Stop this war on the Kurds! Mark Campbell, co-chair of the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign AT 2.25pm on 20th January 2018, I received a Whatsapp video from a friend in Afrin, a Kurdish city in Rojava. It showed explosions and plumes of black smoke at the edge of Afrin with the message: “Turkish air strikes have began on Afrin!” I quickly sent the footage to the BBC and within half an hour it was ‘breaking news’.
What we had all been dreading since Kurdish forces drove ISIS out of most of northern Syria had finally happened. Turkey was no longer relying on ISIS to fight their proxy war against the Kurds but were now intervening directly.
Since the beginning of the ‘Syrian Revolution’ in 2011 the long-suppressed Kurds of Syria were able to liberate their areas, driving out the Syrian regime and defending their community from ISIS attacks.
The UK has been apart of this anti-ISIS coalition and praised the Kurds for their bravery and sacrifice. Not only did the Kurds defeat ISIS, they also established grassroots democracies in the areas liberated, with a system called Democratic Confederalism, a gender-equal society based upon equal representation of all religions and ethnicities. Two rounds of grassroots communal elections have been held, to the eager satisfaction of not just the Kurdish communities but all ethnicities and religions in the areas controlled by Kurdish-led forces.
So, it is all the more shocking, after so much sacrifice to build a revolutionary and democratic future for the Middle East with women’s liberation at the centre, that Turkey is now attempting to destroy the Kurdish existence and political project in northern Syria. Shocking, but not surprising, as President Tayyip Erdogan has, since the historic gains of the HDP, the Kurdish-led party, in the last Turkish general elections, begun a political genocide against Kurds and their representatives.
Daily raids began, with Erdogan’s police dragging thousands of Kurdish activists to jail including elected MPs, mayors and HDP party officials. This hatred of the Kurds has now extended into northern Syria where, despite repeated assurances from the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (formerly Rojava) that they want peaceful coexistence with Turkey, a full-scale military operation is underway against Afrin and beyond.
The Independent’s Robert Fisk reported from Afrin that Turkey was targeting civilians and bombing from war planes was indiscriminate. After 25 days of this aggression, 180 civilian deaths have been reported, with 413 civilians seriously injured. 668 air strikes have been carried out while 2,645 shells have rained down on Afrin and surrounding areas.
Foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, two days after the indiscriminate bombings began, said that “Turkey is right to want to keep its borders secure.” Perhaps objecting to Turkey’s illegal invasion of Kurdish lands might upset Erdogan’s regime which recently bought millions of pounds worth of arms from Britain.
Even more worrying for me as a Labour Party member is that neither Jeremy Corbyn nor Emily Thornberry have put any public pressure on our government to oppose Turkey’s illegal actions, nor publicly condemned its military aggression against Afrin. Please help us demand our leadership pressurise the government to tell Turkey to halt this racist war against the Kurds that will only destabilise a region that is screaming out for peace.
- Mark Campbell has been campaigning on Kurdish rights for 23 years after visiting Kurdish areas in south-eastern Turkey where villages were being systematically destroyed by the Turkish army.
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Secretary, Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign