[Marxism] Northern Syria: Massive ethnic cleansing, humanitarian catastrophe, foreign intervention and betrayal

Chris Slee chris_w_slee at hotmail.com
Tue Jan 23 18:12:13 MST 2018

Michael Karadjis condemns the participation of some Syrian rebels in Turkey's invasion of Afrin.  He gives various reasons why they are doing it - for example:  "For some, it may be revenge for what the YPG did two years ago..."

But he misses the main reason: the cooption of some rebel groups by the Turkish state.  

An article by Loubna Mrie explains the cooption process (without using that term) as follows:

"We cannot understand the root causes of such divisions without looking closely at the proxy powers and their funding of Sunni Arab rebel forces. Turkey, which has long backed the FSA, is the chief country through which support has been channelled. Unfortunately, Turkey's suppression of its own Kurds has coloured the way it views Syrian Kurds, and thus has aggravated ethnic divisions in Syria.

"Because the Syrian opposition desperately needs Turkey's support, it has been compelled to embrace Ankara's stance - which is sometimes at odds with the greater good of the Syrian people.

"One of the Syrian opposition's greatest mistakes was to buckle to Turkish pressure and exclude the Kurdish opposition from the Syrian National Council (SNC). This, in turn, led to the political under-representation of Kurds, even though there was a robust Kurdish political opposition that was eager to join the SNC. 

"It is very important to note here that Turkey was not only supporting the armed opposition, but was also the only country that offered a safe space for the Syrian political opposition to meet. This dynamic forced the Syrian opposition to give up on a Kurdish role in the political opposition, or rather, to turn a blind eye to the Kurdish struggle because they did not want to risk their relationship with Turkey. 

"In effect, Turkey played a major role in widening Arab-Kurd divisions."


(The New Arab, 22 August 2017)

The cooption of many rebel groups by Turkey meant that most Kurds viewed the rebel movement with suspicion.

The revolutionary movement in Rojava, led by the PYD, remained separate from both the Assad regime and the Turkish-backed rebels.  The PYD's initial policy was to avoid armed conflict if possible, but to fight back if attacked.  

Mrie notes that Kurdish areas were attacked by several groups:

"The Islamic State group, Ahrar al-Sham, some FSA groups, the Nusra Front and HTS/al-Qaeda etc all also played an important role in this division. They all attacked liberated Kurdish areas as part of a cynical strategy to gain control of oil fields. 

"Whenever these groups took control of a Kurdish area, they tried to impose their rules and ideology on Kurdish society. They started asking women to cover their head, targeted Christians, and even burned churches in cities like Ras al-Ayn."

This history of attacks by Turkish-backed groups helps explain why the Syrian Democratic Forces went on the offensive against such groups in early 2016.  

Probably also the escalation of Erdogan's war against Turkey's own Kurdish population, and against democratic rights in Turkey, heightened the fear of Turkey - and of Turkish-backed groups - amongst Syrian Kurds and other supporters of the Rojava revolution.

Another factor was growing Arab support for the SDF. The SDF grew out of an alliance between the mainly Kurdish YPG/YPJ and the mainly Arab Jaysh al-Thuwar, many of whose members were survivors of attacks by Jabhat al-Nusra against other rebel groups such as the Syrian Revolutionaries Front.

The growing Arab participation in the SDF provided additional motivation for the SDF to advance into predominantly Arab areas. For many Arab SDF fighters, it would have been an opportunity to liberate their home towns from the oppressive rule of groups such as Nusra.

The 2016 SDF offensive coincided with the Russian-backed Assad regime offensive.  If, as Michael claims, there was collaboration between the SDF and the Russian air force, that was a response to the situation created by Turkey's policy.  The SDF saw Turkey as the biggest threat, and Russia as a potential ally in countering this threat (even if it was an unreliable ally and a potential enemy).

Chris Slee

From: Marxism <marxism-bounces at lists.csbs.utah.edu> on behalf of mkaradjis . via Marxism <marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, 23 January 2018 1:29:58 AM
To: Chris Slee
Subject: [Marxism] Northern Syria: Massive ethnic cleansing, humanitarian catastrophe, foreign intervention and betrayal

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Regarding Turkey’s attack on Kurdish Afrin, controlled by the
Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militia the Peoples Protection
Units (YPG): two years ago I wrote this article condemning the YPG’s
brutal conquest of the Arab-majority Tal Rifaat-Menagh region of
northern Aleppo province from the democratic rebels (Free Syrian Army
[FSA] and allies), in direct collaboration with the mass murdering
Russian imperialist airforce, which had just recently begun its
Nazi-style Blitzkrieg against Free Syria and thousands upon thousands
of Syrian civilians.

In that article, I noted in passing how bad what the YPG was doing was
by posing it in reverse:

“If Turkey were invading and bombing Kurdish Efrin and Syrian rebels
were acting as ground troops and expelling the YPG from Kurdish areas,
it should be vigorously condemned, yet this is not happening; the
exact opposite of that is happening.”

Full: https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/northern-syria-massive-ethnic-cleansing-humanitarian-catastrophe-foreign-intervention-and-betrayal/

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