7 December 2015
Overnight on Thursday 3 December, RAF fighter jets began a bombing campaign in Syria following weeks of battle cries by the British state and media. It paves the way of months and quite possibly years of vast military spending and an inevitable loss of civilian life based on exaggerated claims of an “imminent threat” to the people of Britain.
Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, along with the Kurdish civil society organisations we work with, oppose military intervention by the British government. The action will serve only to further complicate an already inflamed situation in which world and regional powers, including Saudi Arabia, the US, Turkey, Russia and others, are vying for geopolitical strategic advantage and control of Syria’s resources.
Most importantly, the UK and its NATO allies have exhibited a distinct lack of clarity in their objectives and offered no real plan for establishing lasting peace in Syria. The 70,000 ‘moderate rebels’ that the UK aims to support is a figure without basis in fact on the ground and there are serious questions around the supposed ‘moderate’ nature of those groups.
On the other hand, the US has been providing air support military offensives by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a democratic coalition of Kurdish, Arab and other forces in northern Syria to cut off major ISIS supply routes and recapture villages from ISIS control. The SDF are the closest thing to an inclusive and secular fighting force in Syria and is led by the YPG. It represents the largest of the non-government fighting forces arrayed against ISIS in Syria. And yet, this support is limited by a willingness to placate Turkey, which has been implicated in undermining the gains of the Kurdish people by placing an embargo on Rojava.
The Kurdish movement has always been clear: armed self-defence is a necessary and legitimate measure when the forces of oppression are too violent to be resisted by anything else. Not to resist groups like ISIS would amount to suicide. With this principle in mind, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has fought for the rights of the Kurdish people in Turkey for over three decades and the YPG, its affiliate forces in Syria, have defended the democratic cantons of Rojava from repeated ISIS’s attacks since 2012.
Much of the discussion in the run-up to last week’s vote in the House of Commons relied on arguments that the country must ‘do something’ to counter the threat posed by ISIS. This rhetoric belies the fact that the British government has been ‘doing something’ for quite some time by allowing its NATO and Gulf allies – in particular Turkey – to provide space for ISIS to grow freely across the region, supplying intelligence, logistical support, arms and equipment to known extremist groups and no doubt benefitting in turn from the sales of smuggled oil via British-based companies such as Genel Energy.
In calling those who oppose British military intervention ‘terrorist sympathisers’ PM David Cameron is adopting a cynical ‘with us or against us’ position whose belligerence is the type of attitude that the Kurdish movement sees as a threat to the harmony of any society. It is a divisive strategy that hides the chaotic reality of the situation on the ground. In fact, the emergence of the Kurdish forces as a major actor in Syria provides the possibility for a third way that is both opposed to imperialistic intervention and offers an alternative means of struggle against reactionary forces in the region – towards the establishment of a pluralist, representative, feminist, ecological and anti-capitalist society in Rojava that could be replicated in other regions of the Middle East. The Kurds deserve our continued support and not to be seen as terrorists.