Turkey’s airstrikes that began on 19 November against Kurdish-held territories in North and East Syria have targeted the vicinity of al-Hol camp, which houses mostly Islamic State militants’ families and others affiliated with the jihadist group.
Al-Hol camp houses more than 53,000 people, including 25,000 Iraqi refugees, 20,000 Syrian families, and 8,000 foreign families, is located 12 km from the Iraqi-Syrian border, and is 70 km from the area under Turkey’s control.
Last week, the heads of the United States House Foreign Affairs Committee expressed its concerns about the Turkish attacks against northern Syria and underlined the possible counter effect of the Turkish aggression on the struggle against the Islamic State (ISIS). Nevertheless, Turkey insists on continuing its military operations over the region.
Nadine Maenza, the President of International Religious Freedom Roundtables wrote a column for The National Interest to share her observations during a visit to northeast Syria.
Read our summary of Maenza’s analysis of the situation in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) below:
“The AANES is not some hastily thrown-together government but a carefully planned democracy that fills the governance and security voids that normally develop when bad acts are eliminated. It has shown us that governance is the way to make permanent the gains win during military action. This is how to stop a “forever war.”
We found that the AANES actually had an over-representation of religious and ethnic minorities in official positions, which created a society where all were welcome regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender. Indeed, the AANES has three official languages: Kurdish, Arabic, and Syriac.
Members of every ethnicity and religion are carefully included in the AANES’ leadership, with co-chairs and vice co-chairs representing all the diversity of their own communities, including Kurdish and Arab Muslims, Syriac-Assyrian Christians, Armenian Christians, Yazidis, Alawites, Circassians, Turkman, and others, with half of all leaders being women.
The AANES is a refuge for religious minorities against the problematic areas under the Assad regime, Turkish occupation, and Hay-at Tahir al-Sham, a jihadist group.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is using the fake threat of “terrorism” emanating from Turkey’s southern border to rally support before next year’s elections, even though there have been no unprovoked border attacks from Syria. The terrible Istanbul attack on November 13 provided Erdogan with the perfect pretext to make accusations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and, by extension, the people of northeast Syria (who are not the PKK).
They are as much a threat to Turkey as Taiwan is to China. It is Turkey that is a threat to freedom, peace, and security in Syria. It is up to the United States and the international community to make the consequences of invading Syria too high for Turkey.”
Nadine Maenza is a noted speaker, writer, and policy expert with more than two decades of experience as an advocate for working families and a champion for international religious freedom.