World View: Socialists and Feminists to Act as ‘Human Shields’ Protecting Kurds from Turkey in Syria

Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) military police members demonstrate with their flags and others bearing the portrait of Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan in the Kurdish town of Al-Muabbadah in the northeastern part of Hassakah province on February 24, 2018, denouncing the Turkish military operation against YPG forces …

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Socialists and feminists to act as ‘human shields’ protecting Kurds from Turkey in Afrin
  • US cuts back operations in Incirlik as Turkey-NATO relations sour

Socialists and feminists to act as ‘human shields’ protecting Kurds from Turkey in Afrin

Turkish and FSA fighters near Afrin, Syria (Agencia Efe)
Turkish and FSA fighters near Afrin, Syria (Agencia Efe)

Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on January 20, expecting to take control of Afrin from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) within a few days. The operation was executed by Arab militias in the Free Syrian Army (FSA), backed by Turkish armed forces. The operation has taken much longer than expected, leading to speculation that Turkey’s army has been made substantially weaker because of all the firings of army officers following the botched coup attempt in June 2016.

However, in the last few days, Turkish forces and the FSA have made extremely rapid progress. They have captured a number of towns and villages on the outskirts of Afrin and have surrounded Afrin itself, in preparation to enter the Afrin city center shortly.

Turkish officials say that the reason that the operation has taken so long is that they are trying to minimize civilian casualties. They contrast themselves to the Syrian army of Bashar al-Assad which is attacking Eastern Ghouta and freely targeting civilians with barrel bombs, chlorine gas, and Sarin gas.

However, socialist and feminist groups are calling on members to act as human shields to prevent Turkish forces from entering Afrin. According to a joint statement by the Initiative for the Unity and Solidarity of Peoples (SYPG) and the Free Socialist Women (JAS):

We are now on the 51st day of our great resistance against the attack of the colonialist and fascist Turkish state on our canton Afrin. As SYPG and JAS, we will launch a new group of human shields against the invasion of the Cizirê region and the Firat (Euphrates) region.

Against the invasion of the Turkish state, all of our oppressed peoples and progressive revolutionary forces should become millions and go out on the streets, giving strength to our Afrin resistance. Colonialism, fascism will be defeated – our resistance from Afrin will prevail. We bow to our fallen in respect and wish all our resistance fighters success.

Kurdish groups within Turkey itself are also encouraging their members to go to Afrin in Syria and become human shields.

However, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkish led forces are just four to five kilometers from Afrin, and that the objective was not to “occupy” Afrin but to “liberate” it from the YPG occupiers: “In the Afrin region, the owners of the lands have started to come back.” Daily Sabah (Ankara) and ANF (Kurdish) and Al Jazeera

U.S. cuts back operations in Incirlik as Turkey-NATO relations sour

Turkey’s president on Sunday denounced NATO for failing to back Turkey’s fight against the YPG:

Hey NATO, with what has been going on in Syria, when are you going to come and be alongside us?

We are constantly harassed by terror groups on our borders. Unfortunately, until now, there has not been a positive word or voice. Is this friendship? Is this NATO unity? Are we not a NATO member?

The YPG is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been conducting a violent insurgency in Turkey for three decades and has performed multiple major terrorist attacks in major Turkish cities in the last three years. The PKK is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and the EU.

So from the point of view of Turkey, the fact that the U.S. has been arming the YPG to fight the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Raqqa, and has continued to support the YPG even though Raqqa has been recaptured from ISIS, is considered a major betrayal. In fact, the U.S. has reneged on a promise to Turkey to stop supplying the YPG with heavy weapons.

The head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said after Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch:

No NATO member country has been exposed to as many terror attacks as Turkey. Turkey has the right to deal with its own security concerns. Yet, it should do it in a moderate way.

However, NATO has provided no actual support.

Turkish public opinion has become increasingly outraged by NATO’s lack of support and by the U.S. arming the YPG, which is linked to the PKK terrorist group. According to one survey of Turkish public opinion, 64.3 percent of Turks think that the US poses a threat to Turkey, up from 39.2 percent in 2016.

According to a Turkish official:

Turkey’s Syrian border is also NATO’s southern border. Within these borders there have been so many assaults from the other side by the YPG and PKK. While not showing any reaction to those attacks, NATO members’ stance against Turkey, which is protecting its borders and fights against terrorist groups, is not in line with the law of alliance.

This has led in Turkey to discussions that Turkey should shut down Incirlik Airbase, which has been used by the U.S. since 1954. Incirlik has about 5,000 U.S. troops and is home to the 39th Air Base Wing of the U.S. Air Force. In addition, there are calls to shut down Kürecik Base, which is home to a NATO radar system that was designed to intercept rocket attacks.

It is now being reported that the U.S. military has sharply reduced combat operations at Turkey’s Incirlik air base and is considering permanent cutbacks there.

In January, the U.S. moved A-10 ground jets from Incirlik base, leaving only refueling aircraft. The number of military members living at the base has also been reduced. At the time, the Pentagon explained the move on the basis of its decision to step up operations in Afghanistan. According to U.S. officials, the U.S. remains committed to Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, and that there are no immediate plans for a further reduction of forces and aircraft. Daily Sabah (Ankara, 24-Feb) and Hurriyet (Ankara, 13-Feb) and Daily Sabah (15-Feb) and Ahval News and Bipartisan Policy

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Turkey, Free Syrian Army, FSA, Operation Olive Branch, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Syria, Afrin, People’s Protection Units, YPG, Unity and Solidarity of Peoples, SYPG, Free Socialist Women, JAS, NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, Incirlik airbase, Kürecik base
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