For the first episode of Kurdistan Beyond the Headlines, host Meghan Bodette interviews human rights activist Shiler Sido about her experiences during the Turkish invasion of Afrin, Syria, her efforts to document war crimes there during the occupation, and her view from the ground as to what the world must do to protect Afrin’s people and end this international injustice.
Sido recalls going about her daily routine as normal when Turkey launched an unprovoked attack on her city in January of 2018. Many in Afrin had believed that the threats were only propaganda until the invasion began, she explains, as their city was peaceful and posed no possible threat to Turkey or to anyone else.
She recalls her experiences staying in Afrin for fifty-six days of the fifty-eight day war, hiding from Turkish bombardment and extremist armed groups. While the people resisted bravely, she says, by mid-March, they were ultimately faced with no choice but to flee to the nearby Shahba region.
Asked about her work collecting eyewitness testimony and evidence of war crimes, Sido describes harrowing scenes of torture, kidnappings, sexual violence, looting and extortion carried out by Turkish-backed militias. She emphasizes that the end of the military campaign and the beginning of the occupation was not the end of the violence and oppression that Afrin’s people have experienced—rather, it was only the beginning.
Finally, she critiques the international community’s response to the illegal invasion and occupation of her homeland. Recalling the responses of U.S. and European leaders to Turkey’s military operation, she stresses that these states have not done enough to hold Turkish leaders accountable, and warns that this has set a precedent for other expansionist powers.