As Turkey’s drone capabilities continue to expand, the definition of success for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become the “indiscriminate number of Kurds murdered” in airstrikes, Kurdish Centre for Studies Co-director Hawzhin Azeez said in an article published on the centre’s website.
Turkey’s drones, manufactured by Erdoğan’s in-laws, the Bayraktar family, have become a leading player in the global arena, “especially for targeted assassinations”, the political scientist wrote.
At least 62 people have been killed by Turkish drones in areas controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Azeez said, citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Turkey’s use of drones are most prominent in the Kurdish region of Rojava where the Turkish army and their jihadist mercenaries have increased their attacks against the Kurdish-led forces in Syria,” she added.
On 17 September, a Turkish drone strike killed People’s Protection Units (YPG) Commander Aslan Qamishlo, while injuring eight civilians. The strike followed the killing of two Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) members in earlier days.
Turkey has been using its drones to better aid recuperation efforts by the Islamic State (ISIS), Azeez said. The SDF, considered to be a terrorist group by Turkey, has played the key role in the defeat of the fundamentalist group by the concerted efforts of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve, and currently continues operations against sleeper cells in the region on top of overseeing tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners along with their families in prisons and camps.
In this context, Erdoğan’s military vision for Turkey “involves an indiscriminate use of modern weaponry in wars and conflicts fostered by Turkey’s increasing regional and neo-Ottoman aspirations”, Azeez said.
Drones “allow (Ankara) to be seen as a ‘strong’ and ‘formidable’ military power, when in reality they are randomly incinerating cars of unarmed Kurdish people driving on the road who were posing no threat to them or the Turkish state”, she added.
According to Azeez, drone warfare in this manner is indistinguishable from “traditional” terrorist acts.
“Most states rightfully decry authoritarian states who poison dissidents or use hitmen to kill their human rights critics,” she wrote. “But when a Bayraktar drone is used to murder Kurdish women advocating gender equality in Rojava, or burn alive four Kurdish teenage girls playing volleyball at a UN school, the distance somehow excuses the illegal and deadly war crime to the international community.”
“It is hard to argue that such heinous actions would not meet the definition of terrorism,” she concluded.
A detailed account of Turkey’s recent actions in Syria and Iraq can be read in Azeez’s original article.