Turkey invades Afrin in another attempt to snuff out Rojava revolution


The Turkish invasion of revolutionary Rojava has now entered its 17th day.  NATO’s 2nd largest army has failed to achieve any significant breakthrough against the defenders of Afrin despite deploying some of the most advanced tanks, helicopters, artillery and jet bombers.  On our graphic the small map at top centre shows Turkey in orange, the tiny blue area under Turkey is the canton of Afrin, the target of this invasion and one of the 3 original cantons of the Rojava revolution.  These cantons are where the experiment in direct democracy, gender equality, and sustainability began in 2012 in the most impossible conditions of the Syrian civil war and the ISIS invasion of two of the cantons.

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The invading force is made up of elite Turkish army units with state of the art equipmentoften supplied by Germany and other NATO countries who command and control a much larger force of militia formed from the various pro-Turkey factions of the Free Syrian Army including jihadi units.  A detailed report from the ‘Democratic Self-Administration’ on the invasion even includes a listing of 16 or so unit commanders who have previously fought as part of ISIS.  . Several atrocity videos are in circulation which were recorded and posted by either members of these units or by the Turkish army accompanying them which show the torture of civilians and in the worst case the mutilation of the body of a fallen YPJ fighter which included cutting off the breasts of the dead woman.  Reports say she, Barin Kobanie, was killed with 3 other women of the YPJ when they were surrounded while defending Qarnah village on Jan. 30    Again remember this operation is being ran by the 2nd largest army in NATO with weaponry supplied by other NATO members.

Up to this point in time Afrin was largely untouched by the war on ISIS and the rest of the Syrian Civil War.  So its both home to the last of the untouched Yazidi communities (some 25,000 people) but also became home to many of the internally displaced refugees in Syria.  Some of these have tried to flee over the Turkish border where some have been shot dead while others have frozen to death. Much of the fighting has been in the mountains that fringe the border with Turkey but in particular if the fighting reached the city of Afrin civilian casualties would rapidly escalate, hundreds have already died, many in Turkish airstrikes and artillery.

In the aftermath of the 2016 coup Turkish president Erdogan escalated his purges of the officer core.  This alongside the furious resistance of the defenders of Afrin may be why the invasion has made little progress to date beyond the pockets on the border.  Key mountain tops were announced to be captured by day only to be lost again that night.  Even pro-government Turkish media has admitted to the loss of at least 3 Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks, the German equivalent to the M1 Abrams alongside perhaps a dozen lesser armoured vehicles.   From the same sources and video posted by the SDF these have been taken out by a variety of anti-tank missile systems of various origins but mostly of Russian  manufacture. 

The source is of some importance as Erdogan was keen to blame the US for having armed the SDF for their fight with ISIS.  In reality US supplies to the SDF seldom if ever included ATGM systems except where they were supervised and recovered afterwards by US Special forces.  And despite the presence of ISIS and Al Qaeda figures among the Turkish proxy army the US has not lifted a military finger to support the SDF forces who were and continue to be the only effective ground force fighting ISIS elsewhere in Syria.  This was entirely predictable, as the Kurds would often say ‘We have no friends but the mountains,’ and echos past betrayals like that during WWII when the Allies handed the names of anarchists from Spain who had fought in their armies over to Franco at the end of the war.  Many were later imprisoned or executed when they tried to liberate the Spanish state from the hand of fascism.

Kurdish communities across Europe have been mobilising in protest and in several cases attacked by Turkish mobs associated with the fascist ‘Grey Wolves’.  In Rome and London they have also been attacked by the police, even in Dublin there were scuffles with Turkish embassy ‘security’ staff.  The Turkish state has arrested over 500 people in Turkey for opposing the invasion, many of these have been arrested for simply tweeting opposition.  Alongside this the Turkish state has escalated its demands that Twitter remove pro-Kurdish accounts and/or make their tweets unavailable in Turkey.  This includes many tweets that mention civilian casualties and its reported that 100 or more accounts have been shut down.  Much of this censorship is actually being implemented in the Dublin headquarters of Twitter and other social media outlets, the companies have long conceded an overwhelming censorship power to the Turkish state.  Even Irish pages have had their accounts suspended for simply using the image of Ocalan, the ideological leader of the revolution who has been in jail in Turkey for over 20 years.

The coming days are going to either see the Turkish offensive being quietly brought to a halt in recognition that its stalemated or a massive escalation of the violence to try and overcome the defenders.  If - as is likely - Erdogan takes the second route than the civilian death toll was soar into the thousands and tens of thousands.  With the SDF forced to redeploy their forces to Afrin to fight the invasion a major resurgence of ISIS becomes quite likely.  ISIS have already moved onto the offensive after two years of being driven back and into the desert by the SDF, even losing their capital city Raqqa.  In both cases while the Turkish state bears the direct responsibility so to do the rest of the NATO powers who have reacted to the invasion by staring at their shoes and hoping it ends before public pressure forces them to some measure of action.  That pressure is greatest in Germany because of the major and very visible role played by German manufactured tanks in the invasion, Germany had agreed to upgrade the Leopard tanks it had already sold but outrage at the invasion has forced Berlin to suspend that deal.

We will continue to provide occasional summaries like this one but for more timely news follow our Twitter account where we will be retweeting reports from what we consider to be reliable sources.  For those who might be concerned although we ourselves view some of the more gruesome videos and images coming from Afrin for verification purposes our standard practise is not to retweet such graphic footage, although as above we may describe it. 

Our background material describing the Rojava revolution

Previous Jan 24th update

In the last days Turkey has launched its latest major attempt to crush the feminist Rojava revolution in Northern Syria. They launched a ground invasion using their force of proxy fighters supported by Turkish military armour and artillery. Meanwhile the Turkish airforce has been bombing villages and towns with impunity as the defenders lack effective anti-air weaponry. In a turn that will suprize no one with an understanding of imperialism - despite playing the major role in defeating ISIS in Syria - the SDF defenders were rapidly abandoned by both Britain and the US. Turkey after all has the second biggest army in NATO.

Many anarchists have travelled to Rojava to defend that revolution, including some from Ireland, Rabble recently published an interview with one Irish volunteer who explained his motivations; “Being involved with Shell to Sea was a real eye-opener for me, regarding how the country is run and on whose behalf. What I saw happening in the rest of the world started to make a lot more sense when I realised that state/corporate collusion and violence is more the norm than the exception.
No state, whether Irish or Islamic, is fond of being told no, and the people of Kilcommon know as well as the Kurds that citizens’ rights don’t count for much when there’s coin involved.
There’s a good chance that what’s on offer here in Rojava allows us a way out of the global ecological, economic and political mess of a system we’ve inherited; enough of a chance to make it worth fighting for.”

The map circulated on state friendly media in Turkey suggests the intention is to invade all three of the cantons that comprise Rojava to create a broad zone along the border controlled by the Turkish state. The map shows a total invasion of Afrin the canton currently under attack, Afrin was spared much of the destruction of the Syrian Civil War and ISIS assault. Elsewhere the map appears to show a 30km zone along the border which includes almost all the major cities in Rojava. The map also indicates an intention to completely occupy the Manbij region, liberated from ISIS in 2014 at considerable cost. All of this would fit into public statements made by Turkish president Erdogan.

All has not gone to plan, the initial assault saw the Turkish forces capture a few border villages but at the loss of several armoured vehicles. Yesterday a counter attack by the SDF saw at least a couple of those villages recaptured.

The Turkish army has enormous superiority in weaponry, including the German supplied Leopard II tank and 155mm self-propelled Howitzers. The defenders lack any effective anti-aircraft weaponry meaning Turkish warplanes are striking behind the lines with impunity. But the enormous purges that followed the attempted coup by elite Turkish military units has left the military demoralised and disorganised. Erdogan has worsened that situation by stuffing the high command with yes men, some sources claim that as much as a quarter of the Turkish airforce is currently unable to operate.

Rojava provides the ‘threat of a good example’ to the Turkish regime but also Britain and the US. They are determined to restrict the people of the region to the ‘choice’ between neo-liberal rule of the few, dictatorships or religious sectarianism. But the multi-ethnic, multi religious region that the Rojava revolution is creating is built on women liberation and direct democracy - proving that there can be an alternative. It’s not without it’s problems, contradictions and compromises and is certainly a long way short of anarchism but remains worth defending. 

We will be RTing what we consider to be reliable reports over on Twitter and where time permits will provide updates here. Follow us at https://twitter.com/wsmireland for these updates