1/30/18 – On Saturday, Islamist Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an aggressive attack called ‘Operation Olive Branch’ on the American-backed Kurds in the territory in the northwest city of Afrin, Syria. Erdogan threatened US troops stationed with the Kurds, stating, “This is what we have to say to all our allies: don’t get in between us and terrorist organizations, or we will not be responsible for the unwanted consequences.” Erdogan added, “Either you [the United States] take off your flags on those terrorist organizations [the Kurds], or we will have to hand those flags over to you, don’t force us to bury in the ground those who are with terrorists.”
Before the invasion by the Turks, Afrin was relatively stable, home to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Syrians- regardless of ethnicity or religion. Afrin is 90 percent Kurdish mixed with Arabs, and the people have put forth a democratic system that accounts for equal representation for both men and women. Erdogan has labeled the Kurds as “terrorists” and aims to end their presence in Afrin. Surrounding Afrin are the so-called Syrian opposition, the Free Syrian Amy (FSA) rebels, and a mix of al Qaeda affiliated groups who have aligned with Turkey to remove the Kurds from their historical land.
By now, there have been at least 141 civilian deaths that we know of. The attacks have been concentrated on civilian areas and border villages. It is critical for the international community to immediately respond to Turkish aggression on the Kurds in what the Kurdish people call ethnic cleansing. Furthermore, Turkish advance into Syrian territory derails the Kurdish fight against the Islamic State and prolongs the 7-year Syrian civil war, likely leading to another humanitarian crisis.
Discussing the crisis is our Kurdish Project Director, Diliman Abdulkader.