Last week Turkey began Operation Olive Branch to forcibly seize the autonomous Kurdish canton of Afrin, a region of the peaceful Democratic Federation of Northern Syria more commonly known as Rojava.
Rojava is defended by People’s Protection Units, or the YPG, who took up arms to repel the onslaught but are haemorrhaging territory.
23 civilians were killed over the weekend of the 20th to the 22nd of January, including six young children. The Turkish Foreign Minister, however, has rebuked this civilian death toll which has been corroborated by every single independent watchdog who oversee the civil war, instead discrediting it as ‘nonsense propaganda and baseless lies’ of the YPG.
As always, the #PYD/#YPG terrorists continue to deceive the world with nonsense propaganda and baseless lies by showing neutralized terrorists as civilians. They use civilians as human shields. Our target is neither our Kurdish brothers nor Syrians. We are only after terrorists.
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) January 21, 2018
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who last year enacted radical changes to the Turkish constitution allowing him to expand his executive powers and ratify hardline Islamist policies, insists that the invasion of the successfully secular and multi-ethnic Rojava community is an endeavour to destroy ISIS. His conflation of the YPG and ISIS was backed by NATO, who voiced their ‘support of Turkey in the fight against terrorism’, and at least tacitly by the US who ‘understand Turkey’s concerns about terrorism’.
All evidence and expert knowledge, however, rebukes any terrorist insinuations about the YPG. Only last May did U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praise the Rojava People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia as having ‘proven to be excellent partners of ours on the ground in fighting ISIL’. Rojava are not aligned with the Turkish PKK, and they explicitly reject violence against the Turkish state or any other sovereign peoples, expressed through the incorporation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into Article 21 of their constitution.
For Kurds living in Northern Syria this simply represents another attempt by Erdoğan’s Turkey to destroy their progressive, independent movement and quash what they represent: the peaceful and democratic resolution of the ‘Kurdish question’ through the emancipation from imprisonment in an arbitrary state which despises them.
The fact that Turkey are allowed to roll tanks across the border and attack a sovereign people based on a brazen and unsubstantiated lie without consequence is a testament to Turkey’s geopolitical importance to Western forces and the toothlessness of international bodies in the face of US lobbying.
Turkey are the second largest NATO force, with half a million immediately deployable forces and a budget of $20 billion a year. They are a vital cog in the US drone strike machine, assisting them across the horn of Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Syria. Turkish parliament did, however, manage to irritate the US and Turkish military establishment by voting decisively against assistance to the US in the Iraq war. Sadly, Erdogan’s recent sweeping constitutional changes would allow him to bypass pesky democratic controls if it were to reoccur today, explaining why the US were reticent to take action against his demonstrably authoritarian power grab by Erdoğan.
Other than nebulous statements of ‘concern for civilians’ from the EU and UN-member states, Turkey have got away scot-free with an invasion of a sovereign people. The Rojava community – arguably the last bastion of secularism and progressive policies within Syria – is in real danger of being consumed by the vast Turkish military apparatus, with the US, whom they fought for as ‘excellent partners’ against ISIS, watching from the sidelines.
The decision of the YPG to ally themselves with the US is looking more and more like a Faustian bargain each day, and must surely serve as a warning to everyone about the devious nature of US incursions into the Middle-East. Turkey, as clear as day, continues its slide into Neo-Ottoman facist imperialism.
Amity Underground | Rojava