Washington Kurdish Institute
February 2, 2018
As the Syrian civil war drags on, the world is treated to innovative and appalling displays of disregard for human life. From cannibalism to prisoners burning alive in front of a video camera, women in cages to the lifeless bodies of children suffocated by poison gas, this war have found ways to continuously surprise and disgust the world with novel demonstrations of brutality and hatred – with no end in sight. Just last month, one of the war’s major foreign players, Turkey, initiated an unprovoked attack on Afrin, motivated solely by ethnic hatred. The Kurdish majority city and region Afrin was previously an island of stability within Syria, host to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Syrians from various parts of the country. It was, however, under the administration of the local people – and the Turkish state has never made any secret of its violent opposition to any and all efforts by Kurdish people to embrace their own identity and control their own destiny.
The aggression against Afrin is a stark demonstration of the Turkish state’s long-established hatred for the Kurdish people, and, furthermore, the characteristic brutality of the Turkish state’s approach to the Kurdish nation. As a result of the Turkish state’s desire to eliminate all expressions of Kurdish identity and subjugate Kurdish people wherever they may be, Turkey has brushed aside an ongoing economic crisis to focus its resources on the attempted invasion of its southern neighbour, using the might of its NATO army and engaging the services of various jihadist groups including both Syrian and foreign fighters. At the moment, the full might of Turkey’s modern air force is being indiscriminately used on the people of Afrin, killing the anti-ISIS fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and scores of civilians alike. US-supplied combat aircraft, along with tanks from Germany and other high tech military equipment provided by Western powers, are now unleashed upon the people of Afrin, while the world remains silent, paying lip service to “Turkish security concerns”, amid a chorus of cheers from the Turkish media. The Turkish state’s hatred and brutality now seen in Afrin is entirely consistent with successive Turkish governments’ approaches to the Kurdish people, one that has left tens of thousands dead and wiped thousands of Kurdish villages within Turkey’s borders off the map. The Afrin campaign is not the exception – it is yet another manifestation of the Turkish state’s approach to the very existence of the Kurdish people.
Turkey’s scorched earth campaign against the Kurds of the 1990’s within its own borders went largely unreported by the world media. A combination of lack of information flow from regions of conflict at the time, long before the era of social media, and effective Turkish lobbying efforts abroad are two major reasons that these state crimes went unnoticed. The world media has had at least one eye on Syria for years now, and the YPG have captured the hearts of the world with their brave and successful resistance to ISIS and their revolutionary ideology of gender equality, which is both preached and practiced throughout the Kurdish-majority areas of northern Syria. The world is watching and is now witnessing another episode in an unfortunate story that has no end in sight. Cross border aggression, ethnic hatred, and wanton use of modern military power against civilians should not be a reality in 2018 – but Turkey’s NATO army, supplied and supported by major Western powers, continues to work alongside its jihadist allies to make this happen in Afrin.