REVOLUTION in ROJAVA 2020

To the press and the general public

On the 15th January 2016 Kongra star was announced as the creation of an umbrella organisation of the Rojava women’s movement. We begin our anniversary by celebrating all revolutionary, struggling, resisting and freedom seeking women in the world. The inheritance gathered by global women’s struggle continues here in every area of life and struggle with Kongra Star. To build an ethical and political society, the freedom struggle of women and society will be raised even higher by women who resist.

In Rojava Kurdistan, the women’s movement began in 2005 under the name Yekitiya Star, working within society and social organising. At the same time, within the PYD, for the development of women’s politics, autonomous and women’s projects were organised. From 2005 until 2011 a huge amount of work was done in the face of great difficulties and oppression from the Syrian state and it’s mentality. Yekitiya Star made many sacrifices and gave immeasurable effort. In this resistance struggle many women were imprisoned, tortured and disappeared. Nazlîye Keçel is an example of such a revoltuionary woman, disappeared by the state. It is still not known what happened to her.

Yekitiya Star, as made up of women revolutionaries and warriors, also played a leadership role in the Rojava revolution. It organised thousands of women in every kind of work in society and politics. The works of the Rojava women’s movement that were built up under the name Yekitiya Star, named itself Kongra Star to continue its work fighting for women’s freedom and equality. Kongra Star organised with more width and depth on the experience and acheivements of Yekitiya Star. Now, after a great struggle in all political and social fields, the autonomous women’s political system has also been built up. The system of equal representation has become an example in the Middle East and in the world.

All the women of Rojava took their place in the work of Yekitiya Star, playing a leading role and organising in all different areas before the revolution. They shouldered a great responsibility, some in the work of defence, others in political areas. Şehîd Şîlan Kobanê has become a symbol for the struggle to build up women’s freedom, the development of autonomous women’s organising, and women’s leadership. Şehîds such as Gulê Selmo, Fatma Hecî, Eyşe Elî and Dayê Aqîde have left their mark on history, falling martyr in the struggle for women’s and people’s freedom, on the journey to build a free and equal society.

Women have given heavy sacrifices and many şehîds in the creation and advancement of autonomous organising and on the way to women’s freedom. Comrades have given their hearts and souls to lead and take responsibility for the creation and organising of a system for a democratic society. Women showed their strength of belief, mind and connection particularly clearly in the time of the Afrin resistance. The self sacrifice actions of Şehîds Berîvan, Avesta Xabûr and Barîn Kobanê have become examples from this time. Furthermore, in the Kobane resistance our comrades Şehîd Rêvan, Şehîd Arîn Mîrkan and many more comrades who’s names we don’t know for sure, put themselves into the pages of the history book of women’s freedom.

Women’s rights and role in society have become apparent, and women’s will represented, between the women’s army, the efforts of women’s organising in every area of life, and so many immortal şehîds. In the current Resistance of Dignity the martyrdom of other comrades has brought the attention of the whole world onto the resistance; Şehîd Amara in defence of her honour and land, Hevrîn Xelef in the advancement and example of a democratic system, Dayê Aqîde for bringing about women’s justice.

Kongra Star is, in the broadest sense, taking on the same role and mission continuing the work and struggle that is the inheritance of all this experience of the global struggle for women’s freedom, in particular from the base build up by Yekitiya Star. Women have become organised under the umbrella of Kongra Star at every level of commune, group and council, across every aspect of societyl and have played a vanguard role in the Rojava revolution. The power of women is the measure of a free, equal, and and democratic life. This has shown itself in Kongra Star and struggled has continued in the face of the oppression, occupation and violence of the dominant male mentality. Furthermore the struggle within society has continued, and be brought about against mistreatment, rape and assault, child marriage, polygamy, massacres and femicide. Thousands of women have made actions for their historic and universal rights, and these actions are organised with the example and leading role of Kongra Star and have become a model for the whole world.

The women’s army YPJ has taken its place and played a role in all these advancements, and the defence of the Rojava revolution, and has become famous around the world. With this role and these missions, the revolution of Rojava society has become a women’s revolution and with women as the vanguard is building up a democratic and ecological society as well as women’s freedom. Many concrete changes have been made and important steps taken in the gender struggle, and it has proved itself by making the women’s liberation ideology a reality.

On this basis, we once again celebrate the anniversary of the announcement of Kongra Star by saluting all revolutionary women and those struggling, seeking freedom, resisting and defending. Honouring the memories and bringing about the dreams of those who have fallen şehîd on the road to a free life, given their spirits for struggle, equality and freedom is the goal of a free and democratic life. The anniversary of Kongra Star honours all three of our comrades Hevrîn Xelef, Amara Renas and Dayê Aqîde, and all the şehîds of the Resistance of Dignity of the Serêkaniyê war and we say “We will defend our land and defeat fascism and occupation.”

Greetings and regards

Kongra Star Coordination Rojava 14/1/2020

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Rahmani: Rojava gives hope to the oppressed

In an interview with ANF, Iranian author Bahram Rahmani stresses the importance of the democratic alternative in Rojava for the oppressed of the world and calls for solidarity with the resistance against the Turkish invasion.

Bahram Rahmani, former chairman of the Association of Iranian Writers and the Iranian section of the PEN writers’ association, spoke to ANF about Turkey’s Middle East policy and Turkey’s “Kurdish policy” in Syria. Rahmani emphasizes the importance of the democratic alternative in Rojava for the oppressed of the world and assigns Turkey and Erdoğan a crucial responsibility for the war in Syria.

Astana must be investigated

The Iranian author and journalist regards the shooting down of a Russian plane by Turkey in 2015 as a decisive turning point. “Ankara has moved away from the US and NATO and started to cooperate with Russia and Iran. However, these forces were on different sides in Syria. While Russia and Iran took sides with Assad, Turkey continued its support for the jihadists. One has to look closely at how these countries, although supporting different factions, are working together on the future of Syria. They meet in Astana and make decisions. But neither the Syrian Government nor the Syrian people are present at the table. Three countries decide the future of another country.”

Turkey’s position is weakened

Despite the different interests regarding Syria, both countries have given the green light to Turkey’s occupation of northern Syria, Rahmani continues; “Erdoğan’s aim was to settle Syrian Arabs in the border area in order to prevent the relationship between the Kurds in Northern Kurdistan [Turkish territory] and Rojava. But this could not be realised until today. Turkey is not economically in a position to do this. Turkey is also in a difficult situation in Idlib. Here the ISIS and Al-Qaeda groups supported by Ankara are in power. For all these reasons, Turkey’s position is weakened.”

Erdoğan’s plan for Libya

Rahmani recalls that Erdoğan has armed and supported jihadists during the Syrian war. Since they could not be accommodated on Turkish-occupied territories in North-East Syria, Ankara is planning to send his Islamist allies into the Libyan civil war. “Regardless of what Erdoğan has done, Turkey is actually in a key position in the Middle East. Erdoğan and the Turkish state fear that the systems are changing. There is a strong popular movement against the mullahs in Iran. If the Iranian regime collapses, this will have a strong influence on Turkey. Erdoğan will not be able to stay in power.”

Erdoğan and Khamanei take an ideological approach

While Russia pursues a pragmatic policy in line with its political and economic interests, Erdoğan and Khamenei have adopted an ideological approach and support Islamists close to them. Thus Erdoğan also supports the Muslim Brother Government in Libya, says Rahmani.

Erdoğan fears the Kurds’ territorial gains

“The Turkish state has been attacking the Kurdish people and PKK for 40 years. But the Kurdish people have their demands. Erdoğan panicked when the Kurds became stronger during the peace process and the HDP was able to send 80 MPs to parliament. Despite all the repression, the HDP was able to send 50 MPs to parliament in the last elections as well. Erdoğan is even more afraid of developments in Turkey and Northern Kurdistan than of Rojava. He is afraid of the Kurdish people in Northern Kurdistan. Everybody knows that there has been no threat for Turkey from Rojava for eight years. Erdoğan is afraid that the democratic system in Rojava will be extended to Kurdistan and the Middle East.

Rojava does not suit the reactionary and imperialist states

Not only Turkey is against Rojava, but also Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, the EU, the US and other countries are against self-government, says Rahmani. “For eight years not a single country has recognised the system in Rojava. They pretend to be against the Turkish invasion of Rojava, but at the same time they don’t like the system there. German and Swiss weapons are used in Rojava, as well as armaments from other Western countries. These countries do not want the people to administer themselves.

The system of Rojava is successful because it is based on the people

When the ISIS attacked Shengal, the Peshmerga abandoned the Yazidis and withdrew. Aid came from Rojava and the ISIS was prevented from entering the self-governing areas in northern Syria. The people of Rojava are now resisting the Turkish invasion. The system in Rojava gives hope to the poor all over the world. All oppressed peoples should support the resistance of Rojava against the Turkish state.”

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Non-stop Turkification policy in the occupied Syrian territories

Turkey continues the (Turkification) process in the various Syrian regions and towns that it occupies, and among these measures is the naming of the official departments with Turkish names, where a school in the Syrian Jarablus was called the name of a deceased Turkish governor.

Since the occupation of the Syrian territories in the middle of 2016, after its occupation of the cities of Jarablus and Al-Bab, Turkey has been working to “leave” the various official and service governmental institutions. On its roofs, the Turkish flag is raised, and on its doors the pictures of the Turkish president are suspended.

The names of these government and service departments are also written in Turkish in bold.

Adding more to “Turkification” policy, the Turkish occupation, on Sunday, where it opened a high school in the Syrian city of Jarablus, yesterday holding the name of the Turkish governor, “Ahmed Torgay Imam Geylar”, who died in Jarablus a year ago after a heart attack.

According to information received from the occupied city of Jarablus, Ankara deliberately opened the secondary school on the 12th of this month, to coincide with the day of Imam Geylar’s death.

The Turkish authorities do not hesitate to take advantage of any opportunity to implement the policy of Turkification in the cities and towns that it occupies within the Syrian territories, and thus honored the deceased deputy governor in Jarablus.

The “Imam Geylar”, whom Ankara honored and named after a high school, is the deputy governor of the Turkish city of Gaziantep, and he passed away on January 12 of 2019 in his office in Jarablus, where he used to live and work as an official in charge of Turkish scientific activities.

The opening of the high school that held his name was attended by a crowd of Turkish officials, among them the governor of the city of Gaziantep and representatives of Erdogan’s “Justice and Development” party, along with deputies from the same party in the Turkish parliament.

This is not the first time that Turkish officials have attended such events. Yassin Akti, Erdogan’s adviser, visited 6 months ago the city of Afrin and other towns north of Aleppo.

In addition to “Turks”, Ankara is striving to change the demographics of the areas that were controlled by north-eastern and western Syria, as it continues to settle operations of Syrian mercenaries belonging to Turkey in those cities and towns with their families.

J.O

ANHA

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“Şervano” – The song of resistance

The Kurdish people’s resistance against the invasion of northern and eastern Syria by the Turkish army and its proxies continues. Since the beginning of the war of aggression on October 9, 2018, Kurds in Kurdistan and all over the world responded to the occupation in a variety of ways, from political work to street protest and physical self-defence. Their resistance has received much support from internationalists around the world, who stand with them shoulder to shoulder in solidarity to put an end to the fascist AKP-regime of the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Art has always played a big role in the history of the Kurdish people and their struggles. Amongst others, the song “Şervano” has come to be the symbol of Rojava’s resistance against Turkish state fascism. Released in the same week as the beginning of the Turkish army’s “Peace Spring” operation, the song has become an important part of protests, the fields, and the front lines. It is even played at funerals in honor of the martyrs, accompanied by the singing of the attendants, who know it by heart.

The song became iconic with the circulation of videos from the funeral of YPG fighter Yusif Nebi, who had asked his family not to cry, but to sing and dance, if he dies in combat. Surrounded by large crowds of mourners, his brother and mother danced as an act of resistance against fascism.

The following interview with the composer was conducted by the Germany-based Kurdistan Report magazine. “Şervano” was written by Kurdish artist Şêro Hindê, who is working at “Hûnergeha Welat” (atelier of the homeland) in Rojava, and is also a member of the Rojava Film Commune. He is the director of the documentaries “Darên bi tenê” (Lonely Trees) and “Bajarên wêrankirî” (Destroyed Cities).

What were the circumstances in which the song “Şervano” was created? Where was the videoclip shot?

On the evening the Turkish government and its allies started the invasion on the 9th of October, we were in Qamişlo together with the musician Mehmûd Berazî and the author Ibrahim Feqe. Together, we wrote the song and composed the music. In the meantime bombs were dropping on Qamişlo, killing six people and injuring many more.

That night was very meaningful because the resistance fighters tirelessly and fearlessly took up position to protect the civilian populations and at the same time to prepare them for war again. The sight of those brave fighters persuaded us to put down what we saw in writing and composition. So we literarily saw the song “Şervano” in front of our eyes and on the following day, we started shooting the video based on the events of the previous night. We consciously worked without extravagant images and techniques in order to have be as authentic as possible.

The People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighter from the video, Elî Feqe, is also a member of the Rojava Film Commune. He is a cameraman and an active role in the cinematic art.

Did you expect such a big impact of “Şervano”? What were the reactions?

We expected the song to reach and move people, but we too were surprised about the dimensions of the affect. We always try to create art, which reflects the Zeitgeist. However, it is important for us to express, keep alive and do justice to our centuries-old art traditions and to express our folkloric culture and dengbej music.

I would like to emphasize that our comrade Mehmûd Berazî, the composer of “Şervano”, makes the greatest contributions to music in Rojava and has the strongest influence.

The people love our songs, especially “Şervano”. Certainly, there have been other popular songs before, such as “Nivişta Gerilla”, “Tîna Çiya”, “Edlaye” and “Tola Salanîya Efrînê”, which are also often played at the funerals of our fallen friends, at protests or at the frontline. Essential elements of this music culture are the female and male resistance fighters, who show no fear of the enemy. Of course our musical work influences and touches us as much as anyone else. The emotional specificities of our artwork stem from the love and the esteem that is displayed towards us.

This became obvious also through the martyr Yusuf Nebî. His last will was that the people should not cry at his burial, but dance instead. Following his last will, his family played the song “Şervano” at the funeral, sang along the meaningful verses and danced. This sight was both, very painful and moving at the same time. For us as for everyone else.

You continue your work during the revolution. What do you do?

We were artistically active before the start of the revolution already. However, we couldn’t express ourselves as freely as now. Indeed, it’s astonishing that we feel freer than before in the development of our art, considering the adverse living conditions, the intensity of the war, the daily losses of our fighters and the civil fatalities. In this way, we as Kurdish artists want to make our contribution to the revolution. A revolution has different areas. Our task is it to convey to the outside the emotions and the spirit of the revolution in relation with the pain that our people have to suffer. In doing so, we don’t mind how the public interprets our art, whether positively or negatively. Our primary goal is to do justice to our people. To illustrate as well as relieve the suffering and to keep their morale up.

We also produce movies. The Rojava Film Commune was founded in 2015. We shoot documentaries, short movies, clips and feature films. I personally primarily focus on music, but also on my movie projects. At the moment I produce a documentary about the dengbej music culture. With the title “Darên bi tenê” (Lonely Trees), we documented dengbej songs in Şengal (Sinjar). We also produced a documentary about the life of the unforgettable artist Mihemmed Şêxo. I express myself best with the help of music.

As artists of the Rojava Film Commune and of Hûnergeha Welat, we want to add new elements to the revolution’s art. We don’t want to spread classic, well-known slogan-like art, but rather reflect the present, revolutionary spirit and feelings of Rojava’s society.

Do you face any difficulties during your work?

We work under very harsh conditions, in the midst of a war. Still, we strive to capture sharp photos and clear sounds. Our work is only possible thanks to the collective institutions, because we resist all together. As much as times of resistance are filled with creativity, they are also connected to difficulties. Big projects obviously aren’t possible in the midst of war. We have started a big research project about the dengbêj songs from Rojava. Among other things, we wanted to record some from Dicle (Tigris) to Xabûr and to piece them together in a documentary. But because of the current war conditions, we were forced to let it rest. Our only possibility at the moment is to show to the public, with the help of our projects, the omnipresence of the resistance. But unfortunately that’s not enough. For the realization of our projects, we need resources that are provided sufficiently to other institutions, which neither want to collaborate with us, nor are connected to us or Rojava in any way. They steal our projects and sell them as their own. In the near future, we want to take measures to prevent those and further thefts of course.

Are publications of further projects to be expected?

At the moment we especially work on projects, which primarily document the resistance. An important site of this great and strong resistance is Serê Kanîye (Ras al-Ain). We want to record this great resistance for history, with the help of art projects.

It is important for us to not produce typical revolution movies, but to realize projects, which create the consciousness among people to understand that we are those for whom the resistance fighters fight and sacrifice their lives. This is the direction of our work and it will be revealed in the near future. As much as we receive love and appreciation from the people, sometimes we also get criticism. This is important for the improvement of our further projects. Our singers Xalît Derîk, Haci Musa, Sîdar, Eyşe and Şefîka Şehriban Güneş, who always sing centuries-old folk songs with deep feelings, try to keep alive the cultural folk music.

How was Hûnergeha Welat founded and how is it made up?

Hûnergeha Welat was founded on the first of July 2014 in Qamişlo. There are two different areas: music and documentation. Every year, music is produced with dengbej artists and musicians, as well as movies and documentaries.

90% of the songs and videos dedicated to the revolution and which were produced in Rojava, are productions of Hûnergeha Welat. The name is in memory of the martyr Welat. This comrade was killed by a denotation of a car bomb from the so-called Islamic State. He was a very important friend, who kept himself busy with music and art and who knew a lot about the arts.

Hûnergeha Welat was a project, which we wanted to realize with him. Instead, we created the project and remembered him by naming it after him. The comrade Mehmûd Berazî is working at the moment on music. Likewise other friends, such as Kawa, Serxebên, Comerd, Ozan, Evan and many more.  In the section of documentary film, the comrades Alab and Ali are the main contact persons. Of course there are many more members, who I didn’t name here but who are an essential part of our work.

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The Future of Northeastern Syria: In Conversation with SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi


Also available in العربية

January 10, 2019

With the latest unexpected escalation between Iran and the United States in Iraq, the ongoing challenges of Syria have, for the moment, become a less-discussed point of regional tension. However, for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which precariously continues to control an autonomous region of Northeastern Syria, the last few months have tested the organization’s hold over the region.

In the months since U.S. troop withdrawal from the Turkish-Syrian border and the subsequent Turkish Operation Peace Spring, launched on October 9, the future of northeastern Syria has become in some ways less certain for the SDF. In addition to the previous major loss of Afrin during the earlier Turkish Olive Branch Operation in March 2018, the SDF has now also lost hold of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.

Yet for now, the two ceasefire deals Turkey signed with the United States On October 17 and with Russia on October 22 have so far prevented further conflict and expansion of Turkish territorial control into northeastern Syria. Furthermore, the SDF reached a deal with Damascus with Russian mediation to protect the Syrian border, which, though it has not led to a concrete agreement between Damascus and the SDF, has at least encouraged ongoing negotiations between the two.

In December, the author sat down for an interview with SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi, who explained the current position and concerns of the SDF, and how the two ceasefire deals now governing the Syrian-Turkish border have lessened the risk of a future Turkish attack. General Mazloum noted that although there is still a risk Turkey could attack either Jazira (Hassakah province) or Kobani, such a scenario would not be easy for Turkey. “They know that we will put a major fight—but there are larger agreements for now. There are agreements with Russians and also with the United States, which are preventing Turkish attacks. The Americans say that if Turkey attacks [Kobani], there will be sanctions against Turkey—and there are also Russian forces there.”

Moreover, for the local self-administration of northeast Syria (NES), not much has changed in the months since Turkey’s latest incursion. Although it had to evacuate its administration center from Ain al Issa and move to Raqqa, a number of checkpoints and the Fish Khabur border crossing with Iraq are still under SDF jurisdiction. The border crossing in particular has been key, as it allows foreign journalists and NGOs continued access to the northeast of Syria without needing to obtain a visa from the government in Damascus. What has changed is that Russian forces have replaced positions of the U.S. army, and Syrian forces now man the front line with Turkish-backed forces, though they do not maintain checkpoints.

Meanwhile, the U.S. army has now shifted its location deeper into the territory of northeastern Syria—between October and November, the U.S. army withdrew from areas near Raqqa, Kobani, and Manbij and repositioned their forces to the Hasakah province and the oil-rich Deir ar Zour. Forces are now tasked with protecting oil infrastructure and continuing the fight against ISIS.

The Resilience of the SDF

In spite of the territorial losses, one notable outcome of the fighting has been the demonstration of unity between Kurds and non-Kurds within the SDF, despite expectations to the contrary. SDF officials have reported that there was no major defection of Arab SDF fighters or uprising of Arab citizens in northeastern Syria to support either Syrian regime forces or Turkey in areas like Raqqa or Deir ar Zour. As General Mazloum stated, “Turkey’s plans were undermined; they were expecting that once they attack, the Arab-populated areas will rise against us [SDF], Raqqa, Deir Az-Zour, Manbij and Tabqah for instance.” Similarly, although there was an expectation that non-Kurdish SDF soldiers would defect, “Nothing like that ever occurred, actually, there has been more unity. And as we speak, Arab fighters are joining the SDF more than pre-Turkish invasion.”

This was not the only effort to prompt these forces to abandon the SDF. Earlier in December, Syria’s security chief Ali Mamlouk also asked Arab tribes to defect to the Syrian government. Mazloum suggested that the two efforts to prompt defection—Damascus with its threats, Turkey with its attacks—have both failed. Mazloum reported that his troops “rejected [the] call” of the Syrian government, attributing this to a shared vision: “Those who have joined the SDF believe in the ideas and goals of the SDF.”

The Challenge of Recognition

Yet the call by Ali Mamlouk highlights the continuing reality that the SDF and Syrian government are not on good terms, despite the two sides’ earlier military cooperation against Turkey. Negotiations between Damascus and the SDF to settle the status of NES in the eyes of the Syrian government have been ongoing, as the SDF leader confirmed. However, so far Damascus refuses to agree to any stipulations that they would recognize the SDF, and the government still wants to integrate SDF fighters on an individual basis into the Syrian army.

In contrast, the SDF has stated that they would only join the Syrian army in the event of a new Syrian constitution, in which the SDF “preserve[s] its autonomous status in the area of command and institutions.” According to General Mazloum, it is only “Within that framework [that] our discussions with the Russians and Syrian government [will] continue.”

So far, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad seems to be uninterested in such a deal, although an agreement with the SDF could improve the Syria’s deteriorating economy that has weakened due to the sorry state of the Syrian pound—which has hit a record low amid sanctions and war. The SDF still controls major oil and agricultural resources and is conducting trade with the Iraqi Kurds, which could provide an influx into the overall Syrian economy were some sort of agreement to be reached.

Refugee issue

Moreover, the SDF is now primarily concerned with another type of challenge to its borders: the publicly expressed desire by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to settle a million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey into Syrian areas under his control.

As General Mazloum sees it, “It is Erdogan’s goal to bring non-locals and force them to resettle, displace the Kurdish people and democrats from their homeland—and then hire mercenaries from those resettled to use them against Syrian people’s unity, using Syrians to advance Erdogan’s agenda in Syria.” The SDF leader argued that the basic conditions necessary for resettlement of Syrian refugees have not yet been met: “First the Syrian war must be resolved so that everyone can return to their homes.”

The SDF and the local administration have always stated that it is their policy to allow any refugees originally from the area under SDF control to return and resettle there. However, the SDF commander-in-chief emphasized that the majority of Syrians in Turkey are from regions of Damascus, Homs, and Daraa in the south. General Mazloum argues that Turkey’s resettlement plan would benefit neither the NES’s current residents nor those being resettled, as he said those refugees currently in Syria “also do not want to be resettled in Northeastern Syria.” Such a resettlement plan would decrease pressures for a political solution that allows refugees to return to their homes in Syria, and the general insisted that such a process should take place in order to resolve the Syrian crisis.

In contrast, Turkey’s resettlement plan would in turn solidify the displacement of Kurdish Syrians from Afrin and other areas currently under Turkish control, eroding support for the SDF in those regions in turn. A June 2019 report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed concerns that permitting Arabs to occupy Kurdish homes in Afrin could permanently change the ethnic composition there. The SDF fears that the scenario already playing out in Afrin could also affect the areas newly controlled by Turkey, though the Turkish Defense Ministry has dismissed these accusations.

Balancing Between Russia and Damascus

Despite recent history, the SDF is not currently concerned that Russia would threaten the SDF with a green light for a Turkish attack on Kobani or other regions in order to pressure the SDF to give more concessions to Damascus as it did in January 2018. Then, Moscow allowed Turkey to attack Afrin once it became clear that the Kurds were not willing to handover Afrin to Damascus.

Now, the Russians might seek access to oil-rich areas currently under U.S. protection, but General Mazloum thinks it unlikely that such interests would manifest into action. “There are agreements between the Russians and the Americans…They [the Russians] have not asked us something like that, and they are coordinating with the Americans as well, not only us.”

The current situation demonstrates that although the SDF is weakened, it has managed to keep its de-facto autonomy, balancing between Moscow, Damascus, Ankara, and Washington without the disintegration of the SDF. Moreover, the continued U.S. presence in the oil-rich regions of northeastern Syria has now given the SDF a point of leverage in negotiations with Damascus.

However, a political agreement with Damascus is far from assured. And if the SDF and Damascus are not able to come to an agreement, tensions are likely to rise once more. The ongoing regional tensions between the United States and Iran could also negatively affect the SDF, especially in Deir ar Zour. However, Damascus does not have enough manpower to replace the SDF, especially with its deteriorating economic condition. Thus, the SDF will continue to remain a de-facto autonomous entity despite uncertainty over its future unless there are unexpected changes in the political field of Syria.

REVOLUTION IN ROJAVA (IV) – Documents and Debates 2019

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Anarchist Fighter With YPJ Speaks about Defense of Serekaniye

Published December 26, 2019

Anarchist Fighter With YPJ Speaks about Defense of Serekaniye

Turkey initiated “Operation Peace Spring” on October 9, 2019, with the intention of occupying Rojava. This preceded 12 days of historic resistance which included anarchist and revolutionary left battalions. The clashes took place from balcony to balcony, street to street, and house to house. Despite the technical superiority and being outnumbered by Turkish forces, with only a small number of people, they resisted for 12 days until a ceasefire was implemented.

This is an interview with an anarchist who fought in Serekaniye with the YPJ.

Do you remember on October 9th, how the attacks on Serekaniye began?

It came to us that the day before there had already been an attack, a bombing, but that it had been decided not to respond. So it was a little conversation behind the scenes, between the companions that we were in my small group. We said: “What will happen?” Two days before we were on the street guarding at night and everything was too quiet. At one point the body feels it, because the tension increases and the body notices it.

And on the 9th, I remember it was past noon, we were in our normal position when we heard the first bombings and from our position we could see the smoke. I remember that my whole body, that all my blood told me: “Now, come on, let’s start.” And of course, I had not yet experienced such a strong sensation, and to see it physically … We all met at home and our commander told us: “all prepared, take the backpacks, take a position”. From that moment it was as if things were triggered little by little … Suddenly, there are many noises that you do not understand … There was a lot of smoke, the city was prepared to avoid observation from the sky by drones, and move under this smoke with psychological affects. Then all the cars full of families, marching with what they have been able to take in ten minutes …

I imagine that the air factor was very important, right? What was it like to fight an army that is supported by warplanes?

The first days were very hard, because with the first bombings the first mass wounded arrived. They are not wounded by war typical city war, they are injured by explosions, entire groups of people, it is another type of war. At first, for example, transporting injured from Serekaniye to Til Temir was a lottery. Ambulances and civil convoys, which did not pose any military threat, were bombed. People were bombarded and then the people who were going to collect the bodies that had just been bombed were also bombarded. There were no scruples, only eager to conquer the territory.

When there were airplanes, at first with the companions we made jokes. When we felt the noise of a plane or a drone, there was always someone who said: “It’s going to happen, it’s going to happen!” But in reality it is the uncertainty of thinking if they have already detected you before, if they are going to shoot where they know they have to. The uncertainty of saying, “Where will it fall?” The first feeling is that of running, but of course, the issue is that when you run away is when you are detectable. We kept the blood cold, when we saw them nobody moved, we controlled the fear, the uncertainty, that voice that told you have done well before and they have not seen you, mixed with the fullest and deepest trust with the companions that I had by my side fighting the invaders and fascists.

I trusted the companions with whom I shared the first days, because they have experience in the city, in the mountains and have lost many people, precisely because of bombings, so they have it very integrated. They know that with this machinery of war we do not have great possibilities, but we have the strategy, the courage of all these years of resistance, we know that we should not fear air support, we know that it is a machinery against which we cannot fight against frontal and direct form but that is why there are other strategies. Know how to move, share fears and doubts and have a lot of patience. It takes a lot of patience: wait and wait.

What else would you say you’ve learned from your most experienced partners?

Rojava’s story has a set of values, but I have really begun to understand these values when I have been with them. Everyone is afraid, but I have not seen at any time doubt for the companions. Their fight is something that they carry so much inside, that comes so much from injustice, from the decision they made to give everything for the fight, for the defense of the land, that when it came to fighting, I saw it in the day to day.

I saw how they took care of each other, in how when one was tired, the others took care of her. I saw serious wounded companions fighting, very young companions fighting, all always aware of where the others were … There were times when we had to continue, but if there was an injury, the first were the wounded companions. And the ones that fell wounded all they wanted were healed and came back, to heal them as they could and continue in the front. I have seen companions not sleeping in three days, not eating in three days, not taking off shoes in days, sharing everything, not having food, not having water and sharing what little they had … No one was left behind. I have not seen anyone fall behind.

There was a very strong feeling of defending. That it was a fight to defend the land, a fight against fascism, a millenary struggle. Why what they live is an attempt at ethnic extermination, a culture and also a movement that is led by women. See that everything you had built, which has cost so much pain, at the level of organizing society, women, that everything is democratic, confederal, that there are structures … see how all this can be destroyed in two days … well, of course, the spirit didn’t stop, nobody rested. There was a strength and a courage, a courage, that if they did not come from the heart and the feeling of “enough!”, Serekaniye’s resistance could not have been the way it was, because everyone had reasons to run away, with the machinery of Turkey, the second largest NATO army, who can fight against this? Only history, the ideological conviction, the defense of the land, the defense of the struggle of women, can against all this.

And I have not only learned from the most experienced companions, for me it has been incredible to share this time with 18-19 year old girls, Kurds, Arabs, who have joined the fight to rebel against a life that condemned them to be women of home and have a man, or who have joined by ideological conviction. That being so young they have taken the courage to join the armed resistance, with all that this entails for society … I was thinking of the Spanish civil war, of the women of the CNT-FAI. Elissa García, for example, who died at the front at 19 years … And see how the militant women of the movement open the way for the other women, for the young women. It has been amazing. There are also many things that I cannot explain, because there are many feelings that are like images that I remember, that I cannot express with words …

What images come to mind when you think of Serekaniye?

Many. From the beginning, I remember when my group was separated into two smaller ones. I have the image of when the partners of the other group were going to take a position and we were going to another place. I thought: “Maybe this is the last time I see them” and that has left me a lot. I remember very well that day, the columns of smoke. And as they were loaded with the biksi [name popularly used to refer to the PKM light machine gun designed in the USSR] and its backpacks.

And then I have many images of the hospital, because we made part of the resistance in the hospital, which at one point ended up being part of the front. It was 5 days, but I remember it as if it had been 10 hours. I remember the hospital, in the dark, because when the çete [term that literally means “mercenaries”, used to refer to jihadist groups taking part in the Turkish state’s offensive against Northern Syria] approached, there wasn’t electricity. And in the middle of the darkness, the light of the cigarettes that the comrades smoked. And the doors, why the light came through the doors. He did control of the wounded, asking each one: “How are you? All good? – Yes yes I’m fine”. And the wounded fighting. Because we all knew that we were surrounded, that we were going to be trapped in the city. And we gave each other courage, we said “no one leaves here, because here we are defending everything.” In the end, when we had to retire, the last image of Serekaniye, the city burning, everything burning …

You were surrounded and due to diplomatic agreements with Turkey you were ordered to withdraw. How did you receive this order? How was the withdrawal for you, after so many days fighting tirelessly?

The order arrived in the morning and we did not believe it. At first we didn’t believe it. But I remember that the feeling of devastation came quickly. They told us to leave, to prepare all the material. All the convoy, all the cars filled with all the defense forces, we left little by little and discovered that the enemies had gone out to the street. Everyone left their lines of defense and went down to the street, went out to the balconies, to make us a corridor, so that we could see them. You saw the Turkish soldiers and the jihadists, some in military uniforms but others camouflaged as civilians, throughout the hallway to the hospital. We saw the faces of those who until recently were attacking us, hidden 100 or 200 meters from the hospital. I remember one of the commanders telling us: “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot because the war isn’t over.” It was very hard, we didn’t expect it. All the adrenaline of so many days, all the emotion contained … but you see the comrades who have been fighting here for 7 years, plus some 10 years in the mountains, and you feel that you don’t want to be sad.

Do you feel that you have no right to be sad?

I have the right to be sad because Serekaniye has been my home, where I have seen comrades die, where we have defended the streets, where I have met families, like everyone else. But on the other hand, I feel that it has been a hard but beautiful resistance, that what we have done is part of history. And if you don’t keep this in mind, you go down fast, your morale falls, the word “defeat” enters your head. Yes, militarily it has perhaps been a defeat, but ideologically at no time. Serekaniye has been a reference, also for the population. Many people took up arms, especially boys and young girls.

Historically, weapons and armed struggle has been a closed ground for women. How was it for you to get in touch with this?

I believe that women have always been present in the armed struggle, but more invisible. Perhaps in smaller quantities, but throughout history there have always been references of women who have participated in the armed struggle and have built a bit the base and the way for many of us to consider it something possible, a path that is also our way.

In any part of the world and in any social and political context, as women and for the specific oppression that is imposed on us, we have always developed forms of self-defense, we have always had to use the tools we had at our disposal to defend our bodies, our thoughts, our life, the territory … As women, we are trying to introduce that this is not our role, but history shows the opposite, it shows that we have always been able to look for solutions, ways to fight and that is what happens in Rojava. Women have organized to build structures, learning spaces, support, mechanisms to fight and defend all this. Why … if we don’t do it, who will? We cannot wait to leave the decision on how we have to fight, we cannot entrust our future to structures that are oppressive. I consider, therefore, that self-defense is something that defines us as revolutionary and as women in general, it has always been part of our life because we have always been the object of the oppression of patriarchy, of the State, of all social institutions. Then I consider that in Rojava weapons are another method of defense, another element to protect the spaces where we grow, and a way to defend collective life and oppressed peoples, of which women represent the vanguard. It has not been easy for me to assume this, it has been a great learning.

Within my family, only men have participated in this form of resistance against Franco, basically my grandfather. But having the reference of my mother, my grandmother, the women of my family who during the Franco regime and post-Franco regime have been oppressed, some have organized and others have not, but if they had had the possibility, they would not have ruled out this way, like me, that having the possibility and having comrades who can introduce us, how could I not participate in this fight?

And it has been a process, a hard learning, very hard. Why the most important thing is not to take the weapons, but to know why you take them. At one point you ask yourself: “maybe I fall martyr here,” and the feeling was to say “we are fighting for life.” It is a lesson, and I continue to learn.

How was the relationship with fellow men? Was there a difference in treatment?

Most of the battle of Serekaniye, during which I was in the line of defense, I must say that we were mostly women. In our group there were also men but mostly we were partners. At no time did I receive orders from a man, my manager was always a woman. Yes, there were certain moments when I felt overprotected, but I think it was more because I was international. At first, these moments occurred, but quickly disappeared due to the harshness of the war and for the day to day, for sharing everyday life.

I was surrounded by women like the ones I was with, there was no room for gender differences, at least this is what I have lived. In all politicized environments there is always a task that partners should do much more than to give space to women at the level of militancy they deserve, and here it is not that they say that it is not necessary and that there is no domination of the partners towards the comrades, but it seems that there is the work of years in this aspect. Because many times we ourselves also place ourselves in this role, right? We have it internalized. The partners here have an attitude of not accepting this role, an attitude of saying: “We will not wait for men to change, we are the engine of this change.” And this attitude has also helped men a lot to understand the change in attitude they should have when they are struggling with women.

Once in the hospital, for example, where there were more men, yes, I noticed more differences, but we were not for nonsense. We could not. We were 4 or 5 people taking care of 40 wounded every day, apart from the martyrs and what it was to function, function, work and work, and in moments of rest, guard and fight.

In a context of war, everyone is very clear who the enemy is. This is what I have sometimes missed at home, in myself and in others. We have so many open fronts and so many enemies that we are not able to build something solid.

During the clashes in Serekaniye, in Europe and, for example, specifically in Catalonia, there were demonstrations, actions, demonstrations of solidarity with Rojava … Did you get this? How did you get it?

During Serekaniye we didn’t have much contact with the outside. Most of the time the phones did not work, the internet did not work, but the few moments that worked was basically what we looked at: how was the situation of the territory, what were the movements, share how were the other comrades and see what it happened at home in Europe. Then of course, every manifestation, every text, every action, every photo, every story … in 5 minutes everyone knew it.

Everything we saw was running fast to show it to the other teammates, because the morale rose so much. For example, seeing in Catalonia the photographs of black flags, flags of the YPG and YPJ … this has been incredible for us. Seeing the union of all these struggles … and for the movement partners here it was incredible. Many times they didn’t believe it. I showed them the pictures of the riots in Catalonia, the banners, the flares and it was exciting to share this and be able to say: “Look, look! Catalunya, my land!”

The feeling was that you were not alone, that people were connected to you … We have never expected or expect anything from the States, but at the level of society, at the level of peoples, of empathizing, of feeling the same oppression, this has been very important. I have no words to describe how the women’s movement, whatever the organization, has reacted throughout Europe for the defense and support of Serekaniye. I have no words to see how the partners have worked hard to bring us their warmth, and all the responsibility that many people in Europe felt with Rojava.

What would you say are also the lessons that would have to be exported from here to the movements and struggles in Catalonia?

I think one of the most important things I’ve learned here is the value of commitment. The commitment to really decide to fight the rest of your life. To make a decision that is not easy and to dump all your energies and time in building a base, to do it in the long term and with perspective. Not wanting to do things too quickly, but having perspective of what the revolutionary construction of a territory means, including society, people. I am not saying that in Catalonia there is no commitment, I say that there comes a time when, in the face of oppression, there is no possibility or half measures, it is one thing or another. And sometimes we expected to respond, but if we respond without having built the entire base on a social, ideological and structural level, the response to the attacks will be very short. It will not be long because it will not be ideological, it will not be based on common and shared values.

And then, of course … how to say it in Catalan? There is much talk here about bawerî, about faith. I believe that at home we have no faith in our own steps, in our structures, in our commitment, also at the vital level. Because if we do not start with ourselves, if we do not fight against our sexist personality, against the competitiveness that exists in us and the capitalist mentality that we have, if we do not learn to live collectively, how can we consider a real change? This is what I have seen here, that life and struggle are the same, that we have to get people to believe again, get organized again and not be afraid of difference, because the difference is what makes community. Look here, in Serekaniye the families and the companions were Kurds, Arabs, Armenians, Turks, international … sometimes we didn’t even speak the same language, and we all defended the same. And yes, here there is a context of war, but at home there is also war, society also suffers a war, simply that in a different way: in the form of wage labor, evictions, patriarchy … and in Catalonia, after the referendum, with all the repression. The strength of Europe continues to expand, we continue to have comrades in prison, evictions of historical projects, siege of migrated people, criminalization of abortion, privatization of health, world leaders to decide the future of the population, control and police violence of all colors … And Russia, the Spanish State, Germany, the United States … next to Erdogan. War!

Anarchist ideas taught me the struggle of the civil war revolutionaries, the comrades I have in Europe taught me the strength and the need to interconnect struggles, of internationalist solidarity. The companions of Rojava and Kurdistan have taught me the importance of unity and commitment to raise a land and defend oppressed cultures under mountains of ruins. And all of you have taught me the value of the struggle to defend the territory and the freedom of mothers, sisters, comrades, as well as the construction of another society, of revolutionary values with strong foundations. I look to the future in another way … The destruction of the State, the overthrow of prisons and police stations, the isolation of banks and large companies, the confrontation with fascist and patriarchal policies … are tasks that deserve commitment, decision and courage.

Mutual support, collective decision making, neighbor organization, defense structures, commitment, courage … We are prepared, let’s start walking.

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It’s Not Too Late for Rojava

As Turkey continues its devastating military assault on Rojava, the Kurdish-led region of northeastern Syria, officials in Washington are facing a critical decision: allow Turkey to prevail in its campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds or take action to protect them.

The Turkish invasion, which began on October 9, has been devastating for Rojava. According to the United Nations, nearly 180,000 people, including 80,000 children, have been displaced. At the start of the attack, Turkish officials announced that Turkish-led forces had killed more than 200 Kurdish militants. About a week later, Kurdish officials said that more than 200 civilians had been killed.

After gathering witness testimony, Amnesty International reported that Turkish forces and allied militias had committed war crimes. They “have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life, carrying out serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians,” the human rights organization said.

Speaking before Congress, James Jeffrey, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Syria, acknowledged that “we’ve seen several incidents which we consider war crimes.” He cited the killing of Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf and the killings of several defenseless Kurdish prisoners by Turkish-allied militias.

When the Turkish-led forces began their invasion, it was clear that they intended to cleanse the area of its Kurdish population. For years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been threatening to drive the Kurdish people out of the area, having directed a similar campaign in Afrin in early 2018.

“We are witnessing ethnic cleansing in Syria by Turkey, the destruction of a reliable ally in the Kurds, and the reemergence of ISIS,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted days into the invasion.

U.S. Betrayal

What has made the attack particularly egregious is the fact that the Kurds are allies of the United States. For years, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been working with the U.S. military to fight and defeat the Islamic State in Syria. According to U.S. officials, the Kurdish-led forces have been the most effective fighters on the ground in Syria.

“These were an ally and a very good ally against ISIS, a very effective ally that lost over 10,000 people killed,” Jeffrey noted.

President Trump, who endorsed and facilitated the Turkish attack by withdrawing U.S. forces, defended Turkey’s actions, arguing that the country faced a terrorist threat from the Kurds. Turkey “had to have it cleaned out,” Trump said, referring to the Kurdish-led area along the Turkish border.

Democratic and Republican leaders strongly condemned Trump’s actions, accusing the president of betraying U.S. partners. In several congressional hearings, multiple officials from both political parties blasted the president for opening the door to Turkey’s ethnic cleansing of the Kurds.

“The president of the United States gave a thumbs up to an act of ethnic cleansing,” Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI) said.

Gerry Connolly (D-VA) commented that “the abandonment of the Kurds is one of the most shameful things I’ve seen in over 40 years of association with American foreign policy.”

Although U.S. officials are correct to condemn Trump for betraying the Kurds, they have been downplaying several additional factors that led to the crisis. Since March 2018, when Trump first attempted to abandon the Kurds, the U.S. foreign policy establishment has been trying to appease the Turks and exploit the Kurds in the Syrian Civil War. The U.S. foreign policy establishment did not prepare to keep the Kurds safe, as several officials promised to do.

U.S. attempts to appease the Turks have been a complete failure. In the months before the Turks invaded, U.S. officials encouraged the Kurds to remove their defensive weapons and fortifications from the Turkish border. These actions cleared the way for the Turkish invasion.

“In tearing down those defenses, it left the Kurds much more susceptible to the inevitable attack that came,” Senator Chris Murphy (D-T) said.

Nor did U.S. officials devise a plan to protect the Kurds. They remained focused on exploiting Kurdish control of northeastern Syria as leverage in political negotiations with the Syrian government over the future of Syria.

The month before Turkey launched its invasion, the Syria Study Group (SSG), a special study group convened by Congress, issued a report arguing that “the United States can still influence the outcome of the Syrian war,” in part by maintaining U.S. forces in northeastern Syria and leveraging Kurdish control of Rojava.

“The reason the Syria Study Group talked about needing to retain a U.S. military presence in that one third of Syria was not only about completing the anti-ISIS fight, it was about the broader leverage of that one-third of Syria,” SSG Co-Chair Dana Stroul told Congress. That “is the resource rich part of Syria, which provided us leverage to influence a political outcome in Syria.”

These moves have proven disastrous to the Kurds. Not only has the U.S. foreign policy establishment failed to deter a Turkish attack, but it has created a situation in which the Kurds sought help from the Syrian government. As the Turks began their attack, the Kurds invited Syrian government forces into Rojava, working with them to deter additional attacks.

Perhaps most remarkable, the U.S. foreign policy establishment has not changed its strategy. Despite the fact that Turkish forces are now occupying parts of Rojava and Kurdish allies have turned to Syria for protection, U.S. officials still think they can use the Kurds as leverage against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“My instructions from Secretary Pompeo from day one…was to act to counter Russia’s effort in the Syrian conflict to obtain a military victory for Assad and his Iranian henchmen,” Jeffrey explained. “And that’s what I was doing every day and that’s what my orders remain to do, at least on the Syrian account.”

To prevent the Russians from helping Assad exert additional control over Rojava, the Trump administration is moving hundreds of U.S. military forces into its oil-rich areas, trying to use them as leverage.

According to Gen. Joseph Votel, the former commander of U.S. Central Command, U.S. control provides “a good negotiating leverage point” for future negotiations with the Syrian government.

Supporting the Kurds

Certainly, there are alternatives to these imperial tactics. The simplest and most obvious thing would be for U.S. officials to take into account Kurdish preferences.

At the most basic level, U.S. officials should support the political aspirations of the Kurds, who are trying to create an autonomous region inside Syria. Over the past several years, the Kurds have been leading a leftist social revolution in Rojava, creating a society of “democratic federalism” rooted in the values of ecology, feminism, and direct democracy.

According to Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), there has been “a lot of implicit support for supporting the Kurds in the vision that they were carrying,” but U.S. officials have yet to publicly endorse the Kurdish project.

A related option would be for U.S. officials to fulfill their promises to allow the Kurds to participate in negotiations with the Syrian government. Kurdish participation would enable the Kurds to make their case for creating an autonomous region inside Syria.

Another option would be for international forces to work with the Kurds to deter future attacks. U.S. military forces already maintain control of the airspace over northeastern Syria. U.S. forces could enforce a no-fly zone, preventing the Turks from launching aerial attacks. At the same time, international peacekeepers could replace U.S. forces on the ground, patrolling the region to deter future attacks.

Finally, global leaders should take action to hold Turkey accountable by investigating charges of ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

“Let’s be clear: this is intentioned-laced [sic] ethnic cleansing,” U.S. diplomat William Roebuck, the top U.S. diplomat on the ground in Syria, noted in an internal memo. “It is a war crime, when proven.”

Ultimately, the Turkish attack on Rojava should have never happened. The U.S. foreign policy establishment knew all along that Trump would betray the Kurds, that Turkey would not be appeased, and that the Kurds would turn to Assad out of desperation.

“We had long known that Turkey was preparing for this thing,” Jeffrey acknowledged. “Turkey had had troops in place actually for almost a year and had been threatening to do this.”

Fortunately, there is time to turn things around. The Kurds lost over 10,000 people in the war against the Islamic State and still manged to create one of the most promising democratic experiments in the Middle East. They deserve U.S. support.

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‘When they come, they will kill you’: Ethnic cleansing is already a reality in Turkey’s Syrian safe zone

Turkey’s invasion into northern Syria has caused a demographic shift that many fear will become permanent, reports Richard Hall

Turkish soldiers and Turkey-backed Syrian fighters gather on the northern outskirts of the Syrian city of Manbij in October

Turkish soldiers and Turkey-backed Syrian fighters gather on the northern outskirts of the Syrian city of Manbij in October ( AFP/Getty )

The brutal killings were not hidden, nor were they meant to be. From the very beginning of Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria, the fighters it sent across the border to carry out the mission have proudly documented their own war crimes.

Videos posted online by soldiers of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) – showing summary executions, mutilation of corpses, threats against Kurds and widespread looting – have struck terror into the tens of thousands who find themselves in the path of the offensive.

The ethnic dimension to many of the crimes has resulted in a mass exodus of Kurds and religious minorities from these once diverse borderlands.

Now, stranded in displacement camps across northeast Syria and in neighbouring Iraq, they fear they may never be able to return home. And that, they believe, was precisely the point.

“No one can go back there now, it’s impossible,” says Muhammad Amin, 37, a Kurdish man who fled with his family from the city of Ras al-Ayn in the first days of the Turkish-led operation.

“We’ve seen the videos,” he tells The Independent at a camp near the Syrian town of Tal Tamr. “They are shooting Kurdish people where they find them.”

The same story is being told by countless others like Amin, in the camps and temporary shelters that have sprung up in the past two months. Taken together, they paint a picture of a dramatic demographic change.

Turkey launched a long-planned incursion into Syria on 9 October to establish what it described as a “safe zone” some 20 miles deep and 300 miles wide along the border.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, claimed the offensive was aimed at removing the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a group his country classifies as a terror organisation for its links to Kurdish separatists inside Turkey.

The offensive had been threatened for some time, but was only put into action when President Donald Trump abruptly withdrew US forces from the border. Those forces had been working alongside the SDF in Syria in the fight against Isis.

Turkey has supported the operation with airstrikes, drones and artillery. Leading the fight on the ground is a ragtag patchwork of militias who have fought at Ankara’s behest in two previous offensives. Some of the rebels had spent years fighting to end the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, while others were newly recruited.

The invasion was only a few days old when the first videos were posted online. Some showed the looting by SNA fighters of recently evacuated homes, but the first evidence of more violent war crimes quickly followed.

Havrin Khalaf, a member of the pro-Kurdish Future Syria Party, was travelling along a highway between the town of Ayn Issa and the city of Hasakah on 12 October when her civilian car was attacked.

A video posted online the next day shows SNA fighters, believed to be from the Ahrar al-Sharqiya faction, gather around the car as a woman’s voice is heard from the back seat. Khalaf’s body was later found riddled with bullets and showing signs of torture. An autopsy revealed she had a broken leg and her hair had been pulled so hard parts of her scalp were missing.

On the same day, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said nine civilians were executed by SNA fighters at a roadblock south of Tal Abyad.

Yet another video showed fighters firing into the body of a deceased man at the side of the road.

These brutal crimes, coming in quick succession, had a chilling effect. Those who hadn’t already fled from Turkish airstrikes now did so in fear of ethnically motivated killing.

“When we saw the murder of the politician, Havrin Khalaf, we saw they did the same thing that Isis did,” says 41-year-old Basima Daoud, a Yazidi woman who fled her village near Ras al-Ayn with her family and is now living in a hastily constructed displacement camp near Tal Tamr.

“We were afraid they would kill us or take us as sex slaves,” she adds, referring to the enslavement of thousands of Yazidi women by Isis in 2015.

In the nearly two months since the operation began, the SNA has captured a swathe of territory between the two border cities of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn that was home to a large population of Kurds, and smaller numbers of Assyrians, Yazidis and Turkmen.

The same area faced massive upheaval just a few years ago when Isis swept across northern Syria. Tal Abyad was occupied by the terror group for more than a year before being recaptured by the SDF.

This time, around 95,000 fled from Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn and the surrounding areas, which are now under the control of the SNA. Around half of that number has since returned, but they have been almost exclusively Arab, according to local monitoring groups.

Since the beginning of the campaign, a widespread perception formed among Kurds and other minorities that any non-Arab residents of the area would be targeted by the militias.

A Turkish soldier stands near his armoured vehicle on a highway near the northern Syrian town of Ain Issa in late November (AFP/Getty)

“Our neighbours who were Arab told us to leave. They said, ‘When they come, they will kill you,’” says Daoud. “There were two Christian families in our village who left for the same reason.”

These fears were bolstered by public threats made by the fighters. In one clip, previously reported by The Independent, militia fighters threaten to kill “pigs” and “infidels” as they parade a Kurdish captive. Many similar videos have been shared online.

What happened next only served to convince many Syrian Kurds that these men were serious about their threats.

As the weeks went on, more reports of ethnically motivated killings emerged from the areas recently captured by the SNA. A widespread campaign of looting and confiscation of Kurdish property – much of it also recorded by the perpetrators – and the blocking of return of Kurdish residents by SNA fighters gave the impression that these groups were systematically trying to keep Kurds out.

In a report released this week, Human Rights Watch said it had documented numerous examples of Kurdish homes being confiscated and their possessions looted. In addition, it interviewed three people who said their Kurdish relatives were blocked from returning to areas under SNA control. The rights group also reported that three men who tried to go back to their homes were killed.

Syrian Arab militiamen threaten to massacre Kurdish population

Several residents displaced from the area now under SNA control interviewed by The Independent said their homes had also been looted and their property confiscated. In most cases, they were informed of the takeover of their property by Arab neighbours who had stayed behind.

Daoud was one of them. Her husband is a farmer who owns a substantial tract of land and agricultural equipment.

“Some Arab neighbours called us to tell us the fighters have looted our house and taken it as a headquarters. They have taken our land and our equipment too. They have taken everything,” she says, with tears in her eyes.

One local Yazidi leader told The Independent that 45 Yazidi families had fled from the area around Ras al-Ayn alone. Dozens of Christian families from around Tal Tamr have also left their homes behind.

A girl plays with a ball at a newly opened displacement camp just outside of the city of Tal Tamr, in northeastern Syria (Richard Hall/The Independent)

Fasel Amin, 32, was among the first wave of people who fled the Turkish airstrikes in the initial days of the offensive. Today, he is living in a school used to house displaced people.

“We had a house and a shop. They stole everything. Some family members were able to go back briefly to check and it was all empty,” he says.

“Turkey wants to control the whole area. It wants to change the whole demography of the area – take the Kurds out and bring the Arabs in.”

The question that now haunts Amin and the tens of thousands of others who remain displaced is whether the demographic change that has taken place will be permanent.

Many Syrian Kurds see plenty of reasons which suggest it will be. They only need to point to Turkey’s last operation ostensibly targeting Kurdish militants in the Afrin region. There too, in early 2018, Turkey used the same patchwork group of rebel fighters to take control of the area.

Those rebel fighters have been accused of imposing a reign of terror ever since. A United Nations commission of inquiry found in February that “armed group members in Afrin committed the war crimes of hostage-taking, cruel treatment, torture, and pillage”.

“Numerous cases involving arbitrary arrests and detentions by armed group members also included credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment, often targeting individuals of Kurdish origin, including activists openly critical of armed groups and those perceived to be so,” the UN report added.

More than 130,000 mostly Kurdish residents are still displaced from Afrin, living in camps in the SDF-held region of northeast Syria. Many of their homes are now occupied by Syrians from other parts of the country.

The same process may well play out in Turkey’s latest “safe zone”. Even before the operation began, Ankara repeatedly said that it would use the newly captured territory to facilitate the return of some one million Syrian refugees from Turkey.

Basima Daoud and her family at a displacement camp near Tal Tamr, northern Syrian. Daoud and her family are Kurdish Yazidis. They fear they will be killed if they return to their homes in Turkey’s ‘safe zone’ (Richard Hall/The Independent)

Turkey currently hosts nearly 4 million Syrians, more than any other country in the world. The presence of such a large refugee population has created political problems for Mr Erdogan as the Turkish economy has struggled, and Syrians have been used as a scapegoat for the crisis.

But most of the Syrian refugees in Turkey today are from Sunni Arab areas in Syria. Such a large-scale repatriation to the previously ethnically diverse region where Turkey plans to implement its safe zone would drastically alter its demographics.

Despite Turkish officials frequently insisting that they do not seek to introduce demographic change, that is precisely what is happening. And those insistences have been overshadowed by President Erdogan’s rhetoric.

In an interview with Turkey’s state-run TRT network on 24 October, Mr Erdogan described the area designated for his planned safe zone as unsuitable for Kurds.

“The people most suitable for that area are the Arabs. These areas are not suitable for the lifestyle of the Kurds,” he said.

When pressed by the interviewer to explain why they were not suitable, he replied: “Because these are desert regions.”

This has led some experts to conclude that Turkey is indeed aiming to “Arabise” the land it has captured, and raised the prospect of ethnic cleansing by a Nato power.

“The Turkish incursion into northern Syria demonstrates clear hallmarks of ethnic cleansing,” says Professor Bridget Conley, research director of the World Peace Foundation based at Tufts University.

“Turkish government statements indicated an intent to displace the Kurdish population and replace it with Syrian Arabs, and pursued this policy with repression and human rights abuses,” Professor Conley, who teaches a course called Understanding Mass Atrocities, tells The Independent.

The same assessment was made by the top American diplomat in northern Syria at the time of the Turkish attack. In a damning internal memo, diplomat William V Roebuck criticised the Trump administration for not doing more to stop it.

“Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria, spearheaded by armed Islamist groups on its payroll, represents an intentioned-laced effort at ethnic cleansing, relying on widespread military conflict targeting part the Kurdish heartland along the border and benefiting from several widely publicised, fear-inducing atrocities these forces committed,” the internal memo said.

That memo was leaked a little under a month ago. Since then, even more evidence has emerged of ethnic cleansing. And yet these pleas have elicited little response from Donald Trump, who has seemingly lost interest in a part of the world he described recently as “blood-stained sand”.

In the makeshift camps and busy schools turned into displacement centres that are now scattered across northeast Syria, many watch from afar as their homes are being destroyed and stolen. They share a common feeling of helplessness and betrayal that their former ally, the US, is looking the other way.

“I don’t know how to tell you, but I will try to describe it. It’s like they sent us down the well and cut the rope,” says Aliya al-Ahmed, 31, who has just arrived at a dusty camp near Tal Tamr.

“If those big countries will not solve it, I don’t know what will happen. It is always the poor people who suffer. We have nowhere to go.”

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We stand in solidarity with Rojava, an example to the world

Leaders from social movements, communities and First Nations from around the world, including LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Eve Ensler and Stuart Basden on the Turkish invasion in north-east Syria
A Syrian Kurdish woman waves the flag of the Democratic Union Party during a demonstration near the town of Tel Arqam near the Turkish border on 6 October 2019.
A Syrian Kurdish woman waves the flag of the Democratic Union Party during a demonstration near the town of Tel Arqam near the Turkish border on 6 October 2019. Photograph: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

What is at stake in north-east Syria is more than the fate of the Kurdish people or the autonomous homeland of Rojava or even the fight against Isis. What is at stake is humanity’s ability to survive our current civilisational crisis and to imagine new alternatives before it’s too late.

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s brutal invasion of Rojava is using 20th-century techniques of extreme violence and genocide, despite a proclaimed “ceasefire”. Turkey’s air force is raining down napalm and white phosphorus on innocent civilians. At the same time, jihadi squads are massacring fleeing civilians as retribution for Rojava’s fight against Isis and their role as arguably the most important ally to the west in the region.

The US, the UK, France, Russia and other alleged superpowers are actively betraying both international law and the Geneva convention by allowing and facilitating the ethnic cleansing and occupation of Rojava. Turkey’s aim is clear: to eradicate what all fascist powers fear most, a free people daring to create brave and successful experiments outside the globalised, extractive system.

Since 2012, around 5 million people – Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Turkmen, Yazidis and others – have built the autonomous region of Rojava, demonstrating how a multi-ethnic society can respectfully coexist beyond the constraints of nation state, patriarchy and capitalism. By promoting radically democratic and decentralised self-governance, equity between genders, regenerative agriculture, a justice system based on reconciliation and inclusion of minorities, the Rojava experiment has presented a living example of possibility under the most impossible of circumstances. We encourage readers to review the Rojavan Charter of the Social Contract for inspiration.

Western leaders are feigning empathy while American, German and British weapon manufacturers are actively selling weapons to Turkey. It is clear that the dominant system cannot and will not defend those seeking to explore other ways of knowing and being. As the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan writes: “The real power of capitalist modernity isn’t its money and its weapons, [but] its ability to suffocate all utopias […] with its liberalism.”

However, a growing chorus of allies are rising up around the world. From Haiti to Lebanon, from Chile to Iraq, from Cameroon to the US, from the UK to Hong Kong, social revolutions are confronting the rise of fascism, short-termism, greed, climate destruction and warfare that are required to prop up our existing economic paradigm. The battle lines are becoming clearer. Domination versus cooperation, colonisation versus autonomy, oppression versus freedom, patriarchy versus partnership – these values are the warp and weft of the defining struggle for the future of humanity.

For Rojava to survive and for justice to truly prevail, those rising up in their local context must stand together creatively with shared voice, values and visions for global systems change. Rojava is fighting for the same reasons as the awakening majority from around the world. It has shown that the way out of social and ecological crisis is not through GDP-focused “development”, but rather with decentralised autonomous communities.

Making such communities work in more and more places, by regenerating ecosystems, healing our collective trauma and creating social structures of solidarity and trust, is the transformational work of our times. Once we see our struggles as inherently interdependent with each other, and with the web of life itself, no army on the planet will be able to stop the inevitable transition.

As leaders from social movements, communities and First Nations from around the world, we stand in solidarity with the vision and work of Rojava. We pray for their resilience, protection and perseverance. We pray that we will listen to and learn from the living Earth as she continues to show us how to create societies which live in cooperation with all beings. We pray that those in positions of power be reminded of their humanity and end this invasion immediately.
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard Standing Rock, Turtle Island (USA)
Salim Dara Rural Solidarity, Benin
Eve Ensler One Billion Rising, USA
Sabine Lichtenfels Tamera Peace Research Center, Portugal
Tiokasin Ghosthorse First Voices Indigenous Radio, Turtle Island (USA)
Alnoor Ladha The Rules, Canada
Gildardo Tuberquia Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia
Yael Ronen Maxim Gorki Theater, Germany
Sami Awad Holy Land Trust, Palestine
Gigi Coyle Beyond Boundaries, USA
Joshua Konkankoh Better World, Cameroon
Stuart Basden Extinction Rebellion, UK
Aida Shibli Global Campus, Palestine
Claudio Miranda Favela da Paz, Brazil
Rajendra Singh Tarun Bharat Sangh, India

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SDF statement on the killing of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

SDF said that the operation had been delayed for more than a month due to the Turkish aggression on their region.

The General Command of the Syrian Democratic Forces held a press conference in Heseke on the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a joint operation of the SDF and the U.S. near a Turkish military base.

The Kurdish version of the press statement was read by Head of SDF Foreign Relations Office Redur Xelil and the Arabic by SDF Official Spokesman Kino Gabriel.

The statement said the following:

“As a result of the joint efforts of more than five months between the military intelligence of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US forces, and in coordination at the highest level, the head of the Islamic State terrorist organization, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was eliminated in a joint operation near a Turkish military base in Barisha, northern countryside of Idlib province at dawn today. This historic achievement was the result of the close cooperation between the SDF and the United States of America.

We emphasize that this operation was delayed for more than a month due to the Turkish aggression on our region. We consider the operation as a revenge for the massacres committed by the terrorist organization in Kobani, Sinjar, the Khabour Basin, Nineveh Plain, Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Makhmour and revenge for the Kurdish Yazidi women in particular, and a revenge for humanity and all the victims of ISIS crimes worldwide.

The operation took place after our military intelligence documented over the past months the presence of high-ranking ISIS leaders including al-Baghdadi in areas under the military control of the Turkish state. We have shared some of the details regarding this issue with various media outlets after the liberation of the town of Baghouz in March 2019.

We warn the world of the danger that jihadi factions with the Turkish army may enter Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad areas occupied by Turkey-backed militias and that the region could become another safe-haven in which ISIS may find opportunities to re-organize. We have already indicated that IS member and some senior leaders of the group have already moved to areas controlled by Turkish army in northern Syria. Presence of Turkish army and its mercenaries in Idlib, Afrin and the so-called “Euphrates Shield” areas and the recent operation that led to the killing of al-Baghdadi in the same area where Turkish army is present is yet another evidence of the authenticity of our repeated warnings.

As the SDF, while thanking all parties and forces that have contributed to the success of this historic process, we confirm our continued joint efforts with the international coalition led by the United States of America and that our intelligence services will step up their efforts to pursue and combat the leaders of ISIS and its cells.”

 

US President Trump: al-Baghdadi is dead

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412 SDF fighters killed in Turkey’s northern Syria offensive: senior Kurdish official

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A senior Kurdish official from northeast Syria said late Thursday that 412 fighters of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been killed since Turkey’s launch of Operation Peace Spring.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, president of the Syrian Democratic Council’s (SDC) Executive Committee Ilham Ahmed announced “confirmed statistics” on their now 22-day-old conflict.

“More than 400,000 people have been forcibly displaced. Some of them stay at schools, while others are homeless. 18,000 of the displaced are children. Five of the medical personnel who were helping the injured were have lost their lives,” said Ahmed.

“Four journalists have been killed. More than 20 schools have been destroyed and 180 schools are out of service. 18,000 students cannot go to school now. 5240 teachers cannot go to work. All the [international] humanitarian organizations have left the arena,” she said, putting the number of SDF “martyrs” at 412.

She added that Turkey and its Syrian proxies currently hold 73 SDF hostages captured during the conflict.

The SDC is the political wing of the multi-ethnic SDF, allied with the US in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) since it was founded in 2015.

Turkey regards the SDF a terrorist organization due to its alleged link to Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas inside Turkey.

It launched Operation Peace Spring on October 9 against the SDF in northern Syria, aiming to drive out Kurdish forces and eventually resettle millions of Syrian refugees who have fled to Turkey since the breakout of Syrian crisis in 2011.

Turkey and its proxies took the towns of Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain) and Gire Spi (Tel Abyad) from the SDF following days of intense fighting.

The offensive was officially paused by Turkey – despite a number of skirmishes – for six days after deals were reached with the US and Russia.

About 1000 US troops were present in the SDF-held areas but pulled out of the area after US President Donald Trump ordered their withdrawal. Only a small number now remain in Syria.

Meanwhile, Ahmed reiterated on Thursday SDC concern for the US response to Turkish incursion.

“The US promised us multiple times that the area where they are present will not be targeted by anyone, but the US did not commit to its promises.”

Kurds have blamed the US for abandoning them after years of joint operations against ISIS. However, the joint mission between US and Kurdish forces to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proved some continued alliance between the two sides.

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Report on use of chemical weapons by the Turkish Armed Forces in Northern Syria

Abbas Mansouran 2019-10-28 Epidemiology- Shiraz (Pahlavy) University Iran, Bacteriologist, 1976 MPH in Community Medicine, 1980 Actual Immunology, Stockholm University, Sweden 1990 Research principal in PEAS institute, Sweden since 2013

I came as a medical volunteer from Sweden to help treat those affected by war in Rojava. On October 13th 2019 I joined the medical staff in the main hospital of the Syrian city of Heseke to help the injured and be in close contact with patients. In my time there I have met many patients with severe burns which I would consider abnormal based on my experiences as founder and as the responsible of Hospital Acquired Infection control committee (HAI CC) at the university hospital of Shiraz, Southern Iran. My experiences go back to the first half of the Iran-Iraq war (1980s), including working in the burn’s unit. The shape and appearance of burns injuries I have treated here in Rojava are clearly very different from typical burns. It was immediately apparent to me that they were specifically manifestations of chemical weapon use. They show that Turkish Armed Forces have been using chemical munitions. I can emphasize that white phosphorus other some other unknown chemical such as Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) munitions were used in October in Rojava. We have so far admitted hundreds of patients, mostly civilians including children, women and men with severe injuries as a result of attacks by Turkey and their islamist proxy forces the cities of Serê Kanî (Ras al-Ain), Girê Spi (Tel Abyad) and surrounding villages. In total around 30 victims, mostly civilians, were admitted to Heseke’s main hospital with these severe and unusual burns and smoke injuries to
their faces, ears and other areas. The burn types I have witnessed here are very
different to those I would expect to have been caused by anything other than a
chemical incendiary weapons like white phosphorus. From my experiences I believe
therefore that the Turkish Armed Forces have used chemical weapons against women
and children in civilian areas.
White phosphorous munitions can adhere to clothing and deeply penetrate skin,
causing severe and often fatal burns to the bone. They continue to burn even when
deprived of atmospheric oxygen and do so until complete depletion of the
phosphorous material. This chemical can cause heart, liver, and kidney damages, and
inhalation of white phosphorus smoke may cause fatal respiratory issues.
Features of victims
1. Most of the victims we admitted were civilians
2. All the patients I visited reported that they had been victims of munitions
dropped or fired from unmanned drones in different places and in different
attacks.
3. Most patients reported 2 airstrikes, with bombs dropped one after another.
4. The injuries were black in appearance, deep, variable in size, and consisted
of multiple spots.
5. The victims had been covered by a cool smoke.
6. Pieces of bombs which have adhered to skin caused spots which looked like
droplets.
7. Some of the injured had breathing problems.
8. Smoke had settled over bodies with the appearance of charcoal dust.
9. At least 6 patients had very severe eye burns.
10. Hair and eyebrows were unburned but some deep spots in different size were
considerable.
11. The burns had no signs of foreign particles.
12. Most of patients developed life threatening infection by multi-resistant superbacteria
such as Pseudomonas spp, E.coli and MRSA.
13. Some victims had lost their arms or legs.
14. All victims suffering from a kind of neurotoxicity manifested in peripheral nerves and were irritable and painful sensitive feeling when I touched even the unburned skin.

15. Some victims exhibited hearing loss.

16. Most of them exhibited symptoms similar to those attained from landmines, but no evidence of shrapnel in the wounds was observed.

17. Some of the injured required laparotomy, lung and urinary catheterization.

18. Of the hundreds of patients I met, around 30 with above mentioned manifestations were observed. The Turkish Armed Forces may have used another different kind of chemical bombs similar to Dense inert metal explosive (DIME) bombs. This Tungsten alloy bombs consist of micro shrapnel 1-2 mm of heavy metals as cobalt. tungsten and nickel powder in a micro fibers. The features of injuries by DIME are very similar to white phosphorous munitions and are often fatal[1]. The carcinogenic effects of heavy metal tungsten alloys (HMTA) (along with depleted uranium [DU]) have been studied by the U.S. Armed Forces since at least the year 2000. These alloys were found to cause neoplastic transformations of human osteoblast cells.[2] Rhabdomyosarcoma [3] a tissue cancer is also reported to be caused by DIME bombs. In 2009, a group of Italian scientists affiliated with the New Weapons Research Committee (NWRC) watchdog group pronounced DIME wounds “untreatable” because the powdered tungsten they dispense cannot be removed surgically.[4] Because of the severity and life-threatening situations of injured and shortage of medical care in Rojava we had to transfer most of the injured to hospitals in Iraqi Kurdistan. These patients should be followed up for any carcinogenic and other complications effects. The names, dates and locations of attacks, and all above statements are documented and available on request.

References

1. DIME bomb toxicity, Author: Médecins Sans Frontières France, Published: 31 March 2016. https://issuu.com/msffr/docs/dime_bomb_toxcity_04122015_short.pp

2. Neoplastic transformation of human osteoblast cells to the tumorigenic phenotype by heavy metal–tungsten alloy particles: induction of genotoxic effects. Carcinogenesis, Vol. 22, No. 1, 115–125, January 2001

3. Kalinich, J. F.; Emond, C. A.; Dalton, T. K.; Mog, S. R.; Coleman, G. D.; Kordell, J. E.; Miller, A. C.; McClain, D. E. (2005). “Embedded Weapons-Grade Tungsten Alloy Shrapnel Rapidly Induces Metastatic High-Grade Rhabdomyosarcomas in F344 Rats”. Environmental Health Perspectives. 113 (6): 729–734. doi:10.1289/ehp.7791. PMC 1257598. PMID 15929896.

4. “Gaza: Israel under fire for alleged white phosphorus use”, Christian Science Monitor, January 14, 2009, by Robert Marquand and Nicholas Blanfo

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Syria: videos of Turkey-backed militias show ‘potential war crimes’

Arab forces have allegedly been filmed torturing Kurdish fighters and mutilating bodies

Militia holding machine guns ride in the back of a jeep along a dusty road.
Turkey-backed fighters have taken over an area along the border after a weeklong operation to push Kurds further into Syria. Photograph: Bakr Alkasem/AFP via Getty Images

Calls for war crimes investigations into the conduct of militias used by Turkey in Syria are mounting after a spate of new videos depicting Ankara-linked fighters torturing captives and mutilating dead bodies.Footage of atrocities allegedly committed by Arab forces in northern Syria is circulating widely across Kurdish regions of the country, sparking fears of renewed fighting and a deepening ethnic divide in the region, even as a tenuous ceasefire begins to settle.

A video purportedly posted earlier this week by one Turkish-supported group shows a captured Kurdish fighter being dragged by the neck as his captors threaten him with beheading. Another shows dead Kurdish fighters being cut with a knife as Arab combatants jeer.

Kurdish officials, along with the US special envoy for Syria , James Jeffrey, have condemned the videos, with the latter describing them as “potential war crimes” while the Kurds insist they represent ethnic cleansing.

Up to 170,000 Kurds have fled a battle zone along the Turkish border after a weeklong operation to push Kurds further into Syria.

Ankara has openly stated that it aims to send up to a million Syrians, who are currently living in exile in Turkey, into the area it has since dubbed a safe zone. Where the newly displaced – most of whom are Kurds – will settle remains uncertain, as does whether the recent spate of ethnic violence can be contained.

“One of our main challenges is to contain the emotional reaction,” said a senior Kurdish official, Arshan Mizgen Ahmad. “Those who killed here are not from this part of Syria. We are trying as an administration to calm them down.

“It is not a blood dispute in the usual sense of the term. This has been a cultural move that has been prevailing for centuries. We are trying another approach. We have made great efforts not to see it as a blood dispute, but as a political manoeuver,” she said.

Ankara’s proxies are comprised of Syrians who fought against the Assad regime, and other groups who have since been recruited as hired hands. They also include several extremist units, who were responsible for the execution of the Kurdish female politician, Hevrin Khalaf, who was hauled from her car two weeks ago and shot dead by a roadside along with her bodyguards.rtisement

Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who has studied the Turkish proxies, said: “The factions fighting on Turkey’s behalf are largely made up of young men displaced from their towns and villages from across Syria and particularly eastern Syria.

“In 2016, it was clear to many Syrians that Turkey has altered its position regarding the Assad regime and will no longer attempt to topple it, and hence, those who joined this force after 2016 were often individuals willing to fight, in exchange for money, to advance Turkey’s interests.”

Ankara has denied sanctioning any atrocities in Syria amid reports it has used white phosphorus. Turkish military officials say they are investigating reports of executions.

“Turkey retains control over all strategic decision-making,” said Tsurkov. “It decides when and where to start and end offensives. Turkey pays the salaries of these fighters, trains them in Turkey and in northern Aleppo, provides them free medical care when they are injured, and oversees all operations. Turkey is ultimately responsible for the conduct of these factions.”

Meanwhile, Kurdish officials were struggling to make sense of Donald Trump’s announcement that he was sending US tanks to secure oil fields in Deir Azzour, in far eastern Syria. The surprise move came after his widely condemned decision to withdraw all US forces who were working alongside the Kurds on Turkey’s border, ahead of the operation in early October.

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Hevrin Khalaf and the spirit of the democratic nation

  • October 24, 2019

Autonomy & Authority

Days after Turkey’s invasion of Rojava, Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf was assassinated. In this interview from last year, she shares her thoughts on the Rojava revolution.

Author      Azize Aslan

My name is Hevrin, from Derik, a city in Rojava. I studied and lived there, but now my work is in Qamishlo. I studied civil engineering in Aleppo for five years and I completed my education in 2009. After working for the government for one year, the revolution started. This was in 2011.

My family deserves the credit for my participation in the Rojava revolution; they are patriotic and have been organized for years. They always took me to meetings and social events. In other words, I have never been far away from political organizing and have always had strong roots in our society.

This may be the case everywhere in the Middle East, but especially in Rojava there still exists a strong unity and solidarity among our people. Living together, or what we call ‘communal living’ is still alive and common today. I am also part of this communal society.

These were Hevrin Khalaf’s words in the spring of 2018 when I met her. On October 12, 2019, three days after Turkey launched its military offensive into northern Syria, she was brutally murdered. According to reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, she was dragged out of her car and shot in cold blood on the road. Her autopsy reveals she was shot, beaten with heavy objects and dragged by her hair until the skin on her scalp came off.

I do not know how many times I have listened to our interview recordings since I heard the horrible news of Hevrin’s death. She describes Rojava and her struggle with such pride. I wanted to hear these honorable words, because they also explain many of the reasons for the war against Rojava and Kurds. This interview is an attempt to bring justice to the brave work that Hevrin Khalaf did for her people and for the people of Rojava.

I met Hevrin Khalaf (Hevrîn Xelef, in Kurdish) in the spring of 2018 when she was the co-chair of the Ministry of Economy of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, better known as Rojava. The day before, she had lost her comrade Gerdo, with whom she had struggled together for many years; she was returning from Gerdo’s house in Tirbespîyê , and I remember when she called me to say that she was sorry for being late and that she was on her way.

A lifelong struggle

While I waited for Hevrin in the garden of the Ministry of Economy, sitting in the shadow of a tree, I chatted and smoked with the woman responsible for the Asayişa JIN, the women security forces in Rojava. She looked so strong and autonomous that when I saw the ring on her finger, I must admit I was a little surprised and asked her if she was married; “I’m married, but my husband works for the community security forces in another part of Rojava,” she said. A little embarrassed, she laughingly confessed: “We forgot that we were married once the revolution happened.”

Women in Rojava have always sought to transform the revolution, which everyone knows as a women’s revolution, into a social revolution. Hevrin struggled for this all her life and was murdered while fighting for it.

I had already heard about the beauty and dignity of Hevrin, and indeed, when she arrived, her swollen eyes and sadness from crying for Gerdo could not hide her beauty, nor did her fatigue obstruct her hospitality; while greeting me, she immediately inquired if I was hungry and if I had something to eat.

During my stay in Rojava, I had no relations with money; every day I ate and drank tea in the communal kitchens of one of the many local institutions or civilian houses along the way. There, it was evident that money does not dominate all social relations. Sometimes the people in Rojava were making fun of me; joking that if I had come during the time of war and embargo, they would have only given me soup.

A society build around communes and assemblies

Along with the revolution, a social economy had been organized in Rojava. At the time of our meeting, Hevrin was a spokesperson and co-chair of the Ministry of Economy for over two years.

There are three important pillars for organizing a social economy. The first one is the economy for social needs, which unlike in a capitalist economy, is not focused on maximizing profit. The second pillar is ecology and the ecologically responsible production of society’s needs. The third pillar is the creation and control of a fair market. These three pillars are very important for the social economy, and we want to make these a reality.

Rojava is not only the territory where a revolution is taking place, it is also a territory where the idea of a revolution is being redefined. Rojava is the place where a social revolution is taking place; where the notion of the “classical revolution” — based on the idea of transforming society through the seizure of power — is rejected.

The Kurdish movement of Rojava refuses to take power; instead, it mobilizes in an organizational modality that forms a network of assemblies that allows the people to become the subjects of their decision-making processes, offering the principle of self-determination for autonomy. That is, the Kurds are rejecting the basic component of a state: its power to make and implement decisions from the top down.

In other words, unlike other parts of Syria, the Kurds are not just another armed faction, but a militant popular movement that promotes horizontal self-determination and autonomy by and for the people of northern Syria. As Hevrin explained:

We should understand the main difference between the revolution in the rest of Syria and the revolution in Rojava. Let me give you an example, last night there was a public gathering. There was a teacher from Deraa. You probably know the significance of Deraa as the spark that lit the fire of the Syrian revolution back in 2011.

However, it could not go further.

Yesterday he told us that in Deraa, after the city was liberated from the regime seven years ago, nothing else was done; no organization, no service, no administration. Only a group of soldiers arrived to rule. That means whoever has guns can has power there. Our most important difference is this.

The first thing that was done in Rojava, and later in the broader region of northern and eastern Syria after it was liberated from ISIS, was the establishment of regional cantonal assemblies in agreement with the people living there, as the subjects of their own decisions. The sanctioning of, or participation in these assemblies by armed forces, was banned by the social contract of Rojava and northern Syria.

The purpose of the popular assembly-based system in Rojava is to organize an anti-capitalist and autonomous model for a stateless, anti-patriarchal and ecological society. Democratic autonomy, which is organized around the commune, is not a political party organization or government, although it recognizes political parties. Communes and popular assemblies, which are the main bodies of societal organization, constitute a self-government.

The spirit of a democratic nation

Unlike ethnic and religious conflicts that have transformed the Middle East into a war zone, democratic autonomy is guaranteed by the communes for all institutions of autonomous government on the basis of a “democratic nation”.

It was evident from the tone of her voice that Hevrin had captured the spirit of the democratic nation, just like her Assyrian comrade Gerdo:

Ever since the movement began organizing itself, they [militants of the Kurdish movement] have been explaining the solution [democratic autonomy] with Öcalan’s prison writings. In his work, there is a solution for the entire Middle East and Rojava. So, the political solution is already there, we just need to implement it.

This is why, when overthrowing a system, that you need to replace what was previously there with an alternative vision. If you don’t have an alternative, what you’ve destroyed might turn into something worse.

In other words, when the revolution started and the state left with all of its institutions — it remained only in a few places — if we didn’t have our alternative system and if our people were not ready, it would have been impossible for us to achieve a real liberation by simply establishing institutions.

In order to build this alternative system, we started with Mala Gel [People’s Houses] and Mala JIN [Women’s Houses]. All the institutions of society were created separately. If our society is recognized, it is best known for the women’s organizations. So, when people talk about the revolution in Rojava, they call it the Şoreşa JIN [Women’s Revolution]. The women started by building the Women’s Houses whose aim was to organize the women’s movement.

They were formed to create the common mind of women and to emancipate them from the dark and deprived situations in which they often find themselves, and have them become the leaders of this social revolution. Because we know that when a woman becomes a leader, society becomes a leader with her and transforms itself. The freedom of women and society are interdependent.

When I joined the revolution, my first place was in the Nurî Dersîm academy, where the political formation of society took place. I worked there for a time. At that time, the autonomous government had been declared, but prior to that my comrades suggested that I should take part in it. After the declaration of the autonomous government, I became the co-chair of the Ministry of Energy.

We worked with mamoste Gerdo, whom we lost yesterday, for three months. We worked with heval Gerdo since day one of the autonomous government. Many times he would say: we started the struggle together, and we will finish it together. He was our Assyrian friend and a very good person. He was a very good person in terms of human morality.

When we would talk about the terms of the democratic nation, I always said to him: you were our first friend who understood the democratic nation even though it wasn’t an explicit part of our political program yet. Because he understood and realized this; it was part of his nature.

He came from the city of Tirbespîyê and in this city people were living together in peace, so I was observing his nature in his relationships with Arabs and Kurds, Muslims and Assyrians. He repeated many times: ‘Serok [honorary title of Abdullah Öcalan] made us aware of it, and so we are very comfortable with it. We didn’t know that as Assyrians we had such rights; we had forgotten about it, but now we know our cultural and political rights, thanks to his prison writings.’

Gerdo always said that we must defend the project of democratic autonomy. He did so very quietly, but we worked with the spirit of a democratic nation for more than four years together. He really had the spirit of the democratic nation.

If there is one good thing about this autonomous government, it is the unity of the people. An Assyrian works with the Kurds, a Kurd with the Arabs. This wasn’t something that could have been achieved easily. This alone is a revolution.

Transforming gender relations

Hevrin had learned from her mother to be strong and revolutionary. As such, she joined the resistance as soon as the revolution began and held various positions. When she was discussing the social economy with me, she said that she would no longer be involved in the economic dimension of the movement.

After the liberation of regions like Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, she was offered to be co-president of the Syrian Future Party (SFP), which aims to establish a social consensus for peace and to eliminate the hostility that was historically generated by the Ba’ath regime between Kurds and Arabs. She brought this up casually and I could tell that she did not want to quit her job organizing the social economy of Rojava and that she did not want to participate in the SFP, but that she would not reject the offer of her comrades.

She added that she felt that she had become intertwined with the people working in the economic area and that they had managed to solve many realistic problems together. However, given that many aligned Arab tribes had not accepted the system of co-presidency, she knew she had a responsibility to take her place in the party in order to fight until such a system was accepted.

The system of having a co-chair or co-spokesperson is a praxis that provides women and men equal rights of speech and decision-making and which can be seen in every institution and organizational structure of the Kurdish freedom movement and dates back to a decision taken by a Kurdish women’s organizations in the 1990s. It is the first praxis of this nature among freedom movements in the world. Hevrin said that the adoption of the co-chair system was not easy, and that it would be an ongoing struggle:

After the declaration of the autonomous government, women’s work has become more and more prominent. All institutions of the autonomous administration are paying special attention to women’s issues, but there is always one institution focused on women exclusively..We do not encourage that women’s issues should be prioritized over general ones, but we do insist that women’s issues are taken into account in every institution.

In order to rekindle the extinguished fire in the history of women, we must intervene and support women’s organizations in every way possible. Until when? Until women and men can work together equally.

For example, the co-presidency system is not accepted in many regions. It has not been sufficiently internalized, even in the many institutions that we have established since the start of the revolution. In other words, to see each other as co-chairs, to know that decisions should be taken together equally, is an idea and a practice that has not yet been fully implemented in our culture.

It works very well in some places, but remember that it is not possible to change a millennia-old mentality in just two years. For example, when we talk about co-chairs, they immediately tell us that this right is only a woman’s right. The co-chair system does not exist solely for women — because the nature of women’s work is to work collectively, it therefore also assures men’s rights. Women see the co-chair system as a way of working with men, in other words, women see the right to work together also as a men’s rights issue.

For example, when we talk about co-chairing in newly-liberated areas, there is a perception that we are doing something for women, but that is not the case; co-chairing is not just for women, it is also for men. It is true, for example, that the decision to apply the co-chair system everywhere was conceived in women’s organizational spaces and actions, but from the beginning we recognized that this system would not only be beneficial for women, but also for all people in northern Syria. So, everyone has the right to act with his or her comrade.

This type of system may be perceived like this at first because there is no other example of it in the world. Sometimes I am very surprised, for example, when my male friends say, ‘Okay, let’s not argue too much, there is a co-chair system and our female friends here should not be offended.’ When I heard this, I said ‘We must accept this system not because otherwise women might get offended, but so that men’s voices do not disappear in society.’

Co-presidency does not mean destroying men, it means transforming gender relations inside our institutions and society. In single-presidency systems, the president is either a man or a woman. Therefore, in order to achieve real transformation in autonomous government, it was necessary to decide on the co-chair system.

For example, when the autonomous government was declared, all ministries had a presidential system; one president and two vice-presidents; now there are two co-chairs and three vice-presidents. Not only in ministries, but in all institutions.

The co-chairing first started in the canton of Cizre, then Kobane and now this system has also begun in Afrin. However, of course the Afrin cantonal assembly had also worked with the a de facto co-chair system from the beginning. In fact, even this was strange, as an example the first president of the Cizre canton was a man: Abdulkerim Saruhan; in Kobane also a man: Enver Muslim; but in Afrin it was a woman: Hevi Mustafa. Hevi Mustafa had a male co-chair even though the autonomous government had not yet decided on the co-chair system yet. But because she was a woman, the co-chair system was adopted de facto. It wasn’t implemented there yet. So, this tells us is that if the president is a man, they can continue as a presidential system, but if the president is a woman, she is not allowed to be without a male co-chair.

I laughed, and she laughed too; in that moment I saw the beautiful smile of Hevrin that no doubt stays with everyone who had seen it.

Even after her death, the importance of her struggle was once again made clear: Hevrin was not recognized as co-chair of the Syrian Future Party establishment, but rather referred to as the party’s “secretary general.”

She was a woman who was a co-president in her daily practice; I have no doubt that she continued her struggle with this spirit of resistance until the day she was murdered.

Hevrin Khalaf was smiling in front of me as a co-chair; this was undoubtedly the victory smile I saw in the eyes and faces of all women in Rojava; this honorable smile that destroyed patriarchy. So defending Rojava means defending that honorable smile!

Azize Aslan

Azize Aslan is a PhD student in Sociology at Mexico. She is working on anti-capitalist movements and alternative economics.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SDF’s Xelil: Turkish army violated the ceasefire 37 times

Redur Xelil said that the Turkish state violated the ceasefire 37 times since October 18.

Speaking to ANHA, Head of SDF Public Relations Office Redur Xelil said that the Turkish state has not adhered to the ceasefire declared on October 18 as it continued its attacks against North and East Syria.

According to figures announced by Xelil, the occupation forces have violated the ceasefire 37 times, with 10 airstrikes and 27 ground attacks.

Figures of the violation of ceasefire are as follows;

18 October 2019

Ground attacks: 7

Air strikes: 5

Artillery attacks: 4

SDF fighters martyred: 9

SDF fighters injured: 41

19 October 2019

Ground attacks: 3

Air strikes: 2

Artillery attacks: 3

SDF fighters martyred: 17

SDF fighters injured: 25

20 October 2019

Ground attacks: 2

Air strikes: 1

Artillery attacks: 4

SDF fighters martyred: 16

SDF fighters injured: 3

21 October 2019

Ground attacks: 1

Air strikes: 2

Artillery attacks: 3

SDF fighters martyred: 15

SDF fighters injured: 21

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The assault on Rojava

Turkey
Kurdish YPJ fighters embrace in Afrin, a city now occupied by Turkey since January 2018. Credit: Kurdishstruggle/Flickr

 

On 9 October, Turkey began a military invasion on northern Syria to attack the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). It’s an open secret that Turkey has been waiting in the wings for an opportunity to annihilate the Kurdish autonomous region Rojava in northeastern Syria, ever since it was established in 2012 while Assad’s attention was focussed on the civil uprising, part of the Arab Spring, in the south.

According to President Erdoğan of Turkey, the Kurdish struggle for self-determination, in south-east Turkey, led by the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê) which is proscribed by the authorities as ‘terrorist’, is closely related to the PYD (Democratic Union Party) in Rojava.

There is no doubt that theirs is a shared ideology, one that has been formulated by their joint leader, Abdullah Öcalan, now in his 21st year of incarceration in a Turkish prison.  But the PYD’s organizing principle is democratic confederalism: a system of direct democracy, ecological sustainability and ethnic inclusivity, where women have veto powers on new legislation and share all institutional positions with men.

Within the short time since forming Rojava’s democratic experiment, child marriage, forced marriage, dowry and polygamy were banned; honour killings, violence and discrimination against women were criminalized. It is the only part of Syria where sharia councils have been abolished and religion has been consigned to the private sphere.

This is a blueprint for the kind of society that many of us have been campaigning for all our lives – and yet it is the best kept secret in the world. Most people, by now, know that the Kurds were the most reliable boots on the ground when it came to the battle against ISIS. Much of the widespread condemnation of Turkey’s aggression is articulated in terms of the US abandoning its loyal ally. While that is certainly true, what few people know is the kind of society that will be destroyed.

Collateral damage

The writing has been on the wall almost from the moment that the US and its European allies provided air cover to the embattled Kurds surrounded by ISIS in the famous battle of Kobane, northeastern Syria, which lasted more than four months from September 2014 to January 2015.

The US had been reluctant to help because its NATO ally, Turkey, would have preferred the defeat of the Kurds to ISIS. The entry of the US into the war turned around the fortunes of the Kurds. However, it was a purely transactional relationship. When Kobane lay in ruins because of the aerial bombing, the US did not provide funds for reconstruction nor did they pressure Turkey to open its borders so that Rojava could bring in much needed rebuilding materials.

Indeed until the military defeat of ISIS and the intermittent closure of the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, Rojava was basically blockaded. The US was not expected to have any interest in a society built on anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal ideas which were antithetical to everything it stood for.

The Kurds have been under no illusions about the superpower on whom they were forced to rely and knew that Turkey would move in as soon as the US vacated the space. Not even waiting till US evacuation, the westernmost cantonment of Afrin was invaded by Turkey in January 2018 and has been occupied ever since.  And in February 2019, the last stronghold of ISIS at Baghouz collapsed. Within months, the US is leaving although the received wisdom is that the threat from ISIS is not over.

There are 12,000 ISIS prisoners (and 100,000 women and children, members of the ISIS fighters’ families) being held by the overstretched Kurds whose attention is now focussed on the Turkish invasion. These prisons and camps have become highly dangerous places where ISIS fighters are regrouping to relaunch their attacks.

Women have been killed and others injured in riots in the camps which broke out when ISIS enforcers imposed sharia dress codes on non-ISIS related women. Turkey has facilitated ISIS with arms and became a conduit for ISIS fighters crossing its border into Syria in what became known as the jihadi highway. If these prisons were to fall into the hands of Turkey, it would be bad news for all of us.

A source based in Tell Abyad (Kurdish name: Girê Spî) from the autonomous administration of north-east Syria, which is one of the towns currently facing Turkish bombing, told me: ‘Half the population of the town has been displaced. There is heavy fighting in the city between the Free Syrian Army, which is full of jihadi groups and the SDF (Syrian Democratic Force). Turkish F-16s are bombarding the city. I and my family are planning to move to a safe town nearby. We cannot remain if the jihadis take control of the city.’

Another source from the Foreign Relations Committee of Rojava believes that the town will fall fairly soon, a fate that could have been avoided if aerial bombing had not occurred. He added that aerial bombing was taking place all along the border, as far east as Qamishli, the de facto capital of Rojava, where five people died yesterday.

The Kurds have been asking for the imposition of a No-Fly zone monitored by international forces. That would certainly reduce civilian deaths and give the Kurds an equal fighting chance in which they always excel. Stopping arms sales to Turkey would also be an important step. Norway has begun the process. There has been a long running campaign of boycotting Turkish goods and tourism which provides the funds to help Turkey buy arms. NATO allies should also consider ejecting Turkey from its membership. These are some of the concrete ways in which UK, US and Europe can bring pressure to bear on Turkey.

What is interesting so far is the absence of comment from President Assad. After all, he and Erdoğan have been sworn enemies. Perhaps Assad wants Erdoğan to finish his dirty work for him and get rid of the final thorn in his side. It is a dangerous strategy indeed to allow an arch enemy to occupy your land to get rid of a harmless people that are not even demanding secession. They simply want to be left in peace to continue their democratic experiment. That is what many of us want too – a beacon of hope to inspire us to bring about radical changes in the way we live.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

HEYVA SORA KURD (KURDISH RED CRESCENT)

17.10.2019

Turkish military and Islamic groups invasion in Northeast Syria:

On October 9, 2019 the Turkish army with islamic allies started an offensive targeting

mainly the area betweeen Sere Kaniye and Tell Abiad. SDF in turn started to defend it.

After few hours a massive displacement of population started toward south areas of

Hasake, Raqqa, Ein issa and Tel Tamir. Below the detailed report day by day with

photos and the casualties recorded.

(EDITOR : In order to get this report out urgently I have not adjusted the layout but it should be self explanatory)

16 and 17 of October,2019

The paramedic Hail al-Salih, he passed away today after he was injured with 3 other nurses in Asadiya south of Raselein on 15th of October

  • The main attack is concentrating on Ras Al Ain. Since the beginning of the attack the

access was already very limited. But since the night of 16th we had no access at all

anymore.

  • The capacity of Tiltemir hospital, which is the main Hospital to respond to all the

injuries from Ras Al Ain had to decrease drastically since the clashes were very near

and attacks to the hospital very likely. We evacuated most of our teams and

continued just with a small team.

  • In the hospital of Ras Al Ain is still a small team of department of health working but

with very limited capacities, they inform us, that there is many injured people which

they cannot treat and will probably die because of the lack of services. KRC

submitted an official call for help to ICRC and all humanitarian organizations:

There is a strong attack on towns and cities of North-East Syria, especially Ras al-Ayn

city. This is the most ferocious attack by Turkish military forces and allied Syrian

militias.

The city is suffering shelling, artillery, airstrikes and ground incursions with tanks and

heavy weapons. This has led to many civilian injuries, and since our medical teams

have been targeted we are unable to enter the city to rescue the casualties.

We are requesting that you respond to this appeal and intervene according to

humanitarian duties in order to bring an end to the airstrikes and ensure our permission

for the evacuation of civilian injuries.

Otherwise, we call on your direct intervention into the city. Without either intervention,

we will experience a full humanitarian disaster and lose hundreds of civilian live.

 

17/10/2019

Qamishli – 12:33 PM

  • GoS forces accompanied by GoR military police have officially entered Menbij town.

Prior to this, pro-GoS TV presenters were observed in the center of the town, reporting

of widespread call from the community for GoS intervention in the area. Asayish, later

stopped the filming and asked the reporters to leave the town. In the meantime, CF

have announced officially that they have withdrawn from Menbij and no longer have

active personnel in the area.

  • Along the M4, SDF have continued clashes and advances near Alyia Silos area (25km

East of Tell Tamr on the M4), followed by GoS establishing a new position

in Terwazieyeh village coming from Ein Issa town – thus making a large part of the M4

now under GoS/SDF control.

2

Unknown weapons attacks in Ras al Ain:

Hasake national Hospital received some patients, Civilian and Military, with burns (level 2 and level 3 ) after airstrikes. 6 patients where discovered with different symptoms. By time of writing this report an investigation of their symptoms is taking place to evaluate the symptoms and to check by which kind of weapon they got targeted. Some medias published the use of forbidden weapons. We as Kurdish Red Crescent can not confirm the use of chemical weapons yet, but working together with our international partners to investigate this subject.

Civilian casualties since the 9th of October– starting the Turkish invasion- recorded by KRC team

Dead: 44 in total recorded by KRC of them, male and female in Ras al Ain and Maabada.

Many of the Dead could not be registered due to distortion and there is a number that KRC

could not record. From the massacre of the civilian convoy 6 victims has been registered, in orange below, on the 11 certified.

Injured and shocked: 171 registered by KRC. From the massacre of the civilian convoy,

Series Name Gender Age Place of residence

Type of injury Casualties Date

1 Hamid Riyad Male 23 Qamishlo Wound in shoulder 09/10/2019

2 Rojin Mohammad Hani Female 18 Keyl Hasnak shrapnel in thigh 09/10/2019

3 Ahmad Othman Male 24 chil agha Wound and shrapnel in arm

09/10/2019

4 Alih ALhassafi

Saeed Male 32 chil agha shrapnel in

arm 09/10/2019

5 Basel Moudar

ALhamdal Male 20 Serekaniye Multiple

shrapnel 09/10/2019

3

6 Yousef Mohammad

Alih Anz Male 28

Western

neighborhood

in Qamishlo

shrapnel 09/10/2019

7 Turkiya Hajji Female 16 Qamishlo shrapnel in

head 09/10/2019

8 Abdulghani delf Male 15 Qamishlo Injury in head 09/10/2019

9 Majid Hamo Male 37 Qamishlo shrapnel in

ankle 09/10/2019

10 Jamil Hamo Male 50 Qamishlo

shrapnel in the

behind section

of theigh

09/10/2019

11 Hussien Hamo Male 10 Qamishlo shrapnel in

head 09/10/2019

12 Abdulghani Hamo Male 17 Qamishlo

shrapnel in the

behind section

of theigh

09/10/2019

13 Juliet Yaqoub

Nicola Female 30 Qamishlo shrapnel in

back 09/10/2019

14 Fadi Sabri Habsono Male 32 Qamishlo shrapnel in

belly and back 09/10/2019

15 Mohammad Haj

Qadur Ismael Male

Matlaka

village/Gire

sipi

Martyred 09/10/2019

16 Rabiea Ismael Female

Matlaka

village/Gire

sipi

Martyred 09/10/2019

17 Akram yousef Male Qamishlo Martyred 09/10/2019

18 Dalil Mousa Male 32

Western

neighborhood /

Qamishlo

09/10/2019

19 Basel Matar

Mohammad Male 19 Serekaniye shrapnel in

body 09/10/2019

20 Yehya Ibrahim

Aljasem Male 25 Derbasiye shrapnel and

neck injury 09/10/2019

21 Ahmad Khodr

Dandar Male Ashmia village/

Kobani 09/10/2019

22 Mohammad Ahmad

Aljasm Male Beshioukh

village Kobani 09/10/2019

23 Shahin Omar Kersh Male Ashmia village

/ Kobani 10/10/2019

24 Ali Moustafa

Moustafa Male Tabqa Multiple

shrapnel 10/10/2019

25 Ammar abdu

Altaym Male 18 Serekaniye Martyred 10/10/2019

26 Ahmad Mohammad

Altaym Male 24 Serekaniye Martyred 10/10/2019

27 Bashshar Ahmad

Sanjar Male 19 Serekaniye Martyred 10/10/2019

28 Ahmad Jasem

Alabed Male 21 Serekaniye Martyred 10/10/2019

4

29

Ezzeldeen

Abdulaziz

Mohammad

Male 18 Serekaniye Martyred 10/10/2019

30 Ibrahim Ali Male 39 Serekaniye Gun shot in

humerus 10/10/2019

31 Abdulaziz Jasem Male 35 Serekaniye Abdomen

injury 10/10/2019

32 Khalaf Aboud

Alkhaled Male 55 Serekaniye Head shot Martyred 10/10/2019

33 Abdulghani Bashir Male 16 Qedurbeck /

Qamishlo

shrapnel in

head 10/10/2019

34 Dalil Abdulhalim Male 30 Qamishlo Leg broken 10/10/2019

35 Serdar Yousef Male 30 Qamishlo Opened

abdomen 10/10/2019

36 Ibrahim Mamdouh Male 39 Qamishlo shrapnel in

arm 10/10/2019

37 Bahoz Saeed Male 38 Qamishlo Arm broken 10/10/2019

38 Qaymet Mousa Female 45 Qamishlo shrapnel in the

right shoulder 10/10/2019

39 Amina Mardini Female 73 Qedurbeck /

Qamishlo

shrapnel in the

abdomen Martyred 10/10/2019

40 Mahmoud Ahmad

Alhamawi Male 19 Himo /

Qamishlo 10/10/2019

41 Hamed Hawas Male 40 Terbesipiye 10/10/2019

42 Jankin Ahmad

Mourad Female 35

Qamishlo /

swes canal

neighborhood

Opened

abdomen 10/10/2019

43 Abdulkarim Aleid Male 28 chil agha 10/10/2019

44 Mohammad Yousef

Hussien Male 11 Qedurbeck /

Qamishlo Martyred 10/10/2019

45 Sarah yousef

Hussien Female 8 Qedurbeck /

Qamishlo

Feet

amputation 10/10/2019

46 Ahmad Abu Rana Male Qedurbeck /

Qamishlo Martyred 10/10/2019

47 Sozdar Ali Biro Male 37 Serekaniye

Left arm

fracture /

gunshot

10/10/2019

48 Ramadan Jasim

Tuhaini Male 60 Serekaniye

Broken legs

and left

forearm

10/10/2019

49 Eidan Sheikh

Ahmad Male 60 Kobani Martyred 11/10/2019

50 Dilgesh Mahmoud

Mohammad Male 15 Qamishlo shrapnel 11/10/2019

51 Dalil Abdulmajid

Ali Male 26 Qamishlo Multiple

shrapnel 11/10/2019

52 Bedran Rakan

Mahmou Male 35 Qamishlo shrapnel 11/10/2019

53 Daysam Emad

Sulieman Male 13 Tel ziwan \

Terbesipiye

shrapnel in the

head 11/10/2019

5

54 Majed Mohmmad

Sultan Albakr Male 40 Serekaniye Wounds in the

head 11/10/2019

55 Abdulmajeed Koni Male 50 Serekaniye Wounds in the

head 11/10/2019

56 Idrees Seydo Male 5 Serekaniye Shock 11/10/2019

57 Amina Abdu

Sheikhi Female 55 Serekaniye Gun shot in

left foot 11/10/2019

58 George Abdulahad Male 64 Serekaniye shrapnel in the

back 11/10/2019

59 Maso’ud Ali Mahdi Male 35 Qamishlo

Injury in

abdomen and

head

11/10/2019

60 Hussien Sulieman

Ibrahim Male 60 Qamishlo Martyred 11/10/2019

61 Hajji Hussien Male 70 Martyred 11/10/2019

62 Dakhil Mohammad

alHussien Male 55 Serekaniye shrapnel in

chest / traumas 11/10/2019

63 Qais Alsheikh Male 15 Serekaniye Martyred 11/10/2019

64 Mohammad Ali

Othman Male 26 Qamishlo shrapnel in the

back 11/10/2019

65 Mohammad Barho

Fares Male 60 Serekaniye Heart attack 11/10/2019

66 Ali Mahmoud

Hussien Male 30 Serekaniye Tumor in leg 11/10/2019

67 Mohammad Khalil

Khalaf Male 24 Serekaniye Shock 11/10/2019

68 Fryal Abdulrahman

Alfaraj Female 26 Serekaniye Shock 11/10/2019

69 Eyad thaki Hajji Male 20 Serekaniye Shock 11/10/2019

70 Hasan Sulieman

Alali Male 50 Qamishlo Martyred 11/10/2019

71 Habib Bashshar

Hbbo Male Qamishlo Leg

amputation 11/10/2019

72 Watan Amro Male 24 Kobani Martyred 11/10/2019

73 Fadi Adel Ibrahim Male 36 Qamishlo Martyred 11/10/2019

74 Hussien Ibrahim

Kasho Male 50 Qamishlo Martyred 11/10/2019

75 Fadel Saleh Male 45 Serekaniye Martyred 11/10/2019

76 Hajji Yaser Male Qamishlo Martyred 11/10/2019

77 Jalal Esmat Omar Male 25 Himo/Qamishlo Martyred 11/10/2019

78 Maso’ud Sheikh

Hamd Male Matin/Kobani Martyred 11/10/2019

79 Eidan Sheikh

Jaradeh Male Matin/Kobani Martyred 11/10/2019

80 Mohammad Youcef

Gharbo Male 13 Qamishlo Martyred 11/10/2019

81 Sulieman Abbas

Shaker Male Qamishlo Martyred 11/10/2019

82 Fadel Taqtaq Male 45 Qamishlo shrapnel in the

left thigh 11/10/2019

6

83 Hasan Naser Male 40 Qamishlo shrapnel in

chest 11/10/2019

84 Dadvik Naziyan Female 25 Qamishlo Broken leg 11/10/2019

85 Eiman Hajji Sharif Female 22 Qamishlo Martyred 12/10/2019

86 Jamal Sheikh Ali

Tarboush Male 26 Serekaniye

Multiple

shrapnel in

both legs and

abdomen

12/10/2019

87 Dldar Abdulkarim

Dawood Male KRC member/

Serekaniye

Injury in the

head 12/10/2019

88 Mahjoub Sa’ud

Hsso Male KRC member /

Serekaniye shrapnel 12/10/2019

89 Imam Ibrahim Male 24 Qamishlo Martyred 12/10/2019

90 Fadel Bozan Male Serekaniye Martyred 12/10/2019

91 Havreen Khalaf Female 33 Qamishlo road

– Raqqa Martyred 12/10/2019

92 Abdulkarim Haj

Khalil Male 71 Kobani Martyred 12/10/2019

93 Mohmmad Abdul

samad male 22 Serekaniye Martyred 12/10/2019

94 Ammar Abdullah

Abdu Male 11 Serekaniye Injury in head 12/10/2019

95 Khaola Mohammad

Matar Female 20 Serekaniye Shock 12/10/2019

96 Hanan Sheikh Ali Female 20 Serekaniye Shock 12/10/2019

97 Salah Saeed Hamk Male 25 Derek Martyred 12/10/2019

98 Dani Brno Hanna Male 26 Derek Both feet

broken 12/10/2019

99 Nawwaf Shukri Ali Male 40 Qamishlo shrapnel in

head 12/10/2019

100 DlSher Arab Male 20 13/10/2019

101 Nsreen Mesto

Maashooq Female 38 Gire sipi Shrapnel 13/10/2019

102 Adam Ahmad Male 16 Serekaniye Burns 13/10/2019

103 Jwan Zelfo Male 25 Amuda Shrapnel 13/10/2019

104 Mneefa Saaed

Jumaa Female 43 Gire sipi Shrapnel 13/10/2019

105

Rasheed

Muhammad

Muhammad

Male 24 Amuda Shrapnel 13/10/2019

106 Berman Female Amuda Injury in the

left thigh 13/10/2019

107 Kawa Sulaiman

Hajo Male 42 Shrapnel 13/10/2019

108 Mirfet Ahmad Female 35 Terbesipiye Trauma 13/10/2019

109 Saeed Muhammad

Saeed Male Tel Tamr Martyred 13/10/2019

110 Aaqeeda Othman Female Girke Lage Martyred 13/10/2019

111 Fayz Mahmoud

Baqi Male Serekaniye Martyred 13/10/2019

7

112 DlSoz Kute Female 22

Tel Tamr/

North Press

Agency

Journalist

13/10/2019

113 Abdulkareem

Youssef Abdullah Male 30 Tel Hamees Shrapnel 13/10/2019

114 Alan Youssef

Abdullah Male 19 Tel Hamees Shrapnel 13/10/2019

115 Bashar Ahmad

Ibrahim Male 22 Injury in the

right hand 13/10/2019

116 Jazya Hussein

Hwarny Female 63 Gire sipi Shrapnel 13/10/2019

117 Muna Naser

Sananeek Female 45 Girke Lage

Shrapnel in the

head and the

right hand

13/10/2019

118 Saad Ahmad Male

HAWAR

Agency

Journalist

Martyred 13/10/2019

119 Muhammad Aknji Male ANHA Agency

Journalist 13/10/2019

120 Arseen Jakso Male Farat Agency

Journalist 13/10/2019

121 Amel yunes Female Sterk TV

Journalist 13/10/2019

122 Birjan Yeldz Female Journalist 13/10/2019

123

Abdulrasheed

Muhammad

Muhammad

Male Journalist 13/10/2019

124 Loai Male 18 Tel Tamr/

Nurse

Injury in the

left foot 13/10/2019

125 Swar Khesho Male 22

Hassakh/

Ambulance

driver

Injury in the

left hand and

leg

13/10/2019

126 Muhammad

Hussein Khalil Male 55 13/10/2019

127 Mhrajan Nwaf

Sulaiman Male 50 Amuda Injury in the

left leg 13/10/2019

128 Youssef Jasm

Habib Male 18 Serekaniye

Shrapnel in the

foot and

burning the

face

13/10/2019

129 George Abdulahad male 20 Tel Hamees

shrapnel in

legs and the

left han-burns

13/10/2019

130 hawas ali al hussen male 28 til kocher leg broken 13/10/2019

131 ahmad salih male 25 injuries in

head and leg 13/10/2019

132 mahmoud kheder

nawaf male 18

injuries in the

left leg and

hand-head

injury

13/10/2019

8

133 ezzeldeen

mahmoud yousif male 62 shrapnel in

body martyred 13/10/2019

134 muzeffer mahmoud

yousif male 45

shrapnel in

head and the

right leg

13/10/2019

135 taha mahmoud

yousif male 38 shrapnel in

body 13/10/2019

136 numan ahmed male 42 shrapnel in the

left shoulder 13/10/2019

137 behiya shekho Female 38 shrapnel in the

abdomen 13/10/2019

138 rojin Female 39 shrapnel in the

abdomen 13/10/2019

139 abdul jabbar jasim male 37 chil agha shrapnel in

legs 13/10/2019

140 abdul rashid

muhammad male 25 amuda

shrapnel in the

abdomen and

leg

13/10/2019

141 abdul karim yousif male 30 Tel Hamees

shrapnel in

abdomen and

the right

shoulder

13/10/2019

142 abdul rahman

ahmad hadi male 45 Tel Hamees Head shot 13/10/2019

143 evin haji Female 45 Amuda shrapnel in

body 13/10/2019

144 alaa muhammad male 23 Serekaniye fragments in

body 13/10/2019

145 abdul qadir faris male 20 chil agha fragment in

head 13/10/2019

146 nisreen mesho Female 39 tirbe sipiye injury in the

shoulder 13/10/2019

147 jamil ahmad al

ahmad male 65 Kobani fragments in

head 13/10/2019

148 rojhilat yeldiz Female 22 Kobani fragments in

head 13/10/2019

149 muhammad hussein

resho male Journalist fragments in

body martyred 13/10/2019

150 khaled khalil al eid male 60 Tel Hamees fragments in

body 13/10/2019

151 talal yousif al

abdallah male 19 fragments in

body 13/10/2019

152 munifa sayed Female 44 fragments in

body 13/10/2019

153 alaa salim hassan male 20 Serekaniye burns 13/10/2019

154 nawaf etallah sabah male 28 Serekaniye fragment in

leg 13/10/2019

155 ammar ahmad

osman male 19 Serekaniye burns in legs 13/10/2019

156 hayez adel al

aubyed male 30 Serekaniye leg broken –

burns 13/10/2019

9

157 huner ahmad Male rudaw tv

journalist 13/10/2019

158 dilsoz dildar Male

north press

agency

journalist

13/10/2019

159 perjan yeldiz Male ANHA Agency

Journalist 13/10/2019

160 rojeen akin Female ANHA Agency

Journalist 13/10/2019

161 emina salim esmail Female 46 Serekaniye fragments in

legs and hands 13/10/2019

162 beshir ayed Male 40 Serekaniye fragments in

body 13/10/2019

163 fayz muhammad

khalil Male 30 Serekaniye fragments in

body 13/10/2019

164 talal al hawar Male 50 Serekaniye fragments in

the right hand 13/10/2019

165 mervet muhammad

emin Female 30 Serekaniye fragments in

head 13/10/2019

166 tagreed al huseen Female 26 Serekaniye Trauma 13/10/2019

167 ghazala hameed Female 26 Serekaniye fragments in

neck 13/10/2019

168 aqeeda osman Female derik fragments martyred 13/10/2019

169 munteha

muhammad selim Female 34 Serekaniye fragments in

body 14/10/2019

170 abdallah ahmad

suleman male 26 Shock 14/10/2019

171 shivan abdul bari

eliko male 26 chil agha fragments in

body martyred 14/10/2019

172 rewend haitham

iskan Male 18 Derbasiye fragments in

body 14/10/2019

173 yasin al khedir male 12 menbij fragments in

body 15/10/2019

174 kamla al

muhammad kher Female 40 menbij fragments in

the right leg 15/10/2019

175 fahima huseen Female 45 Serekaniye Trauma 15/10/2019

176 wefa al khedir Female 28 menbij Abdomen

injury 15/10/2019

177 ruqaya al safri Female 13 menbij leg broken 15/10/2019

178 razan al mousa Female 5 menbij fragments in

legs 15/10/2019

179 ebrahim al mousa male 3 menbij fragmen in the

left leg 15/10/2019

180 ali al mousa male 11 menbij fragments in

legs 15/10/2019

181 mouhammad al

mousa male 10 menbij fragment in

the left leg 15/10/2019

182 nermeen al ali Female 18 menbij broken bones 15/10/2019

183 amsha khedir Female 14 Shock 15/10/2019

10

184

muhammad

hameed

muhammad

Male 13 Serekaniye burns 15/10/2019

185 abdul karim

ebrahim Male 18 burns 15/10/2019

186 rezan al mousa Female 5 menbij fragments in

legs 15/10/2019

187 rezan al safri Female 5 menbij fragments in

head 15/10/2019

188 bedriya al safri Female 13 menbij leg broken 15/10/2019

189 ebrahim abdullah Male 43 menbij fragments in

the left leg 15/10/2019

190 muhammad al

mousa Male 10 menbij fragments in

the left leg 15/10/2019

191 rabeya al ali al

khedir Female 18 menbij fragments in

the left hand 15/10/2019

192 fayad haj osman Male 38 Kobani gun shoot 15/10/2019

193 muhammad hassan

ebrahim Male 35 Serekaniye neck injury 15/10/2019

194 khalil redwan

mousa Male 25 Serekaniye fragments 16/10/2019

195 ali abdul rahman Male 70 Serekaniye fragments 16/10/2019

196 mahmoud hassan

muhammad Male 28 Serekaniye fragments 16/10/2019

197 ebrahim salih baker Male 43 Derbasiye Trauma 16/10/2019

198 amira maamo Female 60 Serekaniye Trauma 16/10/2019

199 shahnaz maamo Female 14 Serekaniye Trauma 16/10/2019

200 muhammad khalaf Male 30 Serekaniye gun shoot 16/10/2019

201 eyad ahmad Male 19 Serekaniye gun shoot 16/10/2019

202 hozan ahmad Male 19 Serekaniye gun shoot 16/10/2019

203 ali dawood Male 22 Serekaniye gun shoot 16/10/2019

204 hamad al ebdu Male 35 Gire sipi martyred 16/10/2019

205 maryam

muhammad jeloud Female 25 Serekaniye fragments in

the left leg 16/10/2019

206 lamees ali assaf Female 14 Serekaniye gun shoot 16/10/2019

207 jazya al ali Female 45 Serekaniye broken legs 16/10/2019

208 sarah suleiman

hassan Female 20 Serekaniye Trauma 16/10/2019

209 ammar issa

muhammad Male 3 Serekaniye wounds 16/10/2019

210 osama ebrahim al

awad Male 21 Serekaniye Trauma 16/10/2019

211 hayel al salih Male Serekaniye martyred 17/10/2019

212 abdul fattah esmail

al ali Male 20 gun shoot 17/10/2019

213 nidal ebrahim Male 46 qamishlo fragments in

head 17/10/2019

214 nermeen

muhammad hassan Female 18 Gire sipi fragments in

the left hand 17/10/2019

11

215 alan Male 19 Gire sipi fragments in

body 17/10/2019

15th of October,2019

  • The displaced people problem became bigger after the INGOs had to leave NES, and

those work remotely most of them cannot have good access, the other problem is

that the GOS has raised the flag of Syria in some schools those host IDPs and many

INGOs are not allowed to work there.

  • As it was expected, this evening big part of KRC team had to leave the Hospital in Tal

Tamer due to the conflict around the town in Manajir and Alyia Silos area around

on the M4 east Tal Tamer, in that way there will be too much difficulties to reach to

the wounded and the injured people in the area of the conflict and Ras Al Ein. Later

at midnight it was reported that SDF took the control of both areas east Tal tamer, but

the medical team will check the area if there is possibility to work in the hospital or

not.

  • GOS didn’t enter the town of Tal Tamir but was only in Al-Aghebesh
  • Ein Issa camp was dramatically change today as a lot of ISIS cells showed up to

attack and burn the tents, there is no NGO can work there while the most of the IDPs

were moved to Mahmodly camp.

14th of October,2019

  • As it was expected, the number of the victims of the civilian convoy, bombed yesterday

in Ras Al Ain, increased after they were referred to Tell Tamer (S. Legerin Hospital)

and then to Qamishlo and Hasake Hospitals, in the list below the new casualties are

added.

  • Ein Issa camp is without services since yesterday, except for the only Health Point

where KRC medical team is working with very limited capacity. During the chaos, 25

unaccompanied minors were evacuated by NGOs together with the UN to Raqqa city

where they are now being supported in a NGO CFS.

  • The displaced people problem became bigger after the INGOs had to leave NES, and

those work remotely most of them cannot have good access, the other problem is

that the GOS has raised the flag of Syria in some schools those host IDPs and many

INGOs are not allowed to work there.

  • As it was expected, this evening big part of KRC team had to leave the Hospital in Tal

Tamer due to the conflict around the town in Manajir and Alyia Silos area around

on the M4 east Tal Tamer, in that way there will be too much difficulties to reach to

the wounded and the injured people in the area of the conflict and Ras Al Ein. Later

at midnight it was reported that SDF took the control of both areas east Tal tamer, but

the medical team will check the area if there is possibility to work in the hospital or

not.

  • GOS didn’t enter the town of Tal Tamir but was only in Al-Aghebesh
  • Ein Issa camp was dramatically change today as a lot of ISIS cells showed up to

attack and burn the tents, there is no NGO can work there while the most of the IDPs

were moved to Mahmodly camp.

  • The remaining of the INGOs left this morning through Semalka-Peshkhabour gate

after the Syrian government showed up: “We have made difficult decisions, staying

until the last minute. Of key NGO bases, Kobane was the first to have completed the

withdrawal of the staff and the suspension of activities and it was hit with heavy

activity just a day after. Ein Issa escalated significantly after assessments were made

the day before to withdraw all international staff and relocate to coordination of

activities to Raqqa. Today, we are leaving Amuda, Tel Tamer, Hasekeh city with, at

least Tel Tamer, witnessing presence of GoS just hours after the last NGO started

moving”.

  • For the Kurdish Red Crescent; all activities will continue in all the areas without open

conflict and KRC will get the support from the partners remotely, mainly inside of the

camps: AL Hol, Areesha, Roj, Newroz.

  • KRC announced (The Kurdish Red Crescent is continuing and will continue its activities

in all the camps (Al-Hol, Areesha, Roj, Newroz, Ain Issa). And all the health clinics and

hospitals that are supporting in all cities. A special team is working on the current

emergency situation to monitor and document the casiualties , and coordinate the

humanitarian work). Also Trauma Stabilization points and Ambulance services will

continue.

  • GoS movement:
  1. GoS reinforcements were observed as heading towards frontline areas after

reaching Tal Tamer Sub-District. Furthermore, GoS have been observed as

moving a number of forces between Tall Tamer/ Ras Al Ain road.

  1. GoS ground troops were observed about 20 km north of Al Tabqah City and

continuing in a northerly trajectory, towards Kobane with the intention of

preventing further OAG advances.

  1. Furthermore, it is confirmed that GoS forces arrived in Tell Tamer and entered

the town.

  1. Overnight, the situation in Menbij and Kobane was reported as calm, though

reports indicate that GoS forces will move into the aforementioned cities in the

next few hours, while it is reported that TAF forces have reinforcements on the

other side of the Turkish border from Menbij and Ain Al Arab/Kobane.

  1. GoS elements have arrived in the towns of Ein Issa.

13

KRC Statement on the Impact of the withdrawal of international INGOs and continued

attacks by Turkey After the agreement between the Syrian Government and the SDF all international NGOs had to withdraw their international staff and have no access anymore to the region and also the situation got unpredictable with turkey as a NATO partner. At the same time the impact on the humanitarian situation is disastrous. Services for newly displaced people and already overburdened IDP/Refugee Camps decreased to a critical minimum. The IDP/Refugee camps are now left with extremely limited support. The coordination among remaining local NGOs and UN Organizations is poor and if support is provided there is duplication while at the same time big gaps in critical services such as shelter, drinking water and food. The coordination for the Emergency response is extremely difficult after all international NGOs also withdrew their essential expat staff this morning. Right now, KRC is the ONLY humanitarian Aid Organization providing direct Emergency Response on ground. Meanwhile, Turkey does not accept us as a neutral humanitarian aid organization and breaks international humanitarian law by targeting our ambulances and health point. By time of writing this statement the Turkish troops have nearly reached Tal Tamr. The chance that the hospital becomes a target itself is high. We are monitoring the situation very close, in order to re-allocate the team and the patients.

We will continue our activities in all six camps and all health clinics and hospitals that are supporting in all cities. We will continue to monitor and documentation of the wounded and martyrs. We also assist the newly displaced people and coordinating the humanitarian support.

In the best case this will end up in a massive escape towards Iraq (and then Europe), in the worst we experience a genocide. We need NOW the help of the international communities!

– We need NOW turkey to stop the invasion and to accept Syrian territory!

– We need NOW the access for international humanitarian Aid Organizations!

– We need NOW the support of all democratic nations who accepts the human rights to

stop this!

We consider Europe as well as USA and Russia as responsible to end this massacre

immediately!

13th of October,2019

  • At the early morning, the Turkish air forces were flying very closely over Ein Issa camp

which lead to fear between all the IDPs and Refugees inside of it. After that, around 10

am some families left, including ISIS families from the annex section. As the fight was

coming so close, the security team of the camp and the self-administration announced

that they were not able anymore to control it.

Kurdish Red Crescent, which is the main health responder in the camp, had to leave

as well due to security issues, and other actors left. There was burn of tents in the

annex section and ISIS supporter were carrying weapons with them (seems they had

it before). After few hours the Asaysh was able to go back to Einissa check point while

the IDPs went to Tilelsemin village, south of Einissa.

  • Tow ambulances of the health Department were kidnapped on the road to Tell Abiad

and no other information about them reached as so far.

  • Turkish backed forces took control of Mabruka Camp during the afternoon.

Reportedly, there were about 15 IDP families still in the camp at the time.

14

  • Around 4 pm, a Turkish airstrike impacted the center of Sere Kaniye- Ras Al

Ain town, which was at the time densely populated. The attack caused 11 deaths and

74 injuries at least, among them civilians and reportedly a number of international

journalists, but we think the number of the victims will increase because there were a

lot of several injuries. Those people were from all NES area community, heading to

the city to show solidarity with SDF. All were referred to Tel Tamir (S. Legerin

Hospital) which was already full so our team had to refer them to Hasake national

hospital and Qamishlo hospital.

  • At the late night between 11-12 pm, there was bombing on a TSB managed by the

health department of NES in Asadiya village 15 km south Ras Al Ain, as a resuly the

2 paramedic were heavily injured with one ambulance driver, they were referred to

Tiltemir hospital then To Hasake.

12th of October, 2019:

  • Kobane was strongly target since the night. The main hospital was out of the service

for three hours beacasue of close bombing that caused damage. Massive

displacemet was recorded.

  • An explosion occurred in front of Al-Hasakeh Central Prison, No casualties or

escapes were recorded.

  • Around 7- 7:15 am the Trauma Stabilization Point (TSP) set up by KRC in Salihiye

village, south of Ras Al Ain, has been hit by what we believe was an airstrike. The

TSP was temporarily placed there to support injured persons, 15 minutes away from

the front line of RAA. Two KRC staff were injured. Four patients where inside of the

TSP but they were not further injured and the staff referred them to Tel Tamer

hospital. Two ambulances have been damaged. Both them and staff were clearly

displaying KRC logo. KRC staff on the ground report that the airstrike was not nearby

but believed they were directly targeted. As a result, the two ambulances were out of

the services and the driver and the paramedic were injured.

  • The entirety of the M4 between Ein Issa and Tell Tamer remainds under SDF control.

However, turkish baked groups have reportedly made territorial advances between

Tell Abiad and Ras Al Ain during the night – around Rajim Aanwa area and possibly

further south. And after that they stopped the vehicles on the road and killed some of

them (could be only the kurds). The head of one party in NES (Hevrin Khelelf) was

one of the casiualties and was captured with the driver. As Kurdish Red Crescent with

our humantarian partners we get a lot of support from Hevrin as she was into the

humantarian work deeply. One of her speaches- “The war in Syria has destroyed the

places of childhood of millions of Syrians. In Ain Issa camp for displaced Syrians, we

suggested that we give the displaced people every tent, a small tree, they plant in

front of their tent. Take care of it. To be remembrance of them, after they left the

camp towards their cities and homes. It will be a beautiful green memory, in a land

that has grieved them and made them homeless. ”

  • Tell Abiad was heavily bombed all the day and medical teams are still working inside

of it trying to help the injures although there was a lot of randomly targeting

everywhere, which still limit the movement and the work in trauma stabilization points

and stop the hospital. KRC team there were trying to rise a flag showing that they are

humanitarian organization but this didn’t work as they targeted the TSP in Ras Al Ain.

  • KRC teams are not able to reach Ras Al Ain anymore, but we are still trying to find a

way. There is targeting on our ambulances as we try to go closer. After the TSP was

targeted the situation get worse.

15

11th of October, 2019:

  • Clashes continued overnight in the western and eastern outskirts of Ras Al Ain Town,

with OAG advances recorded in the industrial area of the town. Conflict activity

decreased after 1100hrs today.

  • In Tell Abiad Sub-District, during the night SDF regained control over Tel

Fender and Yasbseh villages, and OAGs regained control of Yasbseh in the morning.

This morning, indirect fire attacks continued south of Tell Abiad town, mainly in and

around Badi and Ein Al-Arus (south west) and Breighi (south east).

  • Additionally, last night, cross border indirect fire and cross border clashes were

recorded across Quamishlo and Al-Malikeyyeh Districts. Following the cross-border

exchanged in Al-Malikeyyeh Sub-District, TAF artillery reinforcement were sent across

the border from Hiyaka town.

  • In Quamishlo city, indirect fire was observed on 4 occasion between onto Qanat Al-

Sweis and western neighborhoods of the city as well as onto the Asayish training

center of Himo

  • Elsewhere, one artillery strike was recorded onto Samasakh/ Bostan and Zheiriyeh in

Malikeyyeh Sub-District, one onto Tal Khatun in Qahtaniya Sub-District and one

indirect fire occurred north of Mabruka town

  • A car bomb exploded today in Qamishlo in Monir Habib street (one main road of

Qamishlo) and as a result one civilian was killed and 5 were injured in front of one

popular restaurant (Omari)

  • Since the last night all Eindiwar town was evacuated afterwards the civilian houses

were burned by Turkish army/FSA.

  • Mabruka camp (Ras al Ain district) had to evacuate all the IDPs to other camps due to

the threating and targeting from the Turkish army and the rebels (FSA).

  • In the late evening conflicts in Al Hol camp, in the annex section which contain ISIS

families, where reported by KRC team. The camp security responded. In the time of

writing the tensions are still ongoing. No casualties reported yet.

  • 5 ISIS fighters could escape from the main prison in Qamishlo, after targeting by

Turkish forces. Reported by Asayish (Kurdish police)

16

IDPs movements:

The total number of the IDPs from the border strip to the south areas since the beginning of

the attack:

Infrastructures:

  • There is lack of water in whole area of Hasakeh, due to the targeting the main water

station in Alok, which covers more than 500.000 people. This is also affecting all

hospitals in this region.

  • Electricity and phone network are decreasing in general in all the areas, especially in

the border strip.

17

In 10th of October:

Since this morning TAF has removed parts of the border wall near Tal Halaf, Tal

Arqam and Aziziyeh villages (All Ras Al Ain, Sere Kaniye) and TAF (Turkish Armed Forces)

and OAGs have engaged in clashes with SDF during attempts to advances further inside NES.

Clashes were reported in the three locations mentioned above as well as in Ras Al Ain

Town, Western Alok, near Jan Tamer (Yezidian village) and Bir Asheq village (also all in Ras

Al Ain sub-district). There has been no territorial changes at the time of writing.

In Ein Issa Sub-district, two airstrikes were recorded against a bridge 3km south of Ein Issa

town.

Cross border fire and clashes taking place in and around Tell Abiad town have stopped at

around 0300hrs with no territorial changes.

Airstrikes:

  • Sere Kaniye Ras Al Ain (x7)
  • Tell Abiad (x3)
  • Ein Issa sub(x2)
  • Al-Malekkiyeh Derik sub-district (x1)

Indirect Fire Impacts:

  • Tell Abiad sub-district (x9)
  • Ras Al Ain sub-district (x6)
  • Al-Malekkiyeh sub-district (x4)
  • Quamishli city (x4)
  • Jawadiyah sub-district (x3)
  • Amuda sub-district (x2)
  • Ain Al Arab/Kobane (x2)

Heavy clashes were ongoing in Tilebeyd and in the mornging while there was a delegation

from the tripes going to support SDF from Ein issa to Tilebyed, their convoy was targeted

and casualties were reported.

The kurdish red crescent and MSF working in the hospital had then limited access to the

area of Tilebeyed, while KRC teams are depending on Trauma stabilization points and

ambulances (at least 15 ambulances are involved in the respond so far) while the main

hospital to be refered to is still KRC hospital (Shehid Legerin) in Tel Tamr, privat Hasake

Hospitals supported by WHO and private Qamishli Hospitals.

Any further event/incidents will be shared in the next update.

18

On 9th of October:

Airstrikes targeted:

In 9th of October:

  • Sere kaniye (Ras Al Ain) x7
  • Ein Issa x2
  • Tell Abiad x1
  • 1635hrs: indirect fire against Tell Salloush(west Al Munbateh) – Tell Abiad Sub-

District.

  • 1640hrs: airstrike onto former CF border post in Tell Fender – Tell Abiad Sub-District.
  • 1650hrs: indirect fire onto Bir Asheq checkpoint – Tell Abiad Sub-District.
  • 1650hrs: two airstrikes against Abu Serraand Hoshan villages (approx. 15km North

West of Ein Issa Town) – Ein Issa Sub-District. Six SDF members were reportedly

killed.

  • 1700hrs: indirect fire on a military position of the Tell Abiad Military Council (evacuated

a week ago) and onto the school in Yabseh village – Tell Abiad Sub-District.

  • 1730hrs: Indirect fire towards Qanat Swiys Neighbourhood of Quamishli City –

Quamishli Sub-District.

  • 1730hrs: Mortar rounds and artillery fire onto the outskirts of Mansura village – Al-

Malekkiyeh Sub-district.

  • 1740hrs: Indirect Fire onto the outskirts ofEsmailiyeh village – Al-Malekkiyeh Subdistrict.
  • 1820hrs: Indirect Fire against Tal Elhasanat and Kherbet Balak villages – Jawadiyah

Sub-district.

  • 1830hrs: TAF removed parts from the wall north of Quamishli City.
  • At night a lot of clashes were happening in TIlebyed and casiualtis from both sided

were recorded.

The Kurdish red crescent has already declered on 9th :

This targeting is affecting the situaiton in NES for Local and IDPs in the the 7 main

camps in NES, we have already decleared in KRC that:

19

Due to the clashes on the border with Turkey and injuries and casualties, we have been

required to reposition our medical and ambulance teams from several camps such as Al Hol,

Areesha, Ein Issa, Roj and other camps. Unfortunately, this situation may cause a decline in

the quality of work in these camps, which contain tens of thousands of refugees and displaced

people, but the priorities of the stage requires that we respond first to life-threatening situations.

Most of our partners from humanitarian organizations and other INGOs in the region, for

security reasons, have limited access to the camps, which threatens to decrease the service

and increase the burden on the camp administrations and security forces guarding certain

sectors within these camps such as Al Hol. We will work in the Kurdish Red Crescent in our

best efforts to arrange our teams to respond to the emergency situation on the border with

Turkey and to continue working with the same quality in the camps.

The hospital in Serekaniye (Ras Al-Ain) is out of services, cases has been referred to Tel Tamr

Hospital, Hasakeh Hospital and Ein Issa Hospital.

The hospital of Tel Abiad (MSF) is out of the service so the cases were moved to other areas

such as Ein Issa, and Tel Tamer.

The hospital of Hasake as all Hasake area have lack of water which create problem to respond,

The largest Christian Neighborhood (Bisheriya) in NE Syria is being bombed and some

civilian houses were burned, 2 of the dyed civilians were from there.

___________________________________________________________

Call for resistance against Turkey’s plan to invade Rojava

The Turkish state ruled by the AKP-MHP coalition has openly announced its plan to invade the Rojava region. HDP, SYPG-JKŞ-CKŞ, TJA and ESP called for resistance against the invasion plan.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Free Women’s Movement (TJA), Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) and SYPG-JKŞ-CKŞ released statements in response to the Turkish state’s threats of invasion against Rojava.

Free Women’s Movement (TJA) stated that an imminent military operation against Northeast Syria by the AKP-MHP coalition, which remains standing with war and repression, is an effort to bring itself into existence over attacks against Kurdish achievements and to cover its collapsing domestic policies with fascism and militarism.

TJA called upon all circles of society to stand against the AKP-MHP government’s policies for deepening the conflict.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Central Executive Board stressed that the AKP-MHP government putting a new military aggression against North and East Syria on the agenda was an extremely dangerous and wrong step.

HDP warned that the destruction to be caused by an intervention of this kind and population engineering would be categorized as a crime against humanity before international law.

The party pointed out that in addition to the Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens, Syriacs, Armenians and Yazidis in the region were also under a great threat.

HDP called on the forces of peace and democracy in Turkey to take an effective and determined stance against the AKP-MHP alliance that is trying to consolidate its destabilized rule;  “Such a military intervention means more repression on the society in Turkey, more financial burdens, poverty, a deepening crisis, widespread lawlessness and the lack of democracy. With this likely intervention, Turkey is being dragged into a dangerous and deep trap, an adventure with no boundaries. We can stop this together.”

The Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) warned against “fascist Turkish state threat of invasion against the Rojava Revolution that gained its right to existence with a battle based on self defense against ISIS mercenaries, the reactionary states in the region and imperialist forces”.

ESP called on Turkish workers and laborers to reclaim their honor and to oppose the colonial war.

“Rojava Revolution is the revolution of workers, women, youth and the oppressed peoples. Rojava Revolution is our revolution. Let’s defend it against the fascist colonialist state and its mercenaries. Let’s be the voice of Rojava peoples everywhere we are. Let’s raise the struggle against occupant colonialism on the streets.”

SYPG-JKŞ-CKŞ pointed out that this operation cannot be considered or started independently from international imperialist alliance relationships.

The statement by SYPG-JKŞ-CKŞ said; “It is not really surprising that the US which was in a tactical alliance with SDF at first, now approves the Turkish state’s occupation campaign against North and East Syria. The US, which acts in line with its own international military and economic interests, connives at the massacre of the region’s peoples by Turkish invasion today, an act that actually corresponds its essence.

They are afraid because Rojava Revolution is the door to the freedom of all peoples. Alongside the self defense forces and mechanisms of the people, we will be resisting the occupation operations of the Turkish state, colonial regional states and international imperialist forces to the last drop of blood. To keep silent is to be a party to this crime. All streets should be turned into areas of resistance against invasion.”

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

To the public

Despite all the efforts we did to avoid conflict, our commitment to the security mechanism agreement and taking necessary steps on our end, the US forces did not carry out their responsibilities and have withdrawn from border areas with Turkey. Turkey’s unprovoked attack on our areas will have a negative impact on our fight against ISIS and the stability and peace we have created in the region in the recent years. As the Syrian Democratic Forces, we are determined to defend our land at all costs. We call on our Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, and Syriac people to strengthen their unity and stand by the SDF in defense of their land.

General Command of Syrian Democratic Forces October 7th, 2019

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Syria Kurds slam US withdrawal, vow to defend Rojava ‘at all costs’

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ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Condemning the US decision to withdraw troops from northeast Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said Monday they would defend the Kurdish-majority region, known to Kurds as Rojava, “at all costs”.

The pledge comes hours after US President Donald Trump gave his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan the greenlight to launch an air and ground operation east of the Euphrates River – controlled by the US-backed SDF.

Related: Trump greenlights Turkish operation in northeast Syria

Mustafa Bali, a senior SDF official, accused US forces of failing to fulfil their responsibilities as allies in the war against the Islamic State group (ISIS), “leaving the area to turn into a war zone”.

The SDF was the main coalition partner in the ground war against ISIS, responsible for retaking the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa in 2017 and the last ISIS holdout of Baghouz in March this year. The SDF lost more than 10,000 fighters.

“The SDF is determined to defend NE Syria at all costs,” Bali said.

“US forces on the ground showed us that this is not how they value friendship & alliance. However, the decision by the @POTUS is about to ruin the trust and cooperation between the SDF and US built during the fight against ISIS. Alliances are built on mutual trust,” Bali tweeted.

“We are not expecting the US to protect NE #Syria. But people here are owed an explanation regarding security mechanism deal, destruction of fortifications and failure of US to fulfill their commitments.”

In an English-language press statement released on Monday, the SDF said: “Despite all the efforts we did to avoid conflict, our commitment to the security mechanism agreement and taking necessary steps on our end, the US forces did not carry out their responsibilities and have withdrawn from border areas with Turkey.”

“Turkey’s unprovoked attack on our areas will have a negative impact on our fight against ISIS and the stability and peace we have created in the region in the recent years. As the Syrian Democratic Forces, we are determined to defend our land at all costs. We call on our Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, and Syriac people to strengthen their unity and stand by the SDF in defense of their land,” the statement added.

Kurdish forces had agreed to dismantle their land defenses along the border after Washington and Ankara agreed to set up a so-called ‘safe zone’.

Erdogan had lobbied to create a 32 kilometer-deep buffer zone, where he hoped to resettle up to three million Syrian refugees currently hosted by Turkey. The Kurds have resisted the idea, calling for a shallower zone and for the resettlement to be limited only to those native to the region.

The SDF did however agree to move their defensive positions nine to 15 kilometers from the border.

Now that the SDF has lost its defensive assets along the border, resentment toward the US is running high.

“The [White House] statement tonight on Syria after Trump spoke with Erdogan demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of anything happening on the ground. The ‘United States’ is not holding any ISIS detainees. They are all being held by the SDF, which Trump just served up to Turkey,” tweeted Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS.

The White House statement issued late on Sunday indicates Turkey will be placed in charge of ISIS prisoners and that American force will stand aside to allow the Turkish operation to take place.

“Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial caliphate by the United States,” the office of the White House Press Secretary said.

“The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS (Islamic State) territorial “Caliphate,” will no longer be in the immediate area.

The SDF affiliated news agency Hawarnews published a video of American forces withdrawing from the border area.

Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish presidential spokesperson, tweeted that the invasion of northeast Syria would serve two purposes – to eliminate members of the “terrorist group”, referring to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), and clear a safe border area that would allow safe return of Syrian refugees.

“Turkey supports Syria’s territorial integrity and political unity. Has no interest in occupation or changing demographics. The PKK/YPG did that to northeast Syria. Time to correct it. Turkey fights against a terrorist organization that has also killed and oppressed the Kurds,” he added.

 

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The Most Feminist Revolution the World Has Ever Witnessed

In Rojava, a Kurdish anarchist collective led by women is at the heart of the fight with ISIS, and behind a political upheaval putting equality front and centre.

Something extraordinary has happened in a corner of north-east Syria. It is a little-known story that defies the usual narratives about Syria or Assad, civil war or ISIS. It is nothing less than a political revolution, which bears important lessons for the rest of the world. In this revolution, women are in the vanguard, both politically and militarily, often leading the fight on the frontline and sacrificing their lives against the most atavistic and anti-woman enemy there is: the so-called Islamic State – or Daesh, as it is more derogatorily known.

This place is called Rojava, the Kurdish name for western Kurdistan, located in north-eastern Syria. After the collapse of the Assad regime in 2012, Kurdish parties began an extraordinary project of self-government and equality for all races, religions and women and men. I visited Rojava, in a personal capacity, in the summer of 2015 to try to understand what’s going on there for a documentary film about anarchism, which you can watch on iPlayer.

Few journalists visit this swath of land along the Turkish border, which is about half the size of Belgium. It’s difficult to reach and thus expensive, requiring a long journey from northern Iraq and a crossing of the Tigris by small boat onto Syrian soil. The Kurdish Regional Government of northern Iraq (KRG) is not sympathetic to the Kurds of Rojava, and makes access very difficult and sometimes impossible.

The few journalists who make it there tend to focus on the fight with ISIS, assuming that this is what most concerns western audiences. Rojava is safer than the main combat zones of Syria, but still suffers horrific suicide bombings, and western visitors would of course make a fine catch for Daesh kidnappers.

As a result, very little has been reported about the remarkable political experiment of Rojava.

What little commentary appears is often secondhand. It therefore frequently repeats earlier misconceptions or hostile propaganda put about, above all, by Turkey, which opposes the leading political party of the Rojava Kurds – the PYD – and the armed forces of Rojava, the People’s Self-Defence Units, which comprise the mostly male YPG and all-female YPJ. Nor does the political character of the Rojava revolution fit familiar pigeonholes; it is neither a nationalist Kurdish project for an independent state, nor is it Marxist or communist, nor driven by religious or ethnic motives.

Perhaps most remarkably – and, sadly, uniquely – this is perhaps the most explicitly feminist revolution the world has witnessed, at least in recent history. Previously, this area was home to traditional peasant norms, including child marriage and keeping women at home. These traditions have been overturned: child marriage, for instance, is now illegal. There are parallel women’s organisations in every field, ranging from the separate women’s militia, the YPJ, to parallel women’s communes and cooperatives. Self-defence is a principle of the Rojava revolution, which is why women are so active in the armed struggle – but the concept extends towards the right of self-defence against all anti-woman practices and ideas, including those of traditional society, not just the extreme violence of Daesh.

“From what I saw, this political transformation enjoyed widespread support from all: Kurds, Arabs, women and men, young and old. Why wouldn’t it? The whole point is to give everyone a say in their own government.”

In addition to ensuring complete equal rights for women, the feminist politics of Rojava aims to break down domination and hierarchy in every aspect of life, recasting social relations between all people regardless of age, ethnicity or gender, with the aim of achieving an ecologically and socially harmonious society. In terms of historical comparison, this project resembles most closely the short period of anarchism witnessed by George Orwell in Republican Spain during the Spanish civil war in the late 1930s. But the representatives of Rojava also reject the label of anarchism, even if much of the inspiration for this revolution came originally from an anarchist thinker from New York City, Murray Bookchin.

The political heart of the Rojava project is in the local communal assemblies, in which local people take decisions for themselves about everything that concerns them: healthcare, jobs, pollution… boys riding their bikes too fast around the village, as one woman complained about at an assembly I visited. Women and men are scrupulously given an equal voice. Women co-chair every meeting and every assembly. Non-Kurdish minorities, mostly Arabs but also Syriacs, Turkmen and Assyrians, are also given priority on the speaking list; at meetings I witnessed, interpreters were provided. This is self-government, where decisions for the village are taken by the village or region. If decisions cannot be made solely at the local level, representatives attend town or regional assemblies, but these representatives remain accountable to the communal level and may only offer views that are approved locally. It is a very deliberate attempt to keep decision-making as local as possible – a rejection of the top-down authority of the state.

Ironically, however, the inspiration for the revolution was very much top-down. Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the PKK (the Kurdish guerrilla movement in Turkey), read Murray Bookchin’s works while in a Turkish jail on an island in the Sea of Marmara (where he remains). Once a Marxist-Leninist and a ruthless military leader, Öcalan became convinced that self-government without the state was the way forward for the Kurdish people. He moulded Bookchin’s philosophy for the Kurdish context, calling it “democratic confederalism”. The Syrian Kurdish PYD is closely associated with the PKK. Following Öcalan, its cadres adopted democratic confederalism and implemented it in Syria.

Some have accused the PYD of domineering tactics, particularly at the start of this democratic revolution. Such conduct has given room for critics unreasonably to dismiss the whole project. From what I saw, this political transformation enjoyed widespread support from all: Kurds, Arabs, women and men, young and old. Why wouldn’t it? The whole point is to give everyone a say in their own government – a radical innovation anywhere, let alone in Syria, a country long accustomed to dictatorship and repression. I spoke to many people at random. They were uniformly positive, and many argued that the Rojava model, of highly decentralised government, should be adopted in the whole of Syria and indeed beyond. But it’s also a work in progress. In some of the assemblies I attended, women and men sat separately, a mark of the journey from traditional practice that this revolution is still navigating.

The revolution has suffered considerable assault. Turkey opposes Rojava and has prevented all supplies, trade and humanitarian aid from crossing its border into the region. Today, Turkish forces are attacking the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which subsumes the YPG/YPJ and Arab militias into a common anti-ISIS front. The SDF has been the most effective force in fighting ISIS and has driven it back across hundreds of miles of territory, at the cost of thousands of lives. Now, the SDF – led by a woman commander, Rojda Felat – has started the attack on ISIS’s “capital”, Raqqa. The SDF currently enjoys US and allied military support, primarily from the air but also from American and allied special forces on the ground.

Therefore, US and indeed western governments are involved in a grotesque contradiction in which they permit NATO “partner” Turkey to attack the SDF – their most important ally in the fight against ISIS – while also proclaiming unyielding commitment to defeating ISIS. Thanks to an almost total absence of press coverage, this absurdity attracts no controversy in western capitals. Kurds worry, with reason, that once Raqqa falls the US will abandon the Kurds to Turkish aggression. Indeed, with Turkish attacks against the SDF intensifying in northern Syria in a canton called Afrin, some argue that this betrayal has already begun.

The hypocrisies of international geopolitical manoeuvring, however, should not obscure the importance of the Rojava democratic revolution. Thanks to its horrific tactics, ISIS attracts the attention, but in fact it is Rojava that carries the more important message for those who care about democracy. Rojava offers an alternative and practical example where the people are in charge, and it works. Rather than replicate the disastrous centralised governments of Iraq and Assad’s Syria, Rojava’s self-governing institutions have proposed their model for the whole of Syria once the Assad dictatorship comes to an end – and indeed, Rojava has renamed itself the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria in order to emphasise its multi-ethnic character and its acceptance of Syria’s existing borders, another divergence from the lazy western presumption that “the Kurds” want their own separate state.

But thanks to Turkish hostility, representatives of the Democratic Federation are excluded from the UN talks about the future of Syria – an injustice in which the US, UK and others acquiesce. The UN continues to pretend that “the Kurds” are represented by a party that is in fact a proxy of the KRG in Iraq. It is telling that international officials – mostly men who have never visited the area – still prefer outdated ethnic stereotypes to the more accurate cosmopolitan and feminist character of this project.

Meanwhile, the Rojava model is no less relevant in the west, where few can claim that democracy is in good health, with disillusionment and right-wing reactionary extremism – and, indeed, overt hostility to women (expressed not only by Donald Trump) – both ascendant. There are scores of westerners who, like the International Brigade of the Republican forces in Spain, have gone to join YPG and YPJ ranks. Several have lost their lives, including in recent days a former Occupy Wall Street activist from New York City. Some of these brave men and women have been prosecuted on their return home, punished for their commitment to democracy and equality. All suffer from the misrepresentation of their struggle in much of the international press. In reporting the death of the young Occupy activist, the Washington Post described the Rojava revolution as “pseudo-Marxist”, when it is the very opposite. In this democracy, there is no place for the state, at all. The people govern, the antithesis of state communism.

The author, Carne Ross, and Viyan who his film is dedicated to

Thousands of YPG and YPJ fighters have died for this cause. During my visit, I met Viyan, a young woman YPJ soldier, on the front line – a huge gravel berm that stretched from horizon to horizon across a barren plain in southern Syria. ISIS positions were a few hundred metres away. A rifle over her shoulder, she told me that never before in her country, or the region, had women been equal to men. Without equality for women, there could be no justice in society. She was prepared to die to defend this dispensation. Tragically, Viyan was killed several months after our interview, fighting ISIS in the town of Al-Shaddadi.

Our film about the search for a better democracy is dedicated to her.

Carne Ross’s documentary film, Accidental Anarchist, is available to watch on iPlayer. This article represents his personal views only.

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Do not abandon us now, Kurdish leader tells the West as Isil battle draws to a close

Ilham Ahmed has called on the British government not to abandon its Kurdish allies
Ilham Ahmed has called on the British government not to abandon its Kurdish allies

Children of foreign Isil members risk becoming the next generation of jihadists if they are left in Syria, a senior Kurdish official has warned.

Unrepentant parents, such as Shamima Begum, could radicalise their children in sprawling Syrian desert camps, where security forces could lose track of them.

Ilham Ahmed, co chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces, said Britain must repatriate citizens who traveled to Syria or be prepared to commit “significant” resources to trying and detaining them in Syria.

“Them remaining in our area is a huge liability,” she told the Telegraph.

“We have fulfilled our duties. We have captured them and we have held them. We are now making sure they don’t escape,” said Ms Ahmed.

“Here in the West you have all the opportunities to try them. You have courts, you have the laws, you have prisons. All the means to give these people a trial and convict them… on behalf of these governments that these people are citizens of, ” said Ms Ahmed.

Shamina Begum, right, has said she does not regret joining Islamic State
Shamina Begum, right, has said she does not regret joining Islamic State

About 4,000 women and children from Isil families are currently being held in camps by the SDF, including Ms Begum, the 19-year-old from Bethnal Green who has said she has no regrets about joining the terror group. 

Ms Ahmad said Ms Begum’s attitude was typical of many detainees.

“The majority of them say that – that they don’t have any regrets. And you can see that in the way they raise their children: they raise them in the ideology of Isil, and they still think that ideology is correct,” she said in an interview in London.

“That’s why it is not just enough to take these people back. They also need to be treated. The children, they need special care. So do the mothers.”

“The alternative would be that we receive a lot of support and assistance in trying these people in our region, in terms of courts, in turns of legal procedures and so on.”

Donald Trump, the US president, last week called on European governments to repatriate an estimated 800 foreign members of Isil who have been taken prisoner in Syria.

A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter walks down an empty street in As Susah, a town destroyed in fighting with Isil
A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter walks down an empty street in As Susah, a town destroyed in fighting with Isil Credit:  Chris McGrath/ Getty Images Europe

But Theresa May’s spokesman rebuffed the American suggestion on Monday, saying the fighters should be put on trial in places where they committed their crimes.

“Foreign fighters should be brought to justice in accordance with due legal process in the most appropriate jurisdiction,” Downing Street said. “Where possible, this should be in the region where the crimes had been committed.”

France and Germany have also rejected the idea, citing the difficulty of securing sufficient evidence and witness testimony to guarantee prosecutions.

Isil’s last redoubt in the eastern Syrian village of Baguz is expected to fall to the SDF and coalition forces imminently. Ms Ahmed is one of a number of senior Kurdish leaders taking part in a diplomatic blitz to convince Western governments not to abandon the SDF when it does.

They fear Mr Trump’s announcement in December that he will withdraw US forces from Syria will open space for a resurgence of Isil sleeper cells and allow Turkey to launch an attack on Kurdish forces. 

“We do not even want to talk about the prospect of withdrawal without security guarantees,” she said. “We want aerial protection so there are no airstrikes. And we’d like to see observation on the border. We are concerned about a Turkish military attack.”

“We are now experiencing the last days before the announcement of the end of the operation. But after that we expect to begin a new process of getting rid of these sleeper cells and getting rid of other elements of Isil, and for that we will continue to need support,” she went on.

“In Raqqa there are daily explosions, kidnappings, and violence. Likewise in Deir Ezzor. So these things are still happening.”

Turkey considers the YPG, the Kurdish armed group that forms the core of the SDF, a terrorist organisation.

In December, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, threatened to launch a military operation to “wipe out terror groups east of the Euphrates.”

Ms Ahmed said Mr Trump had been supportive about the idea of a security zone when she met him in January, but that he had not mentioned any details. Kurdish leaders have rejected a proposal for a Turkish-controlled 30 kilometre “security area” inside Syria.

Turkey is a key Nato member and regional power, putting the United States and other coalition members, including Britain, in the uncomfortable position of choosing between two allies.

Ms Ahmed said the SDF could seek accommodation with Bashar al-Assad’s government and his Russian allies if Western coalition partners fail to guarantee security against potential Turkish attack.

“One solution could be regional protection forces in the north could become part of a new Syrian army – and note that I said ‘new’ Syrian army. It could not be under the current status quo, but if there is a new structure within the framework of a political solution.

“In the light of sudden announcements of withdrawals, without guarantees, without leaving us any kind of means to do things another way, this could be a solution,” she said.

Such an arrangement could be part of a proposed post-war constitutional settlement that Kurdish groups have drawn up as the fighting in Syria draws to a close.

Under the plan, powers would be devolved to the regions, and local parliaments would have representatives in Damascus. The rights of minorities and gender equality would be written into the constitution and Assad’s fate would be decided by an election.

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Syrian Kurdish leader: border force needed to protect us from Turkey

Ilham Ahmed says Kurds want allies from anti-Isis coalition on border to ensure Turkey does not attack

Ilham Ahmed, the co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council.
The co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, Ilham Ahmed, is currently leading a Kurdish delegation to Washington DC, Paris and London. Photograph: Hussein Malla/AP

The leader of the Syrian Kurds has called for a small international observer force to be stationed on the Turkey-Syria border to protect Kurds from what she says is the threat of crimes against humanity committed by Turkish forces.

Ilham Ahmed is co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council – the political arm of the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have been responsible for liberating much of north-eastern Syria from Islamic State.

Described as one of the most powerful women in Syria, Ahmed is leading a Kurdish delegation touring Washington, Paris and London to persuade western countries not to betray the Kurds by leaving them exposed to the threat of a Turkish attack.

Ahmed said a final SDF assault on the last Isis redoubt would finish within days. Plans requiring “time and patience” were being drawn up to eradicate sleeper cells, she said.

She was speaking in the wake of the shock announcement by Donald Trump that 2,000 US troops will leave north-west Syria on the basis that Isis had been defeated.

US troops drive through Manbij in north-west Syria
US troops were supporting Kurdish fighters against Isis in northern Syria. Photograph: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

Ankara views the Kurdish forces in Syria as a terrorist threat and an extension of the Kurdish separatist movement within Turkey’s own borders.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has repeatedly warned America that a Turkish military operation against the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Manbij is near. “Our patience is not limitless, he said over the weekend. “If the terrorists are not removed from Manbij within a few weeks, our waiting period will end.”

Ahmed said: “After all that has happened, if there is an attack, we will regard those that remain silent in the face of those threats as guilty of crimes against humanity.

“It is not just there will no longer be any trust in the coalition forces who we have fought alongside, and that their credibility will have been lost forever. It will mean the emergence of very big wars in this area.

“Any attempt by the Turkish state to establish a safe zone in the north of Syria will be an occupation, and no matter that the Turkish state wants to convince others that it will be a force for calm in the region, this is not what will happen.

“We saw this in Afrin last year as they tried to erase our culture and remove people from their homes. Huge massacres have been committed by the Turks. A further attack will only bring more war, displacement, occupation and an attempt to destroy our culture.”

An international protection force would provide aerial defence, she said, but “we would like to see an international power on the border as observers to ensure that Turkey does not attack”.

The force would be composed of “states that have actively participated in the war against IS, and the UN should also play a role”, she said. She added discussions were continuing now on the size and composition of the force, but it could be a symbolic number.

She also said Kurds were willing to put foreign fighters on trial in Kurdish Syria if they were given major international support on the legal procedures. “It would be better if they were tried in their own countries,” she added.

She said 800 to 900 Isis foreign fighters were currently held in prison by the Kurds and about 4,000 wives and children in refugee camps. She said: “We have not said we will let the fighters go, but if the Turks attack then it is true we will be fighting for our own existence and it is possible we may not be able to keep them under control and they may return to Europe. That is also at stake when we talk about an attack by the Turkish state.”

Ahmed denied the Kurds were actively discussing forming a security alliance of convenience with the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, if the West decided it could not protect the Kurds from a Turkish assault.

“The regime has shown no signs of interest in a meaningful dialogue with us about Syria’s future,” she said.

Any such dialogue would require a change by the regime, including agreement to a political solution about the future of a federated and unified Syria.

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America’s Kurdish allies risk being wiped out – by Nato

Turkey is seen as the Kurds’ mortal enemy but it uses German tanks and British helicopters: this is an international outrage

Kobane, Syria, March 2015. A member of the Women’s Protection Unit defends the city.
Kobane, Syria, March 2015. A member of the Women’s Protection Unit defends the city. Photograph: Maryam Ashrafi/The Guardian Foundation

Remember those plucky Kurdish forces who so heroically defended the Syrian city of Kobane from Isis? They risk being wiped out by Nato.

The autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava in Northeast Syria, which includes Kobane, faces invasion. A Nato army is amassing on the border, marshaling all the overwhelming firepower and high-tech equipment that only the most advanced military forces can deploy. The commander in chief of those forces says he wants to return Rojava to its “rightful owners” who, he believes, are Arabs, not Kurds.

Last spring, this leader made similar declarations about the westernmost Syrian Kurdish district of Afrin. Following that, the very same Nato army, using German tanks and British helicopter gunships, and backed by thousands of hardcore Islamist auxiliaries, overran the district. According to Kurdish news agencies, the invasion led to over a 100,000 Kurdish civilians being driven out of Afrin entirely. They reportedly employed rape, torture and murder as systematic means of terror. That reign of terror continues to this day. And the commander and chief of this Nato army has suggested that he intends to do to the rest of North Syria what he did to Afrin.

I am speaking, of course, of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is, increasingly, Turkey’s effective dictator. But it’s crucial to emphasize that these are Nato forces. This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members.

Fighter jets, helicopter gunships, even Turkey’s German-supplied Panzer forces – they all degrade extremely quickly under combat conditions. The people who continually inspect, maintain, repair, replace, and provide them with spare parts tend to be contractors working for American, British, German or Italian firms. Their presence is critical because the Turkish military advantage over Northern Syria’s “People’s Defense Forces” (YPG) and “Women’s Defense Forces” (YPJ), those defenders of Kobane that Turkey has pledged to destroy, is entirely dependent on them.

That’s because, aside from its technological advantage, the Turkish army is a mess. Most of its best officers and even pilots have been in prison since the failed coup attempt in 2016, and it’s now being run by commanders chosen by political loyalty instead of competence. Rojava’s defenders, in contrast, are seasoned veterans. In a fair fight, they would have no more problem fending off a Turkish incursion than they had driving back Turkish-backed Jihadis in the past.

A “fair fight” in this case would mean having access to anti-tank and anti-air weapons. But this is precisely what the Trump administration promised Turkey it would not let the Kurds have. Even those forces directly working with the US and British troops to defeat Islamic State were never to receive the defensive weapons needed to fend off the Turkish air and armored assault that would inevitably follow – which, if Afrin is anything to go by, may be backed by napalm and cluster bombs.

The moment those forces are withdrawn, however, their former allies will be sitting ducks, unable to defend themselves against the advanced weaponry that Britain and the US themselves help provide to Turkey and maintain.

Typically, the western media treats Turkey as some kind of peculiar rogue state whose periodic outbursts of violence directed at Kurdish civilians – the bombing and destruction of its own south-eastern cities in 2015, the reported ethnic cleansing of Afrin, and the ongoing attacks on villages in Iraq – must be tolerated lest it aligns with enemies like Iran or Russia. Similarly, pundits and politicians seem to whistle and look the other way as Erdoğan arrests or jails tens of thousands of people, including teachers, journalists and elected parliamentarians for saying things he doesn’t like – or even when or even when he publicly declares that “no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets” if they defy him.

But Turkey is not a rogue state. Turkey is Nato. Its army guards Europe’s eastern flank. Its police and security forces are charged with halting the flow of refugees from Middle Eastern wars to Europe – which increasingly involves opening fire with machine guns on refugees at the border – a service for which it is paid millions of euros in direct compensation.

It is only because Turkey is a member of Nato that its government managed to have the Kurdish guerrillas of the PKK (the Kurdish Worker’s Party), the guerrilla insurgents that have been fighting for autonomy in south-east Turkey since the 1990s, placed on the “international terror list” in 2004, at precisely the moment the PKK renounced demands for a separate state and offensive operations and attempted to enter into peace negotiations. It should be noted that this “terror” designation applies almost exclusively among Nato countries; the PKK is certainly not listed as a “terror” organization by the United Nations, India, China or even Switzerland.

It is because Turkey is Nato that the western press has to take seriously its bizarre claims that the experiment in feminist democracy underway in Rojava is itself a form of “terrorism”.

It is because Turkey is Nato, and guards Europe’s borders, that the US and European powers looked the other way or even expressed support when its army descended on the hitherto peaceful enclave of Afrin, in violation of all international law. As the Turkish army did so, it suggested it would not just to ethnically cleanse the Kurdish population and put an end to their own experiment with feminist democracy, but also to use the district to resettle the families of the most avid Islamist rebels who might otherwise have migrated to Europe.

It is because Turkey is Nato that the western press feels obliged to play along with the charade that it is an enemy of Isis, despite endless evidence of active Turkish collaboration with Isis, and the fact, known to everyone in the region, that Turkish “offensives” against Isis in Syria have largely consisted of bribing Isis commanders to switch sides.

As a result, we are left with the bizarre spectacle of “former” al-Qaida and Isis Jihadis working with Erdogan to fight the YPG as part of a 100,000-strong mercenary force. In addition, men like Seyf Ebu Bekir, who was an Isis commander when it was carrying out its notorious Paris nightclub massacres, are now commanders in the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army. For his part, Ebu Bekir has warned France not to interfere with Turkish plans to unleash Nato forces to destroy Isis’s old Kurdish arch-enemies.

If all this is difficult to comprehend, it’s partly because so many of us – including many who fancy themselves “anti-imperialists” – seem to have forgotten how empires actually work. The British empire didn’t send British troops into combat very often either. Nato powers are arming and maintaining the security forces of their official ally, Turkey, to fly its Nato planes and drive its Nato tanks and shoot at refugees, in the same way Turkey is reportedly employing al-Qaida and Isis legions to do its dirty work of human wave attacks and ethnic cleansing. We have defanged the terrorists by, effectively, putting them on retainer, in much the same way Rome once employed Alaric the Goth, or the US, Osama bin Laden. And we know how well that worked out.

There are alternatives. International powers could lift the de facto Nato embargo that prevents the forces that defeated Isis from defending themselves. There are calls for an international no-fly zone, preferably on the authority of the UN security council, enforced by a country other than America – possibly France, or even Russia. This too would allow the YPG/J to fight on equal terms. Rojava’s defenders are perfectly capable of fending off the Turkish army if that army’s high tech advantage is neutralized.

In the long run, the Turkish government needs to stop reacting to those who have a different vision of how life could be lived by trying to murder them, and return to the peace table. The same could be said for Syria, where Rojava’s decentralized model could be key to resolving the conflict.

But for now, we need an urgent response to the risk faced by Kurds in Rojava. The situation is growing more dire by the day – and it is quite possible that Nato will soon conduct one of the worst genocidal massacres of the 21st century.

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martyrs

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US-backed forces ready to form international safe zone to protect all ethnic groups

January 16-2019     05:56 PM

US-backed forces ready to form international safe zone to protect all ethnic groups

SDF spokesperson Kino Gabriel reads a statement at a base in rural Deir al-Zor province, Syria, Sept. 11, 2018. (Photo: SDF Press)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US-backed, Syrian Kurdish-led forces say they are ready to help form an international-backed safe zone in northern Syria as long as there is no “foreign intervention,” in reference to a possible Turkish incursion.

In a statement on Wednesday, the General Command of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they would “offer all the support and necessary aid to form the safe zone that is being circulated regarding the north and east of Syria.”

The statement said the safe zone would “ensure the protection of all ethnic groups and [protect] them from dangers of extermination through an international guarantee.”

It added that the safe zone would prevent foreign intervention by Turkey through “the protection of the components of the region and… factors of security and stability.”

According to the SDF, it has never posted “an external threat factor against any of the neighboring countries, especially Turkey, with which we hope to reach mutual understandings and solutions which would ensure the continued stability and security in the border regions (with it).”

The SDF statement added that since its establishment they had exerted all efforts to combat terrorism, including against the Islamic State and other radical organizations.

“We have achieved great successes in these difficult and painstaking missions, through work and coordination with our partners in the international coalition led by the United States.”

Different ethnic groups such as Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Assyrians inhabit Syria’s northeast. Moreover, there are also Muslims, Christians, Yezidi’s, and other religious minorities living in the area.

According to the SDF, their primary task is to protect all ethnic components in northeast Syria. “We could almost say that our region is the only region in which all components of Syria coexist,” it stated.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump suggested in a tweet that a 20-mile “safe zone” would be created in northeastern Syria. A day later, his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Ankara would set up a security zone some 30-kilometers (18 miles) deep into northeastern Syria in coordination with Washington.

However, top Syrian Kurdish official Aldar Xelil told ANHA news agency that the Kurdish self-administration would not accept a Turkish-controlled safe zone.

“We would not accept that. We can accept a security area under the auspices of the UN,” but not Ankara, Xelil emphasized.

On Jan. 2, the chair of the German Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee argued that the UN should create a buffer zone to protect Syria’s Kurdish population.

Roderich Kiesewetter, a member of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, told German media outlet Deutschlandfunk in an interview that France and Germany could propose this idea in a UN Security Council meeting.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Murad, the representative of the self-administration of North and East Syria in Germany, told Kurdistan 24 in early January that the international community should establish a no-fly zone.

“We hope the international states like the US, France, Germany, and the UK will prevent [a Turkish attack] and create a no-fly zone area for the people,” Murad said. “This would help us eradicate ISIS and find a solution to the Syrian conflict.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

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Turkey rejects Trump adviser John Bolton’s Syria plan, insisting it will fight Kurdish militia

‘John Bolton made a serious mistake on this issue. Whoever thinks like that is making a mistake,’ says Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Borzou Daragahi Istanbul     The Independent

 

Hardline White House national security adviser John Bolton’s last-ditch attempt to secure his faction’s goals for a planned US withdrawal from Syria appeared to go down in flames on Tuesday as Turkey’s president rejected any protection for the Washington-allied Kurdish militia, and even refused to meet with the firebrand conservative.

Instead, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took to the floor of parliament in Ankara, announcing that Turkish armed forces had “mostly completed our preparations for a military offensive against” Isis elements in Syria as per an agreement with US president Donald Trump forged last month.

“Likewise, we are determined to take our steps against terror organisations such as the PYD/YPG [Kurdish People’s Democratic Union and its allied militia and political organisation in Syria] along with Daesh [Isis],” he said. “We will act to neutralise those terror organisations in Syria very soon.”

Mr Bolton, a Washington fixture known for his hawkish foreign policy positions, arrived in Ankara with his own travelling press in an apparent attempt to convince Turkey to avoid attacking Syrian Kurds. He has also demanded that any US withdrawal be conditioned on Iranian-backed forces leaving Syria, and steps put in place for the political change in Damascus.

Instead, Mr Bolton left Ankara without even meeting Mr Erdogan, who was cited by the pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper as insisting “his busy schedule prevented him from meeting” Mr Bolton, whose public positions have contradicted those of his boss and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who is also visiting the Middle East.

Mr Bolton and anti-Isis envoy Jim Jeffrey, arriving after a visit to Israel, met privately with Mr Erdogan’s senior adviser Ibrahim Kalin, who helped organise a 14 December phone call in which Mr Trump agreed to withdraw 2,000 or more US troops from Syria and hand control of anti-Isis efforts to Turkey.

Meanwhile, Mr Erdogan publicly hammered Mr Bolton.

“It is not possible for us to accept and swallow the message that Bolton gave from Israel,” he told lawmakers. Turkey, along with most independent analysts and US intelligence agencies, considers the YPG inseparable from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, an outlawed separatist organisation deemed a terrorist group by Ankara, the US and Europe.

“If the US evaluates them as ‘Kurdish brothers’ then they are in a serious delusion,” Mr Erdogan said, in a televised speech interrupted by chants of “allahu akbar”, or God is great, by supporters. “John Bolton made a serious mistake on this issue. Whoever thinks like that is making a mistake.”

Many have voiced doubt over Turkey’s ability to fight Isis in Syria without continuing US air and intelligence support. But in a New York Times opinion piece published on Monday, Mr Erdogan spelt out Turkey’s plans for Isis-controlled Syria, noting that Turkish troops and allied local fighters left northern Syrian towns they liberated from extremists in far better shape than the US aerial bombardments that destroyed Raqqa and Mosul in their efforts to dislodge the jihadi group in 2017 and 2018.

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YPG: 2422 Turkish soldiers and mercenaries killed in 2018

YPG Press Office announced that 2422 members of the occupant Turkish army and allied mercenaries were killed during 2018 while 544 YPG fighters were martyred.

The Press Office of People’s Defense Units (YPG) released the balance sheet of resistance for 2018.

Full text of the YPG statement is as follows;

“People of Kurdistan, who have been fighting the good fight to protect basic values of humanity and particularly of the peoples of middle east, have again spearheaded the fight against evil in form of ISIS recently. Our people and fighters have fought have been fighting against ISIS barbarism and Turkish invasion and putting up a legendary resistance.

Our struggle today has turned into a legendary resistance which includes hundreds of internationalist fighters from all over the world and is ensuring co-existence of peoples in North Syria and Rojava Kurdistan. 2018 has become a year in which our struggle made a great progress and came to a prominence in region. At a time ISIS is on the brink of collapse, our people had to fight against invasion attempts by Turkey. The outcome of the battles and resistance by our fighters throughout the year is s follows;

1- Outcome of the resistance of Afrin which began on July 20 and ended in March 18

Airstrikes: 1098

Heavy weapons attacks: between 3577 and 4000

Engagement: 900

Operations with unclear results: 176

Destroyed military vehicles and aircrafts: 2 combat helicopters, 2 unmanned aerial vehicles, 122 military vehicles, 2 car bombs, 1 motorcycle

Damaged military vehicles: 32 (tanks, APCs, armoured vehicles)

Civilians killed: 224 (51 children, 42 women)

Civilians injured: 650 (87 children, 93 women)

Killed Turkish soldiers and mercenaries: 2422

544 fighters were martyred during the resistance as result of intense airstrikes and engagements with the occupying forces.

2- Outcome of the second phase of resistance of Afrin, which began on March 18, is as follows

Our units in Afrin have carried out 147 operations against Turkish invasion army and its jihadist proxies. As result of assassination, raid, ambush and bombing actions;

– 350 terrorists have been killed (65 Turkish soldiers and 258 mercenaries)

– 18 AK-47, 1 MG-3 machine gun, 2 pistols along with a large amount of ammunition have been captured

– The results of 5 operations couldn’t be clarified

– 36 military vehicles, 1 APC, 1 pick-up, 3 motorcycles, 1 HQ and T55 tank were destroyed; 4 military vehicles have been damaged

– Turkish invasion army has carried out large scale combing operations with the participation of hundreds of its mercenaries and under protection of air cover in Afrin 13 times. All of the operations have been retreated without achieving any results.

– Since March 18, 56 fighters, including 16 fighters of YPJ, were martyred in airstrikes. 1 of our fighters was injured and another fighter was captured in a state of being heavily injured.

3- During 2018, occupying Turkish army attacked the bases and positions of our fighters and civilian settlements, violating the borders.

– Turkish invasion army has attacked positions of our fighters and civilian settlements 53 times

– 13 civilians (3 children) were injured, 2 civilians (1 child) were killed in the attacks.

– 2 Sanadid forces fighters, 2 Self Defense forces fighters and 2 journalists were injured.

– An UAV of Turkish army was captured by our fighters in Kobani.

– Our forces retaliated to all the attacks according to engagement rules and legitimate self defense. 2 soldiers were killed in operations by our forces.

4- During 2018, counter-terrorism units (YAT) have carried out 45 operations against ISIS and other sleeper cells across Rojava and northern Syria. Special Operation Teams have also conducted 590 operations.

– 107 ISIS terrorists including 5 foreigners were captured in the operations

– 204 ISIS members, including 2 leaders and 31 terrorists of other sleeper cells that were preparing for attacks were killed.

– 161 ISIS members were injured

– 55 attacks were foiled

– 6 Yazidi women and a child were rescued from ISIS

– 25 vehicles and a motorcycle were destroyed, 8 vehicles were damaged

– Our units have confiscated a large amount of explosive, 1345 mines, 2 car bombs, 35 missiles, 3 tank shells, 11 mortars and their shells, 126 SPG-9 shells, 575 AK-47, 3 LAV weapons and 2 rockets, 3 12.7mm DShK machine guns, 6 14.5mm ZPU machine guns, M2 Browning ammunition, 6 A4, 40 BKC, 12 Dragunov sbiper rifles, 15 G3 rifles, 17 M16 rifles, 27 RPG and 267 warheads, 1004 grenades, 121 suicide vests, 7 binoculars, 11 pistols and their ammunition, 4 radio devices, 19 cell phones.

5- 2018 has been a long year with resistance and fierce battles across Rojava and northern Syria. 894 fighters were martyred during 2018; 600 in Afrin, 201 during operation Jazeera Storm, 61 as result of traffic and other accidents, 20 as result of illness, 7 during mine clearing operations in Raqqa and due to attacks by Turkish invasion army on borders 5 of our comrades were martyred.”

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“Stand Together Outside the State”: Int. Commune of Rojava Interview

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The Rojavan Revolution has inspired us over the years; from the fierce resistance to ISIS and Turkish fascism, to its rejection of patriarchy and statism. But with the US saying that it will soon be pulling out of the region, many are left wondering what the future holds for the autonomous territories. Wanting to know more, we spoke with someone from Internationalist Commune, the authors of the Resistance is Life column here on IGD, to learn more.

IGD: What are your thoughts on the US withdrawing from Syria? 

IC: When the news of Trump’s decision broke, many of us internationalists in Rojava were frantically checking the news, scrambling to prepare new work, calling one another up and discussing what this would mean for the millions of civilians here, for the future of the revolution – for our lives.

I noticed that our Kurdish comrades reacted differently. They felt angry and betrayed, of course. But to them it was also something expected. The Kurdish freedom movement has 40 years’ experience of armed struggle against a ruthlessly self-serving capitalist state under the NATO banner, and the Kurdish people have known nothing but betrayal for centuries.

They never relied on anything but the strength and resilience of the Kurdish movement. This decision which shocked the world was met with a new surge of pride in what has been won here at such enormous cost. This is the attitude we must take forward into the coming struggle.

IGD: Is the US actively working with the Turkish State? 

IC: A lot of media effort has been expended on which imperial powers are the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in the situation here though it changes every day, what the ‘Kurds’ ridiculously taken as a homogenous mass stand to gain, above all what Putin stands to gain from it all.

Some such analyses – like this from Lower Class Magazine – give an excellent picture of how the Kurdish movement has exploited the faultlines opened by the global power struggle between imperial powers, and how it now faces a severe test of its strength as these interests realign against the democratic-confederalist project.

But I have no special insight into what has been said behind closed doors in the last days and years between the various imperialist forces vying to suck the life out of this land. The Americans did what they did. Now our task is clear: to resist the massacre Turkey is threatening by any means necessary.

IGD: Many people are afraid that ISIS will join with Turkish forces and attack Rojavan territories, as it did in the invasion of Afrin. How has the YPG/YPJ responded to this reality? 

A couple of days ago, false news was once again released by world news agencies, spreading the propaganda statements of imperialist forces as though they were objective fact – this time, that the Syrian state army had entered into the center of the city of Manbij. When this news arrived in Manbij, the response of the local population was not to panic or flee but to flood en mass into the city center, singing the songs of the Kurdish resistance.

This is the crucial point. Not only the Kurdish-led YPG and YPJ, but also Arab, Turkmen and Assyrian Christian militias united with YPG/J under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces are ready to fight Turkey every inch of the way. Turkey talks of making a so-called “security belt” which would obliterate all of the major cities in Rojava, where millions of people have been making a free and democratic life together under constant threat of Turkey’s cowardly carpet-bombing war. YPG/J is a people’s army and the people will never accept the destruction of their homes, their communes, all that has been created here.

If the Turkish state really does launch a full-scale assault, it will take nothing short of genocide to drive the people from these lands. But as we have seen time and again, the Turkish state is quite capable of such atrocities. Tens of thousands of martyrs have given their lives for this revolution. Whether tens of thousands more must also die remains to be seen.

IGD: Many people in the US and beyond have wondered what to do in light of the current situation. Should we be calling on the US not to leave or should we be finding material ways to support?

IC: It is right that the American people, in particular, rise up against this cowardly decision by their leader. But as internationalists we must stand together outside these lines of state force, with the tireless conviction of our Kurdish comrades.

To be precise: we need serious anti-fascist mobilization against entities linked to Turkish power and interests at home in the West. We need that 3.5 billion dollar Patriot missile sale to Turkey, made in the days before Trump told Erdogan he was pulling out, to be taken down as a message to the Turkish state. We need comrades and journalists to travel here and put their lives on the line.

This revolution’s survival will not be ensured by begging western governments for favors. But the burden on the shoulders of the Kurdish liberation movement will be lightened when Turkey is made accountable for its atrocities, when it is made impossible for other capitalist states to make their dirty deals with this war-criminal state.

IGD: What things are Internationalist Commune working on in the midst of this reality? 

IC: Our main focus now is on spreading the news of what is happening and may happen here, seizing back the narrative from our enemies. So much of what is written and said about here, even by our supporters, is framed as though Rojava is a black box about whose people and material reality nothing can be known, just another pawn on the chessboard middle-east.

“we are working together with Kurdish and other local comrades in the media structures here to counter Turkish propaganda and spread the truth of the revolution as best we can.”

As the internationalist commune, we feel a responsibility to combat this, and to make what is happening here and how it will affect millions of real, struggling people if Turkey does invade. We want to bring their voices and the message of the Kurdish liberation movement into the west.

The Turkish state employs a cyber-army of 6,000 social media trolls disseminating their propaganda, and spends millions on lobbying foreign governments each year. Sometimes it can feel like all we have to counter this is a handful of comrades with limited media experience and a few busted-up laptops. But we are working together with Kurdish and other local comrades in the media structures here to counter Turkish propaganda and spread the truth of the revolution as best we can.

IGD: What are some key news sources/website people can follow to get news  on the unfolding situation? 

IC: We will share as much as we can from our facebook at Internationalist Commune, twitter @communeint and website internationalistcommune.com.

For in-depth analyses in touch with the thought of the Kurdish movement, the Komun Academy website is great. The Region is another site whose reports are generally in touch with what’s going on here and can put them in a larger political perspective.

If you follow the Kurdish academic Dilar Derik (DilAr on Facebook), you will see a lot of well-selected articles and analyses. Dr. Hawzhin Azeez on Twitter here is another example of this.

If you’re looking for a journalist external for the movement who has up-to-date and accurate information and understands what’s going on here better than most, Wladimir Van Wilgenburg (@vvanwilgenburg) is a prolific and useful source.

A few other accounts on the ground in Rojava who are in touch with what’s going on here: @zana_med (especially good and will debunk incorrect information when it’s spread), @HosengHesen, @riseupforafrin, @starcongress.

IGD: Anything else you’d like to add or touch on?

IC: We think it is vital that Turkey’s coming assault is not understood as ‘just another part of the Syrian Civil War’, as it is currently being discussed in our voyeuristic yet ultimately weary and disinterested mainstream press. The death of any civilian anywhere in Syria is a tragedy, of course. But what is happening here is far larger than that.

“The choice between socialism and barbarism was never more stark than here and now.”

Total war against Rojava would not just be the crushing of the revolution here, but of forty years’ ceaseless toil under circumstances of brutal repression across all four parts of Kurdistan. This is a war against the woman, against the right of all peoples to self-determination, against one of the world’s only flames of resistance against state-capitalist might. The choice between socialism and barbarism was never more stark than here and now.

Comrades, with pride in our own strength and knowledge that we are stronger still together, knowing that our enemies are strong but knowing too that they can never grasp the strength and beauty of solidarity forged in resistance, we ask for your support.

REVOLUTION IN ROJAVA – Documents and Debates Part III 2018

Is the Rojava dream at risk?

by Giuseppe Acconcia   Internationalist Commune of Rojava  

The initial demonstrations and riots in Northern Syria between 2011 and 2012 sparked the formation of new means of popular mobilisation and triggered mass participation in alternative networks that aimed at recruiting ordinary citizens to provide social services, security and self-defence. On the one end, there emerged Local Coordination Committees (LCC’s), set up by grassroots activists who were committed to nonviolence and direct, radical democracy. These became, to many leftist and secular activists, the basis from which Syria would be rebuilt and the basic structure of a grassroots Syrian revolution, lying below and to the left of the official opposition which was now basing itself in Ankara, Turkey.

On the other end, particularly within Kurdish areas, there emerged popular mobilization committees that were inspired by the thought of Abdullah Ocalan and the ideological perspectives of the PKK. In Turkey, their counterparts had already built communes and popular grassroots power to construct their own stateless democracy. Like their Syrian counterparts across the country and their Kurdish counterparts in Turkey, the popular mobilization committees that were built by TEV-DEM (Movement for a Democratic Society) in northern Syria were, too, infused with a radical democratic spirit and predicated on the commune form.

Due to the war, there emerged in Syria popular committees all across the country which provided a blueprint for alternative forms of governance, as opposed to the centralized, bureaucratic, and despotic Assad government which most Syrians rose up against in 2011. Later on, in the context of war in Northern Syria between 2012 and 2016, and with the further emergence of a very diverse range of jihadist groups, including ISIS, the participants within the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) and the popular mobilization committees felt the need to be involved in direct action, including the armed struggle, in order to protect their neighborhoods and substitute the constant absence of security personnel. Thus, in Syria, those social movements evolved into militarised organisations all across Syria.

At that stage, in Northern Syria the Local Committees were pivotal in forming armed entities, such as the People’s Protection Units and Women’s Protection Units (YPG-YPJ) [Yekîneyên Parastina Gel-Yekîneyên Parastina Jin]‎, that began to provide systems of patrols to guarantee local and external security, building up an embryonic autonomous government. When these committees were set up across the country, as self-defence committees, none could imagine the future. It was unpredictable for everybody at the time.

Rojava: A project of radical democracy

Compared to mid-20th-century approaches to guerrilla warfare (e.g. Mao, Che Guevara), the Kurdish communalist project provided a non-violent critique of hierarchical and capitalist societies after Ocalan’s “paradigm shift” in prison. Abandoning the quest for a Kurdish State, Abdullah Öcalan – the ideological figurehead for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – proposed theories of democratic autonomy, ecology and women’s liberation as a way forward for the Kurdish Freedom movement, and the peoples’ of West Asia more generally. In Syria, his followers saw a potential to put these ideas into practice with the outbreak of the civil war.  As Bookchin explained in order to define his notion of “libertarian municipalism”, “Communalism seeks to recapture the meaning of politics in its broadest, most emancipatory sense. Thus, in Northern Syria popular assemblies have been organised; local councils have been formed in respect to ethnic and gender differences, and work has been coordinated in cooperation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In the context of war, voluntary networks of self-defence, forged in an environment of increased political participation, evolved into a more structured military force to confront the growing emergence of jihadist fighters. This process entailed a stronger level of hierarchical organisation and the institutionalisation of daily practices at both the military and civilian levels. Those soldiers were working both to manage and defend Kobanî and its surroundings sometimes with similar tasks or overlapping duties with the security and political apparatus.

This determined the need for a very structured division of duties and a continuous mobilisation of the popular mobilisation committees working simultaneously as service providers and self-defence groups. Women’s participation both within self-defence groups and resistance units has been noticeable. Equality between men and women fighters is an essential part of the political formation of those fighters, as much as their gender awareness. “Love is essential, it is part of everyone’s instinct. The philosophy of death is a way of living. In past times, everyone knew death could come quickly; now it is different and this disconnects us from nature and does not allow us to accept the idea of death. Religion exploits death: if you are a martyr you go to heaven. For us love and death are in contradiction, one YPJ fighter told The Region.

The Enemies of the Kurds after ISIS

If, at an initial stage, YPG/YPJ joined local Committees only with the aim to protect their homes from a lack of security, with the emergence of ISIS’s fighters and their permanent occupation of Rojava, they became highly motivated to be part of the armed struggle. Some of them had a relative killed by ISIS and this was enough to motivate him or her to join the armed struggle. Others felt a duty to defend their homes. “One of my brothers is a martyr” said one participant to us over the course of this research.

The al-Assad government does not have a strong reputation among the YPG/YPJ. In Syria, the major Kurdish political party, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has always fought its autonomous struggle, characterized by being neither supporting al-Assad nor the rebel opposition, but taking a pragmatic and situational position, depending on what would best benefit their cause. On the one hand, the Arab-led opposition has appeared to be hostile to the Syrian Kurds’ demands. They often accuse the PYD of being in agreement with al-Assad against the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and have even enlisted their own fighters to help Turkey take territory from Syria’s Kurds. On the other hand, the PYD has accused many of the anti-Assad militias of working in coordination with the Turkish army. Whereas some Free Syrian Army battalions work in a strong alliance with their Kurdish counterparts in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the relationship between the Kurdish-led PYD and the Syrian Opposition, is quite simply, based on mutual resentment.

The PYD is also quite hostile to the Turkish State, which returns the hostility in kind. Ankara accuses the PYD of being an extension of the outlawed PKK. The PYD believes that Ankara’s disdain for them goes so far as to push the Turkish government to deliver weapons and fighters to ISIS through the Syrian border.

Then there is the relationship between the PYD, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iraq (KDP). The KDP, an ally of Turkey, resents the PYD. It’s political extension on the ground in Syria, the Kurdish National Council, is also equally hostile to the PYD. Both have accused the PYD of being too utopian, and exclusionary (The KNC refuses to acknowledge the autonomous administration of Rojava as legitimate).

And whereas the PYD, in the most literal sense, finds itself surrounded by hostile armed and political forces. The YPG/YPJ, its armed wings, have gained some tactical support from the US coalition against ISIS, due to their effective combat performance against IS.

Territory under the governance of the PYD, moreover, has not had to deal with the vicious bombardments of the al-Assad government, particularly as the Syrian Arab Army and its affiliated militia’s have focused themselves more on fighting against the rebel opposition with the strong military support of Russia and Iran.

It has been over six years since the first popular mobilization committees were formed in Syria. Due to shifting geopolitical dynamics, the Rojava revolution is now under threat.

With the beginning of the Turkish “Olive Branch Operation” on January 20, 2018, it has been even clearer that the Rojava project was perceived as a danger by the neighbouring countries. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, engaged in strengthening his ties with Iran and Russia, considered, both internally and externally, as more dangerous a pro-workers, pro-ecology, pro-women liberation and communalist movement than ISIS or the regional chaos. A month and a half later, Erdogan successfully occupied the Kurdish held enclave of Afrin, a place of relative peace in war-torn Syria, and a haven for IDP’s. It’s only crime, it seems, was that it implemented the radical democratic vision of the Kurdish Freedom movement in practice.

The Rojava Project and the Afrin attacks

After the Turkish army entered into the Afrin Canton on March the 18th, pro-Turkish rebels have been in complete control of the town, declaring who goes in and who goes out, and holding the enclave under a total occupation. They are joined by Euphrates Shield territory, taken by Turkey in 2016 to separate Afrin from the other cantons of Jezira and Kobani. All what is left, territorially, for Rojava are the cantons of Jezira and Kobani which are, at this point, secured by the US and the anti-ISIS international coalition.

Turkey has threatened to attack these territories as well. And given that the U.S. is an ally of Turkey, it is not clear for how long these cantons will be secured from a Turkish incursion. In these circumstances and with the latest invasion by Turkey, the United Nations estimates that hundred thousands of civilians have been forced to leave Northern Syria.

The Turkish invasion of Afrin, to be sure, is part of a broader reaction from nation states; an ongoing targeted campaign against any kind of left-wing project made possible by the 2011 uprisings in the MENA region. Put succinctly, to be left-wing in West Asia and North Africa today is to be considered a threat for the internal stability by the states of the region. This happened with the labour unions in Egypt and Tunisia, and it happened with the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey. The persecution of the YPG/YPJ in Syria, and the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria is part of this same pattern.

The leaders of the Turkish left and other pro-Kurdish leftists are in prison. Parliamentarians within the HDP, a pro-peace alliance between the Turkish left and Kurdish leftists, have been stripped of their immunity. Moreover, the June 24 early elections might have as their first aim to erase the HDP presence in the Turkish Parliament. However, the Rojava project, as the most relevant vanguard against ISIS, is not over yet. “The resistance in Afrin is still strong”, one YPG fighter simply put it to me, so Turkey will not stop until it successfully gets rid of the Kurdish presence across its border.

Despite the tactical support received by the Syrian Kurds, the US, Russia and the al-Assad government did not react to the Turkish attacks on Afrin (with the latter only sending very scant reinforcements), carried out during the UN ceasefire. Thus, the anti-Turkish state sentiment among the Kurdish fighters has flourished again. “Erdogan supported jihadist groups who perpetrated war crimes, murders, tortures and looting” one fighter told The Region. “We knew that the military alliance with the US and Russia would most probably finish after the victory over ISIS” another said.

However, despite the Turkish attacks and a lack of consistent external support for the Syrian Kurdish fighters, the recent opening of the first university in Kobani confirmed that the Rojava dream of forging a more equal society based on gender liberation and a permanent grassroots mobilization in Rojava, regardless of national borders, is still alive. “When we will be back to Afrin, we will be more motivated, as it happened in Kobani after the liberation from ISIS” one fighter hopefully told me. With their morale, he just may be right.

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Anna Campbell’s father: ‘I don’t think I had any right to stop her fighting in Syria’

Dirk Campbell was shocked when his 26-year-old daughter said she was going to join Kurdish forces in Syria. Following her death in action, he talks about her journey from idealist to freedom fighter

Anna Campbell was killed by a Turkish missile in Afrin
Anna Campbell was killed by a Turkish missile in Afrin, northern Syria, on 15 March. Photograph: YPJ/PA

When Anna Campbell told her father of her plan to join Kurdish forces fighting Isis, he made a joke that he will forever regret. It was May last year, and the 26-year-old had travelled from her home in Bristol to his, in Lewes, East Sussex, to break the news.

“By then, I knew enough to know that it would imperil her life,” says Dirk Campbell, 67, “but all I could think of to say was: ‘Well, Anna, it’s been nice knowing you.’ I think I was trying to be funny, but she just looked miffed. I think she wanted me to engage with it and either go, ‘Oh, how wonderful,’ or to try to argue her out of it. But I sort of just accepted it. Ten months later, she is dead.”

Anna Campbell died on 15 March when her position was struck by a Turkish missile as she and five other female soldiers helped to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Afrin in northern Syria. She was one of eight British nationals killed fighting alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) since the first foreign volunteers arrived in the autumn of 2014.

“People have called Anna a hero and a martyr,” her sister Sara says. “But what’s really difficult for the public to fathom is that she was also this big walking bundle of love: idealist, activist, dedicated bookworm, lover of insects, storyteller, creator of everlasting childhoods …”

Yet it was as a soldier that Anna died, a beaten-up AK-47 in her hand and a pair of old trainers on her feet. Having smuggled herself into Syria, after being recruited by Kurdish activists online, she had signed up with the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) – all-female affiliates of the YPG, a guerrilla group in which officers are elected by their troops.

Dirk Campbell, father of Anna Campbell
Pinterest
Dirk Campbell: ‘I was really proud of her. She was a 26-year-old woman. I had to trust her.’ Photograph: Teri Pengilley for the Guardian

She gave her life defending Kurdish-held territory from a Turkish invasion. Some might call it someone else’s war. To Anna, her family says, it was personal.

“It was almost as if she was searching for the perfect way of expressing all the values she held closest – humanitarian, ecological, feminist and equal political representation,” says Dirk. “Those were the issues she came to dedicate her life to, and she came to the conclusion that Rojava was where she had to go.”

This Kurdish stronghold in northern Syria is in the throes of revolution. Inspired by the ideology of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, and triggered by 2011’s “Arab spring”, people have organised themselves into grassroots assemblies and co-operatives, declaring their autonomy from the state and their wish for real democracy. Anti-capitalist, Marxist and feminist ideas are flourishing, including a system of co-presidentship whereby a man and a woman share power at every level.

“We were shocked when she told us she was going there,” says Dirk, a silver-haired man with a warm smile. “But we weren’t surprised.”

Anna was 11 when Dirk realised there was something different about her. “It seems a small thing, but I remember when she was at school she protected a bumblebee from being tormented by other kids,” he says. “She did it with such strength of will that they ridiculed her. But she didn’t care. She was absolutely single-minded when it came to what she believed in.”

We are sitting in the living room of Dirk’s flat, where three of Anna’s five sisters and her brother have gathered to support their dad. Sophia, at 28 the eldest sister, brings tea. A gallery of obscure musical instruments hang along the wall, all of which Dirk, a folk musician and composer who was a member of the seminal prog band Egg, can play. Books on ecology, veganism, philosophy and politics – some Kurdish – line the bookshelf.

The Campbell household was one where politics was always discussed. “Her mother Adrienne and I were once arrested for staging a sit-in in Boots after they moved the HQ to a Swiss tax haven,” Dirk chuckles.

“Most of her early interest in activism came from Adrienne,” he says. “I remember in 2011, they went to a demonstration at the Houses of Parliament to commemorate the first Suffragette protest. They stormed the Houses of Parliament in Edwardian clothes.”

But really, friends say, it was when Anna went to university in Sheffield to study English and French that those seeds of political activism began to sprout. “The coalition had just started and the government began introducing cuts and increasing fees,” recalls one friend, who prefers not to be named. “It was a big thing and there were student occupations all over the country.”

She was soon reading less of her beloved English classics in favour of books about anarchism, feminism and ecology. She became vegan and dropped out of university after her first year because, as Dirk puts it, “she was much more interested in doing what she was passionate about”.

Anna Campbell with her mother Adrienne
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Anna with her mother Adrienne, who died from cancer in 2012. Photograph: Family handout

That same year, 2012, Adrienne died of breast cancer four years after being diagnosed. Anna, then 21, threw herself deeper into the life she had chosen. She had started training as a plumber, but was increasingly drawn to anti-fascist, animal and human rights protests across Europe. She became an anarchist, too, and had the letters ACAB (standing for the punk-era slogan “All coppers are bastards”) tattooed on her ribcage. “She was one of the first people to go into the Jungle in Calais to protect refugees from the gendarmes,” says Dirk. “She wrote letters to prisoners. She gave blood, was a hunt saboteur, protested the Dale Farm eviction and would always rope me into playing the Highland bagpipes at prison demos.”

In 2015, she was beaten unconscious at an anti-fascist march. “She told me a woman had been dragged into the crowd by some fascists and no one was helping her,” recalls sister Rose, 24. “So Anna covered her face so they wouldn’t know she was female and ran in head first after this woman. The fascists beat her to the ground with sticks until a policeman dragged her off.”

By the summer of 2017, her attentions had turned towards the Middle East, where the war in Syria was entering a bloody new phase. The YPG/J, backed by US airstrikes, had all but flushed Isis from large swaths of Syria’s north. But, with the jihadi group now on the run, Turkey saw an opportunity to finally cleanse its borderlands of the Kurdish forces and their revolution. Ankara has long-argued that the YPG/J is linked to its own insurgent group, the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK). The US and EU, however, do not consider the YPG terrorists, and have supported them since 2014.

With the Kurds’ fight for existence now on two fronts, Anna’s mind was made up. She didn’t tell her friends of her plans, just her family. She made them promise not to tell a soul. “Of course, I was seriously worried,” says Dirk. “Then, the day that she flew out, the Turks bombed a YPJ position and killed 12 women. I panicked.”

Over the months, Anna stayed in regular touch, sending texts, WhatsApp voice messages and the odd call when she could. “The thing is, whenever Anna called, she gave us a false sense of security,” says Dirk. “Every time she would say: ‘Hiya, everything’s fine. I’m just growing vegetables, sitting at a lookout post. I’m not in any fighting. It’s all a bit boring, really.’ We thought she wasn’t actually in any danger, and that she was coming back in a few months.”

What he didn’t know was that she had, in fact, been deployed to Dier ez-Zor, the stage for Isis’s bitter last stand. “I think if I had known that she was facing lethal fire I would not have been able to sleep,” says Dirk. “I would have tried to get there, to be with her. After all, who’s going to fire on an unarmed white-haired old man?”

Then, on 20 January, Turkish-backed rebels attacked the Kurdish city of Afrin. “It was like nothing I’d ever seen,” another British YPJ fighter, who asked to be known only by her nom de guerre, Ruken Renas, told me from her frontline position last week. “The bombing was really heavy, especially just before the city fell. They hit the hospital; people were fleeing. It was chaos. Hundreds died.”

Anna Campbell with a fellow YPJ fighter in northern Syria
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Anna (on right) with a fellow YPJ fighter in northern Syria. Photograph: YPJ/PA

Nevertheless, Anna was determined to help defend the revolution she had joined. She dyed her blond hair black, and begged her commanders to let her go to Afrin. Finally, they gave in. Two weeks later, she was killed.

When Dirk thinks about the afternoon when Anna told him she was going to war, emotions conflict. “I should have taken her far more seriously,” he says. “I should have got on the internet and looked up everything that was going on. I just didn’t know enough about it. All I knew was that it was a war zone. Perhaps I could have stopped her.”

He pauses for a moment. “But, at the same time, I was really proud of her. I don’t think I had any right to stop her. She was a 26-year-old woman. I had to trust her.”

Of course, there is still the issue of Anna’s body. The Campbells want it back, but with Afrin now under Turkish control, they aren’t sure where to begin. “They’re not going to be putting bodies in a morgue waiting for someone to identify them,” says Dirk. “They’ve probably collected them all up, dumped them in a truck and buried them in a mass grave, which means that if she’s going to be repatriated, it’ll depend on DNA evidence. That will take a very long time. There will be a lot of bodies to examine.”

In the meantime, he will commemorate his daughter by continuing her fight. “I would be betraying Anna’s memory if I didn’t do everything in my power to bring the Kurds’ plight to the attention of the world. Something must be done. And it needs to be done now, before anyone else’s children are killed.”

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TO THE PEOPLES AND THE PUBLIC OPINION

           The AKP-MHP fascism has been waging a genocidal invasion operation against Afrin for 51 consecutive days. This genocidal aggression aims at eliminating the democratic system of Afrin and deterritorializing the Kurdish society living there. Therefore, infringing all the laws for war, they have been bombing all villages and towns, killing hundreds of civilian, particularly women and children. They have been destroying the olive groves, raised at great pains. This genocidal invasion operation is being carried out under humanity’s very eyes. One city faces elimination by NATO’s second largest army supplied in arms by many countries. This aggression is being legitimized by regarding it as though it happens between two state’s armies. Those forces which supply arms to the state of Turkey, particularly the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, are all accomplices to this crime.

     The people of Afrin have been defending their olive groves and natural wonder lands against the barbaric attacks of ISIS, El-Nusra, and many other jihadist thugs for seven consecutive years. They have beaten off, at great costs, all the aggressions of these inhumane jihadist thugs. Thousands fell martyr in their defense of Arin against the aggressions of ISIS, Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and all the other bandit groups.  Once all these aggressions failed, the AKP-MHP fascist rule, sustaining and supporting these bandit groups for years, took over their duty. Those supporting ISIS and El-Nusra are now attacking the forces who resisted, at great costs, against them. Russia, which claims it is against ISIS and El-Nusra, has, through dirty deals, shown the green light for these aggressions. Opening the airspace for Turkish warplanes, it has abetted this invasion and genocidal assault. The United States, as the main partner of the anti-ISIS coalition, has, by stating that Afrin is not their area of concern, normalized and legitimized the aggression of AKP-MHP fascism on the area. In doing so, they have punished,  with genocide, those forces which resisted against ISIS and El-Nusra, while rewarding the Turkish state, as main sponsor of these jihatist groups. This fact shows the extent to which the political relations and attitudes are going through the most corrupt era of their history.

     The people of Afrin, have been heroically resisting against this invasive and genocidal aggression for 51 consecutive days, while many forces, particularly UN, US, Russia have, by opting to be the onlookers to this aggression, encouraged and thus abetted it. The AKP-MHP fascist rule’s “Afrin does not belong to the Kurds” statement clearly reveals the genocide they want to commit. In the absence of any external support, the people of Afrin have drawn on their own resources to stop this genocide and protect their homes and lands against an army equipped with state-of-the-art warfare technology. They have staged an unprecedented resistance in this unbalanced war circumstances. And now the Kurdish people, the peoples of the world, the democratic circles, and the Permanent Members of UN Security Council should actively intervene to sop this genocidal aggression. Particularly, the peoples and the democratic circles face the historical responsibility of showing their resolve to stop this inhumane and fascist aggression.

The Kurdish people have mobilized to stop this invasive aggression. Our people in Europe have taken to streets to further activate the demonstrations they have consistently been staging since the start of the invasion. It seems that more effective legitimate and democratic actions are needed to raise the awareness and conscience of the world public opinion. Demonstrations in Europe need to be supported and complemented by uprisings in all parts of Kurdistan and throughout the world. Our people in Europe and anywhere in the world should stage more effective protests in front of the headquarters and representatives of UN and the European Union and call on them to take actions to stop the genocide in Afrin.

     Our peoples, democratic forces and all those who stand in solidarity with the legitimate cause of the Kurdish people should carry on with protests in front of the embassies of Turkey – as the invasion force – and Russia and the US who have shown the green light for the invasion. They should call on these forces to stop attacking and abetting.

     Our people in Rojava and Bashur (South Kurdistan-Irak) who can afford going to Afrin, should march there in thousands, as living shields against the genocidal aggression.

     Bashur (South) Kurdistan is under the occupation of the Turkish state, which, through many institutions, has turned into a colonialist state. Our people in Bashur should take actions against the military forces and institutions of the occupant Turkish state. The very being of the Kurds and their free and democratic life in all parts of Kurdistan is closely interrelated. Keeping this fact in mind, all the Kurds in all parts of Kurdistan should mobilize all their resources against the Turkish state’s aggression on Afrin. We are approaching Neworz, the day of resistance and survival struggle. Our people should start Newroz preparations from this very day and, inspired by the spirit of Newroz, take to the streets and squares and protest against the Afrin occupation.

       These days are the days of uprising for our people. If they don’t rise up today, the people of Afrin and all the peoples of Rojava will face genocide. Recognizing “If not now, so when”, our peoples and the democratic forces should rise up to protect Afrin, the Middle East’s oasis of democracy, stability, and gender emancipation. This will not only be the uprising of the Kurdish people for Afrin, but also that of the peoples of the Middle East and all humanity against fascism.

Believing that the AKP-MHP fascism will fail and an era of democracy in Syria and the Middle East will emerge, we call on our people and all humanity to fulfill their responsibilities.

 Co-Presidency of KCK Executive Council                  11 March, 2018

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US-backed Kurds brace for dramatic escalation of Turkish invasion that could be bloodier than Aleppo, Raqqa or Eastern Ghouta

AFRIN MAP

The wars in Syria: Kurdish fighters are streaming in their thousands from the front line with Isis to stand up to Erdogan’s forces. But given their six years’ battle experience against a fanatical enemy, Turkey is unlikely to beat the YPG on the ground

PATRICK COCKBURN , MANBIJ, SYRIA, 8 MARCH 2018 , FOR THE INDEPENDENT.

In a field beside an abandoned railway station close to the Turkish border in northern Syria, Kurdish fighters are retraining to withstand Turkish air strikes. “We acted like a regular army when we were fighting Daesh [Isis] with US air support,” says Rojvan, a veteran Kurdish commander of the People’s Protection Units (YPG). “But now it is us who may be under Turkish air attack and we will have to behave more like guerrillas.”

Rojvan and his brigade have just returned from 45 days fighting Isis in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria and are waiting orders which may redeploy them to face the Turkish army that invaded the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on 20 January. Rojvan says that “we are mainly armed with light weapons like the Kalashnikov, RPG [rocket propelled grenade launcher] and light machine guns, but we will be resisting  tanks and aircraft”. He makes clear that, whatever happened, they would fight to the end.

Kurdish and allied Arab units are streaming north from the front to the east of the Euphrates, where Isis is beginning to counter-attack, in order to stop the Turkish advance. Some 1,700 Arab militia left the area for Afrin on Tuesday and Turkey is demanding that the US stop them. The invasion is now in its seventh week and Rojvan and his fighters take some comfort in the fact that it is moving so slowly. But the Turkish strategy has been to take rural areas before mowing methodically to surround and besiege Afrin City and residential areas.

The big battles in Afrin are still to come and are likely to be as destructive and bloody as anything seen in Eastern Ghouta, Raqqa or East Aleppo. YPG fighters have battle experience stretching back to at least 2012, much of its gained against fanatical opponents like Isis. The likelihood is that, as in Ghouta, the Turkish generals will seek to avoid the heavy losses inevitable in street fighting and pound Afrin into ruins with air strikes and artillery fire. Civilian casualties are bound to be horrendous.

The Syrian Kurds believe they are facing an existential threat. They believe Turkey wants to eliminate not just the enclave of Afrin, but the 25 per cent of Syria that the Kurds have taken with US backing since 2015. Some think that defeat will mean the ethnic cleansing of Kurds from Afrin, which has traditionally been one of their core majority areas. They cite a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the day after the start of the invasion started, claiming that “55 per cent of Afrin is Arab, 35 per cent are the Kurds … and about 7 per cent are Turkmen. [We aim] to give Afrin back to its rightful owners.” There is a suspicion among Kurdish leaders that Erdogan plans to create a Sunni bloc of territory north and west of Aleppo which will be under direct or indirect Turkish control.

syria-patrick-map-01.jpg
Areas of control across Syria

The Kurdish leaders are convinced that Erdogan is determined to destroy their de facto state in the long run, but differ about the timing and objectives of the present attack. Elham Ahmad, the co-president of the Syrian Democratic Council that helps administer the Kurdish-held area, believes that the Turkish assault on Afrin, if successful, will set “a precedent for a further Turkish military advance”.

Ahmad had just returned from Afrin where she was born and where her family still lives. “Our convoy of 150 civilian cars was hit by a Turkish air strike,” she said. “We ran away from the cars, but 30 of them were destroyed and one person killed.” She is angry that the outside world is exclusively preoccupied with the bombardment of Eastern Ghouta by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, but ignores similar bombing and shelling in Afrin where, she says, 204 civilians had been killed, including 61 children, as of last weekend.

She expects that the next Turkish target, if its so-called Operation Olive Branch succeeds in Afrin, will be the Arab city of Manbij that was taken by the YPG in 2016. Strategically placed on the main road from Aleppo to the Kurdish heartlands, with a diversion where part of the highway is held by Turkish forces, it is a prosperous looking place full of shops crammed with goods and produce. Local rumour has it that one small shop recently changed hands for $1m (£720,000). It is the main supply line to the Kurdish zone, the highway crowded with oil tankers bringing crude oil from Kurdish-held oilfields far to the east to the Syrian government refinery at Homs.

If local people are nervous about the prospect of being submerged by the impending battle for northern Syria, they are not showing it. After being occupied by Isis and besieged by the YPG, they have strong nerves. They may also reflect that, if war is coming to their city and its 300,000 people, there is not a lot they can do to avert it. The main reason they might feel secure is a US pledge to defend their city against a Turkish attack, a promise backed up by regular and highly visible patrols of five or six US armoured vehicles carrying large Stars and Stripes. But the US willingness to confront its Nato partner Turkey is nuanced, particularly since Isis was defeated last year, though the movement is not entirely dead.

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YPG confirms entry of Syrian government forces in Afrin


by Wladimir van Wilgenburg   Reuters  

The People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Tuesday evening confirmed in a statement received by the region that after several days of negotiations the Syrian government affiliated forces entered Afrin.

“After more than a month of the legendary resistance of our forces against the Turkish invasion army and the terrorist groups aligned with it from Jabhat al-Nusra, Da’esh and others, and causing severe losses for the invaders in equipment and ammunition, as our units considered to call the Syrian govt and its army to undertake its duties in participating in defending Afrin and protecting the Syrian borders against this evil invasion,” YPG spokesperson Nouri Mahmoud said.

“The Syrian government has thus heeded the call and responded to the obligation call and sent military units today on 20 Feb 2018, and that is to concentrate on the borders and participate in defending the unity of Syrian lands and its borders,” he added.

The entry follows days of negotiations. On Monday evening, there were also reports that Syrian government-affiliated forces would enter, but officials said no agreement was reached yet.

But on Tuesday, it was confirmed regime-affiliated forces entered Afrin to stop the attacks by Turkey.

Turkish officials said they would continue attacking Afrin if Syrian government forces entered. Al-Mayadeen reports that Turkish forces have already begun shelling close to the Syrian Government convoy escorting fighters loyal to Assad

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International Freedom Battalion’s statement on 3 fallen fighters

The International Freedom Battalion released a statement over the deaths of three comrades, Samuel Prada Leon, Oliver Francois Jean Le Clainche and Sjoerd Heeger.

Full text of the statement is as follows:

The Afrin Resistance Marches to Victory with Internationalist Martyrs!

Spanish Samuel Prada Leon (Baran Galicia) and French Oliver François Jean Le Clainche (Kendal Breizh), and Dutch Sjoerd Heeger (Baran Sason), internationalist fighters who have participated in the defense of the Rojava revolution and who had been fighting in the Afrin fronts for a while have been immortalized in Afrin and Deir Ez Zor. Comrades Baran and Kendal were martyred on February 10 in Afrin as they resisted the invasion attacks of the AKP fascism. Comrade Baran Sason became immortal on February 12 in Deir Ez Zor, fighting ISIS fascism. With their internationalist awareness and hearts filled with hope, they fought against ISIS regression and against Erdoğan and his gangs in Afrin just the same. They were the most beautiful response to the unifying character of internationalism, against international regressive ideologies that wanted to smother the resistance.

Our internationalist struggle has grown at all points in history with the labor and daring of comrades like Samuel, Oliver and Sjoerd. They followed on the footsteps of Ivana Hoffman, Reece Harding and Michael Isrel. They learned from the struggles of Halil Aksakal, Alper Çakas and Muzaffer Karademir. They fought to defend the revolution of the oppressed against the fascist colonialist invasion and went down in history with their dignity.

Internationalists Continue to Increase Hope in the Afrin Trenches!

In the wave of lies from “We will take Afrin in 3 hours”, to “3 days”, to “we can’t give an exact date”, our resistance has continued for 30 days. The people of Afrin increase their honorable resistance every day against the AKP fascism and Al Nusra/ISIS derivatives with their fearless and daring stance. The union of the Northern Syrian peoples in this resistance, and the fight of SDF, YPG, YPJ and internationalist fighters respond to the invasion attempt by the second largest army in NATO with this resistance of the age. As fighters of the International Freedom Battalion, we increase our will to fight shoulder to shoulder with the self-defense forces of the peoples in the region in the fight against ISIS in Afrin today. Internationalist fighters who have become immortal in Afrin and Deir Ez Zor will continue to be by our side in this struggle.

We the Internationalist Freedom Battalion fighters act today in Afrin with the same will that knows how to pay a price and how to demand a price in Stalingrad, Vietnam, Kobanê and in every inch of liberated land in Rojava and Northern Syria. We take our place on the battle fronts with this consciousness. There is a harsh and unequal war, we are fighting an enemy without honor. But we have not the tiniest doubt that we will prevail. In all fronts, in all positions, we crack down on the colonialist, invading gangs. Our veterans and our martyrs light our way in this struggle.

Our response to Erdoğan’s and his gangs’ inhuman invasion and massacre attacks will be resistance and the victory of our peoples. The stance of Avesta Xabur and all martyrs who became immortal in a self-sacrifice will be our bar to clear in all our actions throughout our resistance. The courage of comrades Baran, Kendal and Baran Sason will continue to light the path of our internationalist struggle.

We remember with respect our comrades who defend our revolution and the gains of our revolution with their lives and fly the flag of internationalism in Afrin. We offer our condolences to our brothers and sisters in arms in YPG International, the families of our martyrs and our peoples.

Internationalist Martyrs are Immortal!

Long Live Our Afrin Resistance!

Long Live Our Internationalist Struggle!

Victory Belongs to People Who Resist!

The International Freedom Battalion

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Why is Turkey targeting Afrin?

Pinar Dinc and Kamran Matin explain what Erdogan, Iran and Russia have to gain from a bloody war on Afrin’s restive Kurdish population.

RED PEPPER  January 31, 2018

On January 20, Turkey and its allied Syrian Islamist rebels began an unprovoked military offensive on Syria’s predominantly Kurdish region of Afrin paradoxically codenamed ‘Operation Olive Branch’. Despite its sheer size the operation has made very slow progress and there are independent reports of significant civilian casualties as a result of Turkish army’s indiscriminate aerial bombing, artillery shelling, and reported use of illegal ‘napalm’ bombs.

Turkey claims that its attack on Afrin aims at securing its borders from ‘terrorist’ operations by the ‘People’s Protection Units’ (YPG). Turkey considers YPG an extension of the ‘Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK), which has been in armed conflict with Turkish state since the mid-1980s. Unlike Turkey, US and other Western governments do not consider YPG a terrorist organisation.

However, there has never been any independent reports on any anti-Turkish attack launched from Afrin. In fact, Afrin has been one of the most peaceful regions of Syria throughout its six years old catastrophic civil war. It is also host to nearly half a million refugees from other parts of Syria especially Idlib and Aleppo regions.

Turkey has been hostile towards Syrian Kurds ever since they carved out an autonomous region in north-eastern Syria amidst the civil war. But its current war on Afrin is the first large-scale direct military action against them. The reasons behind this violent gear-change lies in a particular conjunction of domestic politics and regional geopolitics.

Blood for Votes

Domestically, Erdoğan and his ‘Justice and Development Party’ (AKP) pursue a strategy of political entrenchment that has increasingly come to centre on winning elections through fanning nationalist fervour against the Kurds and religious sentiments against the secular dissent and foreign powers.

The first trial of this strategy occurred in 2015 following the electoral success of the pro-Kurdish rights ‘Peoples’ Democratic Party’ (HDP) and the brilliant performance by its co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, which deprived the AKP lost from its parliamentary majority. Shortly afterwards Turkey resumed war against the PKK, unilaterally terminating peace talks it had been holding with the PKK since 2012. AKP’s resumption of war against the PKK aimed at attracting Turkish ultra-nationalists’ votes and suppressing HDP in the November 2015 snap elections.

In the ensuing conflict hundreds of Kurdish civilians were killed, large parts of several cities were destroyed and historic sites were gentrified, pro-Kurdish politicians (including co-chairs, deputies, and mayors from the HDP) were suspended or detained, and a large number of journalists and human rights activists were jailed. Even academics were not spared. Several hundred of Turkey’s academics who signed the peace petition have been purged on terrorism charges.

AKP recovered its parliamentary majority but political violence continued. It even expanded. Following the attempted military coup in the summer of 2016, Erdoğan orchestrated an extreme and nation-wide campaign of purge and persecution. His motive was twofold. He wanted to destroy once for all his erstwhile Gulenists allies, who had failed to agree with Erdogan over power-sharing, and to win the popular referendum on a revised constitution that would enshrine an executive system with widespread powers for himself as Turkey’s life-time president.

Erdoğan intensified the policy of social polarisation he had started in 2014. He not only demonised the Kurds but also stigmatised the Alevis, Zazas, and non-Muslims, and promoting antisemitism. In fact, in his ‘new Turkey’ Erdoğan made a clear distinction between the virtuous people with a religiously cemented national identity and impious ‘others’ including Kurds, Alevis, leftists, seculars, liberals and Gulenists. Today, even mild criticism is not tolerated as Erdoğan labels all those who do not support his open-ended autocracy collectively as ‘terrorists’.

The final act of Erdogan’s political entrenchment will be the 2019 presidential election in line with the new constitution. And some recent polls suggest that AKP’s popularity has significantly declined standing well below 50%. This can be chiefly attributed to a sustained economic downturn, which has eroded AKP’s petit-bourgeois social-base and disillusioned some sections of Turkey’s conservative capitalist class known as ‘Anatolian tigers’, with the status-quo. A recent split in AKP’s ultra-nationalist allies in the ‘National Movement Party’ (MHP) and the continued popularity of HDP have further reduced AKP’s popular support.

Against this background, Turkey’s war on Afrin is Erdoğan’s attempt to re-stage the ‘blood for votes’ tactic that he successfully tried following the electoral failure in the summer of 2015. And just like 2015, the main instrument to mobilise Turkish ultra-nationalism is an anti-Kurdish war overlain with opposition to the US which Erdogan accuses of the orchestrating the 2016 coup and supporting the Syrian Kurds with the aim of partitioning Turkey.

Erdogan’s pursuit of relevancy in post-ISIS Syria

Erdoğan’s ‘blood for votes’ electoral strategy at home has a mutually reinforcing geopolitical dimension abroad in Syria. Russia’s foray into Syrian civil war killed any hope for Turkey’s strategy of replacing the Assad regime with a friendly Sunni-Islamist government aligned with its ‘neo-Ottomanist’ project of regional hegemony.

At the same time, Syrian Kurds’ effective resistance against ISIS won them international sympathy and Western support. Erdoğan’s Syria policy therefore duly shifted from the overthrow of Assad towards the containment of Syrian Kurds. For any form of autonomy or political recognition of Syrian Kurds would diminish Turkey’s influence in Syria and weaken the AKP’s position vis-a-vis the HDP and the PKK domestically.

Erdoğan’s new anti-Kurdish policy in Syria was initially pursued through ‘active neutrality’ towards ISIS allowing its recruits reach Syria via Turkey and use Turkish soil for staging attacks against YPG and its female-only counterpart ‘Women’s Protection Units’ (YPJ). This circumstance reached a climax during the siege of Kobani by ISIS when Turkeys’ mighty army silently stood by across the border while Erdoğan himself gleefully declared Kobani will fall.

Syrian Kurds’ determined resistance and eventual defeat of ISIS in Kobani paved the way for US’s tactical military partnership with Syrian Kurds. This was vehemently opposed by Turkey. US was able to allay Turkish fears by emphasising the temporary, tactical and anti-ISIS focus of its partnership with the Syrian Kurds, who came to dominate the new multi-ethnic ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF).  Turkey therefore expected an end to US support for Syrian Kurds after the fall of Raqqa and ISIS’s strategic defeat.

However, Russian and Iranian entrenchment in Syria and the lack of any other effective military-political force with or through which US could affect the eventual political settlement in Syria have led the US to keep its roughly 2000-strong force in north-eastern Syria and continue its military partnership with SDF. This has seriously concerned Turkey, which views this as a prelude to the international recognition and political consolidation of the ‘Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria’ dominated by Syrian Kurds.

Continuing US support for Syrian Kurds have also set the alarm bells off for Russia, Iran and Assad’s regime. Russia and its Syrian and Iranian allies fear that US will try to use the Kurds to direct the peace talks towards a new Assad-free Syria. Iran has its own restive Kurdish minority and fears that Kurdish political consolidation in Syria will have ripple effects reaching Iran across Iraqi Kurdistan where with Turkey’s vocal support and US’s tacit approval it intervened to reverse the results of a Kurdish independence referendum last October. Iran is also concerned that its Syria-based ‘strategic depth’ doctrine will be undermined by Syrian Kurds, who currently control much of Syria’s most fertile agricultural lands and oil fields.

Russia’s rationale for allowing Turkish attack on Afrin is also twofold. It seeks to remind the Syrian Kurds of their vulnerability and therefore force them into compromise with the Assad regime and moving away from the US. In this way, Russia seeks to cement its military success in Syria with a political victory at peace settlement favouring Assad.

At the same time by facilitating Turkish attack on US’s key partner in Syria, Russia is further undermining the strategic alliance between US and Turkey and hence NATO. Russia therefore views Turkey’s war on Afrin as a win-win game. US on the other hand is mindful of Turkey’s irreversible drift towards Russia; a trend that has gathered pace after the 2016 failed coup and the ruthless purges in Turkey’s armed forces. The purges have led to the domination of pro-Russian ‘Euroasianist’ faction of Turkish military and marginalised pro-Western ‘Atlanticists’. This is why US has consistently maintained that it understands Turkish security concerns and at times seems to have made concessions regarding the scale and nature of its support for Syrian Kurds. The US failure to take any meaningful action against Turkey’s current offensive on Afrin is a case in point, one which has expectedly angered the Kurds. However, the zero-sum nature of Turkey’s approach to Syrian Kurds is seriously testing American commitment to supporting them.

All the major actors in the Syrian war therefore see some benefit in Turkey’s war on Afrin. For Syrian Kurds in the firing line, however, the picture is radically different. War has so far brought great loss of civilian life, destruction of cultural and historic sites, and damage to economic infrastructure; a perplexing reward for their heroic and successful resistance against IS. But in resisting Turkey’s aggression, they also see another historic opportunity to affirm their collective existence, cultural recognition, and political autonomy after decades of political and cultural denial and suppression. They deserve support and solidarity from the left.

On January 20, Turkey and its allied Syrian Islamist rebels began an unprovoked military offensive on Syria’s predominantly Kurdish region of Afrin paradoxically codenamed ‘Operation Olive Branch’. Despite its sheer size the operation has made very slow progress and there are independent reports of significant civilian casualties as a result of Turkish army’s indiscriminate aerial bombing, artillery shelling, and reported use of illegal ‘napalm’ bombs.

Turkey claims that its attack on Afrin aims at securing its borders from ‘terrorist’ operations by the ‘People’s Protection Units’ (YPG). Turkey considers YPG an extension of the ‘Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK), which has been in armed conflict with Turkish state since the mid-1980s. Unlike Turkey, US and other Western governments do not consider YPG a terrorist organisation.

However, there has never been any independent reports on any anti-Turkish attack launched from Afrin. In fact, Afrin has been one of the most peaceful regions of Syria throughout its six years old catastrophic civil war. It is also host to nearly half a million refugees from other parts of Syria especially Idlib and Aleppo regions.

Turkey has been hostile towards Syrian Kurds ever since they carved out an autonomous region in north-eastern Syria amidst the civil war. But its current war on Afrin is the first large-scale direct military action against them. The reasons behind this violent gear-change lies in a particular conjunction of domestic politics and regional geopolitics.

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STATEMENT FROM THE KCK EXECUTIVE COUNCIL ON AFRIN

25 JANUARY 2019

TO OUR PEOPLES AND THE PUBLIC OPINION
The AKP-MHP fascist rule, in collaboration with the anti-human gangs has launched an occupation attack against Afrin. They want to totally strip Afrin, an oasis of democracy for Syria and the Middle East, of the Kurdish population and replace them with these gangs. The AKP-MHP fascist rule has once again demonstrated its enmity towards the Kurds. Through this occupation attack, they want to shore up and nurture the reactionary forces in the Middle East. Knowing that a ground operation is doomed to fail, they began the occupation by using the Syrian air space, opened to them only after a dirty deals. They have attacked the city using approximately 100 fighter jets, an unprecedented case in the history of warfare. This occupation has faced the historical resistance of the people of Afrin and its self-sacrificing freedom fighters. The Afrin occupation attack has not only revealed the true anti-human nature of the Turkish state in the person of AKP-MHP fascist rule, but also has, at the same time, proved how a people empowered by democratic community principles can strongly resist. The people of Afrin and their self-sacrificing girls and boys, inspired by freedom and democracy ideals, have given the “no parasan” response to the occupation forces. They have rebuffed all the attacks during the last 6 days. We salute the people of Afrin and their self-sacrificing fighters who defend their homeland and democratic values. We congratulate them in advance for the victory they will gain in the most rightful battle of history.
The Afrin resistance is the resistance of all Syrians, the peoples of the Middle East, and all humanity. There is no difference between ISIS and AKP-MHP fascism and its collaborating gangs attacking Afrin. ISIS’s attack on Kobani and AKP-MHP’s attack on Afrin share the same goal. Recognizing this fact, all the peoples of the world and democratic circles have united around the historic resistance of Afrin. The attitudes of different states regarding this occupation may be driven by interests and have thus heartened it; However, regardless of these attitudes, the peoples all over the world have supported the Afrin resistance. We salute the democratic humanity and all the peoples for their support. Humanity’s conscience and sense of freedom and democracy united around the Afrin resistance have once again showed that humanity will not let fascism triumph. Afrin is a manifestation of the accumulation of humanity’s sense of freedom and democracy. Leftists, socialists, environmentalists, feminists, pro-labor circles and peace activists should organize their stance more effectively so that the sense of solidarity and the power of struggle needed for victory will emerge. Once AKP-MHP fascism is defeated, the wave of freedom and democracy, starting from the Middle East, will spread all over the world.
The Afrin resistance provides the peoples of Turkey with a historical opportunity for achieving peace and democracy. Once this anti-democratic and anti-freedom fascist rule, joined by CHP, is defeated, the hurdles in the way of freedom and democracy will be removed and the peoples of Turkey will achieve fraternity, democracy, and freedom. We salute all the democratic forces who have opposed the AKP-MHP fascist attacks and resisted the anti-democratic and anti-freedom attitudes of CHP. We believe that tomorrow’s Turkey will be found on the basis of your honorable and courageous stance. We reiterate our commitment for staying in solidarity with your hard struggle.
The Afrin occupation has once again had the Kurds see the anti-Kurdish nature of the Turkish state, as the vanguard of enmity against the Kurds. It has been revealed that unless this fascism is defeated, no part of Kurdistan will achieve freedom and democracy. Afrin resistance instantiates the unity, common stance and struggle of the Kurds in all parts of Kurdistan and the diaspora. We congratulate our people in Kurdistan and in Europe for their stance. We would like to reiterate our commitment to a Free Kurdistan and democratic Middle East, goals to be achieved through the unity of the Kurds, their unity with other peoples, and their common struggle. We call on the Kurdish people and all the peoples of the Middle East and all over the world to unite and stand in solidarity with the Afrin resistance.
The Afrin resistance will prevail, AKP-MHP fascism will be defeated, all Syrians and the peoples of the Middle East will achieve their freedom and democratic rights.
 Co-Presidency of KCK Executive Council                                                     25 January 2018

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STATEMENT FROM THE

Co-Presidency of KCK Executive Council      

21 January, 2018

TO OUR PEOPLES AND THE PUBLIC OPINION

      The AKP-MHP fascist rule in Turkey has begun the air and ground invasion operation against the Kurdish town of Afrin. This comes after months of threatening and targeting campaign. Turkey wants to destroy the democratic system which was established on the principle of brotherhood of Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen peoples.  There are two main reasons for these attacks. Firstly, the anti-Kurdish AKP-MHP fascist rule wants to destroy Kurdish people’s gains in Afrin. Secondly, the AKP-MHP which have come to the point of losing their power; so they try to shore up their fascist rule by carrying out this invasion operation.

      From the early days of the Syrian civil war till now, the people of Afrin have been defending their area against the anti-human jihadist bandits. They have managed to beat off all the attacks of anti-human thugs, particularly those of ISIS and Nusra Front. Afrin has been a safe and free area within Syria, letting no jihadist foot on its ground. Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from the conflict in other parts of Syria, particularly in Aleppo, have found a safe haven in Afrin. During all these years, the people of the Afrin area have been administering their cities and towns. The women have had a leading role in this form of administration based on self-sufficiency. This has not only turned Afrin into a model for the democratization of Syria but also an example of democratization for the peoples in Turkey, too. The AKP-MHP fascist rule tries to curb this democratic  model, because they now the fact that the democratization of Syria will have implications for the solution of the Kurdish question. Recep Tayyip Erdogan got ISIS attack Kobani with the aim of strangling the desire of the Kurdish people for a free and democratic life. Once ISIS failed in fulfilling such an aim, Erdogan has decided to intervene himself. The AKP-MHP fascism stigmatizes all the democratic forces inside Turkey and abroad as terrorists. In doing so, they want to eliminate all the democratic forces resisting their fascist rule. The motive behind their suppression of journalists, academics, and politicians is the same as the motive behind the attack on Afrin.

       The AKP-MHP fascist rule’s enmity towards the Kurds is inextricably intertwined with its anti-democratic nature. Therefore, they attack all the democratic circles which they think may pose a threat to their dictatorial reign. They want to portray the freedom fighters of Afrin as the enemies of Turkey and thereby deepen chauvinistic sentiments in a bid to increase support for their rule while they attack democratic circles within Turkey. Therefore, the attack on Afrin is an attempt to shore up the fascist rule of AKP-MHP and at the same time is a campaign to suppress all the democratic circles opposing AKP-MHP rule.

      Russia and Syria which had closed the Syrian airspace to Turkey, have given the Turkish regime the permission it desperately needed to conduct air attacks. The people of Afrin have been waging a fierce struggle against bandit groups like ISIS, and Nusra Front. Considering the fact that the freedom fighters of Afrin and Syrian states fought the same enemy for years, letting Turkey use Syrian air space for air attacks against Afrin is a clear sign of a dirty deal against the Kurds. The Syrian regime and Russia have made a dirty deal which will not be in their own interests too. They have made a historical mistake which has pitted the Kurds against them. Russia and the Syrian regime can in no way justify their opening of the air space to Turkish jet. This policy will be called into question and they will be regarded as accomplices to this invasion and aggression.   

      The people of Afrin has had no aim other than a free and democratic life on their own land. Their self-defense struggle has had one focal point: resisting the aggression of the jihadist bandit groups on their land. And they are now defending their free and democratic life against the offensive of the Turkish army.

     While Russia and the Syrian regime  let the Turkish state to use the Syrian air space USA motivated the AKP-MHP fascists’ invasion by declaring that Afrin is outside the areas of shared struggle against ISIS. Therefore, USA once again became a party to the Turkish state’s enmity towards the Kurds while it helped Tayyip Erdogan and Devlet Bahceli shore up their fascist rule. Motivating and giving approval to the attack on Afrin and conniving at the aggression means supporting Erdogan and Bahceli fascist regime against the democratic circles. At a time when the Erdogan-Bahceli fascism is about to collapse, not opposing the Afrin invasion only secures Erdogan’s stay in power. Not opposing the invasion of Afrin, both the USA, and the EU countries have supported Erdogan-Bahceli’s oppression against the peoples of Turkey. Thus, Russia, USA, and Europe have become parties to the crimes committed by Erdogan-Bahceli fascism.

      During the 20th century, the Kurds were subjected to genocidal policies. International forces supported and connived at these policies. As a result, one of the most ancient peoples of history has been brought to the brink of elimination. Whenever the Kurdish people have resisted the genocidal policies of the Turkish state, the USA and EU have supported the NATO-member Turkey. The main of Turkey in joining the NATO is seeking support for its genocidal policies against the Kurds. Even today, securing this support is the main condition in Turkey’s EU accession talks. These countries’ silence towards Turkey’s genocidal policies against the Kurds means they have are accomplices to the genocide of the Kurds just for securing some economic interests. If USA and EU don’t oppose this genocidal and invasion attacks they will be regarded as accomplice to genocide against the Kurds.

     The invasion attack on Afrin is at the same time an act of aggression against all the libertarian and democratic circles in Turkey, Syria and all the Middle East. AKP-MHP fascist rule have targeted all the democratic dynamics of the Middle East with the aim of creating a fertile ground for all the reactionary and despotic forces, particularly ISIS and Nusra Front. Therefore, not only the Kurdish people, but also all the peoples in Turkey, Syria, and the Middle East who want democratization should stand against the Turkish invasion of Afrin. The resistance in Afrin is not only the resistance of the Kurds, but also the resistance of all the democratic forces of the Middle East and the world.

The Turkish offensive against Afrin is neither in the interest of US, nor that of Russia, Syira, EU, and the peoples of the Middle East. Therefore, Russia, US, and the Syrian regime who let and motivated Turkish attack on Afrin should review their policies and take clear attitude against the invasion. Irresponsible attitudes cannot sustain the ground for peace, democracy, and stability in the Middle East created by paying heavy prices.

      The Kurdish people in all parts of Kurdistan, particularly in North Kurdistan, and in diaspora should support the Afrin resistance. All the peoples of Syria, particularly the Arab, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Turkmen people living in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria should see the fact that this attack is against them, too, and should participate in the Afrin resistance.

The peoples of Afrin are one the basic democratic dynamics of the Middle East. All of them, particularly the youth and the women should resist shoulder to shoulder against the invasion forces. They should defend their villages, districts, towns and cities against the aggressors and turn Afrin into a grave for the AKP-MHP fascist gangs.  

      All the peoples in the world, , who defeated ISIS by standing in solidarity with the freedom fighters of Kobani on November 1, 2014, World Kobani Day, should stand by the resistance forces of Afrin and defeat AKP-MHP dictatorship which has become a center and guardian for the reactionary and despotic forces of the Middle East. Once the AKP-MHP fascist rule is defeated, the dark days of the Middle East will come to an end and the sun of  freedom and democracy will rise. As Kurdish Freedom Movement, we will stand by the people of Afrin with all our strength. Neither the Turkish state nor any other force will be able to stop our people’s march for freedom and democracy. Turkey will surely be  democratized and the peoples of the Middle East will attain their freedom and democratic rights.

 Co-Presidency of KCK Executive Council                                                21 January, 2018

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Vanguards of Humanity: Why I support Afrin & the Rojava Revolution

by Marcel Cartier    

The dark clouds of 21st-century fascism are once again hanging over the heads of the people of northern Syria. As if the inhabitants of the region often referred to as Rojava haven’t suffered enough over the course of the past 7 years of war, the Turkish state has come to the conclusion that the time is ripe to pick up the fallen, bloodied sword from the corpse that is Islamic State. Together with Salafist mercenaries carrying flags of the Syrian ‘rebels’ – one of the many components of what at one historical juncture seemingly all so long ago was a cohesive ‘Free Syrian Army’ – Erdogan’s regime vows a ‘swift operation’ to destroy ‘terrorism’ in Afrin.

It is Afrin that has been a beacon of stability in Syria over the course of the war, not only taking in tens of thousands of refugees from elsewhere in the country, but establishing the principles of direct democracy, women’s liberation and ecology in the midst of an otherwise catastrophic and tumultuous period. It is precisely this model of a socialistic, multi-ethnic, feminist canton advocated by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that Erdogan’s AKP government sees as ‘terrorism’. The irony could not be more obvious.

For those who have been following closely over the past few years the events in not only Afrin, but in the other two cantons that make up the Rojava region (officially the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria), the current battle faced by the Kurdish forces is strangely reminiscent of the 2014-15 battle for Kobane. At that point, the so-called Islamic State was on the verge of reaching the Syria-Turkey border by securing the city known officially as Ayn al-Arab (a brutal reminder of the Arabization and monolithic nation-state mentality of the Ba’athist government). The Kurdish forces of the YPG and YPJ found themselves fighting off the fascist forces as Turkey allowed Daesh militants to enter Syria freely. Turkish tanks sat idle at the border, and soldiers watched the action, hoping for the elimination of the ‘terrorists’ – not Daesh, of course, but of the Kurds! The so-called international community was silent, until the U.S. intervened with airstrikes after an enormous amount of pressure in the form of massive global protests.

Today in Afrin, as Turkish planes and tanks aim to finish the job that the Islamic State was incapable of accomplishing, world leaders are again silent. Although a relationship had been forged in recent years between Russia and the YPG/J in Afrin, Moscow now seems to have withdrawn its forces, clearing the way for the Turkish incursion. The United States, although supportive of the YPG/J’s operations against Daesh east of the Euphrates River, has wiped its hands of any association with their ‘allies’ in Afrin. The Syrian government has said that it will shoot down Ankara’s planes – yet it seems as if the actions of Erdogan’s regime have so far gone unopposed.

This understandably leaves the Kurdish people and their forces in Afrin feeling as if the old maxim ‘the Kurds have no friends but the mountains’ is once again deeply relevant. Perhaps they understood throughout the complexities and twists and turns of the war that this was always the case.

After all, my experiences in Rojava last year confirmed to me that the YPG/J was far from a ‘pawn’ of ‘puppet’ of anybody, despite the often misunderstood relationship between them and Washington. In fact, it was clear to me that they were preparing more than a year ago for not only an eventual Turkish military operation, but for the moment that self-reliance would have to be stepped up and a fight undertaken on their own to protect the territory of Rojava and the gains of their revolution.

My inability to Understand Rojava Before 2015

Today, I am yelling at the top of my lungs in support for the people of Afrin and for the Kurdish forces of the YPG and YPJ. There are hundreds of solidarity demonstrations taking place across the western world. Yet, just over three years ago when the Islamic State was threatening to take Kobane, I lacked the understanding of the situation in the country to adequately provide that same solidarity. I didn’t attend any of these protests despite the considerable threat that was being manifested toward an anti-fascist militia that espoused principles largely in line with my own.

Indeed, this is part of my confessions – or rather, self-critical assessment. I wasn’t always the most supportive of the idea that what was taking place in northern Syria constituted a real revolutionary process. In fact, much of the reason that I have decided to undertake such a considerable amount of writing since the time I spent in Rojava last year is that my experiences there made me feel a sense of urgency about being critically reflective of my previous erroneous positions. I knew that if ‘observation and participation’ in the revolution has altered my understanding of Syria, there was at least the possibility that my work could have that kind of impact on others who perhaps hold positions akin to those I used to.

Let me break it down from the beginning. In 2013, exactly five years ago next month, I visited Kurdistan for the first time. This trip took me to the territory controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. Although I may have set foot in Kurdish lands, the week that I spent there did little to reveal the true nature of Kurdistan as a whole – or perhaps I simply didn’t bother to look hard enough or investigate aptly. Nonetheless, I was convinced that the KRG was little more than a puppet entity of the United States. That assessment may not be so far off the mark – but the problem was that I failed to grasp the differences between ‘the Kurds’ of Bashur (Iraq) and Rojava (Syria), not to mention Rojhilat (Iran) or Bakur (Turkey). [see my previous article ‘The Kurds: Internationalists or Narrow Nationalists?]

Throughout 2013, the focus of the United States was on whether it should engage in a direct intervention in the Syrian war by means of airstrikes on Syrian Arab Army targets. Understandably, this put the anti-war movement and socialist activists in the U.S. in a position of putting its emphasis on opposing any machinations of the Obama administration to launch a wider war in Syria. At this time, my principal obligation seemed clear – oppose the aggression of the Obama administration and my own government. I believe such a position is pivotal. However, all too often socialist activists in the western metropoles have a tendency to put anti-imperialism on ‘steroids’ – in other words, to reduce geopolitics to a single contradiction, refusing to seriously investigate the contradictions of the state in question, or of the other dynamics at play.

To be clear, it’s not as if I saw the Ba’athist government as one that I was ideologically aligned with. It’s not as if I didn’t engage in some level of investigation of the situation on the ground throughout the whole of the country. In fact, in songs like ‘Hands Off Syria’ – which I released in the Spring of 2012 – I explicitly mention that ‘there’s been problems in Syria for quite a long time.’ Perhaps this was too little in the way of expressing the reality in the country, but it did try to account for the fact that the dynamics in the country were complex and that any defence of the Syrian state vis-à-vis imperialism wasn’t the same as overt support for the policies of that state.

Grappling with Kobane and the Resistance of the Kurds

However, the general tendency that I grew to express was more and more toward full solidarity with Syrian Arab state. The problem with this position wasn’t so much the fact that I explained the machinations of imperialism toward a government that defied its diktat in the region, particularly in regards to the colonial settler entity of Israel. The problem also wasn’t that I expressed how the U.S. government’s support for the so-called ‘rebels’ was creating a situation in which Shia, Christian, or even Sunni communities were facing genocidal consequences. It was simply that I was simplifying the narrative, and not giving voice to those who had been the victims of a monolithic Syrian state based on racial and ethnic prejudice for decades.

I first began to grapple with this during the battle of Kobane. It was obvious that the so-called Islamic State was enemy number one in the country. This was largely agreed across political lines – by so-called ‘moderates’ within the FSA, by the Syrian state, and of course by the Kurdish forces who were bearing the brunt of their fascistic attacks.

Kobane first highlighted the fierce resistance of the YPG/J to the world at large. Although these forces had defended predominately Kurdish lands in Syria since the beginning of the Rojava Revolution in the Spring of 2012, this battle would finally bring these fighters’ struggle to international attention, as well as that of the Kurdish question in general. Suddenly, the nearly 40 years that the Kurdish movement had fought the genocidal policies of the Turkish state also began to achieve a certain level of recognition.

It is true that the women’s revolution in Kobane and Rojava was fetishized in the mainstream western press. Beyond the H&M adverts, a more thorough examination showed that it was the consequence of a deliberate policy to liberate women from patriarchal oppression that was first undertaken in the ranks of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), not in Syria, but inside of Turkish borders.

It was not until the martyrdom of Ivana Hoffmann, a German internationalist in the ranks of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) in Syria in March of 2015 that I began to seriously reflect on the correctness of my political understanding of Syria. I knew that there were communist parties in Syria that had been in a de-facto alliance with the Syrian state against the moves of imperialism. Yet, I did not realise that there had been Turkish communist groups that had been fighting side by side with the Kurdish forces. Not only were these cadres from Bakur but many of them – like Ivana – were young internationalists. Ivana did not die in Kobane, but her death became linked to that decisive battle in historical memory.

Investigation and Participation

I knew that I needed to investigate the matter further. Therefore, I made it my business to make sure that I travelled to Rojava to see for myself what was taking place in the areas of Syria which were experiencing what the Kurdish forces called a ‘revolution’. Was this really the case? Or was this a mere attempt by the U.S. to carve out a proto-state in a part of Syrian territory?

Any doubts I may have had about whether or not the ‘Rojava Revolution’ was a genuine revolutionary process were put to bed within mere days of arriving in Syria. I soon realized what an absolute travesty it was that people who are generally aligned with the left in the west had fallen into the mistaken position of referring to these Kurdish forces as ‘Zio Kurds’ (despite a historical relationship with the revolutionary Palestinian movement), ‘separatists’ (despite an unflinching opposition to any plans to partition Syria), or imperialist proxies (despite fighting imperialism for nearly 40 years).

Let me be honest: admitting that I have been wrong, especially for years on end on such a key political question, wasn’t easy. In fact, the hardest thing about being in Syria was having to engage in the daily ‘tekmil’ – criticism and self-criticism sessions. Coming from our western experiences, it just isn’t that easy to not take such sessions deeply personally, even if their focus is on improving the character of revolutionaries.

To be clear, this does not mean that I think those journalists and activists who have been to government-held areas of Syria are necessarily wrong in the positions they have put forward in the so-called western alternative media. Given the malicious war propaganda put forward by the western mainstream press, particularly in the U.S, it is important to defy these perspectives. I do not doubt that the Ba’athist state enjoys considerable support in many areas of Syria. Personally, I know countless Syrians who may have been critical of the state before the war, but who have increasingly sympathised with Bashar al-Assad’s leadership and view his presidency as a stabilising factor. This is particularly true, from my experiences, among Christians from Syria who see the Ba’athist government as a secular and moderate force.

In fact, it does not surprise me that many who have been to Damascus and other regions of the country see the government as a progressive entity. Especially given the war and the outlook of the factions opposed to the state, this seems to be an entirely understandable conclusion. In some parts of Damascus, I am certain that the Ba’athist state may be viewed as the bastion of progressiveness, secularism, and inclusiveness. I do not doubt the sincerity of the journalists and activists who have reported on this reality within the country. The only thing I doubt – and have come to understand – is that their views are incomplete.

What is a secular, progressive government to an Arab Christian, Alawi, or even Sunni living in a considerable part of the country is the same government that I came to see that for an Assyrian, Kurd, or other ethnic minority in the north of the country was a ‘fascist’ regime. The stories I heard of the repressive policies of this state were harrowing. For sure, if I had simply gone to Damascus, I may have just reinforced my existing beliefs and perspectives. Yet, I was eager not to do precisely that. I was eager to see more of the country, to do what many of my other journalist colleagues as yet hadn’t done.

It is true that the Syrian Arab state has been part of the so-called ‘resistance axis’ to Zionism and imperialism in the region. Yet, everything has a dual character. The state’s orientation vis-à-vis imperialism may be progressive. It may be anti-colonial. However, it is internal policies have also exhibited a considerable degree of colonialism as far as the Kurds are concerned. It seems laughable to many in the north of the country to seriously speak of a ‘resistance axis’ to occupation when their lives have been characterised by exclusion and suppression of their language and culture.

The Left Must Express Its Solidarity With Afrin

Things changed post-Rojava. Gone was any conception or idea that perhaps the administration behind this region’s transformation was anything less than revolutionary. Gone was any semblance of thought that this governing structure was a proxy of imperialism. Gone was any notion that this system should not be supported overtly. I knew that I had to turn over a new leaf in raising my voice in solidarity with Rojava, and of convincing those who thought as I previously had – who were at the very least sceptical about ‘the Kurds’ – that this was a historical process worth supporting, even if critically.

Of course, I’m well aware that just as the views of those who have only travelled to Syrian government-held areas are limited in scope, so are mine. My assessments are frank, sincere, and I believe correct. However, I certainly won’t fall into the trap of claiming that I am a Syria ‘expert’ or that I possess all of the answers. I will only assert that what I have seen gives me tremendous hope in the potential for humanity and for socialism’s revival.

Until now, I do not think I have clearly expressed that I know my previous position on Syria to have been incorrect – or perhaps to phrase it better, to have been far too simplistic and incomplete. In that regard, take this as my public self-criticism. I will never again be so arrogant and simplistic to believe that major world conflagrations can be boiled down to a single contradiction. I will do my utmost never again to fail to express my solidarity with the struggle of the oppressed and downtrodden resisting fascistic structures and barbarism.

Three years ago, I should have been in complete solidarity with the resistance of Kobane. Honestly, I failed. Today, I am demanding the international left engage in a serious assessment of just how significant the Rojava Revolution is at this historical juncture as the radical left reconstitutes itself globally. Solidarity with Afrin should be front and centre at this moment. I fully believe that anything less than this is a full betrayal of the principles of humanity and abandonment one of the most progressive forces currently in existence.

Although it is, of course, true that my writings on Rojava may be reflective of the human flaw of containing romantic sentiments – and I believe they probably are – I would not consider it an overstatement to say that the revolution being defended with the gun by the YPG and YPJ is akin to the vanguard of humanity.

That makes it all the more difficult to be within the confines of western capitalist modernity while this attack on Afrin takes place. My soul and my spirit are in Rojava at this crucial moment. I yearn to be able to be there to physically resist the attacks of the fascist Turkish government and mercenaries against this radical, democratic experiment. Although I know that this is not possible for the time being, what is possible is that we do all we can in the western metropoles to raise our voices to make sure that Afrin does not become a victory for the neo-Ottoman ambitions of the Erdogan government. Anything less is indeed to betray the principles of revolution and internationalism.

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Could the Kurds beat Turkey in Syria?

  Washington Examiner
After a multi-day artillery barrage, the Turkish Army has begun its push into Afrin, a district of Syria which has been governed by Syrian Kurds ever since they defeated al Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists. Turkish officials say they plan to set up a buffer zone extending almost 20 miles into Syria from the Turkish border. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a blistering speech threatening Turkey’s Kurds if they speak up on behalf of their Syrian counterparts and promising victory within “a very short period of time.”That may be a fatal miscalculation, one which could cripple Turkey. Erdogan’s paranoia and political meddling in the military have taken a toll. Once the pride of NATO, the Turkish military and security services are a shadow of their former self. They lack the experience, training, and discipline of their predecessors. One in four Turkish pilots is in prison; many Turkish F-16s are grounded for lack of trained pilots. In 2012, Syrian forces downed a Turkish F-4, and Kurds have downed Turkish helicopters.Nor is it clear the Turkish army can fight effectively. The Turks may occupy pockets in Syria, but their presence has long been more symbolic than real. One of the reasons the Turkish intelligence service (MIT) supplied and supported the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and allowed the Islamic State free transit across Turkish territory was a quid pro quo in order to protect Turkish interests inside Syria. In short, Erdogan wanted to assume the status of military commander without actually having to fight the tough battles that originally elevated Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, to prominence.Turkey’s competence gap can be seen in the few incidents where Turkish forces have come into contact with adversaries in Syria or Iraq. In 2016, the ISIS burned to death two Turkish soldiers that it captured in Syria. That ISIS terrorists were able to kidnap them in the first place demonstrates massive security lapses, and that Turkey was unable to determine their location prior to their execution reflects gaps in Turkish intelligence. Rather than acknowledge their murder, Erdogan responded as he often does with denial and deflection, refusing to acknowledge the accuracy of the video and then imposing a media blackout on the murders.Turkey’s weakness is also reflected in deteriorating internal security. Terrorists have for decades targeted Turkey, but Turkish security forces successfully exposed and disrupted terrorist plots. After Erdogan purged senior military and security officials and rotated others out of territories and portfolios they knew inside-out, terrorism surged not only inside Turkey but even in the once-safe cities of Istanbul and Ankara. This should not have been unexpected to any leader cognizant of history. The Red Army hemorrhaged effectiveness after Soviet dictator Josef Stalin purged the officer corps prior to the Nazi invasion during World War II. Iraqi inroads into Iran in 1980 were due not only to the element of surprise, but also to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s hobbling of the Iranian officer corps during his post-revolutionary purge. More recently, ISIS seized Mosul after former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki replaced more professional officers with political loyalists who chickened out and ran at the sound of the first shot.Turkey has fought the PKK since 1984. The group suffered a blow in 1999 when Turkish commandos, perhaps assisted by U.S. or Israeli intelligence, seized PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. While Turkish officials for more than a decade insisted the imprisoned and isolated Ocalan has become irrelevant, Erdogan transformed him into an indispensable Kurdish political leader by agreeing to negotiate peace with him. Erdogan may like to depict the PKK as terrorists — and, without doubt, they have engaged in terrorism — but in recent years, they have transformed themselves into more of a traditional insurgency. And while the links between the PKK and the Syrian-based Popular Mobilization Units (YPG) are real, Turkish officials are hard-pressed to attribute any attacks inside Turkey to Syrian Kurds from Afrin.But while Turkey’s military is a shadow of its former self, the same can’t be said for the YPG. The Kurdish militia has been the most effective fighting force on the ground in Syria against al Qaeda and ISIS. For years, they operated alone — ignored by the United States and Russia, isolated by other Syrian opposition groups, and embargoed by Turkey. And yet, at Kobane and elsewhere, their discipline, high morale, and cohesion paid off. If they could operate against all odds against ISIS, they can likewise be a formidable opponent against Turkey, especially with home field advantage.Nor is the PKK amateurish, especially after years of hardening in battle. In another incident censored by Turkey, PKK operatives managed to capture two of Turkey’s leading intelligence officials.Nor are Turkey’s aims clear. There is hardly a Kurdish farmer or shopkeeper that Turkish officials — in assessments blinded by racism and ignorance — don’t see as terrorists. If Turkey seeks to wipe out “terrorists,” does that mean engaging in ethnic cleansing inside Syria? And, if that happens, what is to stop a blowback that will not only send hundreds of Turkish troops back home in body bags, but will also ignite the already repressed Kurdish population inside Turkey? If Turkey has been unable to defeat the PKK in Diyarbakir and Hakkari, will they be able to do so in Istanbul and Antalya? Just as Erdogan’s forces once supplied al Qaeda and ISIS with weaponry, what might happen if other countries — Russia, Israel, the Syrian regime, or even the United States — decide covertly to provide the means for the YPG to better defend themselves? If Kurds bring the fight into Turkey, can Turkey’s economy survive as the multi-billion dollar tourist industry shrinks 75 percent?Erdogan operates in a domain of ego and ambition unencumbered by reality. He brands those who question him as terrorists, and so top aides understand they must tell him only what he wishes to hear. The result, now that Turkish forces are moving into Afrin against an opponent stronger than Erdogan realizes, could be disaster for Turkey. Erdogan may expect a quick victory. Not only is this not realistic, but he may soon find that what he sees as an ignorant terrorist group is strong enough to bleed Turkish invaders dry and run the Turkish economy into the ground.Erdogan may set the stage not for triumphant victory but for a defeat that will shake Turkey to the core.Michael Rubin (@Mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.

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We are trying to build Democracy in Syria.  So why is Turkey attacking us?

 Washington Post
January 22 at 2:16 PM
Hayvi Mustafa is co-president of the Executive Council of Afrin, a region in northern Syria of 1.5 million people that currently includes some 500,000 internally displaced people.
Three months ago, I was sitting here in my office with my colleagues, celebrating the liberation of Raqqa from the Islamic State. The Islamic State’s fighters were vanquished by our own Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), with the help of our American allies. We had great hopes that day: Eliminating the security threat meant that we could finally begin investing in education and social services. As a woman, I was especially keen to empower others of my gender, which I saw as a crucial part of our plans to transform our society into a true democracy after our lives under the totalitarian state of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. My duties evolved to include supervising the work of 15 governmental departments that provide security and services to people regardless of their ethnicity, religion or politics. Among our accomplishments is a new university that offers instruction in engineering and social sciences and provides full access to women as well as men.Today I am sitting in that very same office, listening and watching as Turkish jets bomb us and artillery shells our homes. We are getting calls from local officials warning that Turkey pushing deeper into our territory, perhaps even hoping to take the city of Afrin itself. Turkey accuses us of being an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). All of the region’s leaders and U.S officials have denied these allegations. Nonetheless, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains determined to wage his war against Afrin. His invasion in our territory also serves the purpose of distracting his own people from his authoritarian power grab at home.Our region is religiously and ethnically diverse. Our population includes Kurds, Arabs, Armenians, Yazidis and Alawites. Many of us are descendants of the survivors of genocides that were committed by Turkish states against the non-Turkish peoples during and after World War I. All of these communities have refused to leave Afrin despite the threat from the Islamic government in Turkey and the jihadist groups associated with it that publicly threaten us with ethnic cleansing. All of these communities are working together to build a democratic alternative in Syria.Erdogan wants to destroy this freedom; his forces have already killed 18 innocent civilians. Though ostensibly a U.S. ally, Erdogan is not ashamed to use jihadist groups to eliminate Afrin as a democratic alternative. Not only did Erdogan allow al-Qaeda to grow along Turkey’s border with Idlib, but he has also coordinated with al-Qaeda to facilitate the entry of the Turkish troops into our region. Erdogan doesn’t fight al-Qaeda — he works with them.Since 2011, when Assad’s regime started to collapse, the democratic political institutions of our region have worked tirelessly to mobilize people in a struggle for democracy and security against the barbarism of the Islamic State and the chaos of the Syrian civil war. We have organized our self-defense and enforced universal human rights. Most importantly, our security forces do not perform summary executions — with one man as judge, jury and executioner — as frequently happens in the other lawless areas of Syria. Our forces abide by the laws written in our legislative assembly.Ironically, the fact that the Islamic State never took control of our region has limited the American presence here, and we are now paying the price. Unlike some other regions in northern Syria, we do not have U.S. military bases or even military observers. This encouraged Erdogan to wage war against us under the pretext of “fighting terrorism.” He accuses all Kurds of being terrorists by virtue of their birth. But today it is not only the Kurds who are being attacked by Erdogan. Turkish prisons are filled with peaceful political activists from a wide variety of backgrounds, yet all are accused of terrorism.We should not be destroyed because our struggle for democracy and freedom curtails Erdogan’s ambitions. We should not be destroyed because we kept the Islamic State and al-Qaeda out of our region. We look to Turkey as a neighbor and seek a better relationship with its people. We differentiate between Turkey as a government and its people, between Erdogan as an Islamist dictator and his oppressed subjects. We believe that this is a distinction that our friends in the United States and Europe should also make.U.S. diplomacy appears to be having little effect on Turkey, and this is not a surprise. Erdogan failed to support a democratic alternative to the Assad regime and refused to help the United States defeat al-Qaeda in Syria. Our defense forces have recruited many democratically minded Syrians from the areas where al-Qaeda is now concentrated, and we are prepared to work together with the United States to end this threat to global security. To do this, the United States needs to enforce a no-fly zone similar to agreements between the United States and Russia preventing the Syrian air force from bombing SDF targets, and to establish closer cooperation with our security forces in the region. But Washington must act soon. Time is running out.

Kurds say heavy Turkish-backed attacks were repelled in Afrin

by Wladimir van Wilgenburg   Reuters  

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday said they have repelled attacks by the Turkish army and affiliated rebels in Afrin. This, while the Turkish government media claimed the Turkish-backed forces took some villages near the border of Afrin.

On Sunday heavy clashes took place between the Turkish-backed rebels and the SDF. This comes a day after heavy Turkish air strikes pounded the city of Afrin and the villages near the border.

Speaking to The Region, a local official Mustafa Shan said that “A half an hour ago, the Afrin suburb was shelled but the morale is high and we hope nothing will happen,” he added.

Roj Moussa, a local journalist in Afrin told The Region that the Turkish-backed rebels failed to enter into YPG strongholds. “The militants couldn’t cross to the villages of Shinkal and Kurdo. The clashes continued and the YPG forces confronted them and bombed a tank in the Kordo village and two tanks in the Dikmash village,” he added.

Nevertheless, later in the evening several civilians were killed, an official of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) told the Region.

“The Turkish army shelled Afrin today again and until an hour ago the planes were flying in the sky. Today, a massacre took place in the town of Siruj in the north-east of Afrin and some children were killed,” the YPG official based in Afrin said.

“9 civilians were killed, including 6 children and the rest we couldn’t recognize because not much was left of their bodies” the YPG official in Afrin said.

However, the official denied Turkish soldiers were captured.

“The clashes were strong today, especially in Rajo and Bilbil. The operation was carried out by the Turkish army and its militias and is continuing so far in the villages of Adama and Surki in the south of Afrin,” the official added late in the afternoon.

According to a statement made by the SDF, the Turkish-backed rebels and army were repelled later during the day.

“The Turkish occupation army, which failed to advance into Afrin on the ground, once again targeted civilians with multiple airstrikes. The bombardment carried out on Rubar IDP camp, Cilbir village of Sherawa district and the area surrounding Afrin city center caused many civilian deaths,” the SDF said.

The SDF also accused the Turkish Army of attacking Hatay city and placing the blame on the SDF. They rebuked what they insinuated what was an orchestrated media campaign by Ankara.

“The Turkish occupation army attacks Reyhanli district of Hatay city itself only to legitimate the ongoing massacre and blames our forces for this.” the SDF stated in a public statement. “We once again stress that the social media rumors and the allegations delivered by some media outlets should not be trusted unless officially confirmed by General Command statements. SDF General Command will keep the public up to date about the results of the battle and resistance,” the SDF said.

The SDF said they would announce more details on the operation later.

Another SDF official in a public statement suggested that the Turkish-backed forces faced heavy losses after attacks by the SDF, recapturing lost positions and seizing the bodies of dead soldiers and rebels and destroying some tanks.

“Some tanks were left being destroyed on the battlefield, while soldiers escaped. The number of deaths, injured are still not clear, but will be released later. The situation is good, the moral is high and the guerrilla-style attacks are continuing,” the SDF official said.

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Syrian Kurdish YPG says ‘no choice but to resist’ after Turkish strikes

 Reuters Staff
Smoke rises from the Syria’s Afrin region, as it is pictured from near the Turkish town of Hassa, on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

“We will defeat this aggression, like we have defeated other such assaults against our villages and cities,” the YPG, which has battled Islamic State with U.S. backing, said.

The YPG urged men and women in north Syria to join its ranks to protect Afrin.

Turkey opened a new front in Syria’s war on Saturday, striking the Afrin region and raising the prospect of deeper strains between Ankara and NATO ally Washington.

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SULAIMANI – The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) will not remain silent over the Turkish attacks on Afrin canton, member of the group’s executive council committee said.

Speaking to PKK-affiliate media on Saturday (January 20), PKK Executive Council Committee member Murat Karayilan said the PKK would defend Afrin if Turkey attacks the canton.

“Attack on Afrin is like an attack on the entire Kurdish nation,” Karayilan added, calling on the international community not to back Turkey.

Before formal airstrikes started he said, “If Turkey launches any airstrikes on Afrin, we will consider it as if Russia has allowed Turkey, because the Afrin sky is under control of Russia.”

PKK knows Turkey cannot enter Afrin alone because the group has been fighting Turkey for 35 years, Karayilan said.

Afrin, a hilly region that falls in Syria’s northern Aleppo province, is home to more than a million people including displaced families.

Turkey and allied Syrian rebels on Saturday began an air and ground operation, dubbed operation “Olive Branch,” aimed at ousting the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the Kurdish-majority pocket.

Russia on Saturday said its troops were withdrawing from the Afrin region, where they had been stationed to manage a buffer zone between Kurds and Turkish-backed rebels and also train to Kurdish fighters.

In a statement issued late Saturday, the YPG said it would “hold Russia responsible for these attacks just as much as Turkey.”

Turkey vehemently opposes the YPG because of its links to PKK, which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey for three decades.

But the YPG has been the key ally of Turkey’s fellow NATO member, the United States, in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS), playing a key role in pushing the extremists out of their Syrian strongholds.

(NRT)

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The people of Afrin today said no to Turkish occupation and no to Turkish attacks

Last update:
Friday 19 January 2018 10:00 UTC

Thousands of Kurds on Thursday protested in Afrin against Turkish invasion plans, while also denying Turkish claims civilians were fleeing the Syrian canton. “Afrin is a cemetery of Erdogan,” one banner read at the protests.

“The people of Afrin today said no to Turkish occupation and no to Turkish attacks on their ground, against their civilians,” Roj Moussa, 20, a journalist, said after the protests.

“It was a huge protest, despite the rain and wind – I’ve never seen such huge protests before,” he added.

The people of Afrin today said no to Turkish occupation and no to Turkish attacks

– Roj Moussa, Afrin resident and journalist

The protests come after days of mobilisation of Turkish armour and artillery on its border, and threats from Ankara that it will destroy the YPG militia in the canton, which it considers to be a terrorist organisation. Afrin was hit by Turkish artillery on Thursday morning.

The district of Afrin is home to about 500,000 civilians, a population which has doubled with refugees from fighting in other areas of the country.

It has been mostly spared such violence and is protected by the YPG – and the threat of Turkish invasion brings defiance from its people.

Azad, an IT engineer who marched against the Turkish threats on Thursday, said the protest was aimed against the recent shelling of villages by the Turkish army.

“A number of missiles targeted Afrin city centre, but it did not leave much damage,” he said.

“The number of people leaving is limited compared to what the media says,” he said about reports in the Turkish media that people in Afrin were leaving.

A woman holds a picture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan during a rally in Afrin (Reuters)

‘We are not afraid’

According to Serbest, 37, who works at the local university, the Kurds in Afrin will not flee their homes.

“We have our mountains and caves, we will defend and stay. I was a half-hour ago in the streets, life was ordinary, markets were open, young people in the coffee shops,” he said.

“Some expect an attack and others not. But some people are worried.”

Nariman Hesso, a 25-year-old pro-Kurdish journalist, told Middle East Eye that despite Thursday’s shelling “men, women and children came to the streets and sent an answer to Erdogan that they are never afraid”.

“The morale of people is very high and they will never give up their land. We will stand until the end against the Turkish attacks until the last drop of blood in their body,” she said.

The sons and daughters of the entirety of Rojava can resist the Turkish invasion in Afrin

– Roj Moussa, Afrin resident

Roj Moussa added: “Life is normal in Afrin, despite the Turkish occupation threats we are here, and we are here to stay.

“All the attacks in the last four days of the Turkish government made the people more powerful.”

“The sons and daughters of Afrin took part in the liberation of Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, and Manbij. Arin Mirkan [a female fighter from Afrin who died in Kobani in October 2014] was a symbol of the Kobani resistance,” Moussa added.

“The sons and daughters of the entirety of Rojava can resist the Turkish invasion in Afrin,” he added.

YPG and US soldiers have fought side by side against IS in Syria. But the US says it has no interests in Afrin (AFP)

Kurds look to Russia

Anger has also spread in Afrin over the US declaration that it had no interests in Afrin. Mohammed Bilo, another journalist in the canton, said all eyes were on Russia, which has military observers in the area.

“Afrin is under the influence of Russia,” he said.

Abdulkarim Omer, the head of foreign relations for Jazira canton in northern Syria, called on both Russia and the US to pressure Turkey.

“A Turkish attack on Afrin will complicate the crisis in Syria,” he told Middle East Eye. “It will affect the political process. We call on the international community and the US-led coalition to pressure the Turkish government.

“Both Russia and the United States should stop the Turkish government from attacking Afrin.

“Any attack on Afrin means the beginning of the end for the [Russian-sponsored] Sochi talks and the entire negotiations process will return to square one,” he added.

“We hope the international community will not stand still and condemn such attacks and pressure Turkey to reconsider its policies in Syria,” he stated.

Turkish tanks are transported to the border with Afrin (Reuters)

Doubts over Turkish threats

However, Omar Aloush, a senior Kurdish member of the Raqqa civil council, which controls the liberated city, doubts Russia or the US would allow a Turkish invasion.

“The US is trying to adopt a policy of dual containment, to ensure our participation in the war against terrorism, and to ensure Turkey does not support Russia,” he added.

“In the meantime, Russia does not want Turkey to have a larger role [in Syria],” he added.

On Thursday, the Syrian government warned it is ready to destroy Turkish planes should they enter Turkish airspace

“This is a Russian message to avoid an agreement with Turkey [on Afrin],” an anonymous YPG official told MEE.

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KCK: 2018 will be the year of collapse for AKP fascism

KCK Executive Council Co-presidency stated that the struggle of 2018 will bring about the end of AKP-MHP fascism and all other centralist and authoritarian governments in the Middle East.

The statement by KCK stated the following:

“2017 became a year of great struggle for the peoples of Kurdistan and the Middle East that gave a great fight in order for freedom to prevail in the Third World War centred on the Middle East. Peoples of Bakurê (Northern) Kurdîstan and Northern Syria led the struggle for freedom and democracy with the fight they have developed. The uprisings in Bashurê (Southern) Kurdîstan and Iran at the end of the year have manifested all Middle Eastern peoples’ desire for a free and democratic life. The democratic revolution developed in Kurdistan on the path of Leader Apo (Abdullah Öcalan) has spread to entire Middle East. The democratic revolutionary struggles based on Leader Apo’s libertarian ecological democratic society paradigm will continue to be the hope of peoples during 2018 as well.

The despotic, authoritarian and centralist forces of the Middle East will obtain no results no matter how cruelly they might attack the peoples’ freedom and democracy struggle. History and society has risen up in the Middle East. Fascist governments in countries like Turkey cannot achieve a result in spite of all their efforts to oppress the people’s freedom struggle. Despite the fact that Turkey has become the center of Middle Eastern reactionism and despotism, the AKP-MHP government is being through its weakest period, so much so that they are afraid of their own shadow even. A slightest criticism and popular movement shakes the AKP-MHP fascism. This fascism brings about its own end as it increases its repression.”

“AKP GOVERNMENT WILL BE BROUGHT TO AN END”

The statement by KCK Executive Council Co-presidency continued;

“Kurdish people and Turkey’s democratic circles gave a significant struggle during the year of 2017. Guerrilla defeated the attacks of annihilation with the self-sacrificing resistance they mounted, and brought the Turkish state to the brink of economic, social and political collapse. Despite the AKP-MHP fascism trying its best to prevent their collapse by stepping up its chauvinism, the struggle to develop during 2018 will counteract this chauvinism and bring about the end of AKP government.

Peoples of the Middle East want to get rid of despotic, authoritarian and centralist governments. The uprising of people even in the areas of most cruel oppression manifests the fact that such governments will not be able to survive. All centralist authoritarian governments, the fascist AKP-MHP government in the first place, will come to an end.

“2018 WILL BE THE YEAR OF ENHANCING THE STRUGGLE”

Stressing that the peoples of Middle East deserve a free and democratic life with all the sacrifices they have made, KCK said;

“Rojava Revolution and forces of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria have proven that significant gains could be made on the path to a free and democratic life in the event of making sacrifices.

The Middle East has entered a process when history will be re-written with regard to freedom, democracy and societism.

We call upon the peoples of Kurdistan and the entire region to enhance the struggle on the basis of democratic nation perspective and make Middle East a territory of socialist free and democratic life during the year of 2018.”

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MEHMET FUNERAL

On September 26, 2017, whilst he was filming the historic liberation of Raqqa from ISIS and doing media work for the People’s Defense Units (YPG), Mehmet was murdered by the cowardly fascists of ISIS. Mehmet’s blood — just like that of thousands of his fallen comrades — is nourishing the soil of that land, where the determined struggle of the people is forming the foundation of a free and just life, in a time and place of chaos, war and brutality.

Until his last breath, Mehmet lived with the pure joy of having finally reached the lands that realized his utopias: Rojava. He traveled there to become the worthy comrade of the free woman. He documented the lives and struggles of the Kurds, Arabs, Armenians, Turkmen, Chechens, Syriacs and Assyrians fighting side by side against the forces of darkness.

By transforming himself into a militant of justice, a comrade of peoples, a fighter for truth and defender of life, his direct action made him become a realizer of utopias that many no longer dare to dream of. In his own words: “Don’t surrender to capitalism. Don’t surrender to materialism, ugly relationships, lovelessness, disrespect, degeneration and inequality.”

Today, the heroes that have liberated Raqqa are mourning him, as they promise to make him live on in the futures they create in a free Middle East.

It is impossible to tell the story of a twenty-first century revolutionary, of somebody who smiled at death with the knowledge that the future will be ours. The words that could do him justice can only be found in our constant, tireless efforts to resist fascism and keep his struggle alive.

We don’t have the words to describe this historic loss, not even with the ink of our bleeding hearts. With the deepest revolutionary respect, we share a selected excerpt from Mehmet Aksoy’s last letter to his family:

I am writing this letter to you from South Kurdistan. When you read this letter, I will have crossed to West Kurdistan, to Rojava. Don’t be upset with me for not having let you know beforehand; I did not want you to be worried.

In fact, I should have written this letter to you years ago. For years, I kept writing and re-writing this letter over and over again in my head, but I did not want to sadden you. Even at the cost of living in a system that I reject, of being unhappy, I tried to live this life, but I did not succeed. Time is passing now. Now is the time to take more courageous and more determined steps, and I am trying to take those steps.

References to the Kurdish and Turkish revolutionaries Deniz Gezmiş, Mahir Çayan, Ibrahim Kapakkaya, Mazlum Doğan, and Berîtan (Gülnaz Karataş). Mehmet chose his nom-de-guerre — Fîraz Dağ — in honor of his martyred uncle Fîraz, and Halil Dağ, a guerrilla fighter and filmmaker.

In this sense, I am taking these steps and writing this letter not with my own pen, but with the pens of all the Deniz, Mahir, Ibrahim, Mazlum, Berîtan, Fîraz and Leaders and the faith and courage that I have gained from them. I want you to understand this.Do you know that my return to the homeland is above all for the liberation of women? I have come here to support, live with, and be in common struggle with the women who resist, fight and create a new, free life with their own hands.

Lastly, I can say this: from now on, I want to live my future life in my own country, up close with my own people. An infinite amount of labor, events, love, pain, happiness, thought, people and hope that have all made me who I am pushed me towards this decision. It could not have happened otherwise. I have never lived for individual things, for money, for power, for force or material things. Since my childhood, I have always sought, created and tried to increase love, friendship and sharing. And I am lucky, I have had very beautiful friends. I am sending them my greetings and love from here. Each one of them is invaluable to me. However, I have found the most beautiful friendship in this movement, in this party. I am above all here for that comradeship. And of course, connected to that, for all our martyrs and our leader, who have created this comradeship.

It is serving this movement and people, which provides me with the most valuable and meaningful form of happiness. I hope I can live up to it. Don’t worry about me.

In the wish to meet again in a free country, with a free leader…

Your son, your big brother, who loves you to eternity,
Mehmet

The REVOLUTION IN ROJAVA – Documents and Debates PART II (2017)

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PKK’s Karayılan: Turkish army can’t fight against the YPG

Turkish army has no strength to attack Efrîn and can’t fight against the YPG, PKK’s Murat Karayılan said.

In an interview with Radio Dengê Welat, PKK Executive Committee member Karayılan said that Turkey has no strength to attack Efrîn citing Turkish army’s operation against 70 YPS fighters which lasted more than 9 months.

“They make it seem like the Turkish state will enter Efrîn in an instant if they attack Efrîn. The whole world should know that the Turkish army doesn’t have such strength. There is no such situation. The people of Efrîn and everybody should know that this army couldn’t enter Şirnex for 9 months, couldn’t enter Nusaybin for 9 months. The Turkish army has come down with Nusaybin syndrome. How could they enter Efrîn immediately? 60-70 YPS guards defended Nusaybin. This army failed to enter Bab, they only could enter with Russian help. They dealt with Bab for 3 months and they couldn’t enter. They were left powerless. They make it seem like they could enter Efrîn any time they want. In Efrîn the YPG/YPJ has experience, there is the SDF. There have been such diverse experiences. They defeated ISIS when nobody could go near them. They took the capital of ISIS. The Turkish army can’t fight against the YPG. If the people and the YPG are united, they can’t handle them. If they come they will lose. They will experience a historic defeat. They will come and see. They have threats, they can come and prove it” Karayılan said.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

“We believe that the patriotic people of Efrîn will stand with the fighters with their courage, sacrifice and their experience and nobody will be able to handle them. The Turkish army for sure won’t be able to take it over. They will be broken. That is apparent. How can a force that couldn’t enter Nusaybin for 9 months enter Efrîn? There are such a large group of forces in Efrîn, there are so many patriotic people. There are the Arab people. There is the resistance of peoples. Faced with the resistance of peoples, fascist Tayyip Erdoğan’s threats won’t prevail. But there is this, they are trying to create a psychology in people, they are engaged in psychological warfare. They make it seem like they are so strong. Now they are at Russia’s feet, so Russia will approve their entrance. So they can fight and fly their planes. They are depending completely on Russia. If the Turkish state attacks Efrîn, that will mean that Russia also approves of that. Without approval from Russia and the US, Turkey is nothing. Russia greenlighted Bab to get gangs out of Aleppo. We don’t know what Russia will ask for in return if they greenlight the attack on Efrîn. But Turkey could do anything. That could be expected of Tayyip Erdoğan. I said Erdoğan is a salesman. He could do anything to make people forget about his thievery and to prevent his collapse. He could even put his honor up for sale. These people are like this. That is why one should expect anything from them, but should not fear. If they come, they will get their answer.”

“EFRIN WON’T BE ALONE!”

“If such a situation does emerge, I believe that all Kurds and all the public will come together around Efrîn. Efrîn won’t be alone. There will be a great strength behind it. Like the support behind Kobanê was strong, there will be a great force behind Efrîn. The whole world will support this. History will be made there again. That is our hope and our belief. With this hope and belief, we salute the people of Efrîn. We expect great things from them, and they are candidates for making history. The forces there issue statements that fit this framework. We can see that they will prevail. How do we know? From practice. The practice of Turkey and the Turkish army is known. They can’t just go in and take over. They don’t have the strength for it. On the other hand, the status of Rojava Kurdistan and the resistance of YPG-YPJ militants are also known. Comparing these, we can say that the Turkish state will experience a great rupture when they go there.”

“TURKISH STATE BOMBED XAKURKE OUT OF FEAR”

On midnight December 14, there was an intense bombing by jet fighters on Xakurke. Aerial attacks started first in Geliyê Reş, Kaniya Reş, Evdalkovî and Desta Heyatê. Then there was an invasion attempt against areas under Southern Kurdistan sovereignty officially, known as the Southern Kurdistan territories. Now there are the Siro Hill and Mavan skirts in Deşta Heyatê. They entered those areas, but there are no guerillas there. It’s not high ground, it’s like a plateau. So it’s on the Xakurkê side, but it’s not Xakurkê. But the enemy bombed Xakurkê out of fear, and in the meantime they advanced their soldiers on that plain. They are holding the Siro Hill. It was empty in any case. There were no guerilla forces there. That’s the deal. It’s not clear if this will expand and spread into Xakurkê as an operation. If they turn towards Xakurkê, there will undoubtedly be great resistance. There will be war. It’s not that easy, or possible for that matter, to enter Xakurkê. There will be a great war. But now they are close. They passed Geliyê Reş and the Heci Beg river, they arrived and are holding that area. That is a hill in the South. According to rumors among the people, the Southern Kurdistani and Iraqi governments are aware of the situation, and they haven’t reacted at all. That might very well be true. Why did they come and hold this hill? This hill is on a triangle. To hold the whole region, all entrances and exits under control over the South line, to control all movement.

“TURKEY IS DEFEATED BY KURDISH STRUGGLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST”

The Turkish state and the AKP-MHP government are at their worst period. Their Rojava policies haven’t amounted to anything. Their Middle East policies have collapsed in general. The core of their Middle Eastern policies was anti-Kurdishness. And they failed at that. They had geared their policies towards Kurds not achieving any status in the process of change and transformation in the whole region. They even wanted to clamp on the status in Southern Kurdistan and weaken it. This is not the first time we are talking about this. We have been saying these things for the last 4-5 years. Look, some opportunities came along, the Southern Kurdistan politics had some mistakes, the Turkish state intervened immediately, they went to Iran and Iraq and formed an alliance. They did all that they could to weaken the status of Southern Kurdistan.

“The Turkish state sees their success in the defeat of the Kurds’ gains. Despite that, if you go to their feet that doesn’t mean anything. There is no place for such acts in politics. As it is known, they employ the same oppositional politics against Rojava as well. As we said before, they employed the same policies in Cizre and Silopi too. Now they employ the same policies everywhere. But they have been defeated. They have lost against Rojava. From the beginning, they used Al-Nusra and the groups who called themselves the “Free Syrian Army”. Until 2014. They were defeated. Then they deployed ISIS, which has also been defeated. Now they come out themselves. With gangs under their control. Everybody knows that they don’t constitute a will, they are agents, they are mercenaries and paramilitary forces.”

“The Turkish state failed in their Middle East policies, in Syria, against Kurds, in the North, in Rojava. Their policies against Kurds and Kurdistan have failed. Now they are attempting to cover up their defeat and their thievery with an operation. Why? See, now there is the Reza Zarrab case in the US. This case is about Tayyip Erdoğan in particular. The crimes and the thievery of Tayyip Erdoğan and his network can be seen clearly. The AKP and Tayyip Erdoğan are deeply afraid of this.”

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IS-fighting British man Jac Holmes killed in Syria

Jac YPG

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A British man who has been fighting so-called Islamic State in Syria has been killed while clearing landmines in Raqqa, the BBC understands.

Jac Holmes had been fighting with Kurdish militia the YPG since 2015.

Kurdish representatives in the UK said they had been told by YPG officials the former IT worker from Bournemouth was killed while he was clearing an area to make it safe for civilians.

His mother, Angie Blannin, said the 24-year-old had been a “hero in my eyes”.

She told the BBC: “He loved what he was doing there, he loved being a soldier. He had the courage of his convictions.

“He was just a boy when he left the UK, a little bit lost. He told me he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. But by going out there, he found something that he was good at and that he loved.”

Ms Blannin said she had not seen Jac for over a year, but that they regularly kept in touch online and had been making plans for him coming home.

“He stuck by his convictions because he wanted to be there and he wanted to see the end of Raqqa and to see the end of the caliphate. That was a moment in history, and he wanted to be part of it.”

“We thought with any luck he’d be home for Christmas. It had been so tough since he had been away but I was always 100% behind him.”

“After all this, he had said he might go into politics, or perhaps into close protection security. He’d seen so much for a boy of his age.”

Ozkan Ozdil, who also fought with Mr Holmes in Syria, told the BBC his friend had become well-known and respected among Kurdish fighting units.

He said: “Everybody knew Jac. By his third tour out there his Kurdish was fluent. We had a bit of a laugh that he was my Kurdish translator.

“He spoke so fondly about Rojava [the name given to the Kurdish region of north east Syria]. He was the reason that made me want to go.”

Mr Holmes also was known by his Kurdish nom de guerre Sores Amanos – “sores” meaning “revolution”.

He was one of a number of British volunteers who travelled out to fight against IS with the Kurds during the Syrian conflict.

As a former IT worker, Mr Holmes had no prior military training, but he became one of the longest-serving foreign volunteers in the conflict.

Since 2015, he had travelled to fight with the Kurds three times, and spent more than a year there on his third trip.

“He loved being out there, he loved the people around him. He had a purpose and he was happy,” said Mr Ozdil.

Mr Holmes fought in operations to push IS out of key towns and villages including Tel Hamis, Manbij, Tabqa and Raqqa.

He always knew he could face arrest from UK authorities for fighting abroad, but had previously told the BBC “you just have to hope that our justice system works in the correct way”.

During the battle for the IS stronghold of Raqqa, he became part of a four-man sniper unit made up of international fighters who, like him, had joined the conflict voluntarily.

In the “223 YPG Sniper Unit” Mr Holmes fought alongside three others from Spain, the US and Germany.

As the fighting for Raqqa intensified, the unit had some narrow escapes.

He described on Facebook how they had survived coming close to IS car bombs and being ambushed by jihadist fighters.

On Sunday, Mr Holmes posted video of himself on Facebook walking into Raqqa’s central sports stadium for the first time since the battle for the city ended.

He wrote: “We spent weeks seeing this place from hundreds of metres away. It was strange walking the streets and finally going inside.”

During his time in Syria, he conducted many interviews with various media outlets, even appearing on Kurdish television outlets giving interviews in Kurdish.

Through his media appearances and the amount of interest in the exploits of this young man from Bournemouth, Mr Holmes drew wider attention to the role the Kurds were playing in the conflict.

Another friend from London, Alan Sahin, told the BBC: “We could see how much he grew up while he was out there. He found his purpose there. He turned from a young lad into a man.”

‘Respect, admiration’

Jac

Jac Holmes with UK YPJ Volunteer Kimmie Taylor.

He described how a close circle had had the news of his death relayed to them from Syria just as they were attending Parliament on Monday evening for a Kurdish event.

“It’s gut-wrenching, as Raqqa had just finished,” said Mr Sahin. “Jac would have gone on to do good things.”

The Home Office has warned against all travel to Syria.

Other former British YPG fighters, along with others who knew Mr Holmes, gathered at the Kurdish Community Centre on Monday evening to pay tribute to their friend and comrade.

Mr Sahrin said “At his age, to go into a war zone with no experience, ask anyone else in Britain and they’d say you’re insane. But there he was, he went out there and was doing it. Even though he knew the danger, you couldn’t help but feel he was brave. I had respect for him, admiration even.”

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The honourable child of his country, Martyr Fîraz Dağ

“The system that oppresses us is global. The system that oppresses us is united and in solidarity with each other. So we need to be in solidarity with each other against the same system that oppresses us”, said Fîraz, calling for greater solidarity.

YPG Press Office released the following statement announcing the martyrdom of Fîraz Dağ (Mehmet Aksoy), founder and editor-in-chief of Kurdish Question, in YPG ranks.

The martyr is the reason for a rose to blossom in the midst of vineyards made from ashes. The martyr is a bright dawn to the skies of thirsty and exhausted geography; so that rain falls, so that life will blossom again. This is the story of Kurdistan and its martyrs. The martyrs are the greatest living thing of a people who turned from the gloomy sleep and stepped into the struggle for freedom. The martyr is the hope of awakening, struggle, self-sacrifice and success. The Kurdish people, who were on the way to dying out with the attacks of the invading barbarians, found their hope of life and freedom in the personality of the martyrs.

Fîraz Dağ (Mehmet Aksoy) was from the Elbistan district of Northern Kurdistan in Maraş province. He grew up London after his family’s migration to Europe. Since the early years of his youth, he has never been separated from the path of anti-capitalist, democracy and human rights struggle as part of the rightful struggle of the Kurdish people. Especially after the Şengal massacre on August 3, 2014, he ceaselessly carried out work and gave all his effort to inform and organize the Kurdish community and many others.

He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Kurdish Question, which examines the problems of the Kurdish people and other ethnic groups, and has managed the virtual platform for a long time. He completed university education on film making and took his place in many literary organizations. He produced pieces in cinema, literature and other fields of art with a series of short films, poems, and poetry. He wrote evaluations and managed the internet platform Kurdish Question, where he gave a lot of space to explain and advocate the Kurdish Freedom Movement, the Rojava revolution and the women’s struggle to the international community.

“The system that oppresses us is global. The system that oppresses us is united and in solidarity with each other. So we need to be in solidarity with each other against the same system that oppresses us”, said Martyr Fîraz, calling for greater solidarity among oppressed nations.

With a heart beating with the passion of freedom for his people, Comrade Fîraz felt the longing for freedom in Kurdistan, and while his patriotism lived at the deepest level, he kept this spirit alive and never let go of his identity. He became the loud and clear voice of his people when they were massacred in Kurdistan, because he wanted the whole world to find out about these atrocities. When Kobanê was attacked by Daesh gangs in 2014, he led the Kurdish people in London’s streets and train stations with great determination and willpower. He believed strongly that the YPJ and the free women of Rojava was a beacon and model to the Middle East, and told, through his words, about their revolution.

MEHMET ASKOYComrade Fîraz came to the conclusion that the freedom and hope of a free life were under the philosophy of the Freedom Movement and Leader Apo. He was in search of the free life and found it in Leader Apo’s ideas. Although Fîraz grew up in England, one of the centres of the capital system, nothing but revolutionary life could satisfy him. So, on his way to the source of free ideas, he came to his country. Comrade Fîraz, who could not accept for himself a life in the midst of Modern Slavery, headed to Rojava in order to record the Kurdistan Revolution into history with a pen and camera.

He felt the need to show greater action for the social and political revolution in Rojava, the need to respond greatly to the invader and reactionary attacks. Because of this, he could not be satisfied with his studies abroad, he directed his feet to his country. After the air attacks on the mountain of Qereçox on April 25, 2017, by the occupying Turkish state, he became clear on this point and made the decision to go there. YPG press members were martyred in the Qereçox mountain, Fîraz immediately took his place in the YPG press centre in order to take on the role of these friends and become a voice to the people and comrades, in order to tell the world about the injustice. Comrade Fîraz left a picture of a treasure to humanity and the freedom fighters through his military uniform, his weapon and camera on his shoulders, a picture that will remain in the hearts of his comrades at all times.

Comrade Fîraz was carrying out all his work in English in order to introduce the whole world to the truths of the revolution and make the occupation and exploitation of the Kurdish people visible. Comrade Martyr Fîraz worked day and night to record the lives of the fighters from the human, social, democratic, cultural and moral aspects. Finally, in order to watch his comrades in the battle against Daesh reactionism and share it with the whole world, he participated in the operations of Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zor and recorded the struggle moment by moment.

On the morning of September 26, he reached martyrdom in the vicious attack of the Daesh gangs while on duty in Raqqa.

Martyr Fîraz Dağ, by taking on the free press and revolutionary art tradition of Martyr Halil Dağ comrade, successfully represented him in Rojava. In a short time he made places in the hearts of his comrades and became loved by everyone. Under all kinds of harsh conditions, for months he witnessed the emotions, excitement and joys of the fighters in the battle fronts. He was one of those who reflected the new era of the Kurdistan Freedom Movement to the world.

We will adhere to the struggle and life line of our comrades martyred at such a time; we repeat the word that we will walk and fight like them and reach victory. On the way of Comrade Fîraz; we will grow and strengthen our struggle in the free press line. As Kurdistan’s freedom fighters, we will undoubtedly triumph in our struggle. Because our life philosophy consists of struggle for the sake of a free life. It is resistance against the persecution of the cruel. As this philosophy continues to live in the minds and hearts, the tyrants will never win!

The ID information of our martyr is as following;

Nom de Guerre: Fîraz Dağ

Name Surname: Mehmet Aksoy

Mother’s Name: Zeynep

Father’s Name: Kalender

Date and Place of Birth: Malatya, 1985

Date and Place of Martyrdom: 26-09-2017 Raqqa

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Interview with an anarchist who fought in Rojava

Comrade Berhadan. an anarchist from Spain, gave an interview about how he had spent a few months fighting against ISIS and why Western anarchists are preparing for the battle that has already happened. This is a translation from the book “Life without a state: The Revolution in Kurdistan” which was published in Russia in 2017. The book’s principal contributors are:

Dmitry Okrest – the RBC correspondent, who also works with magazines OpenDemocracy, GQ and New Times. He writes about political radicals, the Caucasus and Middle East.

Dmitry Petrov – a researcher of The Institute for African Studies of the Russian academy of studies, PhD in history.

Maxim Lebsky – a historian, the author of “Kurds. Lost in the Middle East” and “Turkey. On the Fault Line of History” books.

The book’s contributors – anthropologists, sociologists, journalists and political activists – talk not only about armed resistance to the hordes of religious fanatics but also about social ideals for which local people abandoned the state and took up arms. More information about book here. Information how to buy — commonplace1959(A)gmail(.)com or heval_rusi(A)riseup(.)net 

“WHEN THEY TRUST YOU — THEY WILL MAKE YOU THEIR BELOVED FRIEND”

Why did you decide to come to Rojava? What inspired you to make that decision?

The Kobane city resistance was the decisive moment for me. Back then we all heard about the people’s militia and civilians fighting in the streets of Kobane. They chanted: «Kobane will be the tomb of fascism!», «no pasarán!» and other antifascist slogans referring to the Spanish Civil War. Mass media and military experts had claimed that the Kobane resistance would fall within 4 days, but it did not. Back in those days we were under the influence of what had happened in Ukraine after the Maydan revolt and in Syria after the revolution. Although we knew very little about Kurdish stateless society ideas, some of us decided to take part in it.

What were the main problems you faced there? Was it easy to find mutual understanding with the local people?  

The main problem was the language barrier. Very few people speak English there. You need to spend a few months before you start to understand Kurmanji. At least for me it was the case, maybe others have better language learning skills. The attitude towards international volunteers differs from group to group. In some groups you might feel a bit overprotected while in others there’s a feeling of real brotherhood. During the first couple of months you learn how to live amongst them, how to solve problems at the assembly. And when they begin to trust you, when they learn about your revolutionary ideas, when they see you take fighting seriously, you have self-discipline, then they make you their beloved friend. In general Kurdish people are very friendly, they help you a lot from day one.

“THE RESISTANCE WORKS AS A CULTURE SCHOOL”

How many anarchists are there? What organizations or anarchist groups do they represent?

Now is not the same as in the beginning of the Kobane Commune and the Tell Abyad operations. Now there are more people who came there just to fight ISIS rather than represent certain political groups. There I met about a dozen of anarchists from the West. Some of them are connected to certain anarchist organizations, but I don’t know if they want me to be public about it. Also, lots of Turkish anarchists were involved in the actions near the border during the Kobane resistance. There were a lot of international volunteers with different ideas, from marxists to the apolitical who just had a sense of social justice. Now we have created the libertarianbrigades.noblogs.org blog to give them a voice, support and opportunity to discuss.

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What do the Kurds think about anarchism?

There’s a difference between the Kurds who come from the mountains, a.k.a guerrillas, and the ones from Rojava or Bakur (Turkey). The mountain folk, they understand anarchism and accept it, especially young people. Their political knowledge is excellent. The Kurds from Rojava are politically unaware. They grew up during the Syrian regime so they know very little even about Apo’s ideas. They are only learning now about culture and politics, at the YPG/YPJ institutions. The resistance works as a culture school.

The Kurds from Turkish towns and the Turks themselves are more into marxist ideas. Although they feel affinity with anarchist ideas too. The PKK ideology was developed as a way to criticize Marxism-Leninism, so now the movement is open to new anti-authoritarian concepts.

Have many of them actually read works of Murray Bookchin, the latest works of Ocalan or do they just believe it is a good thing?

I’ve met a guerrilla commander who identifies himself as an anarchist, his ideas were based on M. Bookchin and N. Chomsky works. These authors are known among the Kurds, definitely. I have also met a Kurdish fighter who admired Peter Kropotkin’s work (a Russian anarchist). He was very interested in anarchist atheism as well. I’ve met fighters from Georgia, Armenia, Iran, who agree with anarchist ideas too.

It is as in the classical revolutionary concept of anarchism. Although they don’t like other types of «anarchism” that they have heard of “Anarchists” like western youths who drink alcohol and have weird haircuts. They know about that and they are prejudiced against that. They stand against this kind of self-expression, individualism and pseudo-radicalism. Another criticism I received was that some of them would say: “Yes, anarchism is a good idea but it is not a real political alternative”. They recognize Democratic Confederalism as a real alternative. They believe it lies beyond marxism, anarchism or any -ism.

What kind of solidarity actions for people outside Rojava would be the most useful to take, in your opinion?

I think at the moment the most important action to take would be generating pressure against the Turkish state. Kurdish organizations get a lot of support so, considering our limited resources, maybe it would be better to focus on supporting our comrades fighting there or specific anarchist organizations in Turkey, Iran and all over the Middle East in general. It is important not to focus just on the Kurds. It’s a trap created by western mass-media. Social uprisings take place in different states of the Middle East and we must support them.

The only thing our Kurdish friends say we should do in our own countries, is that we must organize revolutionary movements, fight, and develop communal relations. It’s a simple way: organize self-rule to take care of our daily necessities in a participative form; organize self-defense to gain strength so that we can defend ourselves and our territories.This can be done on every level, from a small community or collective to a neighborhood, a city or the entire region. So, let’s do it!

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“AGAINST THE STATE, AGAINST THE AUTHORITY, ONLY ALLAH”

Have you had an opportunity to communicate with Assyrians, Arabs, Armenians and those people who have been recently liberated from ISIS?

I was in contact with some Syrian activists before coming to Rojava, some of them identified themselves as anarchists. They were fighting in the FSA. Then in Rojava I was fighting alongside Burkan al Firat (ex-FSA) freedom fighters and it was a good experience. I understood their simple idea of «against the state, against the authority, only Allah». I’ve met a few revolutionaries from Armenia but they weren’t local. They fought in HPG guerrilla groups for some time.

There are talks of ethnic cleansing as well as an anti-Arabic and anti-Turkmen line of the Kurdish movement. Participation of some Arab people in the movement is sometimes called a cover to hide racism and discrimination. Are these charges based on reality?

Some Kurds may express racism. This happens because they have suffered repressions from Arab states, from their policies of arabization which encouraged Arab colonization in Kurdish areas. The same applies to the Turks and the Turkish state. This issue is about nationalism. Most Arabs in the region are Syrian nationalists, most Turks are Turkish nationalists. Besides that, ISIS attacks contribute to a climate of ethnic hate .

However, the Kurdish movement and their organizations are not involved in this. They do try to create a political system without racism and invite everyone to be involved regardless of their ethnicity or social status. Ideas of KCK-PKK work as a cultural school for the population, they work against racism. This is a genuine attempt, they do make a significant effort to stop ethnic hatred. Even so, it is clearly not the easiest time to find mutual reconciliation.

The Islamic State has support among some of the Arab population, especially amongst the middle-class and landowners. Moreover, in some areas the Arab population suffered the consequences of the war only after the Kurds defeated ISIS. Enemies use this against YPG. Yet a lot of Arabs fight against ISIS and work together with Kurds in order to create a confederal system.

There is no problem for me to talk openly about the fact that we entered houses abandoned by ISIS supporters, we took stuff for the resistance and for poor families. We seized buildings and land for common use. I have not seen any discrimination of the Arab population, only some bad words and shots in the air when civilians tried to enter the battlefield. ISIS suicide bombers naturally made people paranoid. As a result, Arab people got searched more carefully at checkpoints.

I witnessed military mistakes that caused civilian casualties, and I cannot justify it nor lie about it. ISIS tactics are based on using suicidal car bombings, mines and using civilians as human shield. I can honestly say that the YPG are not aggressors who attack civilians, but the war must end. Any kind of war, even defensive or revolutionary war, cause pain and suffering to people.

“THE ECONOMY IS CONTROLLED”

Have you had an opportunity to learn more about the local economic system? The news is very controversial: on the one hand there is cooperative development, on the other hand – private property still exists. Please explain the relationship between “socialism” and “capitalism” in this system. What about exploitation and wage labour?

To be honest I spent very little time in peaceful areas: a few weeks in Kobane after the liberation, the city was devastated after the war, the economy was just reviving. In Jazira canton the economy is doing better because the war didn’t affect it that much, there are also different political powers active, not just PKK. I know it’s a mixed system with elements of both capitalism and socialism.

This is caused by the low level of political culture. The Rojava system is moderate, PKK/KCK do not want to force elements of communism against people’s will. It’s rather a system that gives people an opportunity to develop their political culture and be a part of it. Cooperatives keep appearing, some land gets collectivized, the economy is controlled so it’s neither liberal capitalism nor communism.

Some comrades do a very good job of analyzing the economic and political aspects. People who want to see just a class revolution would be disappointed. Their minds are imprisoned by obsolete ideas. All of this is the consequence of Syrian and Middle East Arab social revolts. The main idea was freedom and social justice, the war against tyranny and repression. This allowed the creation of space for the Kurds, the opportunity to defend their autonomous territory. The main source of inspiration for the Kurdish people is their ethnic identity which has been threatened for centuries now. Kurds have been fighting for decades against every state in the region, so now they have formed the confederal system that made it possible to ensure genuine civil rights, equality of men and women as well as participatory democracy. That happened in the region where Kurds are forced to live a poor life, are not recognized as an ethnicity, their language is forbidden.

Концерт левого ансамбля Grup Yorum в Стамбуле

 “EUROCENTRISM IS AUTHORITARIANISM”

The Kurdish movement is often accused of “collaboration with imperialist powers”, with the US and at the same time – with Russia and the Assad regime. What are your thoughts on this?

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the Kurdish organizations in north Syria have been making certain pacts with the Syrian regime as a way of retaining the balance of power. As well as this they fought against the Syrian army and took part in demonstrations and blockades.

With the help of those pacts, the Syrian state created a safety zone against Turkey which supports Syrian nationalists and the islamist opposition.  The Assad regime avoids confrontation with well organized Kurdish militias. The Kurds protected their cities from airstrikes using those agreements. Airstrikes were to be focused on civilian buildings using the logic: “Assad or we will burn it all the ground”. I acknowledge this as a strategy; we must understand that the Syrian opposition fell under islamist and nationalist control and they do not recognize Kurdish autonomy which made the Kurds a third party from the beginning.

However the Kurdish people and their organizations do not like the Syrian state nor the Assad regime, they always say harsh things about them. The city of Qamishli is divided between the regime zones and the Kurdish zones. A few skirmishes have happened, the situation is very intense.

An alliance with the US was meant to help in fighting against ISIS, which was made possible by growing public pressure in the Western countries. Thanks to this, they survived and we defeated ISIS. This is the truth. Now they are negotiating with Assad and Russian intervenors again. It is difficult for us to support that but they need to survive, it’s the only option other than genocide or living like refugees forever. The Kurds will pact with anyone who can help them, but at the same time they will fight fiercely against anyone who attacks them.

Some anarchists are convinced new libertarian ideas of PKK are there to disguise the old authoritarian ideology of this party. Some people insist that anti-authoritarian ideas cannot be brought from “above”. Like in the case with PKK, Abdullah Ocalan is the person who changed the movement’s ideology on his own. 

It’s not an ideological shift. They were expressing those ideas initially, but in their early years there was a significant influence from USSR and national liberation movements. One of the best things about this revolutionary movement is their ability to criticize, including self-criticism. Because of that, they’ve managed to avoid the mistakes of marxism, marxism-leninism, the national liberation concept, authority, and their early ideas.

These ideas came from «above» because there are people with a higher level of political culture. Kurdish people are poor, they have no access to culture, we can’t expect them to do a complex radical political analysis of the history of patriarchy, classical philosophy, the formation of states and different socialist movements. There are no social movements. Only recently the Kurds were able to meet and discuss. The ideas come from the guerrilla, from the resistance. These structures are very interested in creating participatory forms of discussion; they developed a common idea which emphasized the importance of subjectivity and consensus. Therefore, those ideas didn’t come from “above”, it’s a common development.

The ideas are not artificial. They represent Kurdish people’s perceptions, including the sense of community and being nature-friendly.

That’s if we talk about «pure» PKK-KCK ideas. Not every kurd understands these complex things hence there are different tendencies. We must be accurate when we talk about KCK because it’s a name of a real organization. If we criticize PKK party structure, then I don’t understand why we continue talking about PKK in the same way the mass media and the Turkish state do. They mention PKK’s name to explain the confederal model. KCK and PKK are popular names but when you talk with the commanders, and attend lessons in YPG, they insist KCK should be mentioned in terms of explaining the confederative model. It’s not a mask.

Criticism of the western radical left and anarchists can be very destructive. They say: “PKK is authoritarian, we should not support them, and that’s all fake”. They accuse PKK of libertarian change as a strategy to win the population’s sympathy. Bullshit! Being an anarchist is not the best way to come to an agreement with the rest of our modern society! Of course it isn’t utopian there. They have a military structure, there are different parties and organizations, but we must support these libertarian tendencies and their evolution.

Учредительная встреча НОРД

What are your thoughts on the ideological shift of PKK that you could see for yourself?

Those ideas didn’t come from Ocalan alone. The Kurdish revolutionary movement have a method of forming their ideology. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s not like Ocalan wrote something and the whole KCK accepts it because he is the leader. It’s more about communicating, discussing, criticizing and being open to self-criticism. They have formed their own method of common thinking. It’d be fair to say these ideas about confederalism, radical anti-patriarchy, anti-authoritarian views come from KCK and HPG/YJA Star umbrella organizations which consist of guerrilla fighters who have read and studied a lot about philosophy, history, political and economical concepts. Everyone puts their ideas together, then Ocalan and other intellectuals act like guides. In that sense the Kurdish leaders are developing an ideological model based on Kurdish nature, in accordance with pre-capitalist communal society ideas.

These guerrilla “leaders” don’t want to be bosses or presidents, they only want to study different philosophical movements, history, politics to bring liberation tools to their people. They want to be close with nature with no material possessions and fight until they die to protect people’s freedom. It’s really interesting even from an anthropological point of view. It’s difficult for us to understand because we are infected with western prejudices. We don’t trust in Kurdish revolutionaries because we don’t trust in others. This is because we don’t trust in those who are different and this is our problem.

We must also speak about other ideological leaders like Sakine Cansiz, a woman, the concept of Jineology or woman liberation sociology, a call to revive living in the rural areas, break the urban way of life and industrial production. The Kurdish movement has a lot of interesting things. Anarchists should support this interpenetration because no one else would. We must promote these tendencies. If we attack them instead, we would be attacking the development of libertarian ideas in other societies.

Eurocentrism is authoritarianism, a lot of so-called revolutionaries and anarchists are bringing it to life. Anarchism and socialism are concepts from European history and culture. In other parts of the world the people have their right to develop their own liberation ideas, not to adapt the Western ideas. I’m talking about examples like Zapatistas, Mapuches, the MEND in Nigeria, and many others.

Now the situation is changing, the «Rojava spring» has finished. There is only war and political pacts left. Of course there are opportunities to develop social projects, but I’m talking about revolutionary intervention, action, it should be rapid. Making this happen we can support libertarian forces and anti-authoritarian sides. Their ideas will be a real power in current event. Freedom and liberation have a lot of enemies, and it is our responsibility to defend them.

We must be prepared for the next situation to support our friends from the beginning, not waiting for years to see what happens. We lost the opportunity to support anti-authoritarian revolutionaries in Syria, we came late to support the Kurdish people in Kobane and we were fighting there without any support. Before that, we hadn’t done enough to support anarchists in Ukraine and Egypt during their revolts. Now there is an insurrection in Turkey and there are signs that a global conflict will be growing. So be ready to act in any part of the world!

Курды танцуют говенд в Шейх Максуде (Алеппо)

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We, supporters of Rojava, should be worried about its partnership with the United States.

category Thursday May 18, 2017 12:50author by Zaher Baherauthor email Zaarif1 at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address UK Report this post to the editors

This article covers the current military situation in Rojava. While the PYD and Syrian Democratic Party are getting closer and closer to UNited States some of the anarchists and anarchist-communists are happy with that . The Article tries to bring the attention of those anarchists that the partnership between them is in the interest of US and its allies in Europe and the region . In the end, Rojava, might lose what it has been achieved so far.

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We, supporters of Rojava, should be worried about its partnership with the United States.
By: Zaher Baher
17th May 2017
The political and military balance in Syria is constantly changing. Relations between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), co-founded by People’s Protection Units (YPG), and in turn Russia and US constantly ebb and flow. The dynamic behind these changes has very little to do with ISIS. In fact, it all depends on the respective interests of the great powers and their struggle against one another to establish predominant power there.
The past year has seen a steady erosion of the US position in Syria vis-à-vis Russia, who has since overtaken it. Russia’s heavy involvement in Syria and becoming a major ally with Turkey has changed many things. The relative inactivity of the USA has given the opportunity to Russia, Turkey and Iran to play a significant role in making decisions there.
Under Trump’s new administration this has changed somewhat. He probably has a different approach to Syria. While US still is one of the major powers in the world, it cannot sit and do nothing in the region especially in Syria.
After a long pause, Trump has decided to ally with SDF against ISIS to defeat them in Raqqa regardless of Turkey’s position and reaction. Trump has now approved a deal to supply arms including heavy weapons to SDF directly, seeing them as the most effective and reliable force especially after the SDF capture of Tabqa City from ISIS. The US administration is at present more than any other time determined in recapturing Raqqa, the ISIS de facto capital. It is now quite clear that the US administration and SDF and the People’s Democratic Party (PYD) are getting very close to one another to the point that SDF strife to achieve what the US wants to achieve, even though this can be at the expenses of what have been achieved so far in Rojava.
We supporters of Rojava should be very worried about the current development in relation to Democratic Self-administration and the Movement of Society (Tev-Dem). We should be concerned because of the following consequences:
First: It is a matter of influence for the US while seeing that Russia almost controlled the situation and managed to take Turkey onto its own side. US wants to be very active before losing its power there. It wants to play the major role and achieve its own goal, this can be only done through SDF and PYD. There is no doubt that the US is more concerned about its own interests rather than Kurdish interests in Rojava.
Second: To contain SDF and PYD, to make them a tool by using them for their own interest. This is the best way to make PYD and SDF lose their credibility in Syria, the region, Europe and elsewhere.
Third: The current attitude of the US towards Rojava and arming SDF directly might be an effort to cut them off from PKK and decrease PKK influence over developments in Rojava.
Fourth: There is no doubt that whatever happens will now make Turkey more furious against both YPG and PKK. This could create a greater backlash from Turkey. It may repeat last month’s military operations against YPG or even extend these military operations into Rojava and against YPG & PKK in Shangal, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Fifth: With Russia’s displeasure against the SDF and PYD, Assad could be influenced to change Syria’s attitude towards them in the future if not now. If Rojava had chosen the Russian side instead of USA, it could have been much better because Russia is more reliable as an ally than the US. It looks like Assad will stay in power after the defeat of ISIS. Assad normally listens to Russia very diligently. In this case, there was a greater chance under pressure of Russia that Assad would have let Rojava pursue a better future than what US and Western countries may decide for them.
Sixth: Intensifying and prolonging the current war causing Rojava a great deal of dislocation. Continuation of the war costs SDF so many lives and makes them weaker and weaker. The stronger and the bigger the size of SDF in Rojava is, the more it must necessarily be dependent on one of the major power, in the meantime Rojava will be weaker. The more SDF achieves militarily, the more socially and economically can actually be lost in Rojava. The more powerful SDF and PYD become, the less power the local self-administration and Tev-Dem will have. The number of SDF fighters alone is estimated to be 50,000. Just imagine even 10.000 instead of working militarily, working in the fields and cooperatives or building school, hospitals, parks and houses, by now Rojava would have been somewhere else.

Seventh: Often I have mentioned in my articles that a successful Rojava – successful in the way we were hoping – depended on a couple of factors or as a minimum one to preserve the experiment. One was expanding Rojava’s movement at least to a couple of more countries in the region. The other factor was international solidarity. However, neither happened. If one thing can now preserve Rojava, it is ISIS and the opposition forces in Syria holding out against the odds. In short only a prolonged anti-ISIS military campaign can preserve Rojava.

In my opinion after defeating ISIS in Kobane’s region, YPG should have suspended it military operations except in self-defence of its establish perimeter. After defeating ISIS in Kobane region and the greater intervention of US and Russia, UPG and PYD should have withdrawn from the war. PYD should have dealt with the situation better and withdrawn from power for Tev-Dem and let the rest of the population to make their own decisions about peace and war. Clearly the current nature, direction and the potential course of the present war in Rojava has completely changed. It is a war of the major powers, European governments and the regional governments over securing interests and sharing domination.

The situation at the moment looks very grim. It appears that once ISIS has been defeated in Mosul and Raqqa then more than likely war will start involving Rojava and PKK in Qandil and Shangal. These calculation are being made by Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Turkey and perhaps also Iran and Iraq with the blessing of the US, Russia and Germany. Such a war may start by the end of August or September after the military defeat of ISIS in Mosul and Reqqa.

Zaherbaher.com

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WITH AN ABRACADABRA AND HEY PRESTO, DATELINE LONDON BBC’S CURRENT AFFAIRS PROGRAM MAKES ROJAVA, THE YPG, THE YPJ, THE SDF AND THE SDC AND THEIR ALLIES DISAPPEAR INTO A VACUUM.
By Stephen Becker

Dateline London has a strap line ‘Foreign correspondents based in London give an outsider’s view of events in the UK’ but recently the program asked outsiders to discuss Trump, Burma and Syria. It turned out to be a shoddy affair with none of the outsiders having any real idea of the concrete situation in the Middle East. It obscured more than it elucidated.

Simon Leys demonstrated that the BBC obviously did not run to an accurate briefing before he took to the air. After a piece where he referred to the situation in Burma as ‘bordering on genocide’, the anchor of Dateline London ‘turned to a subject which has dropped out of the headlines’, Syria and Iraq. Referring to this ‘important on-going story’ or ‘saga’, the temporally challenged Leys categorised the ‘fightback’ against the movement which calls itself the Islamic State as ‘going on for more than a year’.

He stated that the Governments of Iraq and Syria were both claiming to have wrested territory from ISIS, before turning to the studio guests to provide expert commentary. In his opening remarks, Leys had asked ‘How’s the fight really going?’.

Nesrine Malik, a Sudanese journalist, Vincent Magombe, Director of the African Journalists Network and Bronwen Maddox of the think-tank the Institute for Government, have no track record in reporting the Middle East. The fourth journo was Michael Goldfarb. He covered the Iraq War as an independent reporter in Iraqi Kurdistan. You would have thought he would have known a modicum about Syria or Iraq but he too demonstrated an incoherent and sketchy understanding of the current situation.

Leys indicated that ISIS is losing territory and the Governments of Syria and Iraq are reclaiming it. He turns to Malik. ‘Nesrine. Its a process you’ve been watching closely for many months now. How do we know whether its working and at what price is this war being waged?’

Ms Malik informed us among other things that ISIS had lost two big cities in Syria and Iraq. Mosul was one. ‘Raqqa is under siege at the moment’ she said, and with considerable but non-specific insight announced that there was to be an ‘upcoming huge battle in a town in Iraq’, the name of which she did not divulge.

She had two points to make. The first was that the end of the Daesh flagship capital meant ‘a vacuum is being created now that ISIS has gone’ ,

Shaun interjected to emphatically agree that ‘Vacuums are dangerous things’.

The second strange point was a bemusing non-sequitor that ‘most of these Hinterlands are so ungovernable that ISIS leaving a city or a town does not mean that pockets of them don’t exist’. She had spoken about atrocities that ISIS continued to inflict, despite the fact that they were facing defeat.

Nesrine Malik was unafraid of enunciating even sloppier statements. She then went back to a second second point. The new second point – really probably the third point – was that ‘There are now three parties. The US, America and Arab League sort of soldiers’ (sic) causing casualties.

Whilst accepting that she probably didn’t mean to confuse the US and Americans as separate entities, there really is no excuse for the reference to ‘Arab League sort of soldiers’. It was an excruciating moment.

A cursory examination of the role of the Arab League demonstrates its marginal importance and real impotence as an organisation, since it in fact has no military capacity.

The Arab League suspended Syrian membership in 2011 because of Assad’s killing of demonstrators, and its Peace initiatives floundered the same year. Its monitoring mission in Syria was described as a ‘farce’ and was suspended in 2012. The Egypt Summit in 2015 agreed in principle that the AL form a military force but to date that has not materialised. In March this year, the AL could do little more than lamely ‘urge Arab Governments to do more to resolve the conflict in Syria’.

So there never have been and are currently no Arab League forces in Syria because Arab League troops are only a figment in Ms Malik’s imagination and as an entity, were hesitantly plucked out of thin air, as she struggled to identify just who the chief fighting forces in Syria actually were.

It was just a straightforward exposure of ignorance. More rigour, and less blather please Ms Malik.

Later on in the program Bronwen Maddox agreed. ‘There is this vacuum’.

Shaun turns to Goldfarb . ‘This raises the question, Michael, what the strategy is?’

Michael was not sure if there was a strategy. At the military level he noted that there is the ‘degradation of ISIS’ and ‘at the other end we have…of what we used to call the chaos of the great powers. Russia’s involved. America’s involved. Turkey which is a NATO ally. This week it was announced they are buying Russian high-tech computers and military equipment. So whose…Where is the organisation at the top. No organisation at the top and at the bottom, there are people, who are, I mean the fighting goes on there as before, except that ISIS is being pushed out and it’s just bleeding away into other places and can as Nesrine mentioned it can jump on any pilgrimage site in the Shia heart of Iraq, if it wants to, but can it rule anything, can it make inroads anywhere, can it send forth, they’re claiming this idiot bombing yesterday in London…’ and at that point Shaun Leys excitedly jumps in to continue a point about ISIS claiming responsibility for bombings which is then echoed by Maddox.

Nobody seemed to have noticed that Michael was blathering and had just gone off-piste. Left for another 30 seconds, he would have been analysing pension plans.

Maddox having joined in with the off-piste party went back to the problem of ‘the vacuum’, and whether the Shia crescent from Iran to Lebanon will be established. She says that ‘there’s a bit more space for that kind of thing’ (my emphasis). Does ‘that kind of thing’ inspire confidence and imply any erudition?

Vincent Magombe, having pointed out the mess following the invasion of Iraq and Libya asks, ‘Have you heard anybody, whether the UN, America or Britain or others, talking about what they’re planning for Syria for after? After mentioning the invasion of Iraq as the cause of the chaos in the region, Vincent wants to know what the post ISIS plan is.

Malik comes back with, ‘The problems with a country like Iraq and Syria is that Kurds, Shiites, Sunni, Pershmarga and all these disparate groups, and in Syria as well…with all the different tribes, ethnicities and minorities, Alawites etc, have all been pushed under the surface by long standing dictators and that’s how we got into the situation in the first place. We didn’t get into this situation because America invaded Iraq. We got in this situation because Saddam Hussein has inflicted an artificial uniformity on Iraq for decades as Bashar Assad is doing now’.

Buried inside is an exoneration of the US. However, the point of a suppressed polyethnicity is valid.

And they continue in this fashion until Vincent says, ‘the bottom line is about democracy’…’and if the foundation are to do with the lack of democracy…look at the Russians. While I condemn the West in their approaches…The Russians as well. Let’s have this Syrian man. He has to be there. But he’s not a democrat. In the first place that’s why his people were trying to agitate for some rights. So unless we try and ask these people…we won’t get that answer. It’s a mess’.

And so, the concluding ‘it’s a mess’, not only applies to the situation in Syria and Iraq, it also summed up the studio conversation. Other points were made by the four experts but the short transcripts indicate the incoherence of thought, the knight’s move thinking, the pitiful state of analysis and dreary arguments, bluffing and hazy evasiveness. All of these pointing to lack of grasp of the subject at hand.

The most obvious and glaring omission made in the program was the complete failure to mention the establishment of the Federation of Northern Syria formerly known as Rojava, the fight by the forces of the YPG and YPJ against the Caliphate, and the establishment of the Syrian Democratic Forces and Syrian Democratic Council. These political and military organisation, have combined all the ethnic minorities of the region in a remarkable and tenacious fight against ISIS, whilst creating Confederal stateless grass roots democracies throughout eastern Syria.

The participants in Deadline London either through ignorance or deliberate omission, magicked this momentous political movement into the vacuum.

It is to be acknowledged that the current conflict in the Middle East is complex and thus it was shameful for the BBC not to have assembled real experts, of which there are a considerable number. Commentator who have an in-depth understanding of what actually is going on in Iraq and Syria. Instead they assembled people with a wafer-thin comprehension.

Before going back to ‘the vacuum’, it is perhaps looking at some of the more illustrious statements made by the panel and add some brief comments.

ISIS is indeed losing ground and its military capacity is being degraded. In 2014, Daesh exploded across Iraq and Syria thanks to the disintegration of the Iraqi Army before a tiny handful of ISIS fighters. Assad aided this by releasing imprisoned Salafists from his gaols. The Caliphate spread quickly into northern Syria and reached the Turkish border before meeting their match in the Kurdish population of Rojava. The forces of Rojava, made up of Kurds and other ethnic minorities and with support of US air power began the fightback three years ago. Not ‘just over a year ago’. The major force in the fight against ISIS were the militias of the YPG and YPJ of Rojava. They clawed back territory from the Caliphate whilst Assad was crushing the democratic uprising against his sectarian and despotic rule. And then the forces of the SDF were responsible for chasing ISIS and displace them from Taqba and now Raqqa and Deir ez Zor provinces. And this was done despite the assistance of Turkey for Daesh. Only of late has Assad aided by the Iranian PMU militias, Hezbollah and Russian firepower been able to make advances against Daesh and in doing so is re-establishing his dictatorship over the Syrian people.

When Michael Goldfarb was asked the nonsensical question of what the strategy was, he might have asked Shaun, ‘Whose strategy?’. This would have made more sense than his answer.

There are in fact numerous strategies in play depending on the protagonist. The problem is that the strategies are at once conflicting and sometimes tactically contingent and are placed within a complex geopolitics.

To name but a few of the strategies.

America wants an end to ISIS whose spread was a result of its stratospheric and catastrophic failure in invading Iraq. Assad wants the whole of Syria back. Russia’s support of Syria seeks to halt the erosion of its geopolitical influence. Turkey wants to continue its genocidal policy towards the Kurds and says it will not tolerate the continued existence of Rojava. The Gulf states want Assad out. The KRG which is in the pocket of Turkey seeks an independent state. Iraq, Turkey, Iran and the US oppose a Kurdish secession from Iraq while Russia remains silent on