In late January the Turkish army crossed their southern border into northern Syria and commenced their assault on Afrin. A little over two months later and Afrin had fallen. The Turkish forces, aided by anti-Assad rebels had surrounded the city on all sides and cut off aid supply to its civilians. Thousands attempted to flee, but many were doomed to starve and fall prey to an indiscriminate bombing campaign by the Turks.
Afrin had been part of the developing region of Rojava, established in 2016 following the huge success of the Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Rojava stretched across the northern border of Syria and across a large chunk of the eastern border. It is a developing democracy, although the Economist reports that so far the controlling party, the PYD, hasn’t taken criticism well and has treated fellow Kurdish political parties unkindly. Despite this, it is an ambitious democratic experiment, and views democratic involvement as mandatory. It has also made efforts for greater women and minority representation in government.
This map was made in January, Afrin now belongs to Turkish troops
However, reports of hundreds of civilian men, women and children killed by Turkish bombs, as well as the bombing of schools and hospitals surfaced. The West was quiet. The EU is in a bind, Turkey plays a key role in the processing of refugees, hundreds of thousands pass through it looking to reach Europe, so the EU has to do its best to appease Turkey in order to strike a deal over the fate of the refugees.
Britain, on the other hand, is soon to be free from playing a role in the EU’s stance on such sensitive topics. They will also be free from some beneficial trade agreements, and have embarked on an effort to sell the business possibilities of post-brexit Britain. One of those business possibilities is selling weapons to Turkey, a trade that has increased healthily in recent years.
The UK is paid a sweet sum for the arms it manufactures, but at what ethical cost? In 2017 Theresa May ‘celebrated’ a deal being signed with Turkey to develop fighter jets for them worth £100m. The weapons made here are used by a number of armies in the Syrian war, now the Turkish army are using them to kill civilians. They have now declared their intention of marching into the rest of Rojava, particularly its north-east stronghold.
During his many years in politics, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has gained a reputation as a dictator, intent on silencing his critics and desperate to crush any voices questioning his authority. He stirs up national sentiment and has created a poisonous political atmosphere in Turkey, one where 109 people can be killed at a pro-Kurdish peace rally in Ankara by nationalist terrorists. Meanwhile, Rojava is building a reputation as a beacon of hope in the oppressive middle-east, one that listens to the voices of all in its democracy – domestic abuse is a crime and the rights of women and gay people are championed.
The government supports only one, they support the wrong one.