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UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

A place to talk about domestic politics in Middle East (Iran, Iraq , Turkey, Syria) Also includes topics about Assyrian, Armenian, Chaldean .

Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:36 pm

UK’s Kurds call on London to speak up for Afrin

Kurds in the United Kingdom are protesting in the streets, urging the British government to speak up in support of Afrin, an issue that has drawn little attention in the UK.

“We have urged the Labour Party to place pressure on Theresa May and the British government in order for them to pressure Erdogan to end the incursion,” a Kurdish protester said.

Former Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell said the world owes the Kurds their support after Kurdish forces faced ISIS on the frontlines.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/world/27012018

I remember the 'Good Old Days' :ymsigh:

The days when often more than 20,000 Kurds would close their shops and travel miles to London to protest - I know because I was there with my friends :ymhug:

Now there are probably 10 times more Kurds in England and 10 time less Kurds going on marches or attending protest meetings :((

Perhaps they have forgotten where the OFF button is for the TURKISH TV programs that they have on almost non-stop X( X( X(
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:07 pm

Showdown in Afrin: Turkey’s Attack on Syria’s Kurds
Threatens That Country’s Most Democratic, Pluralist Force


The Kurds have said they will fight to the death before they give up an inch of Afrin.
By Meredith Tax

Last week Turkey opened a new front in the Syrian war by using its air force against the Syrian Kurdish canton of Afrin—which had done absolutely nothing to provoke this attack—even while the battle against ISIS continues in Deir Ezzor, where the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish YPG-YPJ, are fighting with US support. Turkey’s attack on the Syrian Kurds has opened up a new front in the war, jeopardized its already fragile relationship with the United States, and given a green light to jihadis to attack the Kurds.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who announced that his “Operation Olive Branch” would “destroy all terror nests” within days, launched a ground offensive on Sunday, January 21 that included tanks, special operations troops, and militias of the Free Syrian Army. Though the ground offensive was stalled, Turkey is still heavily bombing; so far at least 24 civilians have been killed and an estimated 5,000 have lost their homes. The displaced have nowhere to run, since Turkey has built a wall along the border and those who reach Aleppo are turned back at Syrian government checkpoints. Meanwhile, at home Erdogan is arresting any journalist or politician who dares criticize the offensive on social media—91 and counting.

Afrin is the westernmost canton of what is often called by the Kurdish name Rojava; the other two cantons, Cizire and Kobane, were originally separated by ISIS-controlled territory but by spring of 2016 they were linked; that August Kurdish and Arab fighters in the SDF drove ISIS out of Manbij. The cantons are under the ideological leadership of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), but are run by a diverse, multi-party umbrella body known as TEV-DEM. In December 2016, to highlight its commitment to pluralism rather than Kurdish identity politics, Rojava changed its name to the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.

Until now, Afrin, which is famous mainly for olive-oil soap, has been one of the more stable parts of Syria; for this reason, despite a Turkish embargo, it became the destination of hundreds of thousands of refugees, who increased its population from 400,000 before the war to roughly 750,000 now. Afrin borders Turkey on the north and is surrounded on its other sides by Syrian government forces and rebel forces including Al Qaeda. Like other parts of Rojava, Afrin is run democratically, with an emphasis on religious and ethnic pluralism, restorative justice, the liberation of women, ecology, and economic cooperatives.

It has been an open question how long the military alliance between these Kurdish radicals and the United States would last once the battle of Raqqa was won and ISIS was driven out of most of Syria. To convince the SDF—who lost at least 650 fighters in Raqqa—to lead that battle, the United States promised future support. These promises appeared to bear fruit on January 15, when Washington announced that it would continue to support a military force of 30,000 on Rojava’s borders with Iraq and Turkey, and also along the Euphrates River, which separates Rojava from territory controlled by the Syrian government.

Erdogan, predictably, went ballistic. “A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders,” he said. “Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.” Moscow also objected; Russia is planning permanent bases in Syria, and there’s evidence Iran is too. Neither of them want the United States to do the same.

The Kurds had made their own agreement with Russia last March, when they let Moscow establish a base in Afrin in exchange for a promise to protect the canton against Turkey. On January 18, however, Turkey sent a diplomatic mission to Moscow and two days later, representatives of the Assad government met with YPG leadership at Russia’s airbase at Hmeimim, making them one of those “offers you can’t refuse.”

According to Sinam Mohamad, diplomatic representative of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, the Russians said they would protect Afrin only if the Kurds turned it over to the Assad government. As Timur Akhmetov, an analyst with the Russian International Affairs Council, explained to Ahval News, a democratic exile Turkish news service, the transfer of Afrin to the Syrian government was vital so Russia could show the Kurds elsewhere in Syria “that they can have formal self-rule while keeping the Syrian government in charge of security and borders.” The point was to tell the world the Syrian Kurds need Damascus to survive.

When the YPG-YPJ indignantly rejected their offer, Russia pulled out its troops, thus effectively giving Turkey the green light. This betrayal has probably finished Russia’s projected peace talks at Sochi; the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, at least, will almost certainly not participate.

And what has the United States done to protect its Kurdish allies against invasion by its NATO partner Turkey? Basically nothing, though it has advised Turkey to avoid unnecessary collateral damage—in the words of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, “just try to be precise, try to limit your operation, try to show some restraint, let us see if we can work with you to create the kind of security zone you might need.”

Turkey’s stated aim is to create a 30-kilometer buffer zone on its border with Rojava—a need that Turkey never seemed to feel when ISIS was in control of that region. The zone is supposed to prevent the YPG-YPJ from attacking Turkey, though they have repeatedly said they wouldn’t do that anyway. Of course, Erdogan is really worried that Rojava’s success as a self-governing entity might be a bad example for Turkey’s own Kurds, who, under the leadership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have been resisting the government for 40 years, first as a guerrilla movement seeking independence and then, since 2005, as a movement for autonomy and democratic rights.

Under these circumstances, a buffer zone will hardly be enough to make Turkey feel secure. In fact, nothing is likely to make Turkey feel secure until it becomes willing to see its Kurds as citizens with rights rather than as an existential threat. We are in Erich Fromm country here, dealing with deep irrational phobias that are fanned and exploited for political ends.

As Turkey’s economy tanks and its political isolation increases, these political ends include maintaining Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule. A little war might make him seem indispensable. And Afrin must have seemed like an easy win for this huge military power, with its fancy German tanks and US warplanes and missiles. Turkey has already shown its willingness to inflict “massive destruction, and numerous other serious human rights violations,” including heavy damage to the cities of Nusaybin and Cizre and the Sur district of Diyarbakir, according to the UN.

But the Kurds have said they will fight to the death before they give up an inch of Afrin, and though YPG-YPJ fighters in Afrin do not have US tanks or anti-aircraft guns, they are still a formidable force, seasoned by years of combat with ISIS. Meanwhile, much of Turkey’s former military command was jailed or dismissed after the failed coup of July 2016, and FSA militias have yet to defeat the Kurds.

These factors throw doubt on Turkey’s promise to clean up Afrin in a few days and then drive on to take Manbij, a strategic point currently held by SDF forces backed by US military advisers. Is Erdogan really ready to take on the Pentagon?

Sinam Mohamad and other Kurdish representatives are calling on the United States to declare a no-fly zone over all of Rojava, including Afrin, emphasizing the key role played by their troops against ISIS and the importance of their pluralistic model to future stability in Syria. At the moment, Washington appears to have two conflicting foreign policies: The White House wants to appease Turkey, and the Pentagon wants to support the Kurds.

And what should US progressives support?

With the defeat of the Syrian civil opposition, the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria is the only location of anything that looks like democracy, let alone feminism, in the region; as such, they deserve—and need—all our support. But Washington has a history of supporting Turkey’s most repressive tendencies. The CIA was the architect of Turkey’s deep state; the State Department put the PKK on its terrorist list in 1997, and Washington organized the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999. In 2002—after the PKK renounced terrorism—the European Union put the group on its terrorist list; the UN still doesn’t list the PKK as such. Moreover, the United States and Europe have consistently supplied Turkey with weapons used against the Kurds.

This Cold War–style alliance has become increasingly uncomfortable as Erdogan evolved into a dictator who supported Syrian jihadis opposed by the United States and took the road of extreme domestic repression, bloody attacks on his own citizens, Islamization, and widespread corruption. Now Erdogan is encouraging nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire, clearly hoping to incorporate parts of Syria. Any prospect of regional stability, let alone commitment to justice and democracy, are completely at odds with Turkey’s goals at this point.

Rather than soothing Erdogan, the United States should induce him to stop persecuting the Kurds in Syria and Turkey and re-open negotiations with the PKK, as well as return Turkey to a condition approaching democracy. Turkey Democratic =)) =)) =))

In the long run, the ethnic nation-state model is long overdue for a change, and support for the federalist approach to governance proposed by the Kurds is the clearest path forward in countries as heterogeneous as Syria, Iraq, and even Turkey. Even if Washington is not able to recognize that, we should.

https://www.thenation.com/article/showd ... ist-force/
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:28 pm

Peshmerga deployment to Afrin won’t solve problem: Masoud Barzani

The deployment of the Peshmerga to help their fellow Kurds in Afrin against Turkey’s military operation will not help solve the problem, Masoud Barzani, head of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said in an interview.

Barzani, who declined to extend his term as president of the Kurdistan Region in November, told the BBC that he is “deeply concerned” about the Afrin operation, but that the Peshmerga have no role to play in the conflict that began last Saturday.

“We are deeply concerned. And we do hope that this military operation would stop as soon as possible, because the fighting and wars are not the solution to the problem,” Barzani said.

“Sending Peshmerga will not solve the issue there. The best assistance we can offer is trying our best to stop the offensive,” the former president explained.

When the Syrian Kurdistan city of Kobane was under siege by ISIS in late 2014, Barzani ordered the deployment of Peshmerga forces to assist the YPG in its defence, albeit with the consent of Turkey as they had to pass through Turkish territory.

A senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said earlier in the week that they were willing to deploy Peshmerga to Afrin to fight against Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch, though he acknowledged that doing so would be almost impossible.

Mala Bakhtiar described the defence put up by the YPG in Afrin as “sacred” and expressed hope that Ankara would allow a delegation from the Kurdistan Region to visit Turkey to discuss a peaceful resolution to the Afrin situation.

Turkey regards the YPG as an extension of the PKK, a Kurdish armed group that has been involved in an insurgency against the Turkish state for over three decades, fighting for greater cultural and national rights for millions of Kurds. It is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey. The YPG, backed by the US-led anti-ISIS Global Coalition, denies any organizational links with the PKK.

Noah Bonsey, a senior analyst writing for the International Crisis Group, argued that Turkey and Kurdish groups cannot solve one problem without the other and called on Turkey and the PKK to go back to the peace process that ended in mid-2015 after two years of negotiations. He proposed an arrangement that would see Turkey end its cross-border activities in return for the PKK pulling its forces out of Turkey, followed by talks.

The deadly war initiated by Turkey’s military and its Syrian proxies about a week ago to drive out the Kurdish forces on the border strip between Turkey and Syria “is likely to prove indecisive and costly for both sides,” the analyst predicted.

He explained that the operation has already caused a “headache” for Washington.

Ankara and Washington are NATO allies, but the two disagree over the fate of the Kurdish fighters post-ISIS in Syria.

A phone call between US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday in which they discussed Afrin only added more to the tensions between them. Three days after the two leaders spoke, they still have not agreed yet on what they discussed or agreed to.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/260120181
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jan 27, 2018 10:30 pm

The real reason behind Turkey’s skirmish into Syria - Syria

On the sixth day of Turkey’s incursion into the Kurdish district of Afrin, an international movement has begun to try to stop the galloping Turkish assault into Syria.

Germany announced Thursday it would halt arms shipments and suspend the deal it signed to upgrade Turkey’s German-manufactured tanks. France convened a special meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday, and U.S. President Donald Trump warned Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday to “avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces” in Syria.

It was unclear from that wording if he meant that U.S. forces might attack Turkish forces, but Turkey was quick to deny that any such warning was included in the phone conversation between the two leaders, saying instead they discussed only the situation in Syria.

Accurate data on the number of dead and wounded is not available, but the photographs and reports being released through a Kurdish news agency in northern Syria show wounded civilians, including women and children.

In the Kurdish districts of northern Syria, men and women are being called on to enlist, while teenage boys have received weapons and basic training so they can protect fellow civilians in case Turkish troops enter the regional capital in Afrin. Before the war, the district was home to some 170,000 people, 35,000 of whom lived in the city of Afrin itself.

Kurdish social media contains performances by Kurdish singing groups in traditional dress, in which they pledge to eject the Turks from their land. Women’s groups have released statements of support for the male and female Kurdish fighters, and the heads of the Arab tribes living in these areas say they will stand “shoulder to shoulder with the Kurds against the Turkish enemy.” They say they will stand “against the murderer of women and children, Erdogan, because the fate of all of the population of northern Syria is one, there is no difference between us,” and also pledge to “be the dam that will stop the Ottoman state.”

This sense of a shared fate between the Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, the Armenians, Assyrians, Muslims and Alawites is far from an obvious one. Kurds actually fought Armenians in Turkey, and many took part in the 1915 Armenian massacre. The Alawites and Christians were – and still are – considered supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Some Kurds do not have Syrian citizenship due to a process of Arabization that began under Assad’s father, Hafez Assad, during which the latter settled many Arabs on land he confiscated from the Kurds.

On the face of it, the civil war in Syria provided the perfect conditions for a settling of accounts between the various ethnic groups in northern Syria. But in fact, the opposite happened.

In the three autonomous districts – Afrin, Jazira and the Euphrates, most of whose population is Kurdish – the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria was established in 2014, in the area known as Rojava (“West”), which constitutes the western part of the Kurdish national dream. This federation wrote a joint constitution that granted equal rights to every ethnic and religious group, and also to women.

The constitution’s principles are based on the doctrine of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) who is in a Turkish prison near Istanbul. Öcalan – who was influenced by the theories of the Jewish philosopher and anarchist (and later communist) Murray Bookchin – seeks to establish a secular, liberal, democratic federation that sanctifies environmentalism, and which will in the future be part of Syria, which in itself will be a federated country according to this theory.

Öcalan is locked in an ideological dispute over these principles with the Kurdish leadership in the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq. The Kurds in Iraq want to establish an independent Kurdish state. In contrast to the Kurdish region in Iraq, which is controlled by family and tribal elites (the most prominent of which are the Barzani and Talabani families), the Kurdish districts in Syria were built on a political foundation based on direct democracy and egalitarian participation.

For example, the elementary school curriculum is based on studies suited to each student’s ethnic group and language. Lessons are taught in these schools in Arabic, Assyrian or Kurdish, but only in junior high school must students also learn the other two languages that are not their native tongue (in addition to English, which is compulsory in all schools).

This is a real revolution in the education system, after decades when the teaching of Kurdish was banned and Arabic was considered the only official language to be taught.

Each of the districts governs itself autonomously. It is led by an elected government and president, as well as a council that is a kind of local parliament in which each community is represented proportionately to its numbers in the population. In every senior government position, women and men have equal authority. In the Afrin district, for example, a woman, Hayvi Mustafa, is president and she has two male deputies. Each of the districts held elections for the people’s council and municipal positions in 2015. Two years later, in September 2017, elections were held for community councils, in which some 12,400 candidates vied for 3,700 public posts. The large number of candidates attests to the great faith in the political system, which gives power to the people through local councils, neighborhood councils and even street committees that manage civil matters.

The judicial system operates on a local level by means of civil judicial committees called peace and consensus committees, which act as mediators in local disputes. The highest level is the constitutional court, shared by the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria. Each district has its own police force, in which women and men both serve. As part of Öcalan’s radical socialist doctrine, the economy is run mostly as a cooperative, with communities jointly working land and selling the produce. However, there are also a few factories in private hands. People do not pay direct taxes; most of the income comes from the payment of license fees, registration of vehicles and various services that citizens receive, and from the sale of oil refined by distinctly homemade methods.

Above the district level is the federal government, which is based on the federal constitution (amended in 2016): This is responsible for foreign policy, coordinating military action, exports and economic planning. Each district must operate according to the federal constitution, which prohibits polygamy and forced marriage, and also encourages civil marriage. Co-heading the federal government are a male and female president, as well as a council to which representatives are elected from the districts.

The executive body of the federal government is the Kurdish National Council, which is controlled by the Democratic Union Party, which established the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in 2004. These consist of men and women tasked with protecting the Kurdish districts from outside attack. Turkey calls the YPG a terror organization affiliated with the PKK, which Turkey also defines as a terror group. The YPG operates separately (but not in isolation) from the Kurdish militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which consists mainly of Kurdish fighters with a minority of Arabs, and was established by the United States as a ground force against the Islamic State.

It is now clear that some of the Kurdish units, which continue to receive military and financial aid from the United States, will join the defense units in the struggle to stop the Turkish incursion into Afrin district. The Pentagon said this week it would examine ways of assisting the Kurdish militia if its forces head into combat in Afrin, but denied it would be stopping assistance altogether, as Turkey has been saying over recent days. This is the source of concern over possible conflict between U.S. forces, who have pledged to protect the Kurds, and Turkish forces.

The main problem facing the autonomous Kurdish districts in their struggle against Turkey is a lack of territorial contiguity – meaning they are unable to establish a joint military line. Their geographical dispersion along the Syrian-Turkish border has created separate buffer zones, some of which were taken over by Islamic State, which has since been uprooted. In other places, the Turkish army has taken over, together with the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army.

The invasion of Afrin – the westernmost district – was thus intended not only to “fight the Kurdish terror organizations,” as Turkey claims, but to prevent any possibility of creating Kurdish territorial contiguity and establishing an independent Kurdish state along the Syrian border with Turkey.

But according to the strategy and ideology that unites most Syrian Kurds, they have no intention of establishing an independent Kurdish state that might threaten Turkey. They seem to have successfully persuaded the United States of this, as well as both Russia and Syria, which withdrew its forces from the Kurdish districts at the start of the war in 2011.

Russia knows the survival of Assad’s regime and his control of the entire country depends to a large extent on his ability to assimilate the Kurdish districts into Syria, with the ideal scenario being one that allows the Kurds to run their federation as part of the Syrian state under Assad’s rule. The United States also sees the Kurdish federal system in Syria and the principles of the Kurdish constitution as being no less worthy of defending than the Kurdish region in Iraq.

This is the crux of the dispute between Erdogan and his counterparts in Washington and Moscow, each of whom – for their own reasons – regard the Kurds as allies. The question now is how far the superpowers are willing to go to stop Erdogan’s aspirations without causing an irreversible rift with him.

https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-new ... -1.5766942
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jan 27, 2018 11:10 pm

Turkey says U.S. has promised to stop
arming YPG, warns Washington on Manbij


The United States has pledged to stop supplying weapons to a Kurdish militia in Syria, Turkey said on Saturday, calling on Washington to immediately remove its troops from a Syrian town of Manbij that Turkish forces plan to target.

Turkey’s air and ground offensive in northwest Syria’s Afrin region against the Kurdish YPG militia has opened a new front in the seven-year, multi-sided Syrian civil war and strained ties with NATO ally Washington.

Ankara views the YPG as terrorists and as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and has been infuriated by U.S. support, including arms and training, for the militia. The Kurdish fighters have played a prominent role in U.S.-led efforts to combat the hardline Islamic State in Syria.

Since the start of the eight-day-old incursion, dubbed “Operation Olive Branch” by Ankara, President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkish forces would push east toward the town of Manbij, potentially putting them in confrontation with U.S. troops deployed there.

U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, in a telephone call that the United States would no longer provide weapons to the YPG, the Turkish presidency said on Saturday.

“It was emphasized that Turkey’s legitimate security concerns must be paid attention to. It was agreed that close coordination would be carried out in order to avoid misunderstandings,” it said.

The agreement is likely to be seen by Ankara as a substantial diplomatic victory from the incursion, where Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies appear to have made modest advances, as heavy rain and poor weather have hampered air strikes and progress on the ground.

Turkey’s foreign minister said the United States needed to follow up its promise with concrete action, including the immediate withdrawal of its troops from the vicinity of Manbij.

“The United States needs to break its link with (the) terrorist organization and make them drop their weapons completely. They need to collect the weapons they gave, they need to withdraw from Manbij immediately,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Saturday.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment about ending arms to the

ERDOGAN LOOKS EAST

Erdogan said this week that Turkish forces would sweep Kurdish fighters from the length of Syrian border and could push all the way east to the frontier with Iraq, a move that would risk a possible confrontation with U.S. forces allied to the Kurds.

Any drive by Turkish forces toward Manbij, part of Kurdish-held territory some 100 km (60 miles) east of Afrin, could also threaten U.S. efforts to stabilize northern Syria. The United States has about 2,000 troops in Syria, officially as part of the international coalition against Islamic State.

U.S. forces were deployed in and around Manbij to deter Turkish and U.S.-backed rebels from attacking each other and have also carried out training missions in the area.

A senior official for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Syrian fighters spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG, said any wider Turkish assault would face an “appropriate response”.

Redur Xelil also said in an interview that he was sure the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, which has backed the SDF in its battle against the jihadists, was trying to put pressure on Turkey to limit its offensive.

DEATH TOLL

Turkey and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel allies have killed a total of 394 militants since the incursion began, Erdogan said on Saturday. Turkey and the FSA rebel factions have together lost 20 people he said, without giving a breakdown.

Later on Saturday, the Turkish military said that two soldiers and two FSA fighters had been killed and another 11 soldiers and four FSA fighters had been lightly wounded in clashes on Saturday.

In a statement, the military also said 447 militants had been “neutralized” since the operation had started, with 57 of those on Saturday.

The SDF has accused Turkey of exaggerating the number of Kurdish fighters it has killed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitoring group, said that 36 civilians in Afrin, including 10 children, have died so far.

A total of 59 YPG fighters and at least 69 fighters from the Turkey-backed FSA have died in clashes, the Observatory said. Seven Turkish soldiers have been killed and another seven are missing, it said.

Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati in Washington; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Louise Heavens

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mide ... SKBN1FG0P4
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:21 am

Syrian rebels gamble on Turkish alliance to fight Kurds and Assad

Ankara is retraining a core of fighters to wage its own war against ISIS and Kurdish expansion X(

The young rebel from Idlib rolled down his sock to reveal a deep, blackened gash, a grim memento of weeks as an Islamic State captive. The man who tortured him in that prison was on his mind when he heard that Turkey was offering military training to 500 men, and decided to sign up.

Like all the recruits to Ankara’s latest experiment, he was a seasoned anti-Assad rebel with battlefield experience but no military education. Turkey promised to drill and discipline them, creating the nucleus of a new Syrian rebel army.

“They told us: ‘You have been fighting for six years, God bless you, but we want to train you to be soldiers’,” the former prisoner said. Like all Syrian fighters and officials who agreed to interviews about the latest offensive, he spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of relations with Turkey.

After a month at a training camp near Antakya in 2016, they were sent back to fight in al-Bab, an Isis-dominated town over the border. The graduates, along with some others who would later train in Turkey, would come to be known by other Syrian rebels as “the Turkish army’s auxiliary force”, and last week they were called into action by their backers, playing a prominent role in a new Turkish offensive into Syria.

Their aim is to dislodge US-backed Kurdish militias from the enclave of Afrin, which lies on the border with Turkey. The groups are the Syrian wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state. The Kurds won Washington’s support when they took on a key role in the battle for Raqqa, but Ankara has long protested at the alliance.

The decision to cross over into Syria, and directly intervene in the seven-year-long civil war, has underlined the depth of Turkey’s concern about Kurdish fighters inside Syria. But it has also thrown Ankara’s ambitious training project into relief. According to rebel commanders, Turkey has for nearly two years been supporting the build-up and training of a unified army in Syria capable of resuming the battle against President Bashar al-Assad, now in the ascendant in the long civil war.

The genesis of the idea came in the opening months of Turkey’s first military campaign into Syria, when it launched Operation Euphrates Shield in the summer of 2016. Its troops had orders to both oust Isis from key border towns and limit the Kurdish militias’ westward expansion.

After taking the town of Jarablus near the border, Turkey sought to augment the Euphrates Shield forces – a disparate coalition of rebel militias – with a cadre of trained fighters to tackle Isis and guard the frontiers against Kurdish forces.

Rebel officials say the training programme has continued, building up Euphrates Shield into a force of 10,000 to 15,000 battle-ready soldiers, with an additional 10,000 recent recruits. After major military losses to Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies, the rebels see this force as a lifeline that could allow them to relaunch their waning insurgency. That rebel army, they say, could wage a campaign to eliminate al-Qaida-linked fighters who dominate the opposition-controlled province of Idlib, and go on to fight Assad again.

“We cannot accept military defeat, we have to reinforce and start over,” said one rebel official. “Euphrates Shield is against both terrorism and the regime, and it is the first step to build a state.” But their prime aim of unseating Assad seems increasingly divergent from their Turkish patrons’ focus on attacking Kurdish troops, meaning the force may ultimately amount to nothing but another proxy militia under a foreign power’s command – much like most other groups fighting in Syria.

“The [moderate] rebels previously didn’t establish themselves as useful proxies for other internationals,” said Sam Heller at the Century Foundation thinktank. “As a result, they were driven to the margins.”

The idea of a unified force dates back to the start of the armed opposition, but chronic divisions, and foreign powers backing rival factions, stalled its creation. In September 2017, hit by military setbacks, dozens of rebel groups got behind a national army project set up by the interim opposition government, a cabinet based in Syria with limited powers, which formally administered areas held by Euphrates Shield forces.

Turkey has quietly continued to support the project as it has grown into multiple divisions led by Syrian commanders who coordinate with Turkish officers, and who are spearheading the campaign in Afrin now. Therein lies the dilemma of the rebels leading the ground assault. Abandoned by all their international allies, they see no choice but to follow Turkey’s lead.

While they agree with the rationale of the Afrin campaign, they also hope that taking the Kurdish enclave will open up a ground corridor into Idlib that would allow the national rebel army its first test against their greatest enemies – Assad’s regime, and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former wing of al-Qaida in Syria. Turkey has given them no promises of support for this. Its actions after the Afrin campaign will determine whether it has helped build up the rebel army to be its own proxy force, or to fight against the regime.

“We have to play on the differences between global powers negotiating in Syria,” said one rebel commander, whose group is not in Afrin but intends to join the national rebel army. “It is a strategic interest to open the ground corridor into Idlib, and it coincides with Turkish interests.”

The rebel who trained in Turkey said: “I would rather go fight [HTS] and the regime, but the Turks are the only ones who stood by us. How can I take on [HTS] and the regime by myself, without any allies?”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/ ... urds-assad
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:11 am

Guide on what you need to know about
Turkey′s military offensive against Kurdish-held Afrin

Why is Turkey attacking the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in Syria? What is Ankara's larger goal? DW explains Turkey's motives and the operation's broader implications on the Syrian war.

The Turkish military and their Syrian rebel allies on January 20 launched "Operation Olive Branch" against the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin.

The intervention marks a major turning point in the seven-year Syrian civil war and adds further strain on relations between Turkey and the United States, two NATO allies that have been at odds over Syria.

Why is Turkey attacking Afrin?

Turkey has long threatened to root out Kurdish "terrorists" along its border with Syria.

Afrin is controlled by the Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units (YPG). Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organization linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

The YPG is the main component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a rebel alliance that controls around 25 percent of Syrian territory and has been at the forefront of the fight against the "Islamic State" (ISIS).

Washington has some 2,000 special forces in SDF areas mostly east of the Euphrates River, but none in Afrin.

Western Kurdistan has long been attempting to declare independence. Kobane was a thriving city. Turkey has always treated Kurds within it's borders as third-class citizens and feared it's own brainwashed Kurds would awake to the knowledge that due to their vast numbers, they are more powerful than Kurds in Iraq or Syria.

Why is Turkey so worried about the Kurds?

For Turkey, attacking Afrin is about ensuring geopolitical interests and maintaining domestic security.

The YPG took control of Afrin and other Kurdish areas in the northeast of Syria in 2012 after the Syrian government withdrew to fight rebel groups and jihadi factions in other parts of the country - as well as to counter Turkish support for rebels.

The Syrian Kurds have had a tactic relationship with the Assad regime throughout the war.

Meanwhile, the Kurds used the civil war to set up an autonomous region for what they envision to be a postwar federal Syria.

Ankara fears YPG gains in the Syrian civil war could have a knock-on effect on the Kurdish minority's demands for autonomy within Turkey.

Turkey also fears that under the protection of the US its archenemy the PKK will set up quasi-state on its border.

What led up to the attack?

Turkish-backed rebels carved out a "safe zone" in northern Aleppo province in early 2017 after a months long offensive that pushed ISIS from a section of the border.

That mission — called "Operation Euphrates Shield" — aimed in part to block the SDF from connecting areas under their control in the northeast with Afrin to the west.

The Turkish military and its Syrian rebel allies in October set up military posts in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, to the south of Afrin.

The move was part of a "de-escalation" zone deal with Russia and Iran, both key backers of the Assad regime.

Speculation is rife that Turkey struck a deal with Russia and the Syrian regime, whereby Turkey agreed to stop supporting rebels in Idlib for Russia and Syria to give Ankara a free hand in Afrin.

Russia controls airspace over Afrin, meaning that any Turkish military intervention probably required Russian approval. But one could also say that any Turkish military intervention probably required Syrian approval.

I believe that both Russia and the US have pulled back to avoid direct confrontation with Turkish troops for fear of escalating the situation.

Turkish-backed rebels participating in the Afrin offensive are the same as those in the Euphrates Shield operation.

What is Turkey's larger goal?

Using military brinksmanship, Turkey seeks to secure a strong position at the negotiating table in Syria.

Ankara has been concerned about how the civil war will end. The fight against IS has slowly wind down and the Assad regime has retaken large parts of the country with the help of Russian airstrikes.

Once a main rebel backer to overthrow the Assad regime, Turkey has since focused on working with Russia and Iran to end the conflict and set its sights on thwarting Syrian Kurdish gains.

Washington has signaled it plans to keep its forces in some SDF areas for the foreseeable future.

Turkey believes that the Syrian Kurds may try to use US cover to maintain autonomy in the north of the country.

Russia, Iran and Syria also oppose a long-term US presence in Syria, but Turkey may not get their support against the YPG. Moscow, Tehran and Assad have indicated they are open to letting Syrian Kurds participate in peace talks.

Who's fighting in the Syria conflict?

Syria: a mosaic of chaos

Syria has been engulfed in a devastating civil war since 2011 after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad lost control over large parts of the country to multiple revolutionary groups. The conflict has since drawn in foreign powers and brought misery and death to many civilians.

The dictator

Syria's army, officially known as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), is loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is fighting to restore the president's rule over the entire country. The SAA has been fighting alongside a number of pro-Assad militias such as the National Defense Force and has cooperated with military advisors from Russia and Iran, which back Assad.

The rebels

The Free Syrian Army grew out of protests against the Assad regime that eventually turned violent. Along with other non-jihadist rebel groups, it seeks the ouster of President Assad and democratic elections. After suffering a number of defeats, many of its members defected to hardline militant groups. It garnered some support from the US and Turkey, but its strength has been greatly diminished.

The resistance

Fighting between Syrian Kurds and Islamists in has become its own conflict. An ethnic group concentrated in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, Kurds have long sought their own homeland or autonomy within their respective countries. The US-led coalition against the "Islamic State" has backed the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias. The Kurds have rarely fought Assad.

The new jihadists

"Islamic State" (IS) took advantage of regional chaos to capture vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014. Seeking to establish its own "caliphate," ISIS has become infamous for its fundamentalist brand of Islam and its mass atrocities. ISIS is facing defeat in both countries after the US and Russia led separate military campaigns against the militant group.

The old jihadists

ISIS is not the only terrorist group that has ravaged Syria. A number of Islamist militant groups, such as the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, also known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, are fighting in the conflict. Warring with each other and well as with pro-Assad forces and moderate rebels, Nusra Front merged with several other entities under the umbrella name Tahrir al-Sham in January 2017.

The same al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front that Turkey is working with.

The eastern guardian

The Kremlin has proven to be a powerful friend to Assad. Russian air power and ground troops officially joined the fight in September 2015 after years of supplying the Syrian army. Moscow has come under fire from the international community for the high number of civilian casualties during its airstrikes. However, Russia's intervention turned the tide in war in favor of Assad.

The same al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front that Turkey is working with.

Prior to Russia's intervention and bombing of oil convoys and main roads across Syria into Turkey, ISIS was freely transporting oil on well maintained roads and unhindered across Turkish borders.

It is well known that much of ISIS vast fortune came from those oil exports via Turkey and most of ISIS' weapons and troops came via Turkey.


The western allies

A US-led coalition of more than 50 countries, including Germany, began targeting IS and other terrorist targets with airstrikes in late 2014. The anti-ISIS coalition has dealt major setbacks for the militant group. The US has more than a thousand special forces in the country backing the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The northern watchman

Turkey, which is also part of the US-led coalition against ISIS, has actively supported rebels opposed to Assad. It has a tense relationship with its American allies over US cooperation with Kurdish fighters, who Ankara says are linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighting in Turkey. The Turkish military has intervened alongside rebels in northern Aleppo and Idlib province.

Turkey's role has always been extremely confusing:
    No doubt it allowed ISIS to trade through Turkey's borders
    No doubt Turkey allowed ISIS into Kobane
    No doubt Turkey refused to allow Kurds across the border into Kobane to fight ISIS

The Persian shadow

Iran had supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before the conflict emerged in 2011. Eager to maintain its influence in the Middle East, Tehran has provided Damascus with strategic assistance, military training and ground troops. The Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah also supports the Assad regime, fighting alongside Iranian forces and paramilitary groups in the country.

http://www.dw.com/en/turkeys-military-o ... a-42287725

The almost forgotten TRUTH

There were many peaceful protests in Syria then, almost overnight, armed fighters moved in and escalated the peaceful protests into an armed conflict

NOBODY has ever discovered where these arme fighters came from or who armed them.


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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:55 pm

Turkey says U.S. needs to withdraw from Syria's Manbij region immediately

The United States needs to withdraw from northern Syria’s Manbij region immediately, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday.

President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Turkish forces would sweep Kurdish fighters from the Syrian border and could push all the way east to the frontier with Iraq, including Manbij - a move which risks a possible confrontation with U.S. forces allied to the Kurds.

Speaking to reporters, Cavusoglu also said Turkey wanted to see concrete steps by the United States to end its support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

Ankara said earlier it had been told by U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster that Washington would not provide the YPG with weapons anymore.

https://www.reuters.com/article/mideast ... SL8N1PM0BO
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jan 29, 2018 1:18 am

Inside Afrin, the true victims of Turkey's invasion of northern Syria
(Western Kurdistan) are revealed - refugees, babies, women and children

Robert Fisk Maabatli, northern Syria

When Taha Mustafa al-Khatr, his wife Amina, his two daughters Zakia and Safa and son Sulieman went to bed in the tiny village of Maabatli, they placed their shoes outside the door. Most Middle Eastern families do the same.

It’s a tradition and a sign of cleanliness in the home. The cheap plastic slippers were still there, of course, when the Turkish shell hit their house at one in the morning – and when I arrived a few hours later, I found the same shoes, a few blown down the stairs but most still neatly lined up next to each other. Did one of the daughters choose the slippers with the plastic bows? Even the rescue workers – such as they are in the Kurdish province of Afrin – didn’t touch the shoes. They left one of the blood-soaked bedspreads where it was in the rain under the collapsed roof of the cheap breeze-block house. The bodies, of course, had gone.

Since the identities of the victims are known – not, of course, that of the Turkish gunner who slaughtered this family – we should, perhaps, be better acquainted with them. Taha was 40 years old, his wife Amina the same age, Zakia was 17 and her bother Suliemann just 14. Safa, who is 19, survived – miraculously, with only wounds to her hands – but of course she is now an orphan.

Ironically, since the Turks are supposedly aiming at Kurdish YPG fighters, the very name of their military assault on Kurdish Syria, Operation Olive Branch, makes one’s gorge rise in the stone village of Mabeta, surrounded as it is by olive orchards – and the al-Khatr family were not Kurds but Arabs, refugees from the village of Tel-Krah further north.

They were so new to Maabatli that Kurdish neighbours I spoke to did not even know their names, but in the Kurdish province – the village is about 10 miles from the city of Afrin – populations are mixed (there are Alawites, too) and no one was surprised when the al-Khatrs arrived on Thursday night.

Taha’s uncle already lived in the hilltop village and he seems to have put his refugee relatives in his storeroom – it was filled with the wreckage of sacks of grain, a fridge and frozen vegetables. The bodies must have been unimaginable.

“You come to our hospital here in Afrin to find out what happened,” Dr Jawan Palot, director of the Afrin Hospital, remarked to me with cynicism, well aware that The Independent was the first Western news organisation to visit Afrin since the Turkish attack. “You should see the dead when they come in – and the state of the wounded with the blood on them.” And there came forth the usual photographs of ferociously broken corpses.

And there followed, too, in the Afrin Hospital, a maudlin tour of the wards where the survivors of Turkey’s assault on the “terrorists” of Afrin, which began on 20 January, lay in their beds. There was Mohamed Hussein, a 58-year old farmer from Jendeeres, with head wounds and a closed eye, almost killed when the roof of his house caved in under air attack on 22 January. And Ahmad Kindy, eight years younger, who took his family out of the village when Turkey’s Olive Branch first cast its shadow over the land early on 21 January, but who unwisely returned and was hit in the back by shrapnel. “There were no YPG fighters there,” he said.

But what if there were? Does that justify the pain of 15-year old Dananda Sido from the village of Adamo, terribly wounded in the chest and legs who turns from us in tears when we try to speak to her in the Afrin Hospital? Or that of 20-year old Kifah Moussa, who was working in her family’s chicken farm at Maryameen when Turkish planes dropped a bomb on the building at midday, killing an entire family of eight people beside her? She was hit in the chest. She smiles bravely at Dr Palot and myself, although it is unclear if she knows that her brother is among the dead.

Then there is the eighth-grade Kurdish schoolboy Mustafa Khaluf, also from Jendeeres, who heard the Turkish planes coming above his home and suffered severe leg wounds in the air strike. Close to him lies seven-year old Aya Nabo, with severe chest wounds, and who turns towards the wall beside her bed rather than talk to her doctor. Her sister says she was hit in the street on 22 January. After a while, it becomes a kind of obscenity to demand, constantly, the circumstances of this suffering. We all know who did this.

It is, however, almost equally obscene to recall the official Turkish version of this little massacre – for that is what it was for 34 civilians whose bodies were taken to the Afrin Hospital alone – which states that more than 70 Turkish jets bombed YPG Kurdish militias in Syria on 21 January. The Turkish news agency Anadolu stated blandly that Turkish aircraft bombed more than 100 “targets” – including an “airfield” (mysteriously unnamed) – on the first day of the attacks. The operations supposedly targeted YPG “barracks, shelters, positions, weapons, vehicles and equipment”.

Where, I wondered as I walked through the wards of Afrin Hospital, had I heard all this stuff before? Was this not a replay of every Israeli air assault on “terrorists” in southern Lebanon, of every Nato air strike on “Serb forces” in ex-Yugoslavia, of every US attack on Iraqi “forces” in 1991 and 2003 and on Afghanistan and on Mosul last year? All were “surgical” operations – carried out with absolute precision to avoid “collateral damage”, of course – and all left a litter of tens or hundreds or thousands of dead and wounded. Our air assaults – Israeli, Nato, American, Turkish – feed off each other in lies and victims.

To make his own calculated point, Dr Polat, who says he was studying medicine in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk when he decided to return to Afrin in 2014 “to help my people in the war”, prints out his entire hospital records from the 21 January to midday on the 26 January and gives them to The Independent. According to Dr Polat, he had received only four YPG fighters dead and two wounded on the first day of the Turkish assaults, another seven fighters and nine wounded later in the week. Because these are real people, not just statistics, there is probably a journalistic duty to record at least some of the lives -- and deaths -- of these poor civilians.

Dipping into the hospital files – and taking names at random – I find that among the 49 civilian wounded brought here, were three-year-old Hamida Brahim al-Hussein, from Maryameen, who was wounded in the head in the chicken farm attack in which Kifah Moussa was injured. And two-year-old Hassan al-Hassan (wounded in the head). Then there was 70-year-old Asia Sheikh Murad from Shiya – with head wounds on 23 January. And 46-year-old Khaled Mohamed Ali Abdul Qadr with head wounds – again, for houses collapsed on their owners – in Maryameen. And Hamid Battal, aged 30, from Fkeiro and Ghengis Ahmad Khalil, whose warrior name did not prevent the 20-year-old from suffering stomach wounds at Midan Ekbes. Sudqi Abdul Rahman, who is 47, was wounded in the leg by shrapnel at Ruzio-Jendeeres on 25 January. A 75-year-old, Shamsa Moussa, is listed as receiving “multiple broken bones” in the village of Rajow on 23 January.

The list of the dead – 10 children, seven women, 17 men – is bleaker, for the hospital had not bothered to catalogue their wounds. They include infants. One-year old Wael al-Hussein, a refugee (who surely could not have known it) from the village of Jebbarah, was killed on 21 January, six-year old Moussab al-Hussein from Idlib (clearly from another refugee family) on the same day. 60-year-old Fatima Mohamed from the village of Arabo was killed in Jendeeres on 23 January. Abdulkader Menam Hamo from Jamo was killed on 24 January.

There will be no war memorials for them – as there are for Kurdish fighters in the military graveyard some miles from Afrin, most of them killed fighting Isis – and no record of their deaths, save, perhaps, for the cold lists in Dr Polat’s files -- each stamped, in Kurdish, “Avrin Hospital”. There is no mention of Syria.

Link to Articles - Photos:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/worl ... 82266.html
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Benny » Mon Jan 29, 2018 3:22 pm

The Turkish airstrikes have apparently also hit the ancient temple site of Ain Dara:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42858265

/Benny

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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:09 pm

Benny wrote:The Turkish airstrikes have apparently also hit the ancient temple site of Ain Dara:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42858265

/Benny


Thank you for the link :ymapplause:

In Sweden, is there much news in the media about Turkey's attack on Afrin and it's invasion of Western Kurdistan/Northern Syria?

I always thought it was an act of war to invade another country but nobody seems to care :-s
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jan 29, 2018 7:58 pm

On the ground in Afrin, it’s hard to
know what Kurdish fighters really stand for
Robert Fisk Afrin

It’s a dirty old war. The city of Afrin, supposedly threatened with cataclysmic assault by the Turkish army, is open as usual, its shops doing apparently good business, its restaurants welcoming customers, its taxis lined up for customers, its Kurdish fighters manning the occasional checkpoint with weary obedience.

As for the Russians who, we have been told by news agencies and many others, have left – well, they are still here, at least during the day. I myself watched a Russian armoured personnel carrier – marked “military police” in Russian and Arabic but with the two-headed Russian eagle on the front – negotiate the checkpoint from the Syrian military line on the edge of Aleppo province into the Kurdish controlled Syrian province of Afrin.

Now you see them, now you don’t. “They pulled out of their big base when they said they did,” a YPG official – the YPG is the people’s “protection force” without much means to protect anyone, or so it would seem – told me rather slyly. “But they pay us visits during the day.”

You bet they do. The Russians are as keen to monitor on the ground (as they are in the air) just how far Turkey’s army really intends to go in its much proclaimed invasion of northern Syria. So far – and such Churchillian phrases should be used sparingly – the Turks appear to be sheep in sheep’s clothing. Only a few tanks have actually been seen by the Kurdish fighters north of Afrin and almost nothing at all of the Free Syrian Army militia which – famous in fantasy and fiction from David Cameron’s woeful “70,000 strong” force of parliamentary history – does not appear to play any role at all in this latest Syrian adventure.

The reality, whatever you may believe from the great and the good of political life, is that Afrin city has itself not been bombed once, and is totally undamaged. Not so, of course, the villages to the west and north. A few miles from the southern entrance of Afrin city, they are digging new graves for the latest “martyrs” – mostly Kurdish military, but also civilians whose families wish their relatives to be interred alongside the dead of the latest Kurdish war – and new earthworks are being readied beyond the plastic-flowered graves for the next to fall on the field of battle. But there are no grieving families yet to shed their tears upon this cold, marble-walled place.
graves1.jpg

The Kurdish ‘martyrs’ cemetery outside Afrin. Many of the dead in the marble graves were killed fighting Isis during the Syrian war

Indeed, there is something curiously barren about the whole war in Afrin. A YPG official – as much military as political – agreed with me when I said that if the Turkish President really threw his entire army, along with their largely mythical “Syrian” FSA militia, into the province of Afrin, they would have got into the city in half an hour. Always supposing they have enough officers still unarrested for anti-Erdogan subversion. We Westerners, of course, like to see the YPG and its associated chums in neighbouring bits of which should have been Kurdistan – if the Americans had not ratted out of their League of Nations commitments after the First World War – as heroic and turbaned warriors.

I was thus a little shaken in one small village to see a pick-up load of black-uniformed gentlemen, all holding automatic weapons and with black bandanas around their faces – the words “no photos” were uttered immediately – driving at speed towards the Kurdish-Turkish front line. It wasn’t as if they didn’t have the right to fight Turkish aggression. They just weren’t the kind of chaps you are used to seeing in friendly television reports. So, too, the “wallpaper”, if that is how we must call the graffiti of war.

For the very moment you cross from the Syrian army’s last checkpoint – red, white and black flags and a poster of Bashar al-Assad, his brother Maher, Hezbollah leader Hassan al-Nasrallah and prominent army colonel “Tiger” Suheil (please note the latter), you find yourself amid blue-and-white-coloured concrete ramps, the “star” banner of “Kurdistan” (which, like “Palestine”, does not exist) and a gigantic picture of Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) leader for whom the YPG has absolutely no connection whatsoever. Or so they tell you.

The YPG, squeaky clean in all things PKK-ish, will tell you that they admire some of Ocalan’s views – even quite a lot of his opinions, and one cannot but fall for the non-sectarian, secular “ethos” of the guy – but are not part of the PKK. It’s a bit like hearing that Nigel Farage didn’t really mislead the UK about Brexit or that membership of the Nazi party didn’t imply that party members loved the Führer. In the Afrin hospital, the coloured portrait of Abdullah Ocalan is so massive (moustache a bit overdone, I thought) – and so high – above the reception desk, that you could get a severely strained neck if you spent too much time looking at it.

And there is the point. Listen long enough to the ramblings of Mr Erdogan – I keep having to tell the Kurds to pronounce the “g” of Erdogan correctly as a “w” – and you might start believing that the YPG really is a “terrorist” group threatening the sovereignty of Turkey. Who funds this little Ruritania, after all, not to mention the hospitals? (The locals, I am told, in taxes, and private payments if they are patients). So while the Kurds try to persuade you of their potential loyalty (still) to Syria and disclaim any connection to the rest of Kurdish Syria (east of Qamishli) and the Iraqi Kurds – clearly a lie – they have to proclaim their belief (quite correctly) in their own form of self-government.

But there is a smell of “control” about this place – a point to which I shall return – and a feeling that all is not as it seems. The Kurds here – not publicly, of course – maintain their good contacts with the Russians, including those smartly dressed Russian military policemen with their red, white and blue shoulder flashes who pop into Afrin for their daily visits. The Russians, needless to say, are quite right to keep an eye on events in Afrin, just in case Erdogan goes a bit too far. Or in case the Kurds do the same.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syr ... 84056.html
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:40 am

People in Kurdistan demonstrate for Afrin, promise more activities

Demonstration were held in Sulaimani and Erbil on Monday to protest Turkey's attack on Afrin and to show their solidarity with their Kurdish brethren.

Hemin Hassan, the organizer of the protest of Sulaimani, told Rudaw that “our experience has proven that if we as Kurds are not united and if we do not support each other, the outside forces cannot help us.”

Another organizer, Shoresh, said Turkey’s offensive was targeting what had been one of the safest parts of war-torn Syria.

"Surely every Kurd supports Afrin right now because there is great injustice against this nation. For many years the most stable and safest area of Syria has been Afrin. Under the pretext of fighting terrorism they now want to occupy Afrin and destroy the homeland of the Kurds. Now we are protesting that and we hope that the Turkish military will halt its offensive as soon as possible and for peace to be established,” Soresh said.

Khabur drew recognition after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported her sacrificing her life to destroy a Turkish tank in Hememe village on Saturday.

Hassan called on people to take to streets and show solidarity with Afrin, adding that “today we have to put aside all our ideological differences for the sake of Afrin … Turkish media says that Afrin has no Kurdish support from any part of Kurdistan. This means that we have to react.”

A mullah participating in the protest argued that Turkey is misusing religion to further their military offensive.

"It is apparent that the case is political, but religion has been brought into the matter as well,” he explained. “It is unfortunate that the enemies of the Kurdish nation have always used religion when carrying out their dictatorial and chauvinistic plans. We remember how Saddam used Anfal for his plans. He used Quranic Surrahs as a justification for obliterating the Kurdish nation. Today they recite the Fath (Conquest) Surrah for obliterating a nation. And we as mullahs are the mullahs of our own nation."

A Peshmerga who joined the protest said he supported “my sisters and brothers in Afrin with my life and heart for them to bring their democratic project for the Middle East to success, and I hope victory will be theirs.”

One protester considered it a “national and moral duty” to support Afrin while others said the offensive against the region in northern Syria was part of greater persecution of Kurds across all of Kurdistan.

"As everyone is aware, currently there is a lot of injustice committed against the Kurds in the four parts of Kurdistan. This is a great injustice against Afrin. We need to know that regional countries and superpowers will never support the Kurds," said one protester.

"It is a shame for Erdogan that he has besieged Afrin like a wolf pack, killing children, trying to sow seeds of hatred between Kurds and Turks. Shame on Erdogan, who wears a military uniform, but is not man enough to go to the frontlines himself or face a Kurdish girl. I would like to ask him to come to the frontlines himself,” said another.

“Our activities will continue in the coming days,” explained Hassan, including setting up camps to protest, fundraising and artistic activities.

Demonstrations also took place in Erbil on Monday to protest the ongoing Turkish military attack on the city of Afrin.

The YPG has admitted they lost 43 fighters as of Saturday since the operation began.

At least 51 civilians have been killed since the start of the operation on January 21, the Observatory stated including 17 children and seven women.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/290120181
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:41 pm

Afrin tops Kurdistan parliament's agenda, as Gorran boycotts

The Kurdistan Region parliament met on Tuesday to discuss the Turkey’s assault on Kurdish-controlled Afrin in Syria, while no joint statement was immediately issued, all five main factions echoed support for their Kurdish brethren

The Change Movement (Gorran) boycotted the session and held press conference X(

Abu Bakir Haladani, the head of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) faction in the parliament said the subject of Afrin should not easily be bypassed as the KRG parliament has already recognized the Rojava cantons and “today one of them is under attack.”

Haladani said the parliament should execute its mission and extend aid to Rojava.

He echoed the sentiment that the parliament should not limit its responsibilities towards Rojava only through issuing a statement, “but a decree which we must read here containing recommendations” for helping Rojava.

“Our nation is also expecting us to view the Afrin situation as a current topic and the parliament must have a say on this matter,” he urged.

Jaafar Iminiki, the acting speaker of parliament from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), said the parties should not exploit the matter and use it as “political rhetoric.”

Iminiki added the Kurdistan Region is suffering limited resources due to its continued economic crisis.

“The economic situation of Rojava is better in many aspects than that of the Kurdistan Region,” Iminiki claimed.

He said issuing a “political message, support, and diplomatic ties” for Rojava is also important.

Amina Zikri, a KDP member in the parliament acknowledged that the people of Rojava are waiting to see what “assistance” the Kurdistan parliament has to offer.

Soran Omer, member of the Komal party refuted the parliament speaker’s comment, saying the subject of Afrin is not used by his party and others as “political rhetoric” by taking into account the situation of Afrin as it is “under giant threats by the Turkey’s military incursion and the killing of civilians.”

“If rhetoric is put forward for discussion to defend a segment of Kurdistan, I do not consider it a rhetoric, but loyalty,” Omer retorted.

He added the session should have been dedicated to “forming a recommendation for the international community for the dangerous blatant human rights violations committed against civilians in Afrin as we did for Tuz Khurmatu.”

Birzo Majeed, the head of Gorran’s parliamentary bloc, while condemning Turkey's "unjust attacks" said in a press conference that the parliament should not just issue announcements, but take action through decrees and recommendations such as reopening crossings between the Kurdistan Region and Rojava.

"With the start of the unjust attacks on Afrin canton by Turkey, as the Gorran bloc, in addition to condemning it, through an official letter, we called on the parliament’s leadership to hold an extraordinary and urgent session on Afrin," said Majeed.

He said they asked for "today’s session to be dedicated to just discuss the Afrin situation."

The MP accused the parliament of “evading” discussing the subject as they had described the Gorran and Kurdistan Islamic Group’s (Komal) call for discussing Afrin as a “political rhetoric”.

Majeed said they boycotted the session because the parliament “evaded the responsibility” and failed “to commit the government to issue some orders and recommendation to help Afrin” by providing “logistical, political, humanitarian and diplomatic assistance.”

He added that it was a “shame” for the Kurdistan parliament to end up only issuing statements and announcements on Afrin.

“The most importantly was the re-opening of the South Kurdistan [Kurdistan Region] crossings in order for them to receive aid.”

Afrin is one of three cantons which make up Rojava in (Western Kurdistan) northern Syria.

Turkey, along with its so-called Free Syrian Army proxies, launched their assault on Kurdish-controlled Afrin in Syria on January 21, dubbed 'Operation Olive Branch.'

The mostly-Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria is the dominant force in Afrin.

Late on Monday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the deaths of "61 Syrian citizens of the Kurds, Arabs and Armenians" in Afrin.

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/300120183
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Re: UPDATES:Turkey's invasion of Afrin in Western Kurdistan

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:57 pm

We Fought for Our Democracy - now Turkey Wants to Destroy It
By NUJIN DERIK

AFRIN, Syria — For more than a week, my home in northwestern Syria has been under a full-scale assault by the Turkish Army and thousands of Turkish-aligned Islamist jihadists.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been threatening this invasion for a very long time. The Turkish Army has been targeting our villages with mortars and artillery for many months now.

I and my fellow members of the Kurdish Women’s and People’s Protection Units, often known as the Y.P.J. and Y.P.G., have fought hard for years to keep the Islamic State out of this autonomous region of Syria known as Rojava. We endured Turkey’s barrages and avoided returning fire, even after civilian casualties, so as not to provide a pretext for this invasion.

But Mr. Erdogan has nevertheless unleashed airstrikes, tanks and troops on this area that was once a relative island of peace in this war-torn country.

One would imagine the international community and especially the United States, which has been more than happy to partner with us in the fight against the Islamic State, would firmly oppose such an unprovoked attack executed in the name of racial hatred — Mr. Erdogan has stated his intention to commit ethnic cleansing of Afrin’s Kurdish population, or, as he says, to give the region to its “real owners” — but instead, it has been greeted largely with silence, and therefore tacitly condoned.

Does the Trump administration now care about nothing but its own immediate tactical interests? Wavering messages or calls for “caution” will not be enough. In addition to exerting real pressure on its Turkish ally, the United States should press for a no-flight zone over Afrin and the rest of Rojava. Leaders in Britain, France and elsewhere must also take a moral stand and demand a stop to this carnage.

The Turkish Army has been training the most extreme Islamist gangsters it could find as part of the so-called Free Syrian Army that is part of their assault, including members of the fascist Gray Wolf death squads and Qaeda affiliates, with high-tech weaponry purchased from the United States, Britain and Germany. They are being sent into our country backed by F-16 aircraft, German-made Leopard tanks and regular Turkish soldiers.

Yet Mr. Erdogan calls us terrorists, asserting that we and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party that he has warred with in Turkey are identical. The hypocrisy of this transparent justification for his invasion is astounding. Our forces have led the fight against the true terror represented by the Islamic State — even while Turkey provided it support and its oil was sold in Turkey.

Now Turkey is allying itself with jihadists and backing them with NATO weaponry to attack us. Is the world really willing to believe we are terrorists because we share the Kurdish freedom movement’s goals of democracy, environmental protection and women’s liberation?

We proudly admit we support these ideas, as do members of the Kurdish movement in Turkey and elsewhere. But our forces have been focused on the fight against the Islamic State, one in which we’d rather have had Turkey as an ally, not an enemy.

Do Western powers now believe that too strong a commitment to their own professed democratic ideals is terrorism? Mr. Erdogan, on the other hand, is an enemy of women, whom he has called “half persons,” and the views of his fundamentalist minions are even worse.

But just as female fighters were instrumental in the defense of Kobane and the liberation of Raqqa — where a major objective was the freeing of the Yazidi women the jihadists had taken there as slaves — so we will resist invaders here in Afrin.

There’s much worth fighting for. Until the Turkish invasion we had been able to maintain Afrin as a haven for anyone fleeing the terror of the civil war. We worked to develop our own democratic institutions.

Though poor and largely without outside aid, we have shared what we have with refugees, to the point where the region’s population ballooned in size.

In keeping with our philosophy of democratic confederalism, we established local councils so that all can participate in the decisions affecting their neighborhoods and communities. We hold independently monitored elections and ensure that women and all ethnic groups are strongly represented in governance. Our democratic system is increasingly the opposite of Turkey’s, where President Erdogan is crushing dissent and centralizing more power every day.

We have lost thousands of our brothers and sisters in the war against the Islamic State, and if this invasion continues, it will be only a matter of time before the jihadist remnants return to gain control of places we had liberated X(

And Turkey’s forces themselves, allied as they are with extremist groups, pose a serious threat to our Assyrian and Armenian Christian and Yazidi communities. Turkey’s planes are killing children and civilians and destroying our villages. Those who had taken refuge here are fleeing and have no haven left.

We are asking the Western powers to act on their principles. Why are you not condemning a flagrant and unprovoked assault on the very men and women who stood shoulder to shoulder with you against the darkness of the Islamic State? Now a different evil, that of Mr. Erdogan’s increasingly undemocratic Turkey, aims to destroy our fledgling democracy. And this time, it’s claiming to act in your name.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/29/opin ... kurds.html
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