Turkey’s armed forces are massed along the border with north-east Syria awaiting the order to invade. President Erdogan intends to use military force to establish a so-called ‘safe-zone’ 30km deep and 480km long (19 miles by 300 miles) inside Syria, on land that is home to over three-quarters of a million mainly Kurdish people. These people are to be killed or evicted from their towns and villages and replaced with over one million of the 3.5 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey. Such a plan, if carried out, will result in enormous violence and will drive the Middle East deeper into chaos and destruction. President Erdogan and his AKP-MHP government are a danger to us all.
Following a telephone conversation between US President Trump and Erdogan on 6 October the White House issued this statement: ‘Turkey will soon be moving forward with it long- planned operation in Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operations, and United States’ forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial “Caliphate”, will no longer be in the immediate area.’ President Erdogan understood that this was the signal from the US that he had asked for and long been preparing for, saying on 7 October: ‘We made a decision. We said, “One night we could come suddenly”. We continue with our determination…It is absolutely out of the question for us to further tolerate the threats from these terrorist groups.’
President Erdogan brands any manifestation of Kurdish political representation or aspiration to democratic rights as terrorism, be it in Turkey, Syria or elsewhere. The Kurdish people in Syria, their political representation in the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and their military defence in the form of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have made no threat or challenge to the territorial integrity of either Turkey or Syria. They have complied with US-led mechanisms to ensure that Turkey’s border is secure and in doing so have dismantled defences near to Turkey’s border. No military actions against Turkey have come from Rojava/north-east Syria. However, the Kurdish people, along with the different ethnic communities that live in the area that is now threatened, have insisted they have the right to defend themselves if they are attacked. An SDF spokesperson said, ‘We will not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war on the entire border to defend ourselves and our people.’ The PYD calls for ‘a democratic dialogue and negotiation process inclusive of all parties towards ending the civil war in [Syria]’ and points out that a Turkish military incursion with enforced demographic change are crimes against humanity according to international law.
In July 2012, the Kurdish people and others in Rojava rose up and established a democratic, gender equal, secular, ecological and non-sectarian administration with inter-ethnic cooperation. It became and remains a beacon of hope for the Middle East – a beacon that Turkey and others want to extinguish. In January 2018 the Turkish state and it auxiliaries attacked Afrin, the western-most canton of Rojava, and occupied it. Since then Afrin has been subject to terror and ethnic cleansing. Erdogan has spoken of his ambition to reclaim territories lost to the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. The attack on Afrin and an invasion of Rojava would be part of realising that ambition.
Under President Trump’s agreement with Erdogan, Turkey will take responsibility for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past few years. This is diabolical; it is well documented that the Turkish state has collaborated with and armed ISIS, and sought to use the jihadis against both Syrians and the Kurds. Some 11,000 SDF young men and women have been killed fighting ISIS. The Kurds and their allies are guarding thousands of ISIS captives, including about 2,500 from Europe and elsewhere and 10,000 and more from Iraq and Syria. Al Hol camp in north-east Syria holds approximately 70,000 people. There remain ISIS sleeper cells across the region. If Turkey invades, the ISIS captives will not be secure or detained. Senior former US and British national security professionals have recently warned of the threat of a resurgent ISIS. That threat, the threat to the peoples of the entire Middle East, and the threat of repetitions of atrocities like September 11, 2001 in the US, of the Madrid commuter rail system, of the Bataclan theatre in Paris, and the Manchester Arena, will become all the more real and apparent as a consequence of permitting a Turkish invasion.
The British, European and US governments must tell President Erdogan and Turkey clearly and with one voice, ‘No, you must not invade,’ and they must back this demand with real and immediate sanctions if Turkey continues its threats.
8 October 2019
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell – Tel: 020 7272 7890
Patrons: John Austin, Christine Blower, NEU International Secretary, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Dr Cynthia Cockburn, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Jill Evans MEP, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Rahila Gupta, Nick Hildyard, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert, Elfyn Llwyd, Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Ali Gul Ozbek, Former Councillor and Mayor of Haringey; Gareth Peirce, Dr Felix Padel, Maxine Peake, actor, Trevor Rayne, writer, Lord Rea, Joe Ryan, Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, Jonathan Steele, Steve Sweeney, Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary Permanent People’s Tribunal, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward MEP, Hywel Williams MP.