“If we have to choose between compromise and genocide, we will choose our people,” Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, wrote a little over a month ago. Abdi, who commands tens of thousands of male and female soldiers who fought and beat the Islamic State organization, knows what he’s talking about.
The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, also known as Rojava, is on the brink of an abyss. The American abandonment, the offensive by Turkey and its jihadist allies, and the involvement of Syria’s Assad regime and its Russian patrons have forced the area’s inhabitants, especially the Kurds, to maneuver and compromise in order to preserve human life and stop the fighting.
But the agreements that have been reached primarily serve Turkey, whose achievements include damaging the armed Kurdish forces, causing civilian flight from the new “security zone” and diverting international attention to other places.
After a few days in which the world showed signs of concern over the hundreds of people were were killed or wounded and the thousands more who were expelled, the imaginary cease-fire has calmed international public opinion and allowed Turkey to continue with its plans for regional domination. But the fire has not ceased and quiet has not been restored. All the world needs to do in order to realize is to stop plugging up its ears.
Syrian Kurdish refugees fleeing the Turkish incursion into Rojava rest and receive food at a Refugee Welcoming Committee base on October 20, 2019 in Shaila, Iraq.Byron Smith / Getty Images
Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with several Kurds who were in Rojava during the Turkish operation. These conversations took place in Sweden after the interviewees — Swedes of Kurdish origin — returned from visits to northern Syria. When you hear their stories and combine them with reports from other sources, it’s no longer possible to believe Turkey’s claim that it’s only fighting terrorists and restoring order.
Bejan Rashid, for instance, is a Syrian who found refuge in Europe nine years ago. After receiving a European passport, he went to visit his hometown of Qamishli.
“I was in Serê Kaniyê (Ras al-Ain) when the fighting started,” he said. “On the afternoon of October 9, F-16 planes started to bomb various targets, some of them entirely civilian. They bombed schools, residential buildings and hospitals.”