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Rojava Revolution at Risk

Turkey’s continuing military assault on Northern Syria, spurred by the infamous phone call between US President Trump and Turkish President…

By Emma Lehan , in Human Rights Syria , at January 21, 2020

Turkey’s continuing military assault on Northern Syria, spurred by the infamous phone call between US President Trump and Turkish President Erdogan, is facing global condemnation.  Critics say that the US has betrayed the Kurds, a faithful ally in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Northern Iraq.  As US troops evacuate from the Turkish-Syrian border, Turkey’s military clears the way for Ergogan’s so called “safe zone” to place Syrian refugees living in Turkey.  An estimated 300,000 Kurds, Arabs, and Syrians have been displaced since the start of the invasion, adding to the growing refugee crisis in the Middle East.  Others are subjected to looting, kidnapping, and ruthless killings by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and its proxy militias.  The future of the Kurd’s Revolution, founded on principles of anti-capitalism and women’s liberation, is uncertain.

During the ongoing Syrian Civil war beginning in 2011, Kurdish led forces and parties took control of cities and towns across Northeastern Syria.  The 50,000km² of Kurdish controlled territory became later known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, or more popularly referred to as Rojava.  

With emphasis on decentralization, Rojava established a government which ensures fair and just decision making through a combination of local councils and committees in “bottom up” democracy.  Rojava’s constitution guarantees cultural, religious, political freedom for people of every ethnicity and, is most noted for its equal minority and gender rights.  Women take on very important roles in developing and securing the state.

The success of Kurdish military operations carried out to safeguard Rojava’s independence depends heavily on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance that includes the Kurdish People’s Defense (YPG), Women’s Defense Units (YPJ),  Arab and Syriac fighters, and the United States military.  The coalition fought victoriously against the occupation of Isis in Syria and sought to institute a democratic government.  Between 12,000 to 13,000 SDF fighters have lost their lives in the Syria conflict.  

The alliance and the presence of US forces in Northeast Syria buffered Turkey’s developing threats towards the Kurds.  Turkey has been seemingly displeased with the growing democratic establishment south of its border and is in opposition with the established SDF alliance against Isis and Islamist Syrian War parties.  President Erdogan falsely claims the YPG is identical the PKK, a Kurdish militant and political organization responsible for carrying out terrorist attacks in Turkey.  Although some Syrians trained with the PKK in the past, the YPG has never carried out attacks within the Turkish state. Since 2016, the Turkish forces have been indiscriminately targeting YPG forces in Syria.  In efforts to settle the dispute, an agreement between Rojava and Turkey was made that allowed Turkish troops patrol the border with US forces for terror threats.  In October, the agreement was fractured as US President Trump ordered to disband US troops from the border, green-lighting a bloody invasion by the Turks. Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) began  shelling and airstrike on many of the major cities in Rojava, killing civilians as thousands retreated the conflict areas.  An estimated 100,000 people fled in the first week of the invasion.

Turkey’s invasion, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” sparked international disparagement.  In response to the uproar, Turkey and the US announced a 5 day ceasefire under conditions that the SDF withdraw some 30 kilometers south of the Turkish border.  Regardless, Turkey did not withhold its agreement to ceasefire.  Rather, the TAF and proxy militias pursued their assault and many were unforeseeably slaughtered. 

“The most infamous incident of the invasion to date occurred during the opening of the central ‘third front,’ when fighters from Turkish-backed faction Tajammu‘ Ahrar al-Sharqiyah murdered Kurdish Politician Hevrin Khalaf and her driver Ferhad Ramadan on the side of the M4 highway,” writes Akmckeever of Rojava Information Center.  An autopsy report showed she had been brutally beaten and shot.  Turkish backed militias executed others on the side of the highway, filmed, and circulated the heinous footage on social media. 

Another notable heinous attack by Turkish forces was shelling prisons and camps where many ISIS prisoners and ISIS-linked family members are held.  Kurdish defense were forced to retreat, allowing prisoners to escape. 

Over the course of the offensive, more than 500 civilians have been killed and 215 thousand displaced.  An array of human rights violations have been committed as civilians, journalists and healthcare workers are being targeted and executed.  Turkish backed forces are systematically attacking civilian healthcare, food, and water infrastructure, forcing citizens to refugee camps with less than ideal living conditions.  The displaced are grievously deterred from returning home, resulting in a deliberate ethnic cleansing of Rojava by Turkey’s hand. 

“Turkey’s invasion of Rojava is not only a source of deep shame and disgust to many Americans, particularly those in the military, but a terrible defeat for the international left,” writes Meredith Tax for Dissent.  Americans that agree, care about the progressive values of ecology, grassroots democracy, and women’s rights are invited to help make a difference – call your senators and US House members and urge them to intervene to stop Turkey’s invasion, and recognize the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria as a political entity.  To get more information and find out how to get involved visit DefendRojava.org.