In one more blatant display of his erratic character, political irresponsibility and human carelessness, US President Donald J. Trump abruptly announced on the night of Sunday 6 October, following a phone call with Turkish President Recep T. Erdogan, that he had ordered the withdrawal of US troops stationed in North-East Syria (numbering close to one thousand). These troops had been there to support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multi-ethnic coalition led by the Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (aka YPG), in their fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS, aka ISIS).
The Syrian Kurds and their allies have paid a heavy tribute to this fight, incurring more than ten thousand casualties. They were instrumental in the containment and rollback of IS in Syrian territory. They are also unquestionably the most progressive, if not the only progressive, of all armed forces active on Syrian territory, especially with regard to the status and role of women. And yet they have been consistently labelled by the Turkish government as “terrorists” due to their close relation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (aka PKK), the main force active in Turkish-dominated Kurdish territory.
The Turkish government, which is known to have turned a blind eye to the build-up of IS in Syria (it is even suspected of having facilitated this build-up), regards the Kurdish national movement as the main threat. It has invaded part of northern Syria (Afrin) in 2016 to bring down the YPG control of that area, and still occupies it. It has also been threatening since then to invade North-East Syria (Western Kurdistan, aka Rojava), only deterred from doing so by the presence of US troops along the SDF.
The 6 October phone call between the American and Turkish presidents is not the first one during which Erdogan pressed Trump to withdraw US troops and thus clear the way for Turkish troops to invade the rest of Syrian Kurdish territory, nor is Trump’s announcement that he has decided to oblige. The previous time was a year ago and led to the dramatic resignation of former defence secretary, Jim Mattis, reflecting the reluctance of the US military to execute what amounts very obviously to a “stab in the back” of allies (that’s how the SDF’s spokesperson aptly called it) and the Pentagon’s justified fear that a Turkish incursion would revitalise IS, and create a chaos of which Iran will seek to take advantage in order to complete its control of the vast territory that stretches from its territory through Iraq to coastal Syria and Lebanon.
Assailed even by fellow Republicans, Trump backtracked at the end of last year. This time however he carried on his promise to Erdogan, replying to his critics, who blame him for betraying precious allies in the fight against IS, by asserting that, in his self-attributed “great and unmatched wisdom”, he would “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if the Turkish forces overstepped some vague undefined limits in their invasion of North-East Syria.
There should be no mistake whatsoever about Donald Trump’s motivations. The US president is no pacifist opposed to military adventures waged by his country abroad. He is a staunch supporter of the murderous war waged in Yemen by the coalition led by the Saudi Crown Prince, his murderer friend. And he stated his great admiration for the US military base in Iraq, which he visited last December, explaining how important it is for the US.
From a man who declared during his previous presidential campaign that the US should take control of Iraqi oil fields and exploit them to its benefit, the rationale is clear enough: Trump believes that the US military should only be engaged in territories where there is an obvious economic interest for his country (and for his own interests, one might add, knowing that this presidency has gone the furthest in US history in mixing private business with public affairs). Iraq, the Saudi kingdom and other Gulf oil monarchies are perfectly fine places for US military deployment in Trump’s view, unlike poor countries such as Afghanistan and Syria.
From a truly anti-imperialist perspective predicated upon the peoples’ right to self-determination, all imperialist and predatory troops should be withdrawn from Syria, whether Israeli troops occupying the Syrian Golan since 1967, or the more recently deployed forces of Iran and its regional proxies, Russia, the U.S. and Turkey, to name only the main protagonists. A unilateral US withdrawal paired with an invitation to Turkey to step in, giving it thus a free hand to crush the Kurdish national movement, has nothing progressive or pacifist about it: it is all the contrary.
The two progressive front runners in next year’s US presidential election have rightly understood what is at stake and have reacted in similar terms on 7 October to Donald Trump’s announcement.
Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted: “I have long believed the U.S. must responsibly end our military interventions in the Middle East. But Trump’s abrupt announcement to withdraw from northern Syria and endorse Turkey’s incursion is extremely irresponsible. It is likely to result in more suffering and instability.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “I support bringing our troops home from Syria. But President Trump’s reckless and unplanned withdrawal undermines both our partners and our security. We need a strategy to end this conflict, not a president who can be swayed by one phone call.”
The murderous Turkish invasion of North-East Syria must be stopped. NATO allies of the Turkish government share the responsibility of this onslaught. They must stop their military support to Ankara, impose economic sanctions on the Turkish government until it withdraws its troops from Syria, and provide the Kurdish movement with the weapons it needs in fighting Turkey’s invasion of its territory.
This article was first published on the Kingston and Surbiton LP website.
Appeal from the Women’s Council of North and East Syria / Meclisa Jin a Bakur u Rojhilate Suriye
Call to all women and freedom loving people in the world,
As women of diverse cultures and beliefs from the ancient soils of Mesopotamia we send you our warmest greetings. We call you to join the international day of action on 12 October with the commitment to stop Turkey‘s occupation war on North and East Syria and defeat fascism and patriarchy worldwide! We are writing to you in the middle of the war in North and East of Syria that has been forced on our homeland by the Turkish state. Since 3 days we have been living and resisting under the bombardments of Turkish war planes and grenade fire.
We have witnessed how mothers in our neighborhoods are targeted by Turkish shelling when they go out of their houses to get bread for their families; how a NATO- grenade explosion ripped the leg of 7-years old Sara into pieces and killed her 12-years old brother Mohammed. We are witnessing as Christian neighborhoods and churches are bombarded and our Christian sisters and brothers whose grandparents survived the genocide in 1915 are now murdered by the army of Erdogan’s new Ottoman empire. 2 years ago we witnessed how the Turkish state built a 620 km long border wall with UN and EU funding to cement the division of our country physically and to prevent more refugees coming to Europe.
Now we are witnessing the Turkish state remove parts of the wall to make their tanks, soldiers and jihadist killer groups invade our towns and villages. We are witnessing how the neighborhoods, villages, schools, hospitals and cultural heritage of the Kurdish, Ezidi, Arab, Syriac, Armenian, Chechen, Circassian, Turkmen and other cultures that are living here communally are targeted by airstrikes and artillery fire.
We are witnessing how thousands of families are forced to flee from their homes to seek refuge without having a safe place to go. At the same time we are witnessing new attacks of IS killer commandos on towns like Raqqa which was liberated 2 years ago from the IS terror regime with the joint struggle of our peoples. Once again we are witnessing the joint military attacks of the Turkish army and their jihadist mercenaries on our towns Serekani, Giresipi and Kobane. These are just some examples of occurrences that we have been confronted with since Erdogan declared the begin of the war on 9 October 2019.
While we are witnessing the first steps of the implementation of Turkey‘s genocidal ethnic cleansing operation, we are also witnessing the brave resistance of women, men and young people raising their voices and defending their land and dignity. For 3 days fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces SDF together with YPJ and YPG have been fighting successfully in the forefront to prevent Turkey‘s invasion and massacres. Women and people of all ages are a part of all fields of this resistance to defend humanity and the gains and values of the women’s revolution in Rojava. As women we are determined to fight until our victory for a life of peace, freedom and justice. For reaching our goal we are relying on the international solidarity and common struggle of all freedom loving women and people around the world. We know that the preparations of Turkey‘s occupation war have been carried out openly and in cooperation with the hegemonic powers of the world like the US and Russia. Also international institutions like the UN turned a blind eye on Turkey‘s war threats. They failed to act and therefore became accomplices. Now, we have to raise our voices everywhere and much louder than ever before to prevent further genocides, feminicides and crimes against humanity in the 21st century.
Therefore we urge all our sisters and friends in the Middle East and on all continents to spread our call and pressure all women and human rights organizations, unions, political parties and actors to call upon the UN and the UNSC for the implementation of urgent actions. Our demands are: • Stop Turkey‘s invasion and occupation in North and Eastern Syria immediately • Establish a No-Fly-Zone for the protection of the people’s lives in North and East Syria • Prevent further war crimes and ethnic cleansing by Turkish army forces, ISIS, El Nusra and other jihadist killer organisations • Ensure the conviction of all war criminals according to international law • Stop weapon trade with Turkey • Implement political and economical sanctions against Turkey
Take immediate steps for a political solution of the crisis in Syria with the representation and participation of all different national, cultural and religious communities in Syria Together we will break the cycle of silence and war, injustice and impunity! Let’s spread the call “Women defend Rojava” and unite our fights against fascism, colonialism and patriarchy everywhere!
Women’s Council of North and East Syria 11 October 2019 And its member organisations : Kongra Star, Syriac Women’s Union, Women’s Council in Raqqa, Women Council in Manbej, Women’s Council in the Tebqa, Women’s Council in Deir Ezzor, Women’s Council in Shahba, Women Council in Tal Abyad (Girê Sipî), Women ‘s Committee for Northern and Eastern Syria, The Legislative Council of Autonomous Administration, The Armenian Community, Chaldean Community, Chechen Community, The Circassian Community, The Turkmen Community, Union of Young Women Women’s organizations in political parties : Democratic Union Party, Kurdish Democratic Peace Party is Syrian, Future Syria Party, Kurdistan Green Party, Syrian Kurdish Democratic Accord Party, Free Patriotic Union Party, Kurdistan Workers Party, Syriac Union Party, Democratic Change Party, Arab National Commission, National Alliance, Kurdistan Future Movement, Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria, Kurdistan Brotherhood Party, Kurdistan Renewal Movement, Kurdish Democratic Unity Party in Syria (Yekiti), Democratic Conservative Party, Free National Union, Liberal Union, Modernity and Democracy for Syria Party, Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party, Syrian Kurdish Left Party, Kurdish Left Party in Syria Civil society organizations : Women stand free, Women’s Bureau of the Democratic Society Movement TEVDEM, Jineolojî Academy, Union of Teachers, Mala Ezîdî, Sara Organization against Violence against Women, Union of Intellectuals, Women’s Democratic Network, Federation of Women Lawyers, Peace Leaders Network, Shawishka Association, Women’s Culture Movement the Golden Crescent, Platform for Women’s Status in Islam .
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