38 days into the ‘neo-Ottoman’ assault on the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, Afrin Region, and with civilian casualties continuing to mount
“We will pulverize anyone standing in front of us…” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
“Security Council resolutions are only meaningful if they are effective…” António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations, at the opening of a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva
“At the beginning, we were relieved when we heard and saw a statement by the Turkish government on TV claiming that they will not shell civilian areas… But it was all a lie. I have never see shelling like that, the bombs were pouring on us like rain.» Zeina, a resident of Jenderess, seven kilometres from the Turkish border, to Amnesty International
38 days into the ‘neo-Ottoman’ assault on the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, Afrin Region, and with civilian casualties continuing to mount despite repetitive Turkish denials that it is targeting civilians («The deputy foreign minister stressed an utmost care is being given to avoid any harm to civilian population.») the United Nations Security Council finally passed its resolution 2401 (2018) for a ceasefire in Syria, despite delays, disagreements and the crude politics that goes on behind closed doors while people continue to die. The ceasefire, for at least 30 consecutive days, ensuring a “durable humanitarian pause”, was to come into effect «without delay».
The resolution was passed unanimously on Saturday 24 February exactly 5 weeks from the commencement of the brutal aerial bombardment by the Turkish Air Force of Afrin villages.
Though its main goal would appear to be to delay the murderous slaughter in eastern Ghouta, the war in Afrin was quickly identified as another important zone for the ceasefire to be implemented despite the carte-blanche that Turkey has been given by the international community in its attacks in recent weeks.
The Kurdish YPG (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel – People’s Protection Units) issued a statement reiterating it would respect the ceasefire with the proviso of it not being unilateral on their part – in other words – if Turkey continued its attacks they would respond to defend themselves.
«The YPG said it was prepared to respect the cease-fire «while reserving the right to retaliate… in case of any aggression by the Turkish army.»
Within 24 hours Turkey had welcomed the ceasefire across Syria while simultaneously denying that it applied to its own theater of operations, Afrin, and by implication, any part of western Kurdistan, stating:
“When we look at the UN Security Council resolution, we see that fight against terror organizations is outside its scope. Therefore, it will not affect Turkey’s ongoing operation,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said.
The following Day, Monday 26th, French President Emmanuel Macron in a telephone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reminded the president that the ceasefire did, indeed, apply to Turkey…
«During a telephone call between the two leaders, Macron said the 30-day ceasefire «involved all Syrian territory, including in Afrin, and must be put into effect everywhere and by everyone without delay,» said a statement released by the French presidency.»
Not so, Turkey says, insisting that the UN Resolution applies only to the Syrian Government:
«Contrary to a statement by the French presidential office regarding a phone conversation between our President and French President Macron referring to UN Security Council Resolution 2401 regarding the humanitarian situation in Syria, Mr. Macron did not make reference to Afrin” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy.
This was the immediate response of Turkey to its NATO allies, however shortly afterwards Turkey’s General Staff announced a new phase in its military operations into Kurdish controlled areas:
“The terrorists in Afrin, and those brought there from outside regardless of their origins, along with the external forces who back them, will be completely routed,” Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar said during a visit to the southern Turkish province of Hatay, close to Syria’s border.»
Following this, and reminiscent of its recent campaign of urban warfare in the towns and cities of Northern Kurdistan (south-east Turkey) Ankara announced the dispatch of special police units from the southern Turkish provinces of Kilis and Hatay:
‘“Deploying special forces is part of the preparation for a new fight that is approaching,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told Turkish NTV. “The fight will shift to places where there are civilians, as the area (of fighting) narrows,” he said, adding that the special forces units have experience in fighting militants in residential areas.’
What relevance then the work of the UN Security Council?
More bad news for the residents of Afrin who have already suffered aerial and artillery bombardments as well as – from the many videos posted on social media – brutal harassment and murder from the Jihadist groups of the FSA that are allegedly thrown into the frontlines by the Turkish military.
What relevance then the work of the UN Security Council, whose stated aim is the maintenance of international peace and security?
“I am ashamed of the U.N. Security Council,” Ziad Alissa, president of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, which is based in Paris, said in a statement 24 hours following the resolution’s approval,
“The most powerful nations in the world are unable to enforce the most basic standards of human rights. Failure to enforce these resolutions calls into question the very reason for this process. They are disconnected from reality.”
Not in eastern Ghouta…nor in Afrin, Rojava, apparently…
The ongoing death and mutilation of innocent civilians takes place now in a somewhat altered military landscape with the arrival of the Syrian forces (apparently 3 convoys) in response to the agreement reached between the YPG and Damascus for a force to protect the integrity of the Syrian border…
«The Syrian government sent a force of militia into Afrin to oppose the Turkish-backed forces earlier this month, but Mr. Khalil says their number was small and the action was symbolic. He does not see it as opening the door to a wider agreement between the Damascus government and its Kurdish minority, which would be an essential development if peace is to be restored.» (Aldar Khalil, who is co-chair of the Movement for a Democratic Society was interviewed on the 1 March by The Independent)
…and since their arrival there has been little media report on the effect so far in the balance of power with NATO’s second largest and best equipped army already being slowed in its progress by the resistance of the Kurdish fighters – other than reports that a number of them have already been killed and injured in Turkish bombardments both from the air and from its substantial battery of artillery.
«The pace of the Turkish aerial and artillery shelling on Afrin area, increased after forces of the regime started to enter it on the 20th of February 2018, following an agreement between the Kurdish forces and the regime forces, where the Afrin area witnessed tens of airstrikes and shelling by hundreds of rocket and artillery shells, which targeted the townships of Jendires, Sheikh Hadid, Raju, Maabatli, Bulbula, Sharra, Afrin city and other places in the area, while the Turkish forces managed to achieve wide advancement, where they have taken the control of 30 villages at least since the forces of the regime entered Afrin, which equals more than a third of the total areas the Turkish forces have controlled, since the start of Operation “Olive Branch” during its first month.
While this tragic drama unfolds unhindered, and along with the death and the dying, the various media played their part:
Andalou Agency from its headquarters in Ankara (and on behalf of the Turkish Military High Command) announced a number of achievements for the invading forces which may well give comfort to the families of dead Turkish soldiers returned to the towns and villages of their homeland in wooden boxes:
«A total of 2,184 YPG/PKK-Daesh terrorists have been «neutralized» since the launch of Operation Olive Branch in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement on Wednesday.» «At least 58 out of 2,059 «neutralized» terrorists were caught alive since the launch of Turkey’s operation in northwest Syria, according to the information obtained by Anadolu Agency.
The terrorists were handed over to the general law enforcement forces in order to initiate judicial proceedings in accordance with the instructions of the relevant judicial authorities.»
As regard the UN Resolution:
«When asked by reporters on Tuesday if Turkey is “violating the UN cease-fire” in Syria, U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that she would “encourage Turkey to go back and read the UN resolution.”
But Turkey blasted this response, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy saying it shows Nauert “couldn’t understand the focal point of the resolution or wants to distort it. Turkey is not one of the parties to the conflict in Syria,” said Aksoy. “In Operation Olive Branch in Afrin, Turkey is exercising its right to self-defense based on Article 51 of the UN Charter.»
Finally, it appears that despite its slow progress the Turkish military may have succeeded in linking up up a number of areas along its border with the Kurdish controlled regions in northern Syria:
«With the newly liberated land, a crescent-shape corridor stretching along the northwestern Idlib province and the Aleppo province’s Azaz district reconnected two areas held by Syrian opposition forces… Those reconnected opposition-held areas will help Turkey’s fight against terrorism.»
The New York Times
«Militias loyal to the Syrian government swept into the northwestern enclave of Afrin on Thursday in support of Kurdish militias, reclaiming the territory and stealing a march on Turkish forces that have been battling toward the city for nearly a month.
The entry into Afrin of forces loyal to Mr. Assad — the result of a deal between the Syrian government and Kurdish militias, with the backing of Iran and Russia — has harmed Turkey’s ambitions in Syria. It is one of many setbacks that Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has experienced throughout the seven-year Syrian civil war.
It’s not something Turkey is happy with at all,” said Michael Stephens, who studies the Middle East at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “It limits Turkish strategic options.” Turkey has made it clear that if attacked by pro-government forces, its forces will strike back, he said.»
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also updated its assessment at the beginning of the sixth week:
«The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored the continuation of the Turkish forces’ advancement in the Afrin area, where they managed to achieve strategic advancement, and linked the controlled areas of the factions and the Turkish forces operating in the “Euphrates Shield” Operation in the northern and the north-eastern countryside of Aleppo, Idlib province and the western countryside of Aleppo, through a border line stretched from the north and west of Afrin, and reaches areas mentioned above, thus, the Turkish forces became in control of about 140 km of the border line of Afrin with Turkey and Iskenderun, expanding their border control to about 250 connected kilometers from the western bank of the Euphrates River near Jarabulus area to Atma area in Idlib countryside on the border with Afrin.
The violent clashes resulted in the fall of more human losses… where it has increased to 255, the number of fighters of the YPG and the Self-Defense forces who were killed in the shelling and clashes in Afrin countryside, while it rose to 275 including 44 soldiers of the Turkish forces, the number of the members and fighters of the forces of the “Olive Branch” Operation who were killed in the clashes against the Kurdish Units in Afrin city, also hundreds of citizens, fighters and soldiers were injured with different severity, some of them have permanent disabilities…»
The Kurdish Media
On Monday 26 February, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) released a statement on the ongoing attacks by the Turkish military since the UN resolution was passed:
«Despite the decision by the UN Security Council on a ceasefire in Syria, the barbaric attacks by the Turkish state and its jihadist groups against the people of Afrin continue. Our forces are forced to respond to the occupiers’ attacks for defense purposes:
“The Turkish army and pro-Turkish militias have attacked the Rajo front, resulting in a clash with the Popular Protection Units under the Syrian army. At the same time, Turkish aircraft conducted attacks against the scene of clashes, as a result of which 2 fighters from the Popular Protection Units died and 3 fighters were wounded.
In heavy artillery attacks on the village of Hec Xelîl, several civilians were injured. Houses of the villagers were partially destroyed by the attacks.
Pro-Turkish militia tried to advance to the village of Mûskê but were forced back by our forces. In the ensuing battle a military vehicle was destroyed with those in it. The militias withdrew as a result.
The village of Gewenda was attacked early in the morning by Turkish soldiers and pro-Turkish mercenaries, facing a response from our fighters. The clashes continue.
After attacks on the village of Heciler, eight pro-Turkish mercenaries were killed in the course of battles.
Last night, the Turkish Air Force bombed the center of Jindires district. At the same time, attacks by Turkish soldiers and pro-military militias took place in the village of Baflurê. The aim of these attacks was the center of Jindires district.
Turkish fighter jets attacked the village of Yalangoz this morning and perpetrated a massacre. The Kurdish Red Crescent Heyva Sor a Kurdistanê staff are still trying to recover victims of the air raid.
Turkish army’s attack helicopters launched attacks on the villages of Anqelê and Senarê from the early morning hours. From the ground, the region was bombarded from Anqelê via Senarê to the village of Qermîtliq with heavy artillery. Here, too, battles between our forces and invading forces continue.
In total, five Turkish soldiers and at least 50 pro-Turkish mercenaries have been killed in the clashes of the past 24 hours. More than 60 mercenaries were injured.
Our fighters destroyed six military vehicles and damaged three Turkish tanks.»
Hawar News Agency (ANHA) interviewed a number of YPG and YPJ fighters in the front lines in the Shia area of Afrin.
Fighter Vian Soran
«…said that their legendary steadfastness in front of the Turkish occupation army is due to the people standing by them, stressing that the parents are the source of morale, and continued:
“The attack led by Erdogan at the moment is a war against the revolutionary people who stand with their children to fight the occupation,” she said.
Vian said that what Erdogan is doing in Afrin is decisive proof of his failure in Afrin. “Whatever happens, we will defend this land,” she said.
The fighter Esterk Judy
«…said for their part that they are protecting the people in the border villages of Shia district from repeated attacks by the Turkish occupation army and its gangs. She added:
“Erdogan knows very well that their final destruction is in our hands, so we are bombarding him with the latest weapons in his attempt to end us.”
Esterk stressed that they would not accept failure, saying “victory or victory.”
Fighter Khabor Afrin
«He said that even the aircraft did not benefit the tactics and measures they use, pointing out that they would not allow the Turkish occupation army to occupy the villages and loot them.” The more they fail, the more they use planes and tanks, but everyone knows that Afrin will never fall...»
And again, where to from here?
Despite the number of critics denouncing this violent and unjustified Turkish assault on what was one of the few remaining peaceful areas in a region terrorised by war for over 5 years now – and a place that gave shelter to over 125,000 internally-displaced Syrian refugees from other parts of the war-torn country – it is becoming sickeningly apparent that the Kurdish (as well as the other ethnic and religious peoples’ living in the region) project of creating a genuinely bottom-up radically reinvented society in the midst of Armageddon, civil war, authoritarian regimes, Islamic jihad, mass murder, and regional corruption is facing almost insurmountable odds; it is also becoming sadly apparent now that this momentous initiative is striking no chords other than fear, apathy, or contempt in the ‘hallways of power’ and in the places where due recognition could lead to an alternative discourse to the same old worn and twisted one of the last 100 years; and instead it seems now that the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava), despite the ardency of its citizens and the sacrifices of its young fighters, is becoming if not remaining, increasingly isolated and struggling alone in a depressingly hostile environment.
How long can the Rojavan Revolution survive in such a climate?
Despite what one writer in the Region described as «the only reliable social program for establishing peace in Syria and arguably the middle east» the project of democratic confederalism, its no-holds-barred promotion of a rugged equality and its radical incorporation of the project of women’s liberation as central to any social change – is becoming in no time at all a besieged island in a rising tide of everything-that-could-be-defined-as-its-opposite: just look at the ‘worlds’ we are being offered by the regimes who exert so much power and influence in the area where this vulnerable project is trying to put its roots… The United States of President Donald Trump, the Russia of Vladimir Putin, the Islamic Republic of Iran of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the increasingly-autocratic Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, which is speedily becoming an enormous black hole for human rights in the world of the 21st century where there is no shortage of competition…
Watching the ‘movement’ of these so-called ‘Powers’, the U.S., Russia, Iran and Turkey circling, if not stalking, the immense efforts of the people in this region to rebuild their society after the scourge of the Islamic State/Daesh has been expelled, surrounded by intrigue and hatred, one can only question if there is a future not just for the Kurdish or Armenian or Yazidi people in this region, but more importantly – in a world where the only voice now allowed to be heard is, apparently, only the loudest voice and the rest, which is mostly our own, wakes in the quiet of the night to quietly voice the question: can there be any future to the democratic project – for Rojava, certainly, but also for ourselves, our own hopes and dreams of developing a participatory and meaningful form of democracy capable of facing the challenges that we are now becoming too aware of…
…leaving it down to us then: to quietly voice the question: is it still possible to believe in the actual and real empowerment of people, our ownership and participation in the decisions that affect our lives, likewise the question of the future for a popular people’s awakening, a People’s Spring, particularly after the destruction of the revolutions of the 20th century..?
Looking at Rojava now, one possible post-revolutionary society among others, we are left wondering how any popular revolution could survive, encircled as it would be by these representatives of corruption, these diplomats of intrigue, encircled by old hatreds and new money, by power, by profit-at-any-cost, by privilege, by religious fanaticism and sectarianism, by local nationalisms and international corporations, all thrown together into this witch’s brew (including, if you are to read some of the words recently published from some of the players: the death of language) of a New World Order, in reality for many (though not all) people: another dark ages based on a sordid contempt for any meaning or truth that might sustain the name of democracy…
…dēmokratía, literally the «rule of the people»…
The Democratic Project of Rojava
…being born amid all these pictures of dead and dying children that these brave social critics, activists and fighters are circulating furiously to extend their support where fighter jets rain fire and misery and where steel and metal barrels hurl murder a cool 28 miles away…
There can be little doubt now that as a species, we humans have never learnt a single lesson from the countless holocausts we have both perpetrated and survived up to now…
And in the midst of this our most-recent holocaust, it seems also we have never learnt to uncover the human heart from its nightmare of fear and hatred that continues to fuel our reptilian brain amid all the privileged hot air and pretensions of Security Councils, ambassadors, government ministers, journalists with only one thing in common: business as usual – their business… of profit and power and murder in equal measure…while dinner is served…or rather more correctly «bread and circuses»:
«Now that no one buys our votes, the public has long since cast off its cares; the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things—-Bread and Games!» Juvenal.
“We will pulverize anyone standing in front of us…” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, says…
…And so, as the second month of the War in Afrin begins: welcome to the 21st century – welcome to another era of the mindless…and the heartless…
Another voice – one whose own heart broke, on April 15, 1938, as General Francisco Franco’s fascist troops «having swept down the Ebro valley» reached the Mediterranean, splitting republican Spain in two and so beginning the end of one of the last century’s great betrayals of democracy…nevertheless, though broken hearted, in poverty and dying in delirium in a Parisian clinic («I am going to Spain, I want to go to Spain») yet always with something meaningful to say, still relevant to our experience of Rojava and the Kurdish struggle right now:
XIV SPAIN, TAKE THIS CUP FROM ME
Children of the earth,
if Spain falls — I say, it’s a manner of speaking —
if there should fall
down from the sky her forearm, which is seized
and pulled along by two earth-forged plates;
children, what an age of sunken temples!
How early in the sun what I was telling you!
How soon within your breast the ancient clamor!
How old your 2 in the quarto.
Children of the earth, here is
Mother Spain with her belly on her back!
Here is our teacher with her yardstick,
she is mother and teacher,
cross and timber, because she gave you the height,
vertigo and division and sum, children
it’s up to her, fathers of due process.
If she falls — I say, it’s a manner of speaking — If Spain
falls, from the earth downwards,
children! How you are going to stop growing!
How the year is going to punish the month,
how your teeth will be limited to ten,
the diphthong yoked, the medal in tears.
How the little lamb will go on
being tied by the hoof to the great inkwell.
How you are going to go down the steps of the alphabet
to the letter in which grief was born.
sons of warriors, meanwhile,
lower your voice, since Spain at this very moment is dividing
her energy among the animal kingdom,
the tiny flowers, the comets and men.
Lower your voice, for she is
with her rigor, which is great, not knowing
what to do, and there in her hand
is the skull speaking and talk and talk
the skull, that one with the braid,
the skull, that one that’s alive!
Lower your voice, I bid you;
lower your voice, the song of the syllables, the weeping
of matter and the minor hum of the pyramids, and even
that of the temples that walk with two stones!
Lower your breath, and if
your forearm drops,
if the yardsticks ring, if it is night,
if the heavens fit between two terrestrial limbos,
if there is noise in the sound of doors,
if I delay,
if you don’t see anyone, if you are alarmed
by pencils without points, if mother
Spain falls — I say, it’s a manner of speaking —
go out, children of the earth, go and seek her!
(Translation by Sandy McKinney)
By, YPJ Rojava
Spain, Take this Cup from Me, César Vallejo
César Vallejo, The Complete Poems
Edited and Translated by
University of California Press, 2009
ESPANA, APARTA DE MI ESTE CALIZ – SPAIN, TAKE THIS CUP FROM ME http://www.biblioteca.fundacionbbva.pe/libros/libro_000018.pdf
Rojava Revolution: The Culture of Resistance
Rojava: An Experiment in Radical Direct Democracy Within a War-Torn Country
Rojava: A Utopia in the Heart of Syria’s Chaos