Again, Turkey has carried out an extrajudicial killing of a Yezidi commander in the Sinjar (Şengal) region in Northwest-Iraq. In a drone attack, Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ) commander Azad Ezdin was murdered alongside YBŞ fighter Enver Tolhildan. Ezdin fought against ISIS in 2014, when the Yezidi genocide happened, and continued to defend his people afterwards. He survived a genocide – but then again, he didn’t, because Turkey’s agression is a continuation of it. A scandal in itself, the attack is part of a larger operation by Turkey to not only weaken autonomy but to encourage the resurgence of ISIS.
Developments have followed each other quickly in the last couple of days. On the same day as the murders in Şengal, Thursday, ISIS sleeper cells detonated a car bomb in front of the prison in Hasaka in Northeast Syria where at least 3500 ISIS-members are being held. They tried to force their way in, while inside an uprising broke out and hundreds of inmates managed to escape. Simultaneously, further west, around Ain Issa, Turkey’s mercenaries started to attack the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). While writing this column, clashes between SDF and ISIS continue, with the US army assisting the SDF from the air with planes and helicopters. An unknown number of ISIS members have died, and the SDF announced the loss of 17 of its fighters.
Once again, civilians are packing their belongings to get to safer ground, if there is any left – the suffering of the Syrian people seems endless and remains unbearable.
The events make clear that those who claim to be against ISIS should make up their minds and put their actions where their mouth is. I’m not talking about Turkey here, of course, the country that has paid totally implausible lip service to the war against ISIS ever since the international coalition started it. We all know that Turkey’s one and only interest is the eradication of autonomy in Kurdish lands. Turkey and ISIS have the same mindset: statist, extremely violent, peak patriarchal, striving to eradicate diversity and autonomy.
I am talking about the US of course, for starters. The US isn’t allowing Turkey to invade Syria once again and occupy more Syrian territory, but it has to balance that stance with Turkey’s ‘worries’ about the links between the SDF and the PKK, two groups Turkey considers to be one and the same and ‘terrorist’. The ‘compromise’ is what we saw in Şengal and what we have seen continously for months on end now: targetted killings of anybody who strives for autonomy and is engaged in self-defence, and wages their struggle to contribute to democracy by investing in the project of democratic confederalism.
Allowing these targetted killings renders the alleged committment of the US to the fight against ISIS unconvincing. Very experienced commanders in both Iraq and Syria have been killed, which significantly weakens the SDF. You can then of course send in your planes and helicopters when ISIS takes advantage of the weakened security situation, but it resembles a fire brigade that provides the matches to the arsonist.
Also, ISIS has a habit of organising itself in prisons. If the US and Europe, whose citizens joined this genocidal gang in large numbers, had taken their citizens back and had helped the Kurds in setting up courts to bring ISIS-members to justice, maybe the SDF’s prisons wouldn’t have been this stuffed and wouldn’t have turned into hotbeds of extremist plotting. May I also mention Al Hol camp and Roj camp, where tens of thousands of female ISIS-members and their children are still being held? These kids are growing up and brainwashed into extremism by their mothers and by the whole extremist atmosphere in the camp. Those little boys are the future ISIS fighters, the near-future ISIS fighters. For years, experts have called on western countries to take their female citizens and their children back but to hardly any avail. This will be boomeranging right back at the whole of mankind. Nobody, absolutely nobody will like saying “I told you so” but that’s what will be said.
One more remark about Europe: its silence about Turkey’s atrocities in Syria is deafening and utterly disgraceful.
It is no coincidence that ISIS sleeper cells managed to attack in Hasaka. The SDF is in charge there, but Assad’s army continues to have a presence in the region and has been stoking already simmering tensions between Arabic tribal leaders and the SDF. It remains unclear to what extent Assad is involved, but he is the one profiting the most from the release of ISIS wolves into Northeast Syria. ISIS weakens the autonomous administration and its armed forces, after which his weak army can take over with Putin’s (and Iran’s) help.
For Turkey, that outcome is fine, even if it will have to eventually give up its occupation of parts of Northeast Syria. Erdoğan keeps voicing his rejection of Assad’s government – although not so frequently any more – but in the end, Erdoğan and Assad are allies who are equally against democracy, against autonomy, against human rights.
I could urge those who claim to fight ISIS and assist the SDF to finally make up their minds about who and especially which mindset they support, take a stance against Turkey’s violence and manipulations, and finally make moves to politically support the Autonomous Administration of Northeast Syria, but the thing is: I know it’s no use. The US is clearly part of the problem. The hope is in the struggle.