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Call for Turkey to end its assault on the Afrin canton of northern Syria

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We the undersigned call on the United States, the European Union and other peace-loving states of the world to unambiguously condemn and call for an immediate halt to Turkey’s assault on the Afrin region of Syria.

On Saturday January 20th, 2018, Turkey launched a multi-pronged military assault on the Afrin region of Turkey. Using aerial strikes, artillery, tanks and allied “Free Syrian Army” mercenaries (many of whom belong to avowedly Jihadi groups), Ankara unleashed a full scale war against Afrin. Opposing Turkey are some 10,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the People’s Protection Units (the YPG and the all women YPJ), along with volunteers from Afrin’s civilian population of approximately 500,000.

Turkey launched this attack despite the fact that no attacks or even threatened attacks on it emanated from Afrin or its people. Although the YPG and its parent political organization, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) express sympathy for Kurdish rebel groups currently fighting in Turkey, they have remained  separate from these groups and vowed to continue keeping the border with Turkey quiet. Indeed, Afrin until recently was one of the few quiet and peaceful parts of Syria, with PYD-SDF-YPG authorities providing safe haven to Syrian Arabs, Christians, Turkmen, Kurds and in fact anyone who sought shelter there. The region includes tens of thousands of refugees from Aleppo and other areas.

Turkey’s assault on Afrin does not meet the criteria of international law by any stretch of the imagination. Turkey has no just cause in this assault because the people and local government of Afrin have done Turkey no wrong at all. There has not been a single attack on Turkey from Afrin. Turkey’s military assault on Afrin also lacks right intent, with Turkish President Erdogan stating that “God willing, in the coming days, we will continue the operation to purge our southern border from terror.” With “terror” for Turkish authorities appearing to be synonymous to “Kurdish” and divorced from its usual more narrow meaning, Mr. Erdogan has launched an open-ended campaign apparently targeting most of the people of Afrin. Finally, the resort to war lacks proportionality, given that, once again, no attacks from Turkey originated in Afrin and nothing but the destruction of Afrin’s people and civilian infrastructure can be expected to come from this war.

As to the conduct of Turkey’s war on Afrin, Ankara appears to be launching indiscriminate air strikes and artillery bombardments on the people of Afrin. Artillery remains by its very nature an indiscriminate weapon, and Turkey remains completely incapable of differentiating the lightly armed SDF-YPG forces from the surrounding civilian population. Dozen of civilian casualties have already been reported from Afrin.

It is thus with great dismay that we note the U.N. Security Council’s weak language regarding Turkey’s unjustified aggression on the people of Afrin, asking only that Turkey “show restraint.” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement of January 22 (“Turkey has legitimate concerns about terrorists crossing the border into Turkey and carrying out attacks”, he said, adding that the United States has asked Turkey to “just try to be precise, try to limit your operation, try to show some restraint”) likewise fails the test of international law and morality. There have not been any “terrorists” crossing from Afrin into Turkey, and if authorities in Turkey remain unwilling to offer a solution to oppressed Kurdish populations there, the people of Afrin in Syria (both Kurdish and non-Kurdish) should not be made to pay the price. The people of Afrin and Syria in general have already suffered enough without a new invasion from Turkey, which the government in Damascus has also condemned.

For all these reasons, the United States, the European Union and other states should unequivocally call for an immediate and unconditional halt to Turkey’s military assault on Afrin. To do anything less would fail the test of international law, morality and ethics, returning us to an age when fascists in Italy could invade Abyssinia or Libya without consequence and when the NAZI regime could invade neighbours at will.


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