.”


A Year for Building Stability and Peace

By: Sinam Mohamad On: January 15, 2021

Sinam Sherkany Mohamad is the Co-Chief of the US Mission of the Syrian Democratic Council. She is a Kurdish woman from Afrin, Syria.

During the year 2020, North and East Syria faced a wide variety of challenges — war, occupation, terrorism, and instability, a sharp economic downturn, a global pandemic, and more. However, we have met these challenges with determination and commitment to our people. We have acted not only for our own people, but to protect the world from the global threat of ISIS terrorism, and to act as a beacon of democracy and stability in the Middle East. Our hearts still beat with the desire to bring democracy, peace, stability, equality, and prosperity to the Middle East. We are still standing — it is the strength of the people of North and East Syria that is the rock we stand on.

That’s why 2021 is the year that the people of North and East Syria are calling upon the international community for inclusion in talks on the future of Syria. We ask to be recognized as a key player in the solution to the Syrian crisis. We are one-third of Syria. We call at minimum for the inclusion of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) in the UN peace talks mandated by UNSCR 2254, as well as in the Syrian Constitutional Committee.

We have consistently acted through the Syrian crisis to benefit our people, the Middle East, and the world. We ask now for a seat at the table, a stable place in global coalitions, and acknowledgment as an indispensable part of a democratic Syria.

The challenges that we have overcome this past year in North and East Syria have been brutal. While most of the world faced the pandemic, we have faced the onset of Coronavirus with little to no trained personnel, few medical facilities, and a lack of testing machines and personal protective equipment. Our health infrastructure had been left in disarray following a decade of war and instability. But with an early unified response, including stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions, and public sanitization, we have kept our case numbers much lower than they may have been.

We have endured continued attacks and human rights violations by the Turkish military and Turkish-backed militias, while the rest of the world looked the other way, unable to admit that Turkey might commit these atrocities. The ongoing Turkish occupation of our region — Afrin, Serekaniye, and Gire Spi — has come with theft, murder, kidnapping, and other violations. Although Turkey may be losing favor in the West, it is still able to gain enough currency to continue to wage genocide and territorial expansionism against the Kurds and the people of North and East Syria. The people of North and East Syria have weathered Turkish attacks with the same determination with which we defeated the ISIS “caliphate.”

In 2020, our economy crashed as never before. The Syrian pound remains low. Our people are facing even higher rates of poverty. Hunger and food insecurity are soaring. We are committed to overcoming these challenges, and the administration of North and East Syria is working every day to provide food aid and water, stabilize prices of basic goods and necessities, and secure the medicines and nutrition that our people need.

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) is an authority governing about one-third of Syrian territory and five million people. The AANES provides daily services to millions of Syrians including education, electricity, water, sanitation, and security in North and East Syria. Its security forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are a steadfast ally to the United States and a partner to the US State Department’s Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Known in the West for its Kurdish Protection Units and women fighters, the SDF’s defeat of the ISIS “caliphate” was announced by President Trump in March 2019 and celebrated across the world.

So it is time that we were included in talks on our future. Inclusion in talks on the future of Syria will help us build upon our mission for a democratic Syria, receive humanitarian aid, expand the capabilities of our governance, and reduce the harm and suffering many are going through. It will help us rebuild after a decade of war and instability, much of which occurred as we battled the ISIS “caliphate” and kept the rest of the world safe from its violence and oppression. It will help us build momentum to recover our territory from the Turkish occupation, restore human rights and dignity to our region, and allow displaced people and refugees to finally return home.

We wish for our people, at the end of a long and bitter decade of hardship, to have the kind of stability and certainty they need to pick up the pieces of their lives. In many cases, these are pieces that they left scattered in all four corners of the world, as people became refugees elsewhere. They are still our people, whether they still reside in North and East Syria or whether they return there only in their dreams at night. So many long to return. Inclusion in talks on our future will give many the assurance they need to plan their return trip.

We wish to bring true democracy to a unified Syria, a Syria that respects the diverse communities, ethnicities, and religions of its people, a Syria that upholds equality, women’s rights, and human rights. We call for a decentralized Syria that allows communities to have power over their local governance, elected officials, and shared resources.

We are a necessary part of a peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict, we are a force for democracy that is growing brighter each day, and we are an integral part of the future of Syria.


Is the Islamic State coming back?

In the past few days there have been a series of large-scale ISIS attacks in Syria. Is the Islamic State coming back?

  • Thursday, 14 Jan 2021, 09:51

After the many attacks in Syria and Iraq in the last few days, the question for many is whether these attacks announce a comeback of the Islamic State or whether there are other factors that prompted this increase.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) ended the territorial rule of the so called ‘caliphate’ with the liberation of Baghouz in March 2019. Even if thousands of ISIS jihadists have been arrested, underground, clandestine structures have formed in Iraq and Syria. In provinces such as Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa and Hama in Syria and Kirkuk, Baghdad and Anbar in Iraq, these networks have been carrying out attacks from time to time. The frequency and quality of these attacks has increased significantly in the last few days.

Dozens of attacks since early December

Since December 2020, the Islamic State has carried out eight attacks in Deir ez-Zor, eight in Raqqa, ten in Hama, five in Homs and two in the Aleppo area. Shortly before the end of the year, ISIS bloodiest attack took place, leaving at least 28 Damascus soldiers dead on the road between Deir ez-Zor and Palmyra. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) speaks of dozens of Syrian government soldiers and militia killed in ISIS attacks in the desert near Hama.

Damascus is not doing anything serious against ISIS

The presence of the Islamic State in the desert to the west of Deir ez-Zor, i.e. in the area under the control of the Assad regime, has never been a secret. However, as it is, the Damascus regime and its supporters have never waged a serious fight against the Islamic State presence there. According to observers, this was because of the plan to put pressure on US-backed groups in the Tanef region on the Jordanian border. It must also be noted that this region is on the route from Bukemal, the main route of Iranian militias to Iraq, something which led to a wide range of speculations.

Turkey’s Role in Reviving ISIS

The biggest factor that led to the resurgence of ISIS, however, was the invasion carried out by the Turkish state in northern Syria. Following this invasion, many ISIS members withdrew to the areas under Turkish rule. Many of them escaped from internment camps and prisons in northern Syria with the help of Turkey. The presence and reorganization of the Islamic State in the areas under Turkish control is an open secret.

SDF operations continued

The SDF carried out targeted operations against the Islamic State networks and were able to discover and neutralise several jihadist cells, especially in the Deir ez-Zor region. In 2020, two large-scale SDF operations and 25 targeted operations against these cells took place in Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa provinces. Hundreds of alleged Islamic State members were arrested and large quantities of weapons were confiscated.

The areas under ISIS control

Siyamend Elî, press officer at the YPG, said in an interview with ANF that ISIS was tolerated by various forces involved in Syria, precisely in the places where the attacks are taking place, and added: “After the neutralisation of ISIS in Baghouz, it continued to exist mainly in al-Bukamal, Deir ez-Zor, Palmyra and Hama. In fact, some forces have allowed ISIS to continue to exist there in order to be able to use it as a tool in the future.”

ISIS used this phase as a time for training and reorganising and also to change its strategy, said the YPG representative adding: “ISIS is now carrying out many more surprise attacks and has increased its forces.”

Russia focused on Northern Syria

Elî recalled that Russia and Iran came to Syria allegedly “to protect Syrian territory”, but that both forces are not concerned with rural areas, but rather focused on “cities that are strategically important for them.”

Elî said: “Russia’s concentration on Til Temir and Ain Issa, and on Northern Syria in general, gave ISIS the opportunity to carry out these attacks.” He underlined that ISIS is not a priority for Russia. Israel’s attacks on Iranian armed forces have led to an increased of attacks by ISIS in these regions, said the press spokesman for the YPG, noting that the regime would not be able to wage war without Iran and Russia.

“Coordination with the SDF necessary”

Elî said: “Russia and the regime should coordinate with the SDF in the fight against ISIS and the small groups that appear under different names. If this does not happen, the situation east of the Euphrates will become very serious. That is why ISIS has been able to act by surprise against Russia and the regime.”

The attacks put a strain on the regional balance of power

Journalist Nazım Daştan is also following developments in the region closely and does not see the increase in ISIS attacks as a coincidental development. To speak about a revival of ISIS is “still a little too early” but, said Dastan: “ISIS is coming to the surface again. Even if I don’t think this will happen on a large scale, it can put a strain on the balance of power in the region. The attacks may increase further in the coming days.”

“The international powers neutralize each other”

Daştan pointed out that the United States and Russia continued to try to define their territories and thus determine the borders in Syria. This results in a space from which ISIS can carry out its attacks. Daştan said: “We can see this as a process in which the international powers and regional powers measure each other anew for the year 2021.”

As for the position of ISIS, Daştan added: “It will be difficult to revive such a discredited force on an earlier scale. However, ISIS can use this process, in which international forces are actually busy weakening each other, as an opportunity for its reorganization and strengthening.”


ISIS increases attacks in Raqqa as Turkish-backed forces shell Ain al-Issa

One expert noted that the Russia and Syrian regime attempts to push the SDF to withdraw from the Ain al-Issa area and shelling by Turkish-backed rebels is “giving ISIS cells greater ability to conduct attacks deep behind the SDF lines.”

Wladimir van Wilgenburg  January 12 2021   02:05

On Sunday, a civilian was injured in an improvised explosive device bombing in Raqqa city (Photo: SOHR)
On Sunday, a civilian was injured in an improvised explosive device bombing in Raqqa city (Photo: SOHR)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The so-called Islamic State has claimed seven terrorist attacks in Syria’s Raqqa province in the past ten days, amid increased shelling of Kurdish-led security forces by Turkish-backed groups in the town of Ain al-Issa.

The attacks terrorist attacks included improvised explosive device (IEDs) bombings and hit-and-run assaults against the Internal Security forces (ISF), also known as Asayish, and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) both inside Raqqa city and the province’s countryside.

The Raqqa Asayish has confirmed at least two of the incidents. According to the ISF, one of the attacks occurred on January 6, in eastern rural of Raqqa, resulting in the deaths of two of their Arab members. Another one took place on January 4, later claimed by the Islamic State inside the city, resulted in the injury of several civilians.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) also reported that a civilian was injured in an IED explosion that targeted a vehicle in the al-Malahi area of Raqqa city on Sunday.

“The considerable increase in attacks in Raqqa is a significant indicator of ISIS’s rising capability of conducting attacks beyond its active operating zone of Deir Ez-Zor,” Mohammad Ibrahim, a Syrian researcher and analyst who focuses on northeast Syria, told Kurdistan 24.

“ISIS repeatedly proves its swift resilience and ability to hit various regions whenever it finds security gaps. The ISF and SDF are currently hugely distracted in northern rural Raqqa, in Ain Issa, where there are daily clashes between SDF and Turkey-backed Islamist armed groups,” he added.

Over the past two months, there have been increased Turkish-backed shelling and fighting near the Ain al-Issa town in the Raqqa province.

Read More: Local military official in north Syria says Turkish-backed attacks continue in Ain Issa

According to Ibrahim, the increasing pressure by Russia and Syrian regime forces to push the SDF to withdraw from the Ain al-Issa area and shelling by Turkish-backed rebels is “giving ISIS cells more ability to conduct attacks deep behind the SDF lines.”

Raqqa was liberated from the Islamic State in October 2017 by the SDF with support from the US-led coalition.

Despite the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US-led coalition announcing the defeat of the extremist group’s so-called caliphate on March 23, 2019, Islamic State sleeper cell attacks continue in areas that were liberated from the militants, including in Raqqa.

In 2020, most Islamic State activities took place in Deir al-Zor province, with Raqqa province coming in second place. The terror group’s propaganda outfit, al-Bayan, suggested that it had claimed 389 attacks in Deir al-Zor in 2020 and another 59 in Raqqa.

Charles Flynn, a Syria-based researcher at the Rojava Information Centre(RIC), told Kurdistan 24 that the Islamic State has also increased its attacks in the southern Raqqa countryside, controlled by the Syrian government.

“We’ve seen increasing number of Russian airstrikes against ISIS targets west of the Euphrates, as well as several ambushes conducted by ISIS that have produced large number of casualties against the SAA (Syrian Arab Army).”

Editing by Khrush Najari



The US Is Trying to Undermine the Kurds’ Revolutionary Ambitions

By Edward Hunt New Jacobin

The US government claims to be supporting the Syrian Kurds in the fight against ISIS. But it is attempting to bring a more moderate leadership to power in a bid to weaken the Kurds’ revolutionary project in Rojava. Washington will never be a friend of self-determination.

Troops from the Syrian Democratic Forces head to the front line on November 10, 2015 in the autonomous region of Rojava, Syria. (John Moore / Getty Images)

Last September, the United States began sending additional troops into northeast Syria, where hundreds of US soldiers are helping Kurdish forces fight the remnants of ISIS. The move represented a sharp change for the Trump administration, which had pulled US forces from the Turkish border the previous year, facilitating a brutal Turkish attack on the Kurdish homeland of Rojava.

Yet despite predictions that Trump’s betrayal would bring an end to the Kurds’ leftist social revolution in Rojava, the Kurds have been remarkably resilient. Not only have they managed to endure more than a year of ongoing Turkish attacks, but they have continued forging an inspiring experiment in direct democracy, drawing praise from observers who visit the area.

Rojava “has the best religious freedom conditions in the Middle East and has the best conditions for women,” said Nadine Maenza, a US commissioner for religious freedom, when she visited Rojava this past October.

While the Kurds have defied the odds, they are now facing new threats — particularly from the United States. Over the past year, US diplomats have been calling on Kurdish leaders to share power with rival politicians who do not hold the same revolutionary views.

Participants portray recent talks as a well-intentioned effort to create Kurdish unity.

But the talks are more accurately seen as a bid by Washington to appease Turkey, maintain a foothold in Syria, and, perhaps most crucially, moderate the Kurds’ revolutionary ambitions.

The Syrian Kurds, Trump’s Betrayal, and the Aftermath

For the past several years, the United States has been working with Kurdish forces in northeast Syria in the war against ISIS. By providing the Kurds with arms, money, training, air cover, and logistics support, the United States has enabled them to wage an effective military campaign that has left the group defeated and largely dismantled.

This partnership has ramped up tensions with Turkey, which has been waging a decades-long war against the Kurdish people. The Turkish government has accused the Syrian Kurds of being part of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant Kurdish resistance group, and portrays both the PKK and Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists who must be destroyed.Although Trump has periodically praised the Kurds for their military courage, he has repeatedly enabled Turkish aggression.

The international left has largely supported the Kurds, inspired by their efforts to lead a leftist social revolution in Rojava. As the Syrian state withdrew its forces from northeast Syria during the early stages of the country’s civil war, leftist Kurds began transforming the area into an autonomous region. They empowered women and ethnic minorities to participate in local and regional politics and promoted a vision of “democratic confederalism” rooted in egalitarian economics and political participation.

The Kurds’ vision of democratic confederalism has led them to begin building a revolutionary new society that is democratically administered by small, decentralized self-governing units. Local communities and ethnic groups participate in communes, neighborhood councils, and district councils, where they decide how to run their communities and manage their resources. By adopting the principle of dual leadership, the Kurds have empowered men and women to work alongside each other as equal partners at all levels of society. If Rojava is successful, it could become the basis for a new kind of egalitarian and self-governing society.

Officials in Washington have always harbored serious concerns about their partnership with the revolutionary Kurds. They have refused to recognize Rojava as an autonomous region within Syria and have displayed a reckless disregard for Rojava’s security, looking the other way as Turkey periodically launched attacks like the brutal invasion of Afrin in 2018.

The Trump administration has been one of the greatest threats to Rojava. Although Trump has periodically praised the Kurds for their military courage, he has repeatedly enabled Turkish aggression. When administration officials announced in October 2019 they would begin drawing US troops away from the Turkish border, they cleared the way for Turkey’s right-wing nationalist president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to launch a military operation that killed hundreds of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

Turkey “had to have it cleaned out,” Trump said, justifying the ethnic cleansing.

But Trump’s decision sparked a backlash, including from many US officials, and he backtracked by keeping a small contingent of US troops in northeast Syria. After Russian and Syrian forces moved into the area, administration officials announced that about five hundred US soldiers would continue working with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to guard the region’s oil and fight the remnants of the Islamic State.

“We’re still partnering with the SDF,” then secretary of defense Mark Esper acknowledged several weeks after Turkey’s invasion. “We’re still providing assistance to them.”

US Support for Leftist Revolutionaries?

Many US officials have commended the Kurds for building a stable political system in a war-torn country.

In recent months, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom has taken the lead within the US government in highlighting the Kurds’ achievements in Rojava. In its annual report, a public hearing, and an op-ed, the commission praised the Kurds for creating an inclusive society that provides religious freedom to its diverse residents.

US commissioner Nadine Maenza, who visited Rojava in October and November, repeatedly extolled the Kurds for creating a system of self-government that empowers the local population.

“They set up all these committees and they start literally meeting the needs of the community,” Maenza said. “They did it in a way that promoted ethnic diversity, religious diversity, acceptance of one another. . . . It created conditions that are unique to the rest of the Middle East.”

Kurdish troops from the Syrian Democratic Forces stand in a forward operating base overlooking the front line on November 10, 2015 in the autonomous region of Rojava, Syria. (John Moore / Getty Images)

More recently, some high-level officials in Washington have offered similar words of praise. “They seem to be somewhat successful in bringing all these pockets of different ethnic backgrounds together under one sort of democracy that actually seems to be working,” Texas representative Michael McCaul, a Republican, said at a congressional hearing earlier this month.

But as the Kurds well know, US officials often have other motives in mind when showering them with praise — namely, their military prowess.

When ISIS forces began rampaging across northern Syria and western Iraq in 2014 and 2015, US officials discovered that Kurdish militias were the only forces that could hold back the onslaught. “They were the only people who could fight effectively against ISIS at the time,” a State Department official told Congress in 2019.

Over the course of the war, Kurdish fighters made great sacrifices, losing more than ten thousand soldiers. “We outsourced the dying to them,” one US official later admitted.

Now, with ISIS mostly vanquished, Washington has presented a new rationale for supporting the Kurds. Because the Kurds control about one-third of Syrian territory, US officials believe they hold significant leverage over Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. As long as the Kurds remain in command of Rojava, US officials wager, Assad will not be able to reestablish control over Syria.

Rojava “is the United States’ greatest single point of leverage in Syria,” the congressionally mandated Syria Study Group (SSG) noted in a major report in 2019.

This was one of the main reasons Turkey’s attack on Rojava in October 2019 upset some US officials. The president’s “approach has ceded U.S. leverage over a future political solution in Syria,” Florida representative Ted Deutch complained. The co-chairs of the Syria Study Group agreed, condemning the Trump administration for “forgoing an important source of leverage.”

With US forces once again working alongside the Kurds, many US officials believe they have salvaged that leverage. Even if Trump’s actions weakened the United States’ foothold in Syria, they remain convinced that Washington can use what remains of Kurdish control of Rojava to pressure Assad into a political agreement that results in him leaving office.

Antony Blinken, who is slated to become secretary of state in the incoming Biden administration, views Rojava as a key element of US strategy. “That’s a point of leverage because the Syrian government would love to have dominion over those resources,” Blinken said last year. “We should not give that up for free.”

US Opposition to Leftist Revolution

Viewing the Kurds as strategically important partners, US officials have been reluctant to criticize them. Only rarely have they revealed their opposition to the Kurds’ revolutionary aspirations.

In December 2017, former US diplomat Stuart Jones sent one signal when he urged Congress to make sure Washington’s partnership with the Kurds “does not create a political monopoly for a political organization that is really hostile to U.S. values and ideology.”Many US officials and establishment thinkers are doing what they can to bring a less revolutionary Kurdish leadership to power.

In 2019, the Syria Study Group provided another sign when it complained that the main revolutionary Kurdish party in Rojava, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), had been using the SDF’s cooperation with the United States to establish a civilian government at odds with US preferences. “The United States never explicitly pledged support for Kurdish autonomy or self-rule in Syria,” the study group insisted.

One of the clearest signs of US opposition came during a congressional hearing in October 2019, when US senator Jeff Merkley repeatedly asked then State Department official James Jeffrey about his views on the revolution.

“There was, to be fair, a widely circulated vision of Rojava,” Merkley explained. The Kurds envisioned a “self-governed autonomous area with a whole philosophy of democratic control.”

Jeffrey responded by agreeing with Merkley’s characterization of the Kurdish vision, even suggesting that the Kurds might achieve their revolutionary goals, but insisted that the United States did not back the revolution. “I want to emphasize that this vision, which is the vision of our partners, was never the American vision,” Jeffrey said.

And US officials are keen on making their own vision come to fruition. Many US officials and establishment thinkers are doing what they can to bring a less revolutionary Kurdish leadership to power.

In a 2018 policy brief, the Brookings Institution argued that the United States should encourage the PYD to share power with the much smaller Kurdish National Council (ENKS), an opposition umbrella group hosted by Turkey. The brief suggested that a power-sharing agreement could prevent the PYD from creating an autonomous region inside Syria. The United States could adopt “a posture that is accommodating of Turkish national security concerns,” the brief noted.

Turkey’s attack on Rojava in October 2019 put significant pressure on Kurdish leaders to take Washington’s concerns into consideration. Shortly after the assault, SDF commander Mazloum Abdi agreed to begin talks with opposition leaders, and US officials urged the two sides to create a unity government that incorporated ENKS leaders.

US diplomat William Roebuck, who played a central role in facilitating the talks, noted in an internal memo that he wanted to see Rojava’s political structure “evolve” by “including Kurds outside the PYD and more empowered, independent Arabs.”

After several rounds of negotiations in early 2020, one of which Roebuck attended, the two Kurdish sides came to an agreement. On June 17, Kurdish leaders announced they had reached a “common political vision” over how to govern Rojava.

Roebuck, who participated in the ceremony, praised both sides for their efforts. “They have shown flexibility and intelligence in the way that they have dealt with this,” he said.

The US Embassy in Syria agreed, issuing a statement that described the agreement as “an important first step towards greater political coordination between Syrian Kurdish political factions with the support of the United States.”

Although it remains unclear whether the deal will create a pathway for ENKS leaders to acquire political power, the accord is a major political victory for the United States — and a blow to the Kurds’ revolutionary ambitions.

The Future of Rojava

Despite the Kurds’ many achievements, the future of Rojava remains in doubt. Even if the revolutionaries find some way to withstand growing US pressure, the Kurds still face an existential threat from Turkey.

Turkey’s invasion in October 2019 expelled hundreds of thousands of people from numerous towns that Ankara’s forces and their allied militias continue to occupy. As part of the military operation, Turkey drove a huge wedge between the western and eastern parts of Rojava.US officials insist that they are trying to create unity among various Kurdish political parties, but what they are really trying to do is create a more moderate Kurdish leadership. They want to appease Turkey, maintain US forces in Syria, and bring the revolution in Rojava to an end.

Turkish leaders continue to back militants that launch periodic attacks on the Kurdish people. The very day that the Kurds in Rojava announced their unity deal, Turkey launched a major offensive against the Kurdish region of Iraq, even receiving encouragement from the Trump administration. Recent reports indicate that Turkey is preparing to mount another attack on Rojava.

The Kurds have also lost much of the leverage they had over the Syrian government. After Turkey invaded Rojava in October 2019, Kurdish leaders had no choice but to invite Syrian and Russian forces into the area for protection. US officials estimate that between four thousand and ten thousand Syrian forces now occupy various parts of northeast Syria.

Russia has also been pressuring the Kurds, despite the fact that Russian military forces initially came to their assistance during the Turkish attack. Russian leaders are intent on bringing Rojava back into the orbit of the Syrian government, which Russia has been backing in the Syrian Civil War. In early 2020, Russia closed an Iraqi border crossing that had been supplying Rojava with about 40 percent of its medical aid.

The coronavirus and economic woes are still another challenge for the Kurds. Reports indicate that the virus is spreading through Rojava; officials have periodically placed cities into total lockdown. On the economic side, rapid inflation has made it difficult for people to purchase basic goods and essentials. Farmers are struggling to find buyers for their crops. US sanctions have worsened the crisis.

“Ordinary people are having trouble buying the basic goods that they need to survive,” US diplomat William Roebuck acknowledged last August.

Through it all, officials in Washington insist they are still supporting the Kurds. They continue paying the Kurds to manage several camps that are holding about ten thousand detained Islamic State fighters and about seventy thousand civilians, many of whom are the wives, children, and family members of ISIS fighters.

Hundreds of US soldiers remain on the ground in Rojava, where they continue working with Kurdish forces to target remaining pockets of jihadists. Although the Trump administration has announced troop drawdowns in Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan, US officials have indicated that they will maintain a military presence in Rojava.

The incoming Biden administration remains something of a wild card, but president-elect Joe Biden has signaled he intends to keep working with the Kurds. In 2019, Biden said that “it makes a lot of sense” to keep several hundred US troops in Rojava “to protect the Kurds and provide for security in the region.” Other US officials have indicated that there will be no immediate changes in US policy under the Biden administration.

Much more quietly, however, Washington continues meddling in Kurdish politics. US officials insist that they are trying to create unity among various Kurdish political parties, but what they are really trying to do is create a more moderate Kurdish leadership. They want to appease Turkey, maintain US forces in Syria, and bring the revolution in Rojava to an end.

In short, the United States has begun a major new battle for Rojava — and Kurdish liberation is their last concern.


The Time of the Workers – a history of the European Working Class.


The working class has played an essential part of European countries’ history – through revolutions, wars and social progress.  In 4 episodes of a spectacular tale, this show reminds us of what our societies owe to the workers’ movements and its struggles.
Stan's film

The story begins in the 18th century. But their fight carries on today. Much of our current democracies’ institutions and values flow from older working class demands: universal suffrage or social solidarity are some of its most telling examples. Our culture – the way we dress, the songs we listen to, the movies we watch and the mass-media themselves – heavily relies on the workers’ erstwhile popular culture. Finally, all across Asia, Africa and Latin America, millions of women and men experience lives similar to the 18th and 19th centuries’ European working class. We will bring out the present’s ever looming shadow by constantly flowing back and forth between history and current situations. Those contemporary testimonies and photographs will help us gather the threads of memory between yesterday and nowadays together again.

LINK TO YOUTUBE (French Version):


An Interview with Stan Neumann from Radio Prague regarding an earlier and more personal film, ‘A House in Prague’. (03/10/2014)


“Communist” history of own prominent family not black and white, says documentarian Stan Neumann

Among the guests at East Doc Platform, a parallel industry event to Prague’s One World festival of human rights documentaries, is director Stan Neumann, a man with a captivating personal history. Born in Prague, he left with his American mother for France in 1959. His father’s family had been prominent to say the least.


Stan’s great-grandfather Stanislav Kostka (S.K.) Neumann was a lauded poet, an anarchist who later co-founded the Czechoslovak Communist Party. His grandfather Stanislav, also a red, was a famous stage and movie actor. But it was the complicated fate of his father, yet another Stanislav, that we first discussed when I sat down with Stan Neumann last week.

“My father was… it’s very difficult to define, because he was supposed to be a writer, in fact. His mother, my grandmother, wanted him to be absolutely a replica of S.K. Neumann.

“In a certain way, I think he was not completely fit for that. I may say that from my point of view, it destroyed his life.

“These things with the generations, when somebody in the family thinks that the next generation must emulate the preceding generation, sometimes leads to catastrophes.”

He was a Communist poet, essentially?

“He had a very moving… path in life. Before the war he was in this kind of bourgeois, intellectual French gymnazium [grammar school], and so on.

“When he was 16, at the end of the war, he was arrested by the Nazis with a group of something like 50 gymnazium students and sent to the Small Fortress in Terezín.

“On May 2 the whole group was shot – it was May 2, the war was over – and he was the only survivor from this group, because he was dying from typhus.

“From then on he had a kind of fidelity pact with the [Communist] Party, from which he didn’t want to deviate. This created a strange situation, because he was very young but when destalinisation came, he behaved like an old Stalinist.

“He was one of the few who didn’t accept destalinisation. It broke his literary career. Then he became a small functionary, a cultural attaché, and finally he broke with the party only after the [1968 Soviet-led] invasion.

“And he committed suicide the day before he had to answer to a special commission and he was about to be expelled from the party. So it’s very sad – a broken life, broken by I would say politics, war, family, thing like that.”

You were telling me your mother [Claudia Ancelot] worked for Radio Prague.

“Yes. My mother came here with my father. They met in Paris in ’47 and she came here at the worst moment possible. Then they started to live in this house in Žižkov with the family.

“Then the political situation became such that my father realised that it was a big political mistake to have married an American Jew from German origins. In these times, it was the worst combination possible.

“So there a quick divorce, and the grounds were the political immaturity of my mother [laughs]. Then she found herself here with two children and had to find a job. She found one at the international section of the Radio.

“She made broadcasts for the States, in the middle of the night calling for American workers to rise and overthrow capitalism [laughs].”

Did you ever visit the Radio in those days?

“Yeah, I loved that. I still have very wonderful memories from the pater noster and the feeling of it and the people there. And the canteen – for a child it was fantastic.

“Later when I was eight or nine, before we left for France, I used to make false Communist programmes. I was supposed to be a young pioneer, coming back from vacation, very glad [laughs].”

I imagine it must have been a difficult experience for your mother, living here in the ‘50s?

“It was very strange, very difficult, very dangerous. At this moment, the head of the international section was Lise London and at the time of the Slánský trials my mother had the perfect profile, coming from the States, so it was very difficult [London was the wife of Artur London, a co-defendant in the anti-Semitic show trial of Rudolf Slánský, who was also found guilty but not executed].

“But my mother was always very curious and she was very happy to see what was going on. She learned Czech. She became one of the best translators from Czech to French. Later when she went to France, she was the translator of Hrabal. She interpreted for Havel, and so on.

“I think the situation was so tense but also so interesting that she enjoyed it [laughs].”

I often get the impression when I hear about women like your mother, who here from the West came after the war, that they were quite isolated. People were perhaps wary of speaking to foreigners.

“Yes. But there was a small group of people with very strange destinies. For example at the American section [at Radio Prague] there was an American soldier who came here after the war because of a love story which collapsed.

“My mother had a very close friend who was a British doctor, a woman, who came for political reasons. So there was a small group. Then there was the French section, where she met her second husband.

“We were isolated because we lived in special places, in hotels or in buildings, under the close watch of janitors and the people around.

“But it was not lonely, at least for her. Because she had experience of emigration. She had left Germany when she was 12 years old in ’33, then she to flee France. Then the States. France again. She was used to a strange life.”

So she left this country, because she met a French man, is that right?

“It was a quite difficult situation. Because my father didn’t want to her to leave with the children, and she didn’t want to leave without the children.

“So it took almost 10 years before she could obtain the permit to leave with us. At this time she met a French journalist who was working in the French section at the Radio [laughs].

“Like many people at this time, it was after Budapest, so he was completely disappointed with communism – but at the same time he loved the country.

“Many people had this story. They came here and in two, three months their eyes were opened, they saw the reality of the society, but they fell in love with Prague, with the Czech people, and so on.

“My stepfather was so much in love with Czechoslovakia that when the Prague Spring happened in 1967 and ’68, he returned here and started to work once again for the international section of the Radio. He preferred the life here to the life in France.”

You left at the end of the 1950s. Did you follow events in Czechoslovakia closely from France?

“Yes. I left on a Czech passport. My grandfather and grandmother were still alive and I was in love with my Czech family, and my aunt and the house.

“So as soon as I could do it, I used to come here. I think I spent all my holidays in Prague. I was very close to it and for a very long time I felt it was my home more than Paris.”

I know you’ve made many films, but I’d like to speak about one of them, A House in Prague. Tell us about that film.

“It was a film I made quite late. After the revolution here, the situation in France was that all the filmmakers suddenly discovered Prague and rushed here and started to make films. I found it a little bit like vultures.

“So I waited till ’95, ’96, when the wave ended, to feel able to return and to make a film about my family story and about the house.

The house is a villa in Žižkov?

“The house is a villa in Žižkov in which my great-great-grandfather created an anarchist commune at the beginning of the 20th century, and which then was the house of my grandfather and my grandmother, but divided between them and the other part of the family.

“My grandfather was red establishment, let’s say a mild Stalinist, and his sister was a kind of bohemian anarchist – and the house was a battleground between the two parts of the family. This is basically the story of the film.

“But it was a very, very moving film for me, and very difficult. I think it’s one of the most difficult things to do, at least for me, to turn the camera in the direction of my own stories.

“Because in all my films I have always the pleasure of discovering something new. And if you are with your own stories, you don’t discover anything, you just tell what you already know.”

Was there nothing you discovered in the making of A House in Prague?

“There was something, which was that when I started to make the film I had a kind of judgmental position: wrong, right, black, white.

“And as I entered into the life of this house and the life of the people in this country, I started to see that the situations were much more complex, much more difficult, much more painful in a certain way.

“But there was also much more life in it than we see when we look at it from today.

“The second thing is I did with this film as I do with all of my major films, which is that I took this part of my history and I put it in the film, so that I can be freed of it, in a certain way.”


Date : 2020-07-14 05:51:03

Looted houses, violations, Turkification: Syria’s Sere Kaniye

A destroyed looted house in Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain), North Press


Syrian Kurds Alarmed Over UN Security Council Vote on Aid

BySirwan Kajjo
July 12, 2020 07:36 PM
FILE - A Syrian Kurdish woman chants slogans during a rally in the countryside of the Hasakah province, Syria, June 27, 2020, to protest deadly Turkish offensives in northeastern areas of the country.
FILE – A Syrian Kurdish woman chants slogans during a rally in the countryside of the Hasakah province, Syria, June 27, 2020, to protest deadly Turkish offensives in northeastern areas of the country.

WASHINGTON – Kurdish officials in northeast Syria are expressing disappointment following a vote by the United Nations Security Council that failed to address “the deteriorating humanitarian situation” in that part of the war-torn country.

The U.N. Security Council on Saturday approved a resolution authorizing an international program that will deliver aid to the rebel-held northwest Syrian province of Idlib through one border crossing.

However, the majority of the council, including the U.S., wanted to reopen another border crossing with Turkey and a third on Syria’s northeast border with Iraq in order to get aid to an estimated 1.3 million Syrians in need of medical supplies.

The Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Turkey and Idlib province will remain open to humanitarian aid for one year. The other two crossings, Bab al-Salama between Turkey and Syria’s Aleppo province, and al-Yaroubia, between northeast Syria and Iraq, will not be reopened.

The Security Council vote Saturday came after previous efforts to reauthorize the opening of Bab al-Hawa and al-Yaroubia failed by vetoes from Russia and China.

‘Unfolding catastrophe’

Local officials in northeast Syria say blocking aid through al-Yaroubia crossing would throw the already-volatile region into further uncertainty.

“With this decision, we are literally left alone to deal with an unfolding catastrophe,” said Luqman Ehmi, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in North and East of Syria.

“The Security Council failed to address what our region has been experiencing for a long time, and this is a very negative move against us,” he told VOA.

FILE - Members of a displaced Kurdish family sit at a public school they use as a temporary shelter, in Hasakah, Syria, Oct. 22, 2019.
FILE – Members of a displaced Kurdish family sit at a public school they use as a temporary shelter, in Hasakah, Syria, Oct. 22, 2019.

The semiautonomous region is under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a major U.S. partner in the fight against the Islamic State terror group. The partnership was key to liberate much of eastern Syria from IS militants.

Kelly Craft, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., said the U.S. “cannot disguise our disappointment at the loss of the Bab al-Salama and al-Yaroubia border crossings, which puts millions of Syrian women, children and men at risk.”

“To them, I say we will never back down. We will always have hope for your future and will continue to stand with you,” she said in a tweet after the Saturday vote.

Monopolizing aid

Russia, a major backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, has insisted that all international aid go through Damascus.

Humanitarian groups and officials, however, say the Syrian government monopolizes aid for political purposes.

They add that the decade-long conflict in Syria and the recent outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic have created a major humanitarian crisis in the country, including the northeast.

“The Syrian regime continues to impose high tariffs on anything that enters our region, including medical supplies,” said Kurdish spokesman Ehmi.

FILE - A displaced Syrian Kurdish woman, who fled violence with her family after a Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria, gives one of her children a shower at a public school they use as a temporary shelter, in Hasakah, Syria, Oct. 22, 2019.
FILE – A displaced Syrian Kurdish woman, who fled violence with her family after a Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria, gives one of her children a shower at a public school they use as a temporary shelter, in Hasakah, Syria, Oct. 22, 2019.

Kemal Derbas of the Kurdish Red Crescent, one of the largest humanitarian groups that provides medical care to refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDP) in northeast Syria, says relying on Damascus for receiving international aid has proved futile.

“The Syrian regime doesn’t recognize most of the humanitarian groups that operate in northern Syria,” Derbas told VOA.

“This forces the World Health Organization (WHO), for example, to redirect its support to regime-held areas. The WHO used to deliver some aid and funding to us through al-Yaroubia border crossing, but after this Security Council voting it is no longer an option,” he said.

Some medical aid groups have shut down their operations because of a lack of funding, Derbas said, noting that about 300,000 IDP and refugees in northeast Syria will have no adequate access to medical services.

De facto embargo’ 

Some observers say the recent U.N. decision represents a de facto embargo on those Syrian regions that don’t have access to aid.

“People in SDF-held areas in northeast Syria will be deprived from much needed international aid” at a critical time, said Siruan Hadsch Hossein, a journalist at the local radio station Arta FM.

He told VOA that millions of civilians in northeast Syria, including hundreds of thousands in refugee camps, will immediately suffer the consequences of the U.N. move.

“This voting proves that the international community is not ready to find a resolution for the Syrian conflict,” Hossein said. “It is disgraceful that certain members of the Security Council such as Russia use humanitarian aid to score political points.”


2020-07-11 11:44:08

Kurdish-led authorities establish foodstuff factory in Syria’s Kobani after Ba’ath regime’s decades-long ban

Workers in the Khairat Al-Furat factory


YPG Martyr Omer Şêxo laid to rest in Hesekê

YPG fighter Omer Şêxo was laid to rest with a ceremony held at Martyr Dijwar graveyard in Hesekê.

YPG fighter Omer Şêxo, who fell martyr in Hesekê as a result of his illness on 5 July, was laid to rest with a ceremony held at Martyr Dijwar graveyard in the village of Dawidiyê.

Speaking at the military ceremony organized by the YPG, YPJ and SDF fighters, Martyrs’ Families Council member Sultan Ehmed said that they would continue their struggle on the path of the martyrs.

Speaking at the ceremony, PYD co-chair Ayşe Hiso paid tribute to all the martyrs of freedom and said: “Let’s stand against the invading Turkish state, which wants to destroy our values ​​and the achievements of our people.”

Stressing that the fight against all crimes committed by the Turkish state will continue with determination, Ayşe Hiso added: “We will build a free and democratic Syria with our people’s will.”

After the speeches, the identity information of SDF fighter Amar Osman (Birusk) and HPG guerrilla Rüstem Cudi was also announced by the Martyrs’ Families Council.

The martyrdom paper of Martyr Omer Şexo was delivered to his family.

At the end of the ceremony, Martyr Omer’s body was buried, accompanied by slogans.


Turkey weaponizes water and electricity against Syria’s Autonomous Administration areas

Euphrates Dam, North Press


SDF Spokesperson: Turkey prepares further attacks

Kino Gabriel, spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), warns of new attacks by Turkish invasion forces.

Turkey seems to be preparing for another major attack on Rojava. The Turkish army is drawing together further troops in the areas it has occupied in north-east Syria. ANHA news agency interviewed SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel about the current developments and said: “The Turkish state is intensifying its attacks and constantly committing new crimes. Therefore, we are on alert and we are expecting a new large-scale attack at any moment. Recently, Turkey has been spreading the rumour that the SDF is breaking the ceasefire of 2019. This is a pretext for a new invasion. A new invasion is not unlikely. Preparations are being made for it.”

“We are coordinating with the US and Russia”

Gabriel explains that they are coordinating with the forces that brought about the ceasefire in October 2019: “These forces are the international coordination, the US and Russia. Our aim with this coordination is to prevent a possible attack by Turkey.”

Turkey is committing crimes”

As SDF, we are responding to the calls for a global ceasefire due to the Coronavirus pandemic and have fulfilled our responsibilities. But the Turkish state continues to commit crimes with its drone attacks and artillery fire.”

Gabriel warns that a new attack is dangerous. The destruction and flight that an attack will attempt will negatively affect the fight against the pandemic worldwide, he said.


Germany admits Turkish presence in Rojava “not legitimate”

For the first time, two years after the invasion of Northern and Eastern Syria carried out by Turkey, the German Federal Government admitted that the “occupation is not justified under international law.”

The Federal Government replied to a question from Evrim Sommer (Die Linke) about the invasion of north-east Syria carried out by Turkey: “From the Federal Government’s perspective, the Turkish argument is not beyond doubt. With regard to the “Operation Peace Spring”, the Federal Government has announced that it cannot identify any reasons that would legitimize the operation under international law.”

With this reasoning, the Federal Government is following the findings of the Bundestag’s scientific services that the invasion of northern Syria is not covered by international law.

In October 2019, they had determined: “In the absence of a self-defense situation, the establishment of a Turkish ‘security zone’ in northern Syria does not constitute an act of self-defense permitted under international law. Even in the (hypothetical) case of self-defense, there is no doubt about the inappropriateness of the Turkish military operation.”

In addition, the Federal Government pledged the support of several health non-governmental organizations in Rojava with one million euros for measures against the Covid-19 pandemic. So far, the Federal Government had only financially supported forces that actively oppose the self-government of the region.

Commenting on the Federal Goevrnment’s reply, deputy Evrim Sommer said: “We welcome that the Federal Government is officially announcing for the first time that it recognizes no reasons that legitimize Turkey’s attacks against the democratic self-government in Northeast Syria under international law. It is a diplomatically wrapped but resounding slap in the face for the regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”


Explainer: The Syrian Democratic Council – A proposal for a democratic Syria

The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) is a political assembly representing political parties and organizations in North and East Syria. The SDC creates a political framework for the governance of Syria along a decentralized, federal model. It is the political body to which the SDF reports. It is also the political counterpart to the Autonomous Administration, which takes on more administrative and executive functions. Negotiations with the Syrian government, as well as diplomatic relations with international powers, are generally conducted through the SDC.

Origins of the SDC

In its founding declaration, the Council set itself the task of “leading the Syrian revolutionary democratic movement along the right course, and ending the present fragmentation, bloodshed and darkness the country is being dragged through.”

The SDC, was created in 2015. 103 high-profile individual members and representatives of Syrian political parties and organizations were present at the congress which founded the SDC. In its founding declaration, the Council set itself the task of “leading the Syrian revolutionary democratic movement along the right course, and ending the present fragmentation, bloodshed and darkness the country is being dragged through.”

Participants in the founding congress of the SDC came from a range of political backgrounds and engaged in negotiations concerning key issues and principles behind the establishment of this new political body. One point of discussion which generated internal controversy was the continued use of the term “Syrian Arab Republic,” seen by many as part of the heritage of the oppressive Ba’ath regime. The congress eventually reached consensus on the term Democratic Syrian Republic, and agreed on a strategy of working towards a federal model for Syria rather than the top-down centralistic model of the Assad regime.

The SDC supported the development of the democratic administration of Manbij, Tabqa, Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor after they were liberated from ISIS by the SDF. At a congress of the SDC in July 2018, the decision was taken to create the Autonomous Administration to carry out the work of establishing communes, councils and confederalism in each region. This enabled SDC to focus on its role as a political body, rather than an administrative one.

How the SDC is organized

The SDC contains three main bodies: the Executive Council, the Political Council and the General Conference. In many ways the Executive Council takes a leadership function because it is smallest and meets most often. For instance, Executive Council chair Ilham Ahmed led a delegation to the United States Congress to discuss the Turkish invasion in October 2019. However, both the Political Council and the General Conference are larger and more representative and so are considered to be higher bodies. The General Conference meets only once a year, acting as a more direct form of democratic input but without much executive power. The Political Council meets on a monthly basis. The SDC organizes its work through several offices: the Organizational Office, Women’s Office, Foreign Relations Office, Media Office, Youth Office, Finance Office and Archive Office.

The SDC contains a mix of political parties, civil society organizations and individuals. The membership of the SDC represents all the components of society in North and East Syria; Arabs, Kurds, Syriac-Assyrians, Armenians, Circassians, Chechen and Turkmen. People who want to join the SDC as individuals must make a written submission outlining their goal in joining the assembly, and the relevant group within the SDC conducts research on that person and whether they are suitable for membership. To be considered for membership, the individual needs to accept the principles of the SDC, such as the co-chair system, be making a genuine effort to resolve the Syrian crisis, and be of Syrian nationality. The person does not need to be resident in Syria, as they can join the meetings via a digital platform.

Roles and responsibilities

We will not accept a situation like before, that the Ba’ath party making laws, dividing and destroying. We want the constitution to be changed, we want formal acceptance of the Kurds and Syriacs and Assyrians…so we can take our place in a diverse nation. We don’t accept Syrian politics without a place for all the people of Syria.

Jihat Omar, co-chair of the External Relations Office of the Syrian Democratic Council

The purpose of the SDC is to work towards a democratic confederal Syria through conversations, consensus building and diplomacy. The SDC poses itself as an alternative to the Syrian National Council, which has been criticized for being under the influence of Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as of the government of Turkey, where it is based. Like the Syrian National Council, the SDC is in opposition to the Assad regime. The SDC states its aim as bringing together a coalition of democratic forces within Syria to build the movement towards a democratic political solution for the country. The Council has a stated focus on ‘Syrian – Syrian dialogue’ to envision a future for Syria, rejecting the dominant framework of international powers such as Russia, Turkey or the USA determining the fate of the region. Three conferences have already been held as part of this process.

This ‘Syrian – Syrian dialogue’ process also includes meetings with opposition parties and personalities who are not engaging in the SDC system, both within Syria and in the diaspora. Through these meetings, Council members say they aim to understand the criticisms and reservations of those who do not participate in the system, and to build understanding and unity. There have also been meetings organized within Syria with different sectors of society. For instance, a meeting was organized in Ayn Issa in May 2019 which brought together members of the SDC and 5,000 Arab tribe leaders. The Council is planning a mass conference, aiming to bring together 2,000 intellectuals to develop ideas and solutions for the challenges facing Syria. The SDC also aims to bring together organizations in a ‘National Conference of Syria’ to build a unified political vision for Syria, strengthen the movement for a democratic, federal Syria, and further the case for participation in the Geneva talks to write a new constitution for Syria. However, the official process for writing a new Syrian constitution has recently started with no representation from the confederal structures of North and East Syria and only nominal inclusion of Kurdish minorities through ENKS. There is also no inclusion of women’s organizations from North and East Syria.

The diplomatic role of the SDC

The Council plays a diplomatic role both within Syria and internationally. In October 2019, following the Turkish invasion, a delegation headed by Ilham Ahmed, chair of the Executive Council, traveled to the USA. The delegation met with members of the US Congress on the 22nd October to discuss the future of North and East Syria. Delegations of the SDC have also met with government representatives across Europe, and members of the Council have attended meetings in countries around the world, including Australia, Lebanon and Tunisia.

The SDC is the political entity engaged in negotiations with the Syrian regime about the future of North and East Syria’s relationship with the Syrian government. The stance of the Council up to now has been that they want to be integrated within the Syrian state, but in a federal system with a degree of autonomy, and with guarantees of respect for all the ethnic and religious groups living in Syria.

The incorporation of the SDF into the Syrian Army has been a contested issue between the SDC and the Syrian government in discussions about possible integration of the political systems. For a long time maintaining the SDF as a separate military force was presented as a non-negotiable by the SDC, because “without defense forces, how should we be able to protect our people and our political vision?” (Jihat Omar, co-chair of the Foreign Relations Office of the SDC). Although the SDC lost a significant amount of bargaining power due to the Turkish invasion, they continue to affirm that “the autonomy of the SDF in the region protected by it” (General Command of the SDF, 30 October 2019) must be maintained, although they may concede some degree of integration.

This article is an excerpt from our report “Beyond the Frontlines – The building of the democratic system of North and East Syria.


Kongra Star publishes dossier on 3 women murdered in Kobanê

The dossier speaks about the role of Zehra Berkel, Hebûn Mele and Emîna Weysî, who were murdered in a targeted drone attack carried out by the Turkish state on 23 June in the village of Helincê, Kobanê.

Kongra Star has published a new dossier in memory of the three women who were murdered in a targeted drone attack carried out by the fascist Turkish state on 23 June in the village of Helincê (Hallinj), Kobanê.

The dossier speaks about the role of Zehra Berkel, Hebûn Mele and Emîna Weysî, who worked as members of the women’s movement or activists to improve the living conditions of women in Northern and Eastern Syria and the Middle East.

The dossier also sheds light on the patriarchal mentality of the Turkish state, which, as the authors said, “continues to commit war crimes with its attacks in North and East Syria, carrying out targeted attacks on women, especially those who organise themselves in the struggle against patriarchy and have an important role in the society.”
For years, women in North and East Syria have been organising themselves and fighting against the patriarchal mentality and for a change in society based on the liberation of women.

The authors of the dossier write: “From the very beginning, Kongra Star as a women’s movement in Rojava played an important role for women’s liberation and was built up to strengthen and organise women. But here too, attempts are being made to destroy these steps of women. As women’s movement Kongra Star and as women worldwide we will not stand still because of those femicides. We are ready to defend ourselves and to put an end to both femicide and the patriarchal mentality once and for all.”

Kongra Star listed a series of demands at the end of the dossier addressed in particular to the United Nations, the USA, Russia and NATO:

“The Turkish state and its allies are carrying out the most atrocious genocides and femicide in North and East Syria killing civilians and forcing the people to flee in order to end the democratic project and the liberation of women.

Therefore, we ask the international community, especially the United Nations, the USA, Russia and NATO to meet our demands immediately.

Official recognition of femicide as a crime against humanity, as well as clarification and condemnation of the femicide practices of states and allied mercenary groups that have begun.

Enforce a ban on armed and unmanned drones .

Close the airspace over northern and eastern Syria. 

Take serious and concrete steps for the immediate withdrawal of the Turkish army and all armed groups connected with it from Syrian territory. 

Establish an international community peacekeeping force on the Turkish-Syrian border. 

Impose sanctions against Turkey and stop the arms trade with the Turkish state. 

Provide humanitarian assistance to the Autonomous Administration region in northern and eastern Syria. 

Allow human rights organisations access to the Turkish-occupied regions in order to monitor the situation on the ground.

Stop genocidal and feminicidal practices and bring the Turkish state and its jihadi allies to justice for their crimes.

Establish an international criminal court to prosecute human rights violations and war crimes committed in northern and eastern Syria.


Human rights groups decry Turkish ‘war crimes’ in northern Syria

yesterday at 09:23

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – More than a dozen organizations have signed a letter to European human rights officials detailing abuses committed by Turkey and Turkish- backed groups in northern Syria.

“Since the start of Turkish military operations on the areas of Kurdish origin in northern Syria, the region has turned into a hotspot full of all forms of human rights violations,” reads the letter addressed to Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe and Robert Ragnar Spano, President of the European Court of Human Rights.

The 18 signatories have unanimously accused Ankara and its Syrian proxies of committing “war crimes, crimes against humanity, as well as crimes of ethnic cleansing and genocide.”

Turkey and its Syrian proxies launched a military operation against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria in October 2019, seizing control of a stretch of northern Syria, known to Kurds as Rojava, including Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain) Gire Spi (Tal Abyad). Hundreds of thousands of civilians were displaced in the offensive.

The military offensive, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring”, followed the March 2018 invasion of Afrin, in Aleppo province, which came under control of Turkish forces and their Syrian militia proxies following two months of intense fighting with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Since then, human rights monitors have accused these groups of serious violations against locals.

“The opposition prevented the displaced civilians from returning to their homes, practiced theft, robbery, plunder, armed robbery, confiscated property and crops, burned them, burned forests, abducted civilians, and arbitrarily arrested them. Cemeteries and cultural symbols were destroyed,” the letter added.

Violations have been “confirmed by reports of governmental organisations, and non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria.”

According to numerous organizations, Turkish-backed armed groups in northwestern Syria have committed repeated violations against the local population with impunity, including killing, kidnapping, and sexual violence.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a late November report that pro-Turkish militiamen prevented Syrian Kurds from returning to their homes. Instead, they “looted and unlawfully appropriated or occupied their property.”

“Executing individuals, pillaging property, and blocking displaced people from returning to their homes is damning evidence of why Turkey’s proposed ‘safe zones’ will not be safe,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.

Prominent war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) confirmed to Rudaw English that it had signed the petition.

Other signatories include the Kurdish Committee for Human Rights, Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Austria, The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Syria (MAF) and Kurdish Civil Society Organization in Europe.

Turkey blocked the water supply from the Euphrates into Kurdish-held areas in northeast Syria last week, according to local officials.

Ilham Ahmed, president of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) said that Ankara “intentionally” withheld the water to induce “a real drought in Syria.”


Vocational training center for women opens in Kobani, north Syria

Kobani – Opening a vocational training center for women – North Press


2020-07-03 09:03:22

Turkey deliberately creates drought in Syria – Autonomous Administration official

Tishreen Dam

2020-07-03 09:03:22


Syrian Kurds say Turkish charity dwarfed by stolen produce

As Turkey touts its humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria’s Idlib, critics weigh the six truckloads of supplies against its thousands of tons of allegedly looted Syrian grain.

al-monitor A woman pushes a cart loaded with a sack of wheat in Qamishli, Syria, Sept. 18, 2017.  Photo by REUTERS/Rodi Said.

Amberin Zaman

Amberin Zaman  @amberinzaman

Jun 22, 2020

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported that on Monday, two Turkish charities had sent six trucks carrying humanitarian aid to the rebel-held province of Idlib in northwest Syria.

“Truckloads of supplies including flour, clothing and dry food [donated] by the Adana Dosteller and Eskisehir Gunisigi charities entered Idlib through the Yayladagi border crossing in Turkey’s southern Hatay province. The aid will be distributed among families living in tents in Idlib,” Anadolu reported.

Turkey’s generosity to millions of displaced Syrians inside Syria and Turkey alike has been well documented. But critics of Ankara’s Syria policy charge that it’s giving with one hand and stealing with the other.

A report released today by Syrians for Truth and Justice, a non-partisan nonprofit documenting human rights violations in Syria, lays out in exhaustive detail how the Turkish government has facilitated commerce conducted by its Syrian National Army allies in looting grain. The grain is from eight silos that were confiscated in October during Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, which resulted in Turkey’s occupation of a large swath of territory between the towns of Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ain formerly controlled by the United States’ Syrian Kurdish allies.

Based on interviews with a range of actors including National Army commanders as well as employees at the grain silos, Syrians for Truth and Justice unveiled a network of grain dealings conducted by a Turkish government company — the Turkish Grain Board, known as TMO for short — and “armed groups’ commanders who personally seized amounts of the grain storage” and “then sold them to either local or Turkish merchants” and kept the proceeds for themselves. The theft is documented by satellite imagery showing transportation trucks taking the grain away from the silos.

The allegations will further blot Turkey and the National Army’s image in northeast Syria. Ankara is accused of overseeing or directly participating in a panoply of abuses, including summary executions, abductions, looting, crop burning and weaponizing water against the Kurds.

The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria told the authors of the report that it had left behind about 730,000 tons of wheat, barley, fertilizers, cotton and seed as it withdrew in the face of advancing Turkish forces. “This stock is the strategic reserve for the next three years and constitutes 11% of the total stock of Raqqa and Hasakah provinces,” said Salman Baroudo, the co-chair of the commerce committee of the autonomous administration.

A ton of wheat produces around 850 kilograms of flour, and a ton of flour produces 1.2 tons of bread, explained an autonomous administration official to illustrate the scale of the loss.

The Syrian National Army denied that it was engaged in any looting from grain silos but officials from the Istanbul-based Syrian Interim Government and employees of the local councils claimed the opposite.

Syrians for Truth and Justice executive director Bassam al-Ahmad told Al-Monitor in a telephone interview that the looting “fits a broader pattern of abuses as were perpetrated in Turkish-occupied Afrin. Turkey is buying looted wheat.” Afrin is the Kurdish-majority enclave that was occupied by Turkey in 2018. Crimes committed by Turkey’s Sunni rebel allies have been well documented. They include rape, arbitrary detentions and industrial-scale extortion of local olive farmers, with much of their oil finding its way to Turkey and exported to foreign markets under Turkish labels, Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported.

The TMO insists that it only imports surplus barley but no wheat from Syria. But the trade is driving up prices, noted Elizabeth Tsurkov, a Syria expert and fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. She told Al-Monitor, “It’s absolutely true that wheat and grain is being looted. I’ve confirmed it with the factions. They are stealing the wheat and barley that is cultivated in large swaths of land between Ras al-Ain and Tell Abyad and selling it to Turkey.”

Tsurkov added that Turkey was offering more money for the commodities “than any other actor in Syria is offering to farmers. Therefore there is a clear incentive to sell to Turkey.”

But even as Turkey engages in such transactions, it continues to prevent any flow of humanitarian aid from its borders to the Kurdish-held areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has not softened Turkey’s stance while the collapse of the Syrian currency has compounded people’s misery across the country.

Protests erupted today in Tell Abyad and the town of Suluk, also under Turkish control, over deteriorating living conditions and rising food prices, especially that of bread.

In Suluk, a crowed gathered outside the local Turkish-appointed council and called for its removal, reported the Violation Documentation Centre in North Syria in a tweet. It said in a separate call for action yesterday that Turkish soldiers were targeting farmers on the Turkish-Syrian border. Syrian Kurdish farmer Muhayuddin Abdurazak died after allegedly being shot by a Turkish border guard on May 17.

Thomas McClure, a researcher at the Rojava Information Center, which publishes reports on the Kurdish-controlled region for international audiences, told Al-Monitor that the area affected by Operation Peace Spring encompasses 440,000 hectares of arable land producing up to 763,000 tons of wheat. “Turkey’s instillation of proxy militias ın this once productive region has severely impacted the remainder of northeast Syria and those civilians who have remained in the zone of occupation. The loss of vital arable land places further pressure on the remainder of the northeast, where per UN figures 1.94 million people are in need of humanitarian aid,” he noted.

McClure backed up Syrians for Truth and Justice, saying, “Grain silos were rapidly looted, with tens of thousands of tons of wheat transferred to Turkey for sale or sold to local merchants at extortionate prices. Bread, the local staple, doubled in price in the months following the invasion, while other local essentials like cooking gas are now five times as expensive as elsewhere in northeast Syria.”

The governor of Turkey’s Sanliurfa province, where the occupation is administered from, told Anadolu last week that Turkey would be opening a new gate between Ras al-Ain and the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar. Abdullah Erin said the gate would be “for both Ras al-Ain and Ceylanpinar,” much as the opening of a gate from Turkey’s nearby border town of Akcakale had been for Tell Abyad. The pro-government Daily Sabah reported, “Citizens frequently voice that daily life is getting better as a result of the reconstruction of infrastructure” in Tell Abyad and in Ras al-Ain. Today’s protest paints a different picture.


Turkey’s cutting of Euphrates River water effects electricity in northeast Syria

Statement of the General Administration of Dams in the Euphrates Region – North Press


Turkish drone strike kills 3 women in north Syria’s Kurdish city of Kobani

June 24-2020     01:19 AM

Turkish drone strike kills 3 women in north Syria's Kurdish city of Kobani

Three women reportedly killed in a Turkish drone strike that targeted a civilian residence in the northern Syrian city of Kobani. (Photo: Social Media)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Turkish drone strike on Tuesday evening killed three civilian females at a residence in the village of Helincê, located outside the northern Syrian city of Kobani, according to local security forces.

The General Command of the Kurdish-led Internal Security Forces (ISF), also known as the Asayesh, in an official statement said blamed the “Turkish occupation” for the attack.

“We in the General Command of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) for Northeast Syria condemn the crimes of the Turkish occupation against our people and we also call on the International Coalition and the Russian Federation to do their duty.”

The ISF demanded that the United States and Russia hold Turkey to its stated commitment to the “ceasefire agreement between the two states of Russia and Turkey.”

After Turkey intervened in northeastern Syria in October 2019, Russia and the US reached separate ceasefire deals with Ankara, which allowed Turkish troops to control the area between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain (Serikaniye).

Despite the agreements, Turkish-backed groups and Turkish army continue to occasionally target areas held by the SDF. In some cases, villagers living in the Syrian-Turkish border areas were killed in attacks by the Turkish army and Turkish-backed rebel forces.

The aftermath of the deadly Turkish drone strike on a civilian residence in the northern Syrian city of Kobani, June 23, 2020. (Photo: Hawar News Agency)

“Zehra Berkel is one of the women who died during the Turkish attacks. She is a coordinating member of the Kongra Star women’s movement,” read the official Twitter account of the women’s rights organization, based in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).

“She was struggling or women’s rights. The attack… targeted women. This is another example of Turkey showing its patriarchal face,” the organization said.

According to the local Hawar News Agency (ANHA) the other two victims were Mizgin Xelil and the owner of the house, Amina Waysi.

This was not the first Turkish drone attack in Kobani. On April 28, a previous one targeted a checkpoint of the ISF, though resulted in no casualties or significant damage.

Read More: Turkish drone targets Kurdish security forces in rare Kobani attack

Local officials and Kurdish civilians fear Kobani could still be a target for a possible Turkish attack in the future because the city was a global symbol in the fight against the Islamic State.

“All of the cities at the border are under threats, but particularly when it comes to Kobani, even the Russians tell us from time to time that there is the danger that the Turks will attack you again,” Ilham Ahmed, President of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council, said during a May 29 online event organized by the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign.

“So this is something that the Russians inform us of. So, of course there is a fear that Kobani will be attacked.”

Editing by John J. Catherine

 2020-06-25 12:45:05

Syrian Arab and Christian communities support Intra-Kurdish dialogue

The intra-Kurdish dialogue unites Kurds and does not affect other communities. North Press Qamishli


80-year-old Kurdish man tortured to death in Afrin

The Turkish state and mercenaries continue to target civilians in Afrin. Hardly a day passes without reports of crimes in the occupied territories of North and East Syria.

Human Rights Organization- Afrin reported that the dead body of an 80-year-old Kurdish man called Aref Abdo Khalil, alias Aref Khatouneh, was found thrown near Lake Maidanki.

According to reliable local sources the victim had been kidnapped from his home village of Qezilbash, in Afrin’s Bilbile district on June 9. The area is under the sway of notorious Sultan Murad Turkmeni militias of Jaish al Nukhba.

The dead body of the disabled old man, who used to sit in a wheelchair, was found naked bearing traces of torture yesterday morning.

Local sources said that the victim had been kidnapped by Jaish al-Nukhba militiamen who broke into his home and stole his money.

The Turkish state has established a “terror regime” in all the areas it has occupied in North-East Syria. On April 23, the invaders kidnapped Sheikh Inezan, a prominent figure from the Neim tribe, which is among the most important tribes of the region.

On April 4, three civilians were kidnapped and then executed in the area between the villages of Kopirlik and Evdokoy. On the very dame day, a civilian named Sileman Bekre was kidnapped by the invaders in Afrin.

Two days ago, on June 9, eight civilians were kidnapped in the village of Raco, in Mabata by Jabhat al-Shamiya mercenaries who asked for ransom to release those detained.

16-year-old Malak Nabih Khalil was kidnapped by the Sultan Murad Brigade mercenaries on May 23. Her lifeless body has been found near the village of Firiziya in Azaz region on June 5.

Afrin has been under the occupation of the Turkish state and its mercenary allies for over two years now. The attacks of the Turkish state against Afrin began on 20 January 2018 and the invasion of the city was carried out on 18 March 2018. Since the invasion, war crimes have been systematically committed in the region. Almost every day, crimes such as the confiscation of property belonging to local people, kidnapping of civilians for ransom, torture or executions are carried out.

The occupation forces controlled by Ankara use the abductions to extort ransoms. This method has become a lucrative source of income. At least 500 cases of ransom handovers have been reported so far. Turkish-backed militias demand an equivalent of between 3,000 and 100,000 euros, depending on the ability of the victims’ relatives to pay.

Videos circulated on social media in late May showed the evacuation of abducted and imprisoned women prisoners found in an internment camp of the pro-Turkish militia Furqat al-Hamza. A number of Kurdish women, many of them Yazidis, were abducted after the invasion of the city by the Turkish army in spring 2018, and many are still in the prisons of the militias commanded by Turkey, being tortured and sexually abused. Protests against violent attacks on defenceless civilians, especially women, have been ongoing since, demanding urgent action by the international authorities which have remained silent on the Turkish occupation and resulting crimes in the region.

Turkey-linked mercenaries kidnap 11 civilians in Afrin

The Turkish state and mercenaries continue to target civilians in Afrin. Hardly a day passes without reports of crimes in the occupied territories of North and East Syria.

According to local sources 8 civilians have been kidnapped in the village of Raco, in Mabata by Jabhat al-Shamiya mercenaries. The mercenaries said they will release the kidnapped civilians if a ransom is paid. The kidnapped people have been named locally as Elî Hemo, Husên Şêxo, Ezîz Şêxo, Betal Mihemed Şêxo, Heysem Remzî Hecî Hemo, Henîf Arif Şerê, Mihemed Birîm and Henîf Henan.

Sources in the region also told ANHA that eventually two of the kidnapped civilians, Henîf Henan and Mihemed Birîm, were released after ransom was paid while there is no information about the fate of the others.

In addition, a source from the village of Meimila in Mabata, said that many more civilians were abducted by the mercenaries.

Only some of the names of the kidnapped people could be learned: Lawend Umer Simo (20), Mihemed Menan Birîm (32) and Ciwan Şukrî Umer (20).

The occupation forces kidnapped 16-year-old Malak Nabih Khalil by the Sultan Murad Brigade mercenaries on May 23. Her lifeless body has been found near the village of Firiziya in Azaz region two days ago.

According to reports revealed in late May, 11 women who had been abducted in 2018 were subject to brutal torture for two years. The women were hidden from their familes during the mentioned period of time.

The Turkish state has established a “terror regime” in all the areas it has occupied in North-East Syria. On April 23, the invaders kidnapped Sheikh Inezan, a prominent figure from the Neim tribe, which is among the most important tribes of the region.

On April 4, three civilians were kidnapped and then executed in the area between the villages of Kopirlik and Evdokoy. On the very dame day, a civilian named Sileman Bekre was kidnapped by the invaders in Afrin.

Afrin has been under the occupation of the Turkish state and its mercenary allies for over two years now. The attacks of the Turkish state against Afrin began on 20 January 2018 and the invasion of the city was carried out on 18 March 2018. Since the invasion, war crimes have been systematically committed in the region. Almost every day, crimes such as the confiscation of property belonging to local people, kidnapping of civilians for ransom, torture or executions are carried out.

The occupation forces controlled by Ankara use the abductions to extort ransoms. This method has become a lucrative source of income. At least 500 cases of ransom handovers have been reported so far. Turkish-backed militias demand an equivalent of between 3,000 and 100,000 euros, depending on the ability of the victims’ relatives to pay.


Water as a weapon of war

In an area of northern Syria, already struck by desertification which has been dramatically intensified by the global climate crisis, water is being used as a weapon of war.

For the past eight years the region commonly known by its Kurdish name of Rojava has been experimenting with building up an ecological and feminist system of self-governance. In this system, ordinary people make decisions about how their towns and neighbourhoods are run and women’s freedom is considered fundamental.

Turkey invaded Rojava in October 2019 after Trump announced US military withdrawal from the region. Turkish forces bombed the main water station on the first day of the invasion of Serekaniye (a city whose name, in Kurdish, means ‘fountainhead’, or ‘water source’) and surrounding towns and villages. Since then, the water has been shut-off on five further occasions, denying more than 650,000 people of access to water, just as the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Since the subsequent invasion and occupation of Serekaniye and Tel Abyad in late 2019, water is now being weaponized and water infrastructure targeted as never before

In addition to this, Turkey has dammed the rivers which flow from Turkey into Syria and Iraq, detaining water inside its own borders, causing a big reduction in the flow of water to the wider region – by an estimated 80 per cent to Iraq and by around 40 per cent to Syria.

In response to the ongoing crisis, UK-based co-operative the Solidarity Economy Association (SEA) has come together with a number of other international organizations and women’s structures in Rojava to launch a big crowdfunding campaign for water infrastructure and women’s co-operatives in the region. It aims to raise £100,000 ($123,463).

The #Water4Rojava crowdfunding campaign launched on 16 May and reached £25,000 ($30,865) in the first week. The campaign is also being match funded up to the first £50,000 and is being supported by well-known figures, including British actress Maxine Peak, David Graeber, Debbie Bookchin, Janet Biehl and world-renowned photographer Joey Lawrence.

‘Most of the water sources in the region were in Serekaniye and we lost them with the invasion,’ explains Heval Armanc from Aborîya Jin (Women’s Economy) – an autonomous women’s economic body in northeast Syria.

‘We have been struggling a lot more since we lost access to the water resources. We have some women’s economy projects, like our project in Derîk (another city in Rojava), where we are digging wells, planting trees and building houses. With all that we do, we are mindful about nature and not to cause any harm.’

Aborîya Jin’s main role is to help women set up and run projects like agriculture and textile co-operatives, and communal living projects with collective livelihoods. ‘If we are working alone, those projects will move very slowly, but with support the project can be very successful, that’s why the Water for Rojava campaign is very important. Access to water is even more vital now with the global pandemic – you need water to be clean and safe,’ says Armanc.

Turkey controls 90 per cent of the waterflow of the Euphrates, and around 44 per cent of the Tigris, the two main rivers of the region. Since 1992, the government has built 22 major dams which hold back the headwaters of these two great rivers.

Within Turkey’s borders, hundreds of towns and villages have been submerged and (mostly Kurdish) residents forced into cities and away from traditional ways of life. Downstream in Iraq, regions such as the ecologically and culturally unique Mesopotamian Marshes and the Marsh Arabs who depend on them for subsistence are also at threat of extinction.

In Syria, Turkey has been directly at war with the predominantly Kurdish population of the northern regions since its invasion and continued occupation of Afrin in early 2018. This is now escalating since the subsequent invasion and occupation of Serekaniye and Tel Abyad in late 2019, and water is now being weaponized and water infrastructure targeted as never before.

The local Directorate of Water, the citizen-led municipalities, the Women’s Economy, local charities and NGOs, all have plans for alternative measures to provide water, but pressures such as an economic embargo on the region and food insecurity caused by the depleted water supply, climate change and the ongoing conflict, mean that there are not enough funds to go ahead with all the projects. That’s where #Water4Rojava can help.

Support the Water for Rojava campaign 


SOHR: ISIS battalion from Iraq works for Turkish intelligence

SOHR reported that an Iraqi battalion of ISIS members working for “Ahrar Al-Sharqiayyah” and Turkish intelligence.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that a battalion which comprises tens of ISIS members operates under the banner of “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah” and consists of nearly 40 Iraqi fighters, works for the Turkish intelligence.

According to SOHR sources, the battalion works in northern Syria with a task of carrying out executions and detonations. In addition, they are tasked with spy on ISIS foreign members who try to flee to the Turkish territory and the undercover members in Aleppo countryside, so that the battalion can arrest them. Some of those arrested ISIS members were imprisoned or executed, while others were taken to Turkey in return for large sums of money. Reliable SOHR sources confirmed that those members in prisons have been compromised in order to be sent to fight in Libya.

The Observatory said: “The headquarters of the battalion, which is led by a person known as (Abu Waqqas Al-Iraqi), is in Al-Bab city in north-eastern Aleppo. A notorious prison belonging to the battalion is also located in the area. It is worth noting that Al-Iraqi used to travel comfortably between Turkey and Aleppo countryside. Al-Iraqi appeared in a picture taken in the Turkish state of Urfah documenting his meeting with Abu Osama Al-Tayanah, an ISIS commander.”

Reliable sources have informed SOHR that Abu Waqqas has been laying low for nearly two months, while it is not known whether he has been involved in military operations in Libya on the side of the “Government of National Accord”, or travelled to Egypt with large sums of money in his possession, like Abu Hudhayfah Al-Hamawi did. Abu Hudhayfah, a former commander in “Ahrar Al-Sham”, fled to Egypt after stealing large sums of money from “Ahrar Al-Sharqiyah” when the formation was established and joined “Ahrar Al-Sham movement” at that time.

“The Iraqi battalion recently transported prisoners from its prison in Al-Bab to Idlib city, where a commander in Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham known as (Abu Ali Al-Iraqi) has received them. It is worth noting that (Belal Al-Shawashi Al-Tunsi, Abu Al-Waleed Al-Tunsi and Abu Osama Al-Iraqi) as well as other Egyptians were among the prisoners who have been transported to Idlib. All of these prisoners who have been taken to Idlib are ISIS commanders. The battalion also established another headquarters recently in Al-Bab city,” SOHR sources added.

“Moreover, the Iraqi battalion used to bury people it killed in a mass grave on the outskirts of Susanbat village on the road between Al-Bab and Al-Ra’i in the north-eastern countryside of Aleppo. SOHR has obtained information about the fact that this battalion has killed nearly 300 civilians, combatants and ISIS members buried in the battalion’s mass grave in Aleppo.”

SOHR state that, on January 16, 2020, Thabet Al-Hwaysh, a security official in Ahrar Al-Sharqiyyah, was killed in a car-bomb explosion in Siluk town in northern Al-Raqqah. Al-Hwaysh was the one responsible for transferring money to Abu Waqqas Al-Iraqi from Al-Bab city to Turkey, during the period when Abu Waqqas was in Turkey.


Assyrian villages in the Khabur valley under constant attack

Of the 20,000 Assyrians who were living in the Khabur valley in northeast Syria before the war began in 2011, only about 1,000 remain today. Madeleine Khamis, commander of the “Khabur Guards”, fears that even the last Assyrians will be forced into exile.

According to Madeleine Khamis, commander of the Assyrian combat unit “Khabur Guards”, the Christian inhabitants of the Khabur valley cannot return to their homeland in the long run. As long as their settlement areas in northeast Syria are threatened by the Turkish army and its Islamist allies, the last members of the Assyrian community will probably be forced into exile, Khamis fears.

Programmes and projects to promote the return of displaced persons and their reintegration had to be put on hold due to the war of aggression launched last October by NATO member Turkey and its proxy invasion troops, the so-called “Syrian National Army” (SNA) – an association of extremist FSA militias, members of the “Al-Nusra Front”, Turkmen groups and other jihadist factions from the largely Turkish-held Idlib province.

After the liberation of Til Temir (Tal Tamr), the Khabur guards, together with Christian organizations, had succeeded in bringing exiled Assyrians back into the country. Now that the Khabur valley is in Turkey’s sights, no one believes that the return projects will be resumed soon. Time and again, the region is at the centre of invasion attacks to integrate it into the illegal occupation zone.

20,000 Christian population before the war in Til Temir

The Khabur river extends along the Khabur valley in the northeast of Syria. Here, where the town of Til Temir (Kurdish name: Girê Xurma), a reflection of the population mosaic of Syria, is located, the Nestorians – Assyrians from (Hakkari – who had fled to northern Iraq during the genocide of Christians in the Ottoman Empire between 1914 and 1918, settled in 1933. The League of Nations in Geneva awarded them the settlement area. Their second exodus was preceded by the Simele massacre: some 9000 Assyrians, mainly men and young people, were murdered in various villages in the Duhok region. The village of Simele, which was particularly affected, gave its name to this genocide. There, under the leadership of the Iraqi military, some 350 people died.

Madeleine Khamis

The Assyrians from Hakkari founded 33 villages in the flat valley of the Khabur, while Chaldean Christians settled in another three villages. Before the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011, about 20,000 Assyrian Christians were still living here, in almost every village there was a church. Now there are not even 1,000 people left. Because of the jihadists almost all inhabitants fled abroad, most went to Canada, Australia or the US. Some of the villages are completely empty, those who stayed are mostly elderly people. Also, several hundred internally displaced persons from other regions of the country now live in Til Temir.

Most of the inhabitants of Til Temir had already fled towards the end of 2012, when mercenaries of the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) shifted their attacks on Christians in the west and east to the northern regions and threatened to invade the city. Throughout the year there were repeated massacres, attacks and kidnappings in Homs, Damascus and Deir ez-Zor. Tn time the circle of perpetrators expanded to almost all armed jihadist militias, above all the “Al-Nusra Front”. Churches were desecrated and bombed, Christian villages systematically attacked and depopulated, religious dignitaries kidnapped and murdered. Starting in the second half of 2013, the name “Islamic State” (IS) was used more often in connection with crimes against Syrian Christians, especially around the Khabur valley. When the IS took control over more and more roads in the immediate vicinity of Til Temir, migration increased again.

In 2015, the escalation of terror in the Khabur Valley reached a new level when, in the early morning of February 23, the IS overran the western bank with 40 SUVs, took 12 Assyrian villages on the west side of the river and set fire to the churches. Some 4,000 people who wanted to seek shelter in Tur Abdin – the “Mountain of God’s servants” and heartland of the Syriacs – but were not allowed through by Turkey, managed to escape to Qamishlo and Hesekê. Others went abroad. Those who did not make it in time fell into the hands of the IS. According to various reports, the number of those kidnapped ranged from 262 to 373 and a ransom in the tens of millions was demanded for their release. In June 2015, Til Temir, the nearby Mount Kizwan (Abdulaziz) and the surrounding area were liberated by the YPG/YPJ and Christian fighting groups that had been formed after the outbreak of the Syrian war. Among the martyrs of the city was Ivana Hoffmann from Duisburg. She died on 7 March 2015 bearing the name of “Avaşîn Têkoşin Güneş” in the ranks of struggle and is considered the first internationalist to die in the armed struggle against the IS.

Assyrian Church in Til Temir

Khamis: Turkey is a colonial state

“There are absolutely no differences in the mentality of the Islamists and the Turkish state. When the jihadists invaded the Khabur valley a few years ago, our churches and other holy sites were the first target. This scenario has been repeated during the recent invasion. So far, six of our churches have been razed to the ground by Turkish combat drones. Others were largely damaged,” says Madeleine Khamis.

The commander, who is also a member of the Military Council of the Khabur Guards, calls Turkey a “colonial state”, which, according to the principle of divide et impera – divide and rule- has pursued and is constantly refining its old strategy of dividing territories, dividing the population and confusing the social structure. The same scenario as in Hatay 1938 is wanted to be implemented in the entire border strip as part of the neo-Ottoman expansion plans, says Khamis.

“Turkey wants to expand its borders by dividing and annexing parts of Northern Syria. The Assyrians accept the Turkish state neither in their settlement area nor in other parts of north-eastern Syria. Because the Turkish threat is an existential threat,” Khamis continues.

Genocidal violence against Assyrians and other Christian and ethnic groups is a common thread running through the history of the Turkish state and the Ottoman Empire, of which Turkey is the successor. When more than 1.5 million Armenians became victims of genocide under the responsibility of the young Turkish government during the First World War, pogroms, deportations and massacres also killed about 500,000 Syriacs, 300,000 of them Assyrians, and members of other ethnic groups who did not fit into the nation understanding of the “Turkish-Islamic synthesis”. The historian Joseph Yacoub, who was born in Hesekê, describes the genocide of the Syriacs as “hidden genocide”, since science has paid little attention to this event.

Church damaged during attacks

We are the descendants of survivors

“We in the Khabur Valley are the descendants of survivors of these events. Turkey, on the other hand, has always been an aggressor, destroying the civilizing heritage of the Christian settlement areas,” says Khamis. The Turkish state has not contributed to anything apart from its own ethnic nationalism and the resulting destruction, she says and adds: “Even today, it is attacking our regions and exporting Islamist terror to northeast Syria to wipe us out. As long as silence continues to reign, as long as the Turkish government’s actions are approved by the international community, as long as the outcry continues to fail, even the last Assyrian will leave the region. No one will be able to return home.”


Turkish forces and opposition groups destroy nine Yazidi shrines in Afrin

Destruction of the dome of Sheikh Ali shrine in the village of Basoufan, southern Afrin


Coronavirus in Rojava: Facing a Pandemic Without a State

by Thomas McClure

roj corona

Across the world, states are coming under pressure for their response to the coronavirus crisis. Some fail to adequately protect their citizens, some use Covid-19 as an excuse for authoritarian power-grabs, and some do both simultaneously.

Here in North and East Syria, the autonomous region more commonly known as Rojava, 4m Syrians – Kurds, Arabs, Christians – live outside the limited protection and authoritarian control of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Their stated aim is to build a new form of communal politics, outside the state. Consequently, the autonomous region faces isolation, embargo and the severing of aid on behalf of state powers unwilling to see their project succeed, leaving it searching for solutions outside those the United Nations and World Health Organization can offer.

Nine years of war, systematic targeting of health and water infrastructure by occupying Turkish forces, a lack of international recognition, and January’s closure of the only UN aid crossing into North and East Syria have left the region at extreme risk from coronavirus. With the WHO refusing to support it directly, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) is reliant on its own meagre resources and aid routed via the Assad government, little of which ever arrives to the north-east.

Pre-existing crisis.

The humanitarian situation is dire across Syria, and the north-east is no exception. 1.6m people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 600,000 internally displaced people. Local doctors are modelling a 10% death-rate in both the detention centers containing Isis fighters and the refugee camps – some containing Isis-linked families, others housing hundreds of thousands of Kurds displaced by successive Turkish invasions, as well as Arabs who have fled to the relative security of the north-east throughout the nine-year conflict.

The region’s 4m residents are reliant on a total capacity of just 40 ventilators and 35 ICU beds. Nine of the 11 public hospitals in North and East Syria have been damaged during the war, while a recent London School of Economics study found the regions under the AANES have the capability to handle just 460 coronavirus cases before being overrun.

WHO support.

The only way to accurately test for coronavirus is with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test machines. The only PCR machines in North and East Syria were lost in October 2019, when Turkey invaded the Kurdish-majority city of Serê Kaniyê‎. The hospital was shelled and then seized as part of the operation, leaving it inaccessible and inoperable.

The WHO had required North and East Syria to send all test samples to the Syrian capital, Damascus, but neither the WHO nor the Syrian government were facilitating the process. On 2 April, testing in Damascus confirmed a case of Covid-19 that, the same day, gave the North and East Syria its first coronavirus death, yet both the Syrian government and WHO failed to communicate this information to the AANES until two weeks had elapsed, putting medical staff in danger and meaning health officials in the region could not take adequate precautions.

Via Turkey, the WHO has now provided test kits to Idlib, a city controlled by al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir-al-Sham (HTS), from where samples can be sent to Turkey for testing. It has also provided 1200 testing kits to regime-controlled areas. Due to its lack of recognised status, however, North and East Syria has no access to WHO-provided testing kits. With support from the Kurdistan regional government in Iraq, the AANES was finally able to privately acquire five PCR machines, and together with front-line tests like white blood cell tests and temperature checks, the AANES is now able to run a basic testing programme rather than relying solely on Damascus.

UN aid severed.

The WHO’s parent organisation, the UN, is beholden to the powerful states sitting on its security council. In January 2020, Russia – whose support for the Damascus regime means it refuses to countenance autonomy in the north-east – exercised its security council veto to close the only UN aid crossing into North and East Syria

This means all UN aid into Syria is now sent either into areas controlled by HTS, to factions under the control of the Turkish intelligence service, or directly to the Assad regime. The AANES is forced to try to access UN aid via Damascus, but the reality is that most aid sent to Damascus remains in areas loyal to the regime. Little to nothing ever arrives in the north-east.

One sole 20-tonne aid delivery via Damascus did make it to North and East Syria – but per WHO guidance, 89% of the delivery remained in a regime-controlled pocket in Qamishlo. The limited aid supplied to the AANES was made up of infant incubators and other supplies not related to coronavirus, with one doctor telling the Rojava Information Center that the supplies were “essentially useless”. Similarly, under Turkish pressure the Iraqi Kurdish regional government has also been preventing the purchase and transfer of coronavirus supplies into North and East Syria.

A recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs indicated this decision will seriously reduce North and East Syria’s ability to combat coronavirus. Seven health centres in Raqqa are facing severe shortages of medicines and supplies as a direct result of the decision, with one soon to close, while the health centre in the Hol camp is also severely affected.

Turkish attacks on water.

While the regime obstructs aid from the south, Turkey applies pressure from the north. Turkey’s 2019 invasion of Serê Kaniyê‎ and Tell Abyad was marked by shelling and airstrikes targeting health points and clinics, resulting in the loss of two key hospitals as Turkey seized control of AANES territory.

It also allowed Turkey to take control of the Allouk water station. Allouk is a critical piece of infrastructure, providing drinking water to between 650,000 and 1m+ people, including 65,000 internally displaced people and Isis-linked individuals in the Hol camp; internally displaced people in the Washokani and Aresha camps and ad-hoc settlements, including 80 schools in Hasekah; the largest detention facility for captured Isis fighters in the world, housing some 5000 combatants and the scene of a recent uprising; and the AANES’s main quarantine hospital.

Turkey launched an airstrike against Allouk on day one of its invasion, putting it out of service. Now Turkey is in control of the water station, and although it has since been fixed under international mediation, Turkey has nonetheless cut the water flow to AANES areas five times in the last month, each time demanding the AANES send more and more electricity into (and pay for repairs in) the areas Turkey occupied in 2019. As the occupying power, Turkey is responsible for electricity provision in Serê Kaniyê under international law, and moreover it is demanding far more power than is proportional to its needs. Most recently, on 2 April Turkish forces shelled the water pipe from Allouk to Hasekah, cutting off water for the fifth time.

Solutions outside the state.

With Russia, Turkey and the Damascus government all piling pressure on the autonomous regions, aided and abetted by the WHO and UN, the north-east is forced to pursue alternative solutions. On the one hand, its political demands are clear: direct provision of WHO test kits and other supplies, re-opening of Yaroubiah aid crossing, an end to Turkey’s manipulation of the water flow, and in the long term recognition of the north-east’s autonomy as part of a federal, democratic Syria.

In the short term, however, the region is once again forced to rely on its own strained resources. Multiple medical projects are underway to develop DIY,  locally-produced ventilators as a solution to the chronic shortages in this field; aid is being distributed on a family-by-family basis via the local communes which form the building blocks of the grassroots democratic system.

If the AANES’s vision of a federal Syria is realised, it will be a chance to spread these ideas in a world newly awakened to the need for local, communal living. For now, the administration must rely on these war-tested ideals as its best hope of keeping the population alive through the pandemic crisis.

Thomas McClure is a researcher at the Rojava Information Center.

  • This article is part two of a two-part feature on the current situation in North and East Syria. Read part one here.

Published 4th May 2020


UN, WHO work with Assad to starve eastern Syria of aid during pandemic

The World Health Organization has also stopped supporting eastern Syria, an area of millions of people who are recovering from ISIS atrocities.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, wearing face masks as protection against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), meet in Damascus, Syria, in this handout released by SANA on April 20, 2020 (photo credit: SANA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, wearing face masks as protection against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), meet in Damascus, Syria, in this handout released by SANA on April 20, 2020

International organizations partnering with the Syrian regime are cutting off aid to the poorest and most vulnerable people in Syria during the global pandemic.

A recent report at Foreign Policy noted that the “United Nations informed its relief agencies several weeks ago that they were permitted to fund private charities operating in northeastern Syria only if they were registered in Damascus and authorized to work there by the Syrian government, which has proved unwilling, or unable, to meet the region’s health needs.”

This gives the Syrian regime a veto over aid to eastern Syria and a way to use it as a weapon. Turkey and Russia collaborated in the effort, as Turkey turns off water to 460,000 people in eastern Syria, and Russia supports the Syrian regime. The report indicates how dictatorships and regimes that abuse human rights come first at controlling UN and international aid, enabling them to use it only for charities linked to them and using it to empower loyalists and sideline others.

The World Health Organization has also stopped supporting eastern Syria, an area of millions of people who are recovering from ISIS atrocities, as the WHO also works through the Syrian regime rather than providing equal access to people on the ground in a Syria divided by conflict. It now turns out that people of eastern Syria are being increasingly isolated by great powers who want them to stop working with the US and either be controlled by Turkey or by the Russian-backed Assad regime.

The report notes that the UN Security Council, “acting under pressure from Russia, shut down a UN-sanctioned humanitarian aid hub on January 10 at the Yaroubia crossing on the Iraqi-Syrian border. That deprived the UN of an explicit legal mandate to serve in the region.” The crossing was used by the WHO and private groups, “delivering medical assistance into northeastern Syria.”

THE LARGER context is that Russia, Iran and Turkey want the US to leave eastern Syria. the people in eastern Syria are the victims because the local authorities were supported by America to fight ISIS. The local authorities are called the Syrian Democratic Forces and various civilian autonomous councils linked to them. The Syrian regime wants the SDF to be disbanded and become part of the Syrian regime’s forces.

Russia and Iran want the US to leave eastern Syria. Turkey, which works closely with Russia and Iran, also wants the US-backed SDF to leave; it invaded part of eastern Syria last year, sending extremist groups to attack civilians.

The pandemic has made matters worse. Desperate for medical support, the local authorities have complained that the WHO didn’t even inform them that a man who became sick in March in Qamishli had COVID-19. The organization reportedly informed the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), but it took another week to even tell the local authorities, because the UN only speaks to the Syrian regime in Damascus. Local authorities in Qamishli and Hasakah complained in a Voice of America report that the regime is concealing the number of coronavirus cases in eastern Syria and also allowing travel, despite attempts at lockdowns.

On May 7, Turkey and the extremists it backs in northern Syria cut off water to 460,000 people in eastern Syria. Turkey and the Syrian regime agree on trying to impose suffering on locals, isolate them and make sure they receive no aid.

THE WAY the UN works makes it so that no one who is not loyal to the Syrian regime receives aid in Syria. For instance, the UN’s World Food Programme conducted air drops to the Syrian-regime-run city off Deir Ezzor when it was under siege by ISIS between 2015 and 2017. The program conducted 309 airdrops at a cost of $37 million a year, according to its website. The assistance helped 200,000 people. But there were no UN-supported air drops for people in Raqqa, Qamishli, Kobane or Idlib, or in refugee camps or areas outside Syrian regime control.

The recent Foreign Policy report indicates that OCHA did ask the UN Office of Legal Affairs to look into the legality of providing relief to people who the Syrian regime didn’t want relief to go to. The experts “concluded that the UN could only fund agencies registered and approved by the Syrian government.” This means the government of Syria can decide who gets aid and can discriminate against those it doesn’t like, including for political, ethnic or religious reasons. That would appear to run contrary to all the lip service the UN and its various organizations pay to human rights and access to health care.

But the reality as it plays out in eastern Syria shows that even during a global pandemic, authoritarian regimes always come first, even if they can’t provide for their own people or don’t control most of their country. For similar reasons, people in Libya, Yemen and parts of Somalia receive no support during the pandemic.

THE SYRIAN regime has blocked aid going to eastern Syria unless local authorities will make sure it only goes to areas the regime wants. That has included blocking delivery of supplies by road from Damascus and making sure any aid flights to the regime-run airport in Qamishli are managed by the regime. The cut-off of aid is designed to isolate areas in eastern Syria and bring them to the bargaining table. The US had already walked away from some of these areas in October 2019, enabling a Turkish invasion and the rapid movement of Russia and Syrian regime forces to parts of northeast Syria.

US envoy James Jeffrey indicated in December 2018 that the SDF would need to work with Damascus and the regime, saying the US has no permanent relationship with non-state actors like the SDF. The US view of the SDF is temporary, tactical and transactional. The transaction today includes the SDF continuing to fight ISIS while the US secures oil fields near the Euphrates River to block Iran’s presence. The US calls this the Eastern Syria Stabilization Area.

As part of the transaction, US anti-ISIS envoy Jeffrey wants the SDF to continue to be subcontractors holding thousands of ISIS detainees. There was even some talk of having the UN support a coronavirus facility at Al-Hol camp where some families of ISIS detainees live, alongside other internally displaces Syrians. But that plan was also scuttled. Civilians who suffered under or even fought ISIS in eastern Syria will get no aid from the WHO or UN.

The US anti-ISIS coalition has tried to do what it can to help in eastern Syria. Under CENTCOM’s leadership, which is sympathetic to the people of eastern Syria and helping them in stabilization efforts after ISIS, some limited support has been delivered, including a multi-year electricity infrastructure effort. Had the area of Raqqa and other towns that once suffered under ISIS waited for the UN, they would still be in darkness.


Report: ISIS assassinations rise as Turkish-backed sleeper-cell groups launch new attacks

Turkish-controlled faction Ahrar al-Sharqiya claimed sleeper cell attacks in North and East Syria for the first time this month
  • April saw a 16% decrease in ISIS sleeper-cell attacks (48 to 40), whereas joint SDF and Coalition raids increased 100% this month (11 up to 22). Despite this increase, the rate of raids has consistently remained lower than the rates we were seeing prior to the war
  • Cells continue to specifically target individuals connected to the Autonomous Administration or SDF. Fatalities in general increased 21% this month, with 41% of these deaths being assassinations
  • In a new development, two attacks were claimed by Ahrar-al-Sharqiya, a Turkish-backed faction forming part of the Syrian National Army (SNA). Both of the attacks took place in Ain Issa
  • The 30km-deep ‘safe zone’ along the border with Turkey has remained untouched by sleeper-cell attacks

40 confirmed attacks took place in April, a 16% decrease from May (48 down to 40). 73% or 29 attacks were claimed by ISIS, leaving nine unclaimed and two attacks claimed by the SNA, as mentioned above.

RIC documented a total of 29 deaths in April, a 21% increase from March (24 up to 29). 41% of these deaths were assassinations specifically targeting village elders (Muhktars), or people claimed to be associated with the Autonomous Administration or SDF. In total 12 assassinations took place. This occurred after ISIS pamphlets were seen distributed throughout Deir-ez-Zor, threatening individuals connected to the Administration. At least 20 people were also documented as have being wounded, but not fatally, in April.

The rate of raids doubled this month (11 up to 22), but still remain lower than the rates we were seeing prior to the latest Turkish operation. 52 arrests have been documented, and three individuals operating with sleeper-cells were killed.

As throughout 2020, sleeper-cells have not targeted cities along the border with Turkey in the 30km-deep ‘safe zone’ (from Derik through to Dirbesiye and around Kobane).  75% of attacks occurred in Deir-ez-Zor, 15% in Heseke, 8% in Raqqa and 2.5% in Manbij.

In keeping with previous months’ trends sleeper-cell groups have continued to focus their energy on IEDs, attacks using small arms, and occasionally grenades – mostly with the purpose of direct elimination of an individual connected to the Autonomous Administration or SDF. There was also one instance of ISIS exploding an oil pipeline in the Heseke region.

Comment from Robin Fleming, a researcher with the Rojava Information Center:

“Unusually, two attacks this April were claimed by the Syrian National Army, specifically the Turkish proxy group Ahrar-al-Sharqiya. This group fought under Turkish command and control during operation Peace Spring, and infamously took the life of Hevrin Khalef, Secretary-General of the Syria’s Future Party and leading female Kurdish politician. These attacks show that following the Turkish invasion, these proxy groups still have a presence in NES outside of the occupied zones, and are still endangering the stability of the region.

Following a recent ISIS campaign distributing pamphlets throughout Deir-ez-Zor, threatening the lives of all those who associate themselves with the Autonomous Administration in any capacity, we saw the rate of both overall fatalities and specific assassinations rise. All of this indicates an ongoing evolution in ISIS’ tactics. It is no longer attempting merely to wreak havoc and claim as many lives as possible. Now instead ISIS is surgically targeting individuals connected to the Administration and SDF, using whatever


Turkey reduces water flow into North East Syria

The water level of the Euphrates river has decreased by 60% in the past two weeks. This was due to the Turkish state reducing the flow of the river.

Closing the part of the river that flows into the Syrian side, the Turkish state has greatly reduced the amount of water entering the country thus causing serious problems to both agriculture in the north of the country and electric supply to vital areas and facilities.

Under a prior agreement between Syria and Turkey, Syria was receiving 500 cubic meters of water per second. But Turkey is now using water as a threat and pressure way.  In the summer of 2017, it decreased the flow to 100 cubic meters per second, and this year the flow of the river did not exceed 200 cubic meters per second.

In order to produce electricity, the flow rate of the river must be at least 300 cubic meters per second. A 300-cubic meter flow can operate a 105-megawatt turbine.

There are 3 dams on the Euphrates River, which run for about 600 km in Syrian territory. Rojava (Tişrîn) Dam located in Manbij is the biggest dam in Syria.

There are six dams in the Turkish side of the Euphrates river, with Ataturk Dam being the second biggest dam of its kind in the Middle East. This dam has the capacity to store approximately 48 billion cubic meters of water.

Reducing the water level of the Euphrates River is a threat for millions of Syrians in the northeast of the country. It affects drinking water as well as electricity supply. Indeed in the past week there has been repeated interruption of electricity in northeast Syria. In addition, reduction in water is a problem for agriculture


51 bodies recovered from a mass grave in Raqqa

Bodies of 51 people murdered by ISIS have been unearthed from a mass grave in Raqqa.

51 corpses have been recovered from a mass grave in the region of Til Zedan east of Raqqa city.

Yasır Hamis from Raqqa Emergency Response Teams said that the mass grave in Til Zedan area, located between al-Samra and Hamrat villages, contains at least 200 corpses. He told that remains of 51 people have been recovered so far and their work continues.

Hamis pointed out that this mass grave was more sensitive in comparison to the mass graves in other parts of Raqqa as victims were piled up over each other in this one. He noted that they were working with utmost sensitivity to make sure that bones are not mingled.

According to Hamis, the digging might take a long time as three corpses are exhumed each day.

He added that the remains in the mass grave belong to civilians aged between 25 and 35 who were murdered by ISIS mercenaries during their bloody reign in the city.

Raqqa was the city ISIS jihadists proclaimed the capital of their so-called caliphate. It is also one of the cities which suffered most and witnessed inhuman massacres, beheading, violence difficult to express with words.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces liberated the Raqqa city on 20 October 2017. Since then the city has begun to rebuild itself. Some 85% of the city and its infrastructures had been destroyed by ISIS, yet the deepest destruction had to do with life itself. Some of the survivors of the dark years of the Caliphate say that life stopped during those times.

Yet, life prevailed. And the newly declared Autonomous Administration has been working since the liberation of the city to rebuild it.

Within the scope of the coordinated activities of the Raqqa Civil Assembly and the People’s Municipality, roads were re-opened, houses and water were started to be supplied to the neighborhoods and the war debris removed.

With the reconstruction of the city and the development of a free and common way of living, 700,000 people who had fled ISIS have returned to their homes.

With the increase of the population, the reconstruction works accelerated. The People’s Municipality of Raqqa announced an amnesty for those who had repaired their destroyed houses without permission and offered assistance to put the houses at norm.


Attacks on northern Syria continue unabated

The Turkish and Jihadist occupation forces continue their attacks against northern Syria enjoying a worldwide silence on their ongoing offensive seeking to invade the region in violation of international law.

The Turkish state is systematically bombing civilian settlements in North-East Syria/Rojava on daily basis. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes, while hundreds of civilians have lost their lives since the invasion attacks that began on 9 October 2019.

The occupant Turkish army and allied mercenaries have launched a wave of attacks on villages in Afrin’s Shera and Sherawa districts Sunday morning.

The attacks with heavy weapons have targeted the villages of Malikiya, Shiwarxa, Meranaz, Kafr Antun and Irshadiya in Shera, and the villages of Bene, Darjimal and Soxaneke in Sherawa.

On Saturday evening the occupation forces shelled the village of Xirbitbeqir near Gire Spi (Tal Abyad). No information was immediately available about the results of the attacks on the inhabited villages.

The attacks by Turkey and its jihadist aid troops in northern Syria have not abated, even in times of the coronavirus pandemic, and are mainly directed at residential areas and civil infrastructure. While civilian population suffers casualties, the power and water supply has collapsed in large parts of north-east Syria due to the targeted artillery attacks.

As part of worldwide measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a global ceasefire on 23 March and called on the parties to the conflict to cease hostilities, saying; “End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives. Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes. This is crucial.”

In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) responded by declaring that they would follow the UN appeal in the autonomous region and calling on all other parties to the conflict to immediately observe a humanitarian ceasefire. But so far the other warring parties have ignored this outstretched hand.

Turkey is using the Corona pandemic to expand its zone of occupation in the midst of the crisis. Despite warnings that a Covid-19 outbreak in Syria would pose a deadly threat to 6.5 million internally displaced persons suffering the effects of nine years of war, and a renewed appeal by the UN that a cessation of fighting could help create the conditions for the provision of life-saving aid, Northern and Syria continue to be under attack.

In the cities of Serêkaniyê (Ras al-Ain) and Girê Spî (Tal Abyad), which have been included in the Turkish occupation zone in North-East Syria since October 2019, and in the self-governing areas along the Turkish-Syrian border, significant military activities of Turkey’s jihadist proxy army (“Syrian National Army”, SNA) are taking place.

Afrin has been under the occupation of the Turkish state and its mercenary allies for over two years now. The attacks of the Turkish state against Afrin began on 20 January 2018 and the invasion of the city was carried out on 18 March 2018. Since the invasion, war crimes have been systematically committed in the region. Almost every day, crimes such as the confiscation of property belonging to local people, kidnapping of civilians for ransom, torture or executions are carried out.

The occupation forces controlled by Ankara use the abductions to extort ransoms. This method has become a lucrative source of income. At least 500 cases of ransom handovers have been reported so far. Turkish-backed militias demand an equivalent of between 3,000 and 100,000 euros, depending on the ability of the victims’ relatives to pay.

UN: War crimes and torture in Afrin

Last autumn, the UN Human Rights Council published a report on the situation in Syria, which also describes the devastating human rights situation in Afrin. The Council documented that the overall security conditions in Afrin and adjacent districts remained dire with armed factions having carved up the province into geographic zones of influence.

“As a result there is a general absence of rule of law and repeated incidents of kidnappings, torture, extortion and assassination. Victims were often of Kurdish origin as well as civilians perceived as being prosperous, including doctors, businessmen and merchants,” said the report


Syrian Kurdish parties resume talks, in secret

Rival Kurdish parties in northeastern Syria have began US-sponsored reconciliation talks after repeated delays in the past and in the hope of joining the UN-sponsored peace process to resolve the Syrian conflict.

al-monitor Fighters of the Manbij military council, allied to Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), take an overwatch position in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria June 1, 2016.  Photo by REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo.

Ivan Hassib

Ivan Hassib

Ivan Hassib is a Kurdish journalist who has worked as a correspondent and photographer for Kurdish and Arabic news channels, as well as international outlets. He is based in northeast Syria and currently works as a researcher for Information Management and Mine Action Programs, or IMMAP. On Twitter: @Ivan_Hassib

May 1, 2020

For the first time since Oct. 28, 2019, when Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander Mazlum Abdi announced an initiative to resolve inter-Kurdish differences, the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) kick-started secret, direct talks. The initiative is seemingly designed to include all the Kurdish parties in the PYD-ruled autonomous administration in northeast Syria, paving the way for the autonomous administration to join the UN-sponsored negotiations in Geneva to end the Syrian conflict.

Despite the stakes involved, success is not guaranteed given the tense political relations between the two negotiating parties following years of political conflict and media spats. The KNC is an official part of the Istanbul-based Syrian opposition in exile, while Turkey views the PYD, which espouses the ideology of the Abdullah Ocalan-led Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), as its top foe in Syria. Meanwhile, the PYD is also part of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political arm of the Kurdish-led SDF fighting alongside the US-led international coalition.

Speaking to Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity, an informed official source revealed the origins of the negotiations process. “The first direct negotiating round between the KNC and PYD was held in early April at a US military base on the periphery of Hasakah, in the presence of the US special adviser to the global coalition forces in Syria, William Roebuck, and SDF commander Mazlum Abdi.”

The attempted détente is reportedly taking place under US supervision. Roebuck has had multiple meetings with the KNC in the past three months to discuss developments in the Syrian arena and to support the initiative to unify Kurdish ranks in Syria.

At an April 25 press conference in Qamishli, Abdi said, “Remarkable progress is being made in the process to unify the Kurdish ranks. The parties, the PYD and the rest of the political parties are being responsive to the initiative.”

Commenting on the agenda for the negotiations, the source told Al-Monitor, “The two sides are discussing the adoption of a unified political vision for Syrian’s future based on discussion of a draft presented by the US side. After holding at least four meetings as part of the negotiations, the two sides agreed on the following: Syria will be a federal, democratic and pluralistic state; the current regime is an authoritarian and dictatorial regime that uses violence against its opponents; the Kurdish areas consist of an integrated political and geographical unit.”

He also said that the parties agree on building positive relations with neighboring countries and resolving the Syrian crisis in accordance with UN Resolution 2254. Both sides seek to include recognition of Kurdish national, cultural and political rights in the Syrian constitution as well secure constitutional recognition that Syrian Kurds are an indigenous people. They also agree to advocate for the return of refugees and other displaced persons to their homes and for a democratic opposition.

In Qamishli, SDC spokesman Amjad Othman told Al-Monitor, “The motives behind the agreement are much stronger than reasons preventing its conclusion. The parties to the dialogue have the single option of coming to an agreement despite the considerable challenges and difficulties which will only be resolved if the parties are serious.”

Othman said the negotiations can only succeed if the parties remain independent. “The regional influences and agendas need to be ignored, and priority needs to be given to the public interest and a joint vision to address the situations in Afrin, Ras al-Ain/Sari Kani and Gire Spi/Tell Abyad. The Kurdistan parties agreeing to and supporting the initiative would improve the odds of success.”

The KNC is allied with the Kurdish nationalist project led by Massoud Barzani and his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraq, having been formed in 2011 with the KDP’s support. As noted, the PYD bases its political and organizational projects on the PKK’s ideology.

Tensions between the PYD and KNC took a turn for the worse when the PYD became the most influential player in northeast Syria in 2012. The KNC viewed the PYD-led autonomous administration as a fait accompli and has refused to apply for a permit to engage in political activity there. The autonomous administration responded by exiling the KNC president, shuttering its offices and arresting dozens of its leaders and members during 2016-17.

Meanwhile, the KNC’s affiliation with the Istanbul-based Syrian opposition has served to exacerbate tensions between the two sides following multiple Turkish military operations launched against the Kurds in Syria. In fact, the PYD has accused the KNC of subordination to the Turkish state at the expense of the Kurdish people.

Kamiran Hajo, chairman of the KNC’s Foreign Relations Committee told Al-Monitor by phone from Sweden, where he resides, “We have always called for the unification of Kurdish ranks. The current circumstances seem to be right for practical steps to be taken in this direction. Following the relatively longstanding feud, the two sides are in need of an agreement that lays the foundations for the Kurds’ future in Syria.”

Hajo fears, however, that any new agreement with the PYD will suffer the same fate as previously ones reached by the two sides under Barzani’s auspices: collapse at the implementation stage. “Negotiations are not going to be easy, and there will be multiple challenges before an agreement is reached,” Hajo said. “The agreement’s implementation phase could be harder than the dialogue and agreement phase in itself. That’s what happened with the previous deals.”

Commenting on the US role in the negotiations, Ahed al-Hindi, a Washington, DC-based political analyst, told Al-Monitor by phone, “I believe that the US efforts to unify the Kurdish ranks in northeastern Syria are a part of [a broader] project designed to unify the entire Syrian north, namely the northwest controlled by the Turkish-backed [opposition] and the northeast controlled by the US-backed [Kurdish-led forces]. This project aims to build a strong position against the [Bashar] al-Assad regime and deny it the areas’ wealth, which could be used to revive the regime.”

Hindi believes the United States is determined to unify the ranks of the Syrian Kurds. He asserted, “The repeated visits Roebuck and his team made lately and his long stays in the region confirm that the US is serious in resolving inter-Kurdish differences and subsequently have the autonomous administration taking part in the Geneva talks to resolve the Syrian crisis and be represented in the opposition delegation.”

Over the course of the nine-year Syrian civil war, the Kurds in Syria have paid exorbitant prices in military and social terms. In 2018 and 2019, they lost the regions of Afrin, Ras al-Ain/Sari Kani and Gire Spi/Tell Abyad to Turkey and Turkish-backed militias, resulting in the displacement of most Kurdish residents in these areas. In addition, in the fight against Islamic State, the SDF, whose backbone is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, lost 11,000 fighters and saw 22,000 wounded.

Despite controlling nearly 20% of Syrian territory, the SDF does not have political representation in the Geneva talks because of Turkish opposition to their presence. With Ankara continuing to reject any project that would lead to Kurdish autonomous rule in Syria, unifying to jointly pursue Kurdish interests is the only option the Kurds have left.


Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria condemn ‘cowardly’ Afrin bombing

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria have condemned the “cowardly” Tuesday car bombing which killed at least 40 civilians in the northern city of Afrin.

A fuel tanker laced with explosives detonated in the city center on Tuesday evening, killing at least 40 civilians and injuring 47 others, according to Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency (AA).

General Commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mazloum Abdi took to Twitter on Wednesday to condemn the attack.

“What happened in Afrin yesterday was a condemned terrorist act which claimed the lives of innocent people. This criminal act is the outcome of destructive policy pursued by the Turkish occupation and its mercenaries in the city of peace and olives,” Abdi wrote.

A statement released by the Syrian Democratic Council, the SDF’s political wing, accused Turkish-backed forces for the explosion.

“We condemn this cowardly terrorist act which targeted innocent civilians and threatens the remaining sons of Afrin to displace and leave their villages and cities,” read the statement.

“[The] Turkish invasion, relying on [military] fractions with terrorist ideology, has opened the door wide to terrorist forces to reorganize their ranks and carry out cowardly acts under Turkish protection,” it added.

Hours later, Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of the Department of Foreign Relations for the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES) called on the international community to “pressure Turkey to leave Afrin and all other occupied areas.”

Afrin was invaded by the Turkish army and its Syrian proxies during Operation Olive Branch in March 2018 on the grounds that the YPG threatened Turkish national security.

Turkish authorities, including the country’s defense ministry and vice president, accused the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the backbone of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of being behind the attack.

Several bombings have rocked Afrin since the Turkish invasion, which Ankara insists are the work of the YPG. However, SDF officials have said that they do not intend to target civilians.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also condemned the attack.

“The United States renews its call for support and implementation of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria following today’s cowardly act of terror carried out on innocent victims in Afrin. Such acts of evil are unacceptable from any side in this conflict,” he wrote on Twitter.

UPDATE: Afrin city center blast kills 42

20 hours ago
Shawn Carrié

Black smoke rises from the site of Tuesday’s blast in Afrin. Photo: submitted

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — An explosion in the rebel-controlled city of Afrin in northwest Syria on Tuesday killed 42 people and wounded at least 50 others, local officials tell Rudaw English.

Witnesses told Rudaw English that the attack took place just before four p.m. on a crowded street in Afrin’s city center, near the entrance to its main market referred to by locals as the Political Junction, when fully loaded fuel tanker detonated in the middle of midday traffic.

“The bodies have been charred beyond recognition, but they appear to be civilians who were just passing by,” Azad Othman, a member of the Afrin Local Council, told Rudaw English.

Shops and vehicles burned for nearly an hour as fire and rescue vehicles rushed to the scene from nearby Azaz to assist in put out flames caused by the blast.

“It was a popular market that was targeted, so most of the dead are civilians, Raed Saleh, director of the Syrian Civil Defense told Rudaw English via telephone. “Our teams are still searching and rescuing. There could be more,” he added.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to Twitter to condemn the bombing.

“The United States renews its call for support and implementation of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria following today’s cowardly act of terror carried out on innocent victims in Afrin. Such acts of evil are unacceptable from any side in this conflict,” he wrote.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, but the Turkish defense ministry has accused the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which were ousted from the region by Turkey and its proxy Syrian rebel factions in March 2018. Since then, there has been a series of attacks on Turkish targets in the area, as well as reports of violations by local human rights monitors.

Similar blasts in areas controlled by Turkey-backed rebel fighters have targeted the area in recent months.

A statement by the YPG-affiliated Afrin Liberation Forces claimed to have killed two Turkish soldiers and three Syrian fighters in two separate attacks earlier this week.

“There have been three explosions targeting the city just this month, but this one is definitely the biggest and most deadly,” Afrin resident Milad al-Shehabi told Rudaw English.

Originally from Aleppo, Shehabi was displaced to Afrin two years ago. Recent fighting has displaced more that one million Syrians from rural Aleppo and Idlib, some of which still lies outside of the control of forces loyal to Bashar Assad.

Turkey supports the Syrian opposition in the war against President Bashar Assad but has joined with Russia to secure and monitor local ceasefires.

By evening, local authorities had compiled a list of names for relatives searching to check on their missing loved ones and collect their disfigured remains.

Updated at 8.51am on 29/4/2020


The spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has denied the news that the media of the Turkish occupation is promoting about the developments in the occupied Serekaniye and Girê Spi / Tal Abyad, and affirmed their full commitment to their duty towards their people and partners.