Defending Afrin


Kurdish YPG fighters in Afrin, northern Syria PHOTO/KurdishStruggle/Flickr

Turkey’s war on Afrin is an attack not only on Kurdish self-determination, but on democracy and women’s liberation in the Middle East.

When thousands gathered in Afrin for the funeral procession of Barin Kobani, a woman fighter of the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), whose lifeless body was mutilated by Turkish-backed jihadist mercenaries, olive branches were reaching out of the crowd. Afrin, located at the Syrian-Turkish border and in the center of Mount Kurd, is not only known for its predominantly Kurdish population but also for its olive groves and blooming fields, surrounded by a mountainous landscape. For more than two weeks now Turkish tanks and fighter jets, accompanied by bearded men shouting “God is great” and raising their index finger, have been attacking civilian neighborhoods and positions held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in what Turkey has cynically named “Operation Olive Branch.”

According to a World Health Organization report, eighty-six civilians — including a whole family of seven — have been killed, along with two hundred wounded. More than ten thousand fled due to the bombings in one week. Kurdish sources such as the Administration of Afrin Canton Council and the head of the Afrin hospital however say the number is even higher. Turkish attacks in Afrin, which have also struck ancient sites, explicitly breach international law. Yet since the beginning of the first attacks on January 20, no outrage against this military aggression has been vocalized by a government or the international community.

“Kurds have no friends but the mountains” has become an easy refrain over the years to respond to the injustices the Kurdish people have been subjected to. But, after more than a century of atrocities, the Afrin assault still feels particular and urgent, an opportunity for meaningful solidarity before all democratic accomplishments in Northern Syria are destroyed by Turkey, her jihadist foot-soldiers, and the imperial powers. The Afrin crisis has emerged as an epitome of the region’s predicament and raises three fundamental questions: What is Turkey’s role in the historical oppression of Kurds in the region? Who today challenges them as the defenders of Afrin? And what are the geopolitics of the conflict?

Erdogan’s Targets

Whenever the Turkish government launches an “operation,” especially an “anti-terror operation,” you can be certain that Kurds will be the first ones in the crosshairs. After the June 2015 elections, when Erdo?an’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost the majority it needed to form a government on its own, snap elections were announced for November 1. In the meantime, the peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was terminated and a state of emergency declared in the country’s Kurdish southeast. The government, hand in hand with the military, launched so-called “cleansing operations” against supposed PKK members and targeted strongholds of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), a left-wing alliance with its roots in Kurdish politics and effectively the only challenger of the AKP, in an act of collective punishment. A sizeable death toll and significant displacements were the consequence.

Jacobin for more

Comments are closed.