[Marxism] On questions of 'ethnic cleansing' and similar in northern Syria

mkaradjis . mkaradjis at gmail.com
Tue Jan 23 08:27:41 MST 2018

I was confused as to why a number of people were interpreting the
words “massive ethnic cleansing” in the title of the article I sent
here yesterday (https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/northern-syria-massive-ethnic-cleansing-humanitarian-catastrophe-foreign-intervention-and-betrayal/)
to be referring to the charges that the YPG had engaged in “ethnic
cleansing” some years ago, since I had made no mention of these issues
in my brief (and rushed) article; some people (not only here) reminded
me that the UN had investigated and concluded there had been no ethnic
cleansing. Just as curiously, from an opposite perspective, others had
demanded to know why I was using such exaggerated terms as “massive
ethic cleansing” and “humanitarian catastrophe” to refer to, as they
thought, the Turkish attack on Afrin, when no such things have (as
yet) occurred.

The reference to “massive ethnic cleansing” was to the current
Assad/Russia drive into Idlib, which has so far “cleansed” over
200,000 people from their homes, who have fled northwards, as I
reported in my article; the “humanitarian catastrophe” refers to both
this and to Assad’s ongoing massacre in Ghouta that I also reported

However, someone off-line explained to me the source of the confusion;
it was where I referred to the people the YPG had “cleansed” from the
Tal Rifaat region two years ago.

So, for the sake of clarity, let me explain: we are talking about two
different series of events.

First, there were a number of news articles (eg by Roy Gutman) and
reports (especially by Amnesty International) that the YPG had engaged
in a significant amount of uprooting of Arab villages, destroying
property so they couldn't return, and in some cases massacres. The
main charges of massacres were in the Hasakah region in far northeast
Syria during 2014, a region that is on the front lines between Arab
and Kurd and where 'tribal' divisions among the Arab population also
come into play (some allied with YPG and some against etc). The
charges related to more sporadic uprooting and property destruction
were mostly in relation to the US/YPG campaign driving ISIS out of the
mixed Arab/Kurdish Tel Abyad region in 2015.

The Amnesty report was very damning, and in my view stands up well,
but it did not call these crimes 'ethnic cleansing', as they were not
of a systematic nature with a larger plan to wipe out the entire Arab
ethnic group from those regions, but were more related to "collective
punishment" and/or opportunist crime by various commanders. Only some
media articles, such as Gutman's, used the term ethnic cleansing in
the looser sense. My understanding is that the UN report did not deny
crimes, but said it was not ethnic cleansing, for the reason I have
given here.

However, my article was not concerned with these issues at all, and,
as explained, the inclusion of "massive ethnic cleansing" in the title
referred to the current massive expulsion of 200,000 people in Idlib
by the Assad/Russia offensive.

The event my article did refer to however (but was not meant to be
implied in the title) was the Afrin YPG's Russian airforce-backed
brutal conquest of the Menagh-Tal Rifaat region of northern Aleppo
province in February 2016, from the democratic rebels (at one of the
lowest moments, the YPG paraded around the bodies of slain FSA
fighters on flat-top trucks, video showing the YPG cadres gloating
over them, a scene repeated again several months later). Yes, this
conquest resulted in the expulsion of some 100-150,000 people from
this region, who now live around (still rebel-controlled) Azaz further
north. These are the people I casually referred to in the article as
having been "cleansed", and who have a right to return, if the rebels
were to (rightfully) seize back this region from the Afrin YPG. By
"cleansed" I meant simply "uprooted", "expelled". This is simply a
fact (regardless of the label you put on it or the motivations). This
was long after the UN report into the different issues further east.

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