Note from LeftEast: In the last few days, the Turkish government and mainstream media, which has been brought in line by journalist arrests (at least 122 in prison so far, another 520 being tried) and other, less visible forms of pressure, have gone into war frenzy. What three years ago they used to neutrally call “YPG” (People’s Defense Forces, the main military formation of the Syrian Kurds) gradually became “PKK-linked YPG,” and finally turned into “Syria’s PKK terrorist branch.” As of last week, in official pronouncements and newspaper titles in Turkey, YPG has become nothing less than a threat to Turkey’s very existence that needs to be urgently and resolutely destroyed. Generated without any input on part of the Syrian Kurds, purely for internal consumption, to shore up the national consensus behind Erdogan’s figure and to provide the additional electoral boost of “a little, successful war,” this discourse has met little resistance. Voices for peace have been hushed in Turkey. Not only do they get condemned as “national traitors,” but gleeful persecutors and judges, acting on direct instructions from the government, are quick to equate them with “support for terrorism” and sentence them with all the harshness of the penal system.
Too imbricated in their own deals with the Turkish state, “the international community,” also appears conspicuously silent ahead of this invasion. The EU would not like to jeopardize the Turkish state’s services as a barrier to the refugee wave. The U.S., which has co-operated with YPG during their anti-ISIL campaign east of Euphrates and thus for now offers a measure of protection of those territories, has officially washed its hands off Afrin, the smallest and most isolated of the Kurdish cantons, which Turkey threatens to invade. As much as the Assad regime would detest a Turkish occupation of yet another Syrian territory, it wouldn’t mind giving “traitor” Kurds a lesson without opening an additional front for its already depleted army. One increasingly gets the sense that the main obstacle to a full-scale invasion is Russia, which maintains a small “peacekeeping” garrison in Afrin. Should it withdraw it, the Turkish army and the Turkish-backed FSA (the mercenary force under overall Turkish command based in the Azaz-Jarblus-al-Bab triangle, not to be confused with the FSA elsewhere in Syria) will pour into Afrin. Observers suspect that in the secret barter of the Astana agreements, Turkey would duly oblige by delivering the remnants of the Syrian revolution in Idlib to the Assad regime.
The Syrian Kurds have miraculously kept the flame of their own democratic, feminist, and socialist revolution—one of the most remarkable phenomenon in today’s Middle East–alive against much stronger enemies (ISIL, the Assad and Erdogan regimes) and even extended it to non-Kurdish regions by relying not on one but on two imperialist powers—the U.S. and Russia. Will this daring revolutionary opportunism succeed? How long will it be before Trump’s whim or Putin’s calculus leaves them hopelessly exposed? The next hours will be crucial to these questions.
Update: The Russian garrison has left Afrin and the Turkish airforce–previously denied access by the Russian military–is bombing YPG positions in the countryside and the city of Afrin itself. Reports of casualties and injuries being treated at the Afrin hospital are starting to trickle in. Exactly what deal has been struck between Russia, Turkey, and Syria remains a mystery, but it’s clearly at the expense of the people of Rojava.
In the face of all this, on Jan. 16, 2018, the Rojava (Kobanê, Cizîr, Efrîn) Democratic Autonomous Administration General Coordination issued the following statement on the Turkish state’s attacks against Afrin:
It seems that the past few years of violence and state terror have not satiated the AKP war machine, which has become hostile to the Syrian people in general and Kurds in particular. Our liberated areas have been exposed to bombardment, civilians have been targeted every day by indiscriminate artillery shelling.
Two days ago, the Turkish state redoubled its attacks against Afrin’s districts and villages from Turkish territory. The ongoing attacks have displaced many civilians.
The Turkish regime has become a threat to any solution to the Syrian war.
We will use our right to legitimate defense in the face of these attacks. We are calling on all Syrian people, starting from Daraa passing to Aleppo and Homs and ending with Dêrik, to support the people of Afrin.”
We are also calling on all active forces in the region, international institutions and human rights organizations to fulfill their duties and prevent the Turkish state targeting civilians and security in the region.
Only solidarity can save Afrin and the Rojava revolution!