Progressive and democratic people all around the world should support the July 3 call by 34 political parties in North and East Syria (NES) – also known as Rojava by the Kurds – for the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over this territory to block a new invasion by the Turkish state and allied Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups.
On June 26, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan confirmed his intention to launch another military operation into northern Syria to take over several more towns and cities in areas liberated by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from Islamic State (ISIS) and to occupy a 30-kilometre-deep “security zone” in territory now democratically governed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).
Erdoğan has made no secret of his invasion plans and has already escalated attacks on NES, particularly using killer drones. According to the Rojava Information Center, there have been 47 attacks on NES by Turkish armed drones between January and June this year. And in the last month, the attacks have been stepped up.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander-in-chief Mazloum Abdi reports that the Turkish army and allied mercenaries have carried out 1,360 attacks against North and East Syrian cities within the last month. These included 300 artillery attacks, six ground attack attempts, seven drone attacks that claimed the lives of six civilians, including two children, and left nine people injured, and a further 22 killer drone attacks targeting security personnel.
The SDF has declared that it is ready to resist an invasion.
“During the past three years, our forces have strengthened our defences and their military readiness. We have gained experience from Afrin, Serêkaniyê [Ras al-Ayn] and Girê Spî [Tell Abyad] and our military force is stronger today. If the Turkish state happens to attack, it will be us, not they, who will determine the result. This would be not [only] the fight of the Kurds and the SDF, but the fight of the whole of Syria. It would be the fight of all those who oppose the invasion of Syrian land,” Abdi said in a media conference in Heseke [Hasakah] on July 15.
The SDF has negotiated arrangements with the Syrian regime in Damascus to mobilise its army to help resist a Turkish invasion.
So a Turkish invasion will face strong resistance, however, if Turkish warplanes and armed drones were denied access to the airspace above north and east Syria, the invaders will face certain defeat.
This is why we should all support the call from AANES/Rojava for a UN-authorised no-fly zone. The United States and Russia already control the airspace above North and East Syria but when Turkey invaded and occupied Afrin in 2018, these two powers allowed them to do so. The UN must tell the US and Russia not to do this again.
Some progressives around the world are nervous about supporting the call for a no-fly zone, especially after what happened in Libya.
But this is not like the no-fly zone over Libya in 2011 that allowed reactionary Islamist fundamentalist terrorist groups to take over that country. It is its polar opposite. A no-fly zone over north and east Syria would help prevent Turkey and its allied Islamist terrorist groups from taking over more territory in AANES/Rojava.
A defeat for Erdoğan’s threatened invasion would be a victory for progressive forces all around the world because the Rojava revolution that began 10 years ago has pioneered new forms of popular struggle and grassroots democracy. It has shown that even in Syria, a country that has been torn apart and devastated by war, repression and ISIS terror and reaction, it is possible to create liberated zones based on ethnic and religious inclusivity, women’s liberation and respect for ecology.
The freedom fighters of the Rojava Revolution understand only too well that the great powers in the region are not their real friends. As Henry Kissinger once candidly admitted, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests”.
We have seen how NATO was quick to throw the Kurds under the bus to get Sweden and Finland as members.
Difficult compromises have been necessary for the Rojava revolution to survive the last decade. But the freedom fighters have become skilled at defending the interests of the revolution through the shifting sands of deals made and broken with enemies of the revolution.
Peter Boyle is a well known journalist and political activist living in Sydney, Australia. He is also a correspondent of the Green Left Journal.