Why is Turkey attacking Kurdistan? Understanding the conflict in Northern Syria

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Earlier this October, the United States announced they would be withdrawing military support of the Kurds within Northern Syria. This led to international outrage as Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was finally free to invade the region. However, beyond their alliance with U.S forces is ridding the region from ISIL, the mainstream UK coverage of this unique societal experiment has been lacking. So who are the Kurds?

Credit: ANF News
YPG fighters defending the Kurdish homeland

Kurds are the largest ethnic group without control of their own nation state at an estimated population of twenty-six million. After World War One, their territory was split between Iraq, Turkey and Syria and they became the ethnic minority in each country. This has led to political underrepresentation within every centralised government in the region. State-sanctioned oppression appears in multiple forms – particularly in Turkey where political parties representing Kurdish interests were banned. The European Court of Human Rights have condemned the Turkish government for its crimes towards the Kurds including the systematic executions of civilians, the abductions of journalists and mass deportations. A large number of Kurds in Northern Syria have been displaced from Turkey and are without a citizenship.

During the instability of the Syrian civil uprising in 2011, government forces withdrew from the northern region as its resources were overstretched. Kurdistan seized the opportunity to barricade and claim its land – which included territory within the Turkish border.

Since the establishment of their homeland, Rojava, the multi-ethnic region has enjoyed a greater amount of political freedom than they’ve ever known. Through decentralised, autonomous councils which account for representing all genders, races and faiths in its constituencies, Rojava has been praised for pioneering progressive politics in the Middle East.

Now the Turkish military is invading Kurdish land in the name of securing their state borders. This will lead to Rojava being pushed towards Northern Syria in greater numbers, where they will have to face a hostile Bashir al- Assad. With a large number of Kurds with no real citizenship, and no protection under any of the region’s national governments, they have nowhere else to go. If we continue to allow the constant suppression and hostility towards the Kurdish struggle, it will end in one way – genocide.

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