Turkey Rains Down Terror on the Kurdish Civilians of Rojava

By Dr. Hawzhin Azeez

“The ongoing wave of Turkish attacks on civil infrastructure in North and East Syria need to be understood as part of a wider plan by the Turkish state. Erdogan is following a fanatical ideology that seeks to expand the dream of a new Ottoman Empire in the Middle East.”

— Exclusive YPJ statement to The Kurdish Center for Studies

Clean water is necessary for human life. Poisoning a cities water supply is a terrorist act. So it would be fair to assume then that blowing up the places that keep water from being poisoned is then itself an act of terrorism, regardless if it is a state carrying out the crime.

In the past 24 hours, Turkey has engaged in a series of airstrikes that has caused widespread devastation in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), commonly known as Rojava. Thus far, close to 30 Turkish airstrikes were conducted against essential civilian infrastructure in the region.

At least eight people have been killed, with at least six people injured in locations such as Qamişlo, Hesekê, and Kobanê. The airstrikes have targeted power stations, water sanitation plants, and oil facilities, in what the Rojava Information Center calls the “worst escalation since 2019.”

Ankara announced its intention to launch the latest wave of military strikes against the already battered Rojava region following a recent PKK attack outside Turkey’s Interior Ministry building on Sunday. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan stated that all infrastructure and energy facilities in Rojava were “legitimate targets” for the Turkish military, based on his faulty conflation that the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) who are present in northeast Syria, are the same organization as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

While Ankara has claimed that their recent aerial bombardment is a result of the attack on the Interior Ministry’s Building, the reality is that Turkey has been deeply committed to destabilizing the Rojava region since 2014, when ISIS (acting as a Turkish-backed proxy force) launched a massive ground attack against the Kurdish city of Kobanê. Not only has Turkey contributed to the capacity of ISIS to maintain its ground attacks on Rojava, but Turkish intelligence also extended the terror organization’s longevity by providing aid, supplies, intelligence, arms, and medical support.

Moreover, Turkey’s annexation of the Kurdish city of Afrin in 2018, followed by the ground invasion and annexation of Serê Kaniyê in October 2019, has resulted in extensive destabilization, ongoing humanitarian crises, and millions in the region living in a perpetual state of terror. During both of these illegal invasions, the Turkish state utilized a range of jihadist mercenary groups, including ex-ISIS and al-Qaeda fighters. All of which calls into question their commitments to “anti-terrorism” in Syria, since nearly all of the terror groups in the country are currently on their payroll.

Adding to the mix, Turkey has also engaged in resource wars by ensuring that water flow is stopped or reduced to such levels that electricity plants and dams are at an all-time historical low, leaving much of society barely able to survive under inhumane conditions. Turkey has consistently proven that it is willing to systemically target and punish civilians for ongoing political conflicts with the Kurds, whether it be with the PKK in Başur (Southern Kurdistan) or in Rojava.

Above: An attack on the civilian electrical station in Amûdê (October 5).

Yesterday, around the cities of Amûdê, Qamişlo, and Hesekê, Turkish airstrikes bombed a number of civilian transformers and electricity plants, which provide a large section of the region with their power needs. In Hesekê, in the Mushairfah area, three diesel tanks were targeted resulting in three people injured. In Amûdê’s Tal Habash area, six people were killed with two more injured. The airstrikes also targeted a dam in Çilaxa, as well as an oil field and fuel supply station was also targeted in Tirbespîyê. In the Kobanê province, including in Çelebiyê, two civilians were killed while travelling on a motorbike via a Turkish drone attack. This morning the COVID-19 hospital in Gire Vire, Derik was also bombed, leveling the essential hospital to the ground.

These strikes of civilian infrastructure not only cause terror (and are thus state terrorism), but by deliberately targeting the economic lifeline of the region are designed to ensure that life in the region becomes unbearable and constitutes as an act of ethnic cleansing. Ankara’s intention is to drive the Kurds away from the border, so they can invade the area and add it to their annexation plans.

According to the Rojava Information Center (RIC), Akram Suleiman of Jazira region’s Energy Department has stated that the repairs are expected to be in “excess of $3 million.” According to Ahmad Youssef, the co-chair of AANES Finance Board, oil revenues constitute 76% of AANES annual income which is then recycled back into funding the reconstruction of the region.

In an exclusive statement to The Kurdish Center for Studies, the YPJ Information and Documentation Office stated that:

“Turkey aims to expand the areas of it’s illegal occupation in Northern Syria and is therefore using military invasions and aerial attacks that systematically violate international law and human rights conventions. Its ultimate goal is to expel indigenous Kurdish people and other ancient peoples of North and East Syria from its land and to destroy the hard-fought achievements of the women’s revolution. The ongoing Turkish attacks are not just jeopardizing the security of millions of people, but also the important democratic gains made by the AANES. The aggressive Turkish foreign politics are deepening the crisis within Syria and furthermore endanger democratic developments within the whole Middle East.”

By destabilizing the AANES region, Ankara attempts to destroy the only real and viable democracy flourishing amongst the bombs and rubble it has rained down on the people of northern Syria. AANES’ democratic aspirations and achievements put Ankara’s increasingly religious hardline and illiberal model to shame. Unsurprisingly, according to Salih Muslim in a recent press statement, Turkey’s Hakan Fidan has:

“openly declared to the world his intent to commit crimes against humanity. The attacks have been continuous since yesterday, 4 October. So far, they have bombed ten locations, including civilian and governmental facilities. They have targeted civilians, electrical transformers, civilian vehicles, oil refineries and water tanks.”

The bombardments have also caused mass panic across the humanitarian sector in the region, which is another destablizing by product of Turkish state terrorism. In fact, the humanitarian situation is deteriorating rapidly as many international NGOs and organizations are fleeing the region in droves, leaving an increasingly terrorized and war battered community behind. According to ANF the airstrikes are not only targeting water, oil and electricity facilities but also humanitarian and civilian sites too including around the Washokani camp, which was established by the AANES for the internally displaced people following the Turkish occupation of Serê Kaniyê in 2019. The camp has been the target of previous Turkish strikes.

In an interview with ANF, Barzan Abdullah stated that: “Almost all of the Western aid organisations active there have already fled the camp.” Of note, Turkey has a historical tendency to target civilian infrastructure including hospitals, schools, humanitarian convoys and displaced people’s camps, all the while attempting to stop the capacity of the Kurds in effectively eliminating ISIS and other terror groups in the region.

In a tweet Sinam Mohamad, the Syrian Democratic Council US representative noted that:

“Turkey has launched a series of attacks on North and East Syria, breaching our airspace with more than 15 drones, targeting infrastructure, IDP camps, and civilians. This endangers the ongoing fight against ISIS, spur more migration, and further damage our economy.”

Nadine Maenza, President of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Secretariat, an international organization focused on building religious freedom globally and in Rojava, condemned the attacks stating:

“to see Turkey conduct 30+ airstrikes on infrastructure in NE Syria today, killing 8, even in civilian areas like here in Qamishli. It is (a) mistake for US to prioritize (the) short-term goal of appeasing Turkey over long-term peace & stability in the region. This could be a peaceful & prosperous area except for this continued violence that benefits ISIS.”

In addition, Turkey has targeted the main power station in Qamişlo. Such attacks targeting civilian infrastructure in the minds of most human rights advocates constitute “war crimes.”

For reference, the Geneva Convention identifies five specific conditions as part of its definition of genocide. They include the following:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The ongoing Turkish state terror attacks, ethnic cleansings, land annexations, aerial bombardments, drone attacks, deliberate  reduction of resources such as water, and targeted killings or assassinations fill at least the first three key conditions of the genocide convention.

Despite Turkey’s ongoing acts of terror and war crimes against the people of Rojava, the international community remains largely silent and merely provides token statements of condemnation.

In recent events, especially following the green light given to Turkey’s ongoing attacks, invasions and drone strikes across the Kurdish regions of northern Syria and Iraq and Azerbaijan’s assault and ethnic cleansing of Artsakh, the general consensus is that certain Western-aligned states can engage in acts of terrorism towards minorities whose basic human rights are increasingly sacrificed for the rights of geopolitical national interests.

NATO, the UN, and other international organizations are again turning a blind eye in order to appease Turkey in its ongoing reign of terror and war crimes towards the Kurds, while also exacerbating regional conflicts in areas such as Libya and Artsakh and others due to its ongoing role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The international community has greenlighted Turkey’s ongoing acts of terror on the long suffering people of Rojava who have, despite the immensity of the obstacles, continued to develop a pluralistic, democratic society based on gender equality and ecological sustainability. It is clear that the international community is deeply embedded in maintaining the geopolitical status quo and cannot be relied upon to be the voice of reason and justice when it comes to the violence that the oppressed are subjugated to on a daily basis. It can only be the people who can become the voice of the oppressed, silenced, and subjugated nations of the world. Only global solidarity can keep the revolutionary ideals of Rojava alive and breathing amidst a rainstorm of  Turkish bombs, so that it can achieve its dreams of being a model for a new better world.

Author

  • Hawzhin Azeez

    Dr. Hawzhin Azeez holds a PhD in political science and International Relations, from the University of Newcastle, Australia. She is currently Co-Director of The Kurdish Center for Studies (English branch) as well as the creator of The Middle Eastern Feminist. Previously she has taught at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), as well as being a visiting scholar at their CGDS (Center for Gender and Development). She has worked closely with refugees and IDPs in Rojava while a member of the Kobane Reconstruction Board after its liberation from ISIS. Her areas of expertise include gender dynamics, post-conflict reconstruction and nation-building, democratic confederalism, and Kurdish studies.

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