In a recent article, Rojava Information Centre Co-founder Dani Ellis laid out the humanitarian cost of Turkey’s obliteration of infrastructure in Kurdish-led North and East Syria. Furthermore, Ellis asked why the world has ignored parallels between Turkey’s on-going cross-border operations, and Israel’s military assault inside Gaza.
“While the World has looked on in horror at events in Gaza, Turkey has wiped out the infrastructure vital to life in Rojava through a campaign of brutal air strikes that have largely gone unnoticed outside of Syria,” Ellis wrote in the piece, entitled ‘With All Eyes on Palestine, Don’t Forget Rojava’, published by NovaraMedia.
“On 5 October 2023, a major western ally began a ferocious air campaign against a small Middle Eastern territory, destroying vital infrastructure and sparking a humanitarian crisis unlike anything experienced in the region’s decades-long liberation struggle. This wasn’t Israel’s assault on Gaza, but that of Turkey on Rojava,” Ellis stated.
Underscoring the recent Turkish air campaign against the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), known as Rojava, Ellis also pointed to the administration’s role in defeating ISIS, and its democratic, pluralistic societal model.
She recounted the history of Rojava’s presence in Western media, particularly highlighting the fall from international attention since the US troops’ withdrawal in 2019 and subsequent Turkish military advances. Ellis remarked on the “almost daily drone strikes and sporadic shelling” that have impacted the region’s two million citizens.
Ellis went onto highlight Rojava’s economic struggles, accentuated by Turkish control over water resources and energy facilities, which are critical for electricity and agriculture in the region. She cited the words of Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, who declared such infrastructure as legitimate military targets following a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-related incident in Ankara.
Ellis noted the contrast in US response to the situations in Rojava and Gaza, emphasising the inconsistency. In Rojava, the US took a firm stance—albeit belated—against a NATO ally’s aggressive actions, going as far as to down a Turkish drone and issue a strong executive order condemning Turkey’s military campaign. This executive order characterised Turkey’s actions as an extraordinary threat to US national security, signifying a notable shift towards protecting Rojava’s autonomy.
In stark contrast, Ellis said, the US maintained steadfast support for Israel during its bombing campaign in Gaza, showing no similar censure or active military interference against an ally in that context.
Ellis delved into the historical connection between the Kurdish and Palestinian struggles, detailing the support Kurds have shown Palestine, particularly following Mossad’s role in the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. However, she pointed out that while Palestinian left-wing factions support the Kurdish cause, Arab-nationalist groups do not.
Ellis questioned why the Turkish offensive against Rojava had not received the same level of international media coverage or solidarity as the Palestinian cause, suggesting factors such as the scale of the immediate humanitarian toll and the long-standing global focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues. Compared to the Palestinian situation, the comparatively younger Kurdish diaspora and less mature Kurdish support network, may also contribute to the differentiation in international attention, she said.
Lastly, Ellis described the geopolitical complexities faced by Rojava, caught between Western goals and the necessity of not antagonising Turkey. She concluded with a sombre reminder of the Kurdish adage, ‘The Kurds have no friends but the mountains’, juxtaposing it against the uncertain future of Rojava’s political project in the wake of Turkish aggression.