- Created: Thursday, 26 April 2018 09:51
- Written by Trevor Rayne
While the world’s media were focused on Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, 200 miles away Turkey’s armed forces were bombing and shelling the predominantly Kurdish Afrin canton in Syria’s north west. Turkey launched its attack on Afrin on 20 January 2018, using both its army and jihadist auxiliaries, including the Free Syrian Army and Islamic State (IS) fighters. Unable to advance quickly on the ground against the YPG/YPJ defence forces, Turkey resorted to increasing use of warplanes and heavy artillery against Afrin city. Water and electricity supplies were targeted. On 16 March, Afrin Hospital was bombed, killing 16 people. In the preceding week, civilians were being killed by bombs and shells at a rate approaching 40 per day. Together with Afrin’s population, the defence forces decided to move from a war of position to hit-and-run guerrilla tactics. This was, in part, to reduce civilian casualties. Saleh Moslem, former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) explained: ‘For a war front we have neither the technical possibilities nor the armament. We are committed to lead a guerrilla struggle.’
On 18 March, Turkish President Erdogan claimed that Afrin was under Turkey’s control. Attacks on the occupying forces continue. Estimates of the number of civilians killed rise to 500, with 820 defence forces also killed. Some 150,000 people are reported to have fled Afrin, living elsewhere in Syria on streets, in cars and in the countryside without food, medicine and basic supplies. As yet, no outside relief agencies have come to their help. Inside Afrin there has been torture and reports of beheadings.
Speaking of the United Nations, US and European Union, Cemil Bayik, of the Kurdistan Communities Union, said: ‘The resistance in Afrin has unmasked them all’, adding ‘Russia showed that they have no morality in politics with their stance during the Afrin crisis.’ Russia removed soldiers from observation posts in Afrin just before the Turkish attack and allowed Turkey to bomb from airspace it controlled. Saleh Moslem said: ‘The international forces, the states of the world have left us alone. This silence has provided a basis for and supported the attacks of Turkey.’
Erdogan intends to ethnically cleanse Afrin of Kurds and implant hundreds of thousands of Syrian Arabs. He is likely to appoint a governor for Afrin. Turkey intends to establish a zone of control in Syria to the north and west of Aleppo. Erdogan has said his forces will attack the Kurds to the east of Afrin, including in Manbij, where US forces are stationed. What the Turkish state views as a success in Afrin will encourage it in its Ottoman Empire ambitions to expand its influence and territorial control.
It is not just the Kurds who are threatened by Erdogan’s government. After Afrin was occupied, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that Turkey’s operations could weaken the fight against IS and claimed: ‘We are urging our Turkish allies to use every possible restraint.’ German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Turkey’s military offensive on Afrin was unacceptable. However, that offensive could not have taken place without British and German weapons supplied to Turkey and without British and German acquiescence while the attack took place, during 58 days of Kurdish resistance. Silence is complicity. End all British and European arms sales to Turkey.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 263 April/May 2018