No friends but the mountains

Kurdish revolutionaries in Syria have been attacked by Turkey and abandoned by their allies

BY PAUL MANTELLA

Turkey has launched an attack on the Kurdish-led SDF, the most democratic force in Syria, which is also the main ally of the United States against ISIS in Syria.

It must be the duty of every citizen of every democratic country to pressure their into stopping Ankara’s blatant aggression.

On Jan. 20, Turkish forces moved into the Afrin region of Syria to take control of the area from the Kurds and fierce battles are ongoing. The SDF is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a guerrilla group which has been fighting Turkey since the 1980s.

The Kurdish people are an oppressed minority in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. Taking advantage of the civil war, Syrian Kurds took control of much of northern Syria.

And while Turkey’s concerns that the PKK is forming a base on its border with Syria are valid, under closer scrutiny they do not check out.

No credible investigation has ever found any evidence that members of the SDF

Nazzareno Tassone, pictured on a poster at the Toronto Kurdish Community Centre, was a Canadian volunteer with the SDF. International volunteers are regarded as heroes to the Kurdish community.

have attacked Turkey, as they claim. Furthermore, it is common sense that an organization that knows it is on thin ice with its much larger and more powerful neighbour would not prod it like that.

The end goal of the SDF is to create a Syria in which Kurds can have equal rights, anything which endangers that goal they will not do.

Under the rule of the SDF, the north of the country remained relatively stable, free and democratic. Freedom of religion, women’s rights, and minority rights are guaranteed and local councils make many of the decisions.

Turkey, meanwhile, has been supporting religious extremists who seek to impose harsh Islamic law across Syria. Much of the rest of the country is controlled by the Assad regime which oppresses minorities and arrests and tortures its political opponents.

While the Kurds have been building democratic institutions,  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been tearing them down.

In an extremely controversial referendum last year, he gave himself the power to rule almost as a dictator; and it’s a power he has been making great use of. Tens of thousands of journalists and academics have been jailed in a Stalin-like purge following a coup attempt in 2016.

A perfect example of Erdogan’s barbarism was his attempt to introduce a bill which would forgive rapists if they married their victim.

Another reason the West must defend the Kurds against Turkish aggression is that they are the only counterweight to Iranian influence left in the area. They are also the last viable force able to fight Assad.

The rebels were long ago taken over by extremists and they are rapidly losing ground to the government. Only a couple weeks ago the rebels lost a massive chunk of their most important stronghold – Idlib province. This comes on the heels of Assad regaining much of the east and, more importantly, the city of Aleppo.

The mainstream rebels are finished. It is only a matter of time before they are completely destroyed and Assad is able to turn his full strength on the Kurds.

Before this scenario becomes reality, the US must support the Kurds so that their inevitable showdown with the government ends in victory. It is essential this is done before the rebels’ defeat so that the Kurds are not alone facing Assad.

If the U.S. was to promise the Kurds federalism in a post-Assad Syria in return for fighting him, they might actually be able to realize their goals in the region.

Lastly, although ISIS is not the threat it used to be, should the main force holding it in check be distracted by conflict with Turkey, it would make it easier for them to reform.

In government and rebel-held territory, ISIS has already managed to seize land using sleeper cells. Furthermore, 2018 has begun with ISIS taking a considerable number of towns and villages in Idlib, and putting up stiff resistance in its last pocket of territory in the east.

ISIS is not finished, and while they remain at all in existence, the focus must be only on them.

The citizens of Western nations must make their governments stop Turkish aggression against the SDF because they share our values, unlike Turkey, they are the last force left to oppose Iran and Assad, and they still have to fight ISIS.

Despite the U.S. being officially allied with the Kurds, they claim they never had any agreement with the Kurds in the area Turkey is attacking. That is like saying we are allied with the U.K. but not Scotland. There is a distinct sense of abandonment among the residents of northern Syria which lends itself to the old Kurdish adage “we have no friends but the mountains.”

About Paul Mantella 11 Articles
My name is Paul Mantella, I'm a 19 year-old second year student in Sheridan's Journalism program.

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