Archiv der Kategorie 'KURDISTAN'

German ISIS members in YPG custody in limbo

Following the call US President Donald Trump made, the discussion on the future of German citizen ISIS members in YPG custody has heated up. Some politicians demand the ISIS members be stripped of their citizenship.

Despite ongoing calls by the Rojava Kurdistan administration, the German state has been unbothered by their citizens who joined ISIS and were captured alive in YPG operations in northern Syria. According to official numbers from German authorities, 1050 individuals joined ISIS from Germany. Most of them were killed in conflicts, some returned to Germany and some were captured by YPG forces and the Iraqi army.

There were 200 German citizens in YPG custody, most of them women and children with 40 adult German citizen ISIS members who had committed crimes. The disinterest by the federal German government continued until US President Donald Trump posted on Twitter last weekend and said, “The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial.”

Up to now, the Berlin administration had posed excuses like, “We don‘t have official representation in Syria, so we don‘t have complete information on German citizens in the region.” Following Trump’s pressure, the issue has become a priority for the federal government led by Angela Merkel.


Some commentators in mainstream German media say some politicians and experts are calling for the construction of a prison for ISIS members like the US did in Guantanamo for Al Qaeda, or for the ISIS members to be put on trial in an international war crimes tribunal in the Hague.

But lawyers say both versions go against the German constitution. Former Minister of Defense and criminal justice judge Professor Rupert Scholz said, “Our laws will never allow for something like Guantanamo. We cannot issue an arrest warrant for a criminal without them facing a judge. Germany is faced with a very tough mission, and the country must take back its citizens.”

Expert on the constitution Professor Ulrich Battis said Germany’s laws prevent the country’s citizens to be tried in the international criminal court in the Hague. Prof. Battis said a war tribunal can be set up in the Hague if there is no way to set up court in a country, and added: “Such a court should be set up in Germany, not in the Hague.”


Baden-Wurttemberg Minister of Interior Thomas Strobl joined the discussion and called for the ISIS members to be stripped of German citizenship. The Christian Democrat politician Strobl spoke to Bild and said, “According to our laws, any person who joins a foreign army should be stripped of their citizenship. This law should be utilized for individuals who joined the terrorist organization ISIS.”

But experts say stripping individuals of their right to citizenship is not easy. Criminal justice judge Prof. Rupert Scholz said the law applies only for dual citizens and pointed out that although ISIS claimed to declare a state, it doesn‘t have the actual status of a state in the international arena.

Minister of Interior Horst Seehofer said the repatriation of ISIS members should be conditional. Seehofer spoke to Suddeutschen Zeitung and said, “Before they get on a plane, all their criminal files must be inspected where 5hey are and then they should be admitted.” The minister proposed a strict effort for those with serious crimes to not disappear in Germany, and added: “I do not want to admit dangerous individuals who may risk our security.”

Similar discussions continue in other European countries. Government officials in Denmark and the UK openly announced that they won‘t repatriate their citizens who joined ISIS. France, Indonesia, Russia, Morocco and the Sudan have appealed to the Rojava administration to take back their citizens who were captured alive by the YPG.

Special units in the YPG have captured over 2.800 ISIS members in operations in Northern Syria to date. These individuals are held in prisons in Rojava Kurdistan, and over 800 of them are foreign fighters who hold citizenships in 46 countries in total, most of which are Western states.


Police beat minors in southeastern Turkey
Van Bar Association published photos of minors subjected to torture at police station in Van

Three Kurdish teenagers said they were subjected to police torture during detention in Turkey’s southeastern city of Van, lawyers from the Van Bar Association reported on Sunday.

Turkish police on Feb. 15 detained the three teenagers, aged between 14 and 17, and used violence against them during and after their detention in Van’s Ipekyolu district, according to victims’ statements. The youngsters told the Van Bar Association that the police beat them, kicked them in the head, hit them with batons and put their heads into toilet bowls, the Ahval news site reported.

“After I came home from work, the police detained me due to incidents in the neighborhood and got me on the ground. They struck my back with batons. They kicked me in the stomach with their boots, pulled my hair and hit me in the face. They took me to the police station [near the Tuşba Shopping Center] and continued beating me there. They put my head into a toilet bowl and insulted me,” one of the victims, aged 17, said.

A 16-year-old victim said the police mistreated him as well. “They questioned me at the police station, but I told them I knew nothing. They beat me and swore at me.”

The third victim, a 14-year-old Kurd who lost partial vision in his left eye due to the police torture, said he was going shopping when the police detained him.

“Eight police officers assaulted me. …They took me to the police station after they beat me on the street. They put my head into a toilet bowl. Right now, there is blurriness and itching in my left eye.”

The Van Bar Association said hospital reports proved the three teenagers were mistreated and subjected to torture, sustaining serious injuries.

Perihan Duman, the mother of one of the detained minors, said: “I am haunted by images of my son. I haven’t been able to sleep for two days,” while his father, Hacı Duman, added, “The police called us at 3:30 a.m., long after my son was detained and badly beaten.”

The bar association filed a criminal complaint against the police officers involved the incident.

The families claim the police try to extend detention of minors, hoping that signs of torture will disappear in time. (SCF with Ahval, Bold Medya)

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF)



„Folter an Minderjährigen wird zur Normalität“

Drei Minderjährige werden am 15. Februar in Wan festgenommen und anschließend von den Sicherheitskräften misshandelt. Die Rechtsanwaltskammer sieht einen direkten Zusammenhang zwischen der Folter und der Haltung der AKP-Regierung.

Am 15. Februar wurden in dem Bezirk Ipekyolu in Wan (Van) drei Minderjährige festgenommen und anschließend von den Sicherheitskräften misshandelt. Das geht aus den ärztlichen Attesten der 14-, 16- und 17-jährigen Jugendlichen hervor. Alle drei befinden sich weiterhin in Gewahrsam. Die Rechtsanwaltskammer von Wan kündigte an, juristisch gegen die Misshandlung der drei Minderjährigen vorzugehen.

Die Jugendlichen waren am Abend des 15. Februars festgenommen worden. Anschließend wurden sie in der Leitstelle der Sicherheitskräfte am Kopf und Körper mit Fußtritten und Schlägen mit den Gewehrkolben traktiert. Später wurden zudem die Köpfe der Minderjährigen in Toiletten eingetaucht.

„Folter wird zur Normalität“

Cemal Demir von der Rechtsanwaltskammer Wan sieht einen Zusammenhang mit den zunehmenden Foltervorfällen im Land und der Haltung der türkischen Regierung. Trotz der vermeintlichen Bekenntnisse der Regierung zur „Null-Toleranz für Folter“ seien Vorfälle wie nun in Wan niemals von der Tagesordnung der Türkei verschwunden. „Im Gegenteil, Foltervorfälle wie jüngst in Wan sind zu Normalität geworden. Es gibt zahlreiche Beispiele dafür. Es gibt kein ernstzunehmendes Vorgehen der Regierung gegen die Folter. Die allgemeine Straflosigkeit gegen Foltervergehen führt zu einem sprunghaften Anstieg von Misshandlungen und Folter in Gewahrsam. Dass Minderjährige in Wan dieser menschenverachtenden Folter ausgesetzt wurden, darf nicht missachtet werden. Die Verantwortlichen müssen auf schnellstem Wege identifiziert und hart bestraft werden“, so Demir.

Die Rechtsanwaltskammer von Wan berichtet, dass sie den Vorfall in Wan weiter verfolgen werden. Die drei Folteropfer wurden mittlerweile in eine Jugendstrafanstalt überbracht. Bevor sie dorthin verlegt wurden, habe man bewirken können, dass sie einer ärztlichen Untersuchung unterzogen werden. Dort konnten die Foltereinwirkungen attestiert werden. Die Anwält*innen halten weiter Kontakt zu den drei Minderjährigen. Ihre Berichte über die Folter wurden dokumentiert und ein Beschwerdeverfahren zu dem Vorfall bei der Staatsanwaltschaft von Wan eingeleitet. Die Rechtsanwaltskammer werde den Fall weiter verfolgen.



HIER ( auf türkisch )

Kurden fordern internationale Sondergerichte in Syrien

Europa tut sich schwer mit Donald Trumps Forderung einer Rücknahme heimischer IS-Kämpfer. Syrische Kurden schlagen deshalb internationale Sondergerichte auf syrischem Boden vor.

Die europäischen Heimatländer reagieren nur zaghaft auf die Forderung einer Rückholung ihrer Staatsangehörigen – nun haben syrische Kurden die Vereinten Nationen aufgerufen, in dem Bürgerkriegsland internationale Sondergerichte für inhaftierte IS-Kämpfer einzurichten. Im Norden Syriens gebe es nicht die Möglichkeit, die Terroristen juristisch zu verfolgen, sagte der Sprecher der Syrischen Demokratischen Kräfte (SDF), Mustafa Bali. Prozesse unter dem Dach der UN könnten hingegen eine Lösung sein, die alle zufriedenstelle.

Die von den Kurden angeführten SDF-Truppen gehen derzeit im Osten Syriens gegen die letzte IS-Bastion in dem Bürgerkriegsland vor und haben die Dschihadisten in dem Ort Baghus auf engstem Raum eingekreist. Der Sprecher sagte, seine Truppe habe rund 1300 ausländische IS-Kämpfer gefangen genommen, Iraker ausgenommen.

US-Präsident Donald Trump hatte die europäische Länder aufgefordert, in Syrien gefangene IS-Kämpfer zurückzunehmen und vor Gericht zu stellen. Die EU-Staaten sehen jedoch massive praktische Probleme.

„Eine pauschale kollektive Rücknahme von IS-Kämpfern kommt für uns keinesfalls in Betracht“, sagte Innenstaatssekretär Stephan Mayer (CSU) der „Passauer Neuen Presse“. Zudem komme es entscheidend darauf an, die Identität und die deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit schon im Aufenthaltsland zweifelsfrei und lückenlos zu klären.

Zustimmung für Trump aus Deutschland

Trump erhält aus Deutschland jedoch auch Zustimmung. „Wir müssen die im Ausland inhaftierten deutschen Dschihadisten zurücknehmen, daran führt kein Weg vorbei. Weder Deutschland noch Nordrhein-Westfalen wird sich dem verweigern können“, sagte NRW-Innenminister Herbert Reul (CDU) dem SPIEGEL. „Deswegen ist es klug, wenn wir uns jetzt darauf vorbereiten und sowohl Sicherheitsbehörden als auch Jugend- und Sozialbehörden sensibilisieren.“

Der Grünenaußenpolitiker Omid Nouripour nannte es in der „Passauer Neuen Presse“ grundsätzlich richtig, deutsche mutmaßliche IS-Unterstützer nach Deutschland zurückzubringen und hier für ihre möglichen Taten zur Verantwortung zu ziehen. „Das deutsche Strafrecht bietet genügend Möglichkeiten, diese gefährlichen Kämpfer hier auch entsprechend zu belangen.“ Die Strafverfolgungsbehörden, die sich mit Verbrechen in Syrien und Irak beschäftigen, müssten allerdings besser ausgestattet werden.

CDU-Innenexperte Armin Schuster sieht es als „humanitäre Verpflichtung“, Frauen und Kinder, „zuvorderst aufzunehmen und, wo nötig, psychologische Hilfestellung zu leisten“, sagte Schuster der „Saarbrücker Zeitung“. Dies gelte besonders, wenn diese nicht selbst gekämpft hätten. Er hatte bereits vorher gegenüber dem SPIEGEL eine Rückholung deutscher IS-Kämpfer gefordert.

Nach einem „Welt“-Bericht verzögert sich ein Gesetzentwurf, der die Ausbürgerung deutscher Mitglieder einer Terrormiliz ermöglichen soll. Das Bundesjustizministerium habe zum Entwurf des Innenministeriums bislang keine Stellung genommen, sodass er nicht an diesem Mittwoch vom Kabinett verabschiedet werden könne. Nach einem Bericht des „Handelsblatts“ gibt es im Innenministerium verfassungsrechtliche Bedenken dagegen, IS-Rückkehrern mit doppelter Staatsbürgerschaft den deutschen Pass zu entziehen. Es gelte das im Grundgesetz verankerte Rückwirkungsverbot

Der Spiegel

The Killing of Tahir Elçi

On 28 November 2015, Tahir Elçi, a prominent Kurdish human rights lawyer, was shot and killed during a press conference in the city of Diyarbakır, Turkey.

Elçi’s death came during a time of rising tensions in the country, against the backdrop of the decades-long conflict between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a militant political movement dedicated to achieving Kurdish autonomy in Turkey’s southeast.

By late 2015, a major peace process had recently collapsed into violence. Elçi had been a prominent voice for calm and de-escalation, but after his death, the situation in Diyarbakır deteriorated into humanitarian catastrophe, leaving hundreds of civilians dead and thousands displaced.

It was not only the manner of his death—seemingly echoing the assassinations of the conflict’s worse years—that caused outrage, and fulled rumours and conspiracy theories. The early days of the investigation into his death were chaotic, and in three years since the killing, no one has been charged.

In 2016, the Diyarbakır Bar Association, of which Elçi was chairman at the time of his death, asked Forensic Architecture to examine the evidence in their possession, and to independently investigate the circumstances of his death. As Elçi was killed during a press conference, multiple cameras captured the moments leading up to his death.

In December 2018, the results of our analysis were submitted to the public prosecutor in Diyarbakır, with the intention of challenging the Turkish state to reinvigorate its own investigation.

In February 2019, we published an extended report on our investigation through openDemocracy, exploring in depth some of the wider context behind Elçi’s death, and our investigation. You can read that here (English) and here (Türkçe).

You can also view our methodology here: English / Türkçe

Forensic Architecture


The Killing of Tahir Elçi – ENGLISH

The Killing of Tahir Elçi – EN from Forensic Architecture on Vimeo.

German ISIS terrorist Lucas Glass

‘I got cheated. All of us got cheated’: Captured German Isis member says he regrets joining terror group`
Lucas Glass, 23, is being held by the Syrian Democratic Forces ( Richard Hall/The Independent )

Lucas Glass had not long finished school when he decided to join Isis. In the summer of 2014, shortly after the terror group declared its global caliphate, he left his home city of Dortmund and set off with his wife to start a new life in Syria. He was just 19 years old.

“All I knew about Isis was that they were establishing Islamic law and fighting Bashar al-Assad,” he says, cutting a solemn figure under the watchful eye of his captors at a military installation in northern Syria.

Glass, a German citizen, now 23, is one of thousands of foreigners who came to this country in the throes of a brutal civil war to live under the strict interpretation of Islam that Isis promised its followers. That is not all they did, however. Many played a key role in the group’s reign of terror, acting as soldiers, executioners and recruiters.

Over the past few months, as the caliphate nears its end, hundreds of foreign nationals have been detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces as they leave the ever-shrinking territory of Isis. But their capture is just the start of a complex process which has no clear end in sight.

Most countries do not want to take back those citizens who left to join the caliphate, fearing they would be a security threat if they returned. Prosecuting them is extremely difficult due to a lack of evidence of what individuals did during their time living with Isis.

Foreigners leaving the caliphate know this, and the majority claim they had nothing to do with the group or were not fighters. They say they were cooks, doctors or humanitarians who simply found themselves in the caliphate by accident.

“They all say the same thing,” a Kurdish intelligence official responsible for handling suspected Isis members tells The Independent. “We don’t believe them.”

Glass is not one of those people. He admits to being a member of Isis, and to working for its police force for two years. But he claims he was duped by its propaganda, and did not discover the group’s true nature until it was too late.

Glass’ story gives an insight into the inner workings of one the most feared groups in the modern world, and the disillusionment of many of its followers as its fortunes started to decline.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, he recounts the tale of how he came to join Isis, and how it all fell apart.

“You can compare it with a US soldier who wants to join the army,” he says of his motivation for joining the group, speaking in accented English. “Why is he ready to join the US army, and go to Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria to sacrifice his life for the sake of democracy? We heard that they announced an Islamic State, this is what we came for,” he says.

Glass converted to Islam in 2010, some 10 years after his mother had done the same. He had been familiar with the religion for most of this life, but it wasn’t until he got older that he discovered his faith. But he says he felt Germany did not afford him the space to live the religious life he wanted to.

In July 2014, Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued a call to Muslims around the world to come to Syria and Iraq to build an Islamic state. “Rush O Muslims to your state. Yes, it is your state. Rush, because Syria is not for the Syrians, and Iraq is not for the Iraqis,” he said in an audio message.

Those words hit home with Glass. He felt it was his duty to go. He married his German wife, and a month later they traveled to Turkey, where he paid a smuggler to take him across the border into Syria. Shortly after, he found himself enrolled at an Isis religious school.

“There were 400 of us in one camp. People from Germany, France, Belgium, Britain, north African countries,” he says.

Glass wanted to fight for the group, against the Syrian government, but an injury meant he was unfit for the frontline. Instead, he was assigned to the police force in Aleppo province.

“The main work was manning checkpoints in the streets. I would stop cars and look out for cigarettes and drugs,” he says. “I never pointed my gun at another human,” he insists.

He did this job for two years, he says. Life was as close to normal as it could be for a German living in an active warzone. But by 2016 Isis had gained enemies on all sides in Syria’s civil war, and began to lose ground in Aleppo to the Syrian opposition. Its fighters withdrew from Aleppo to Raqqa; Glass and his family, which now included children, went with them.

Throughout the time Glass was a member of the Isis police force, the group carried out some of its most heinous atrocities. In August 2014, Isis fighters overran the Iraqi town of Sinjar, where it massacred Yazidi civilians and kidnapped thousands of women to keep as sex slaves. Shortly after, Isis members killed the American journalist James Foley. Then in September they released videos showing the beheading of American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff, and then the execution of British aid worker David Haines. All of these were designed to maximise publicity, shared on Isis propaganda channels, and aimed at shocking the world and instilling fear in its enemies.

Glass continued to do his job, manning checkpoints for Isis while the group wrought havoc across the region. He insists he did not know these crimes were being committed, despite their widespread publication. It wasn’t until 2016, in Raqqa, that he says he had a change of heart.

“I had seen some stuff going on in Isis which I don’t accept, which I thought was un-Islamic,” he says.

“Some of the propaganda videos of Isis, burning people, drowning them. I got shocked when I saw these things. This is not allowed in Islam. These were things I don’t accept,” he says. “After that, I decided to leave.”

By the time Glass says he realised the truth about the group, Isis was carrying out deadly attacks far beyond its borders. In France, the US and Tunisia, Isis-inspired attacks killed hundreds. But Isis was also on the back foot in Iraq and Syria, losing ground in both countries. The US had entered the conflict and was bombing intensively across Isis’s self-declared caliphate.

“I just asked to leave,” says Glass. “They give you a paper and you get stamps from the people who are responsible for you. From this day I lived as a civilian,” but still within the caliphate.

“I didn’t want to be a part of Isis anymore. I wanted to be innocent of these things,” he adds.

Glass says he tried to escape once with his family but was caught by the Isis secret police.

“They imprisoned me for one and a half months. They released me under the condition that if I tried to leave a second time they would kill me,” he says.

From that moment on, as he tells it, he was a prisoner of Isis, and was forced to retreat as they retreated, from Raqqa to Deir ez-Zor. The Isis caliphate got smaller and smaller, its fighters faced defeat after defeat. Eventually, a string of villages along the Euphrates became the last holdout of the group.

The SDF, with US backing, launched its offensive on this last stronghold in December. The caliphate was surrounded, and battered by daily airstrikes, as Isis made its last stand.

“I remember a few times, me and my family and my children we went to the market, and there was bombing next to us, and I saw in front of my eyes women and children, gone, arms gone, head gone,” he says. “You didn’t know what would happen tomorrow. Every moment you expected to die.”

In the past months, an exodus of people have fled the Isis-held areas. The group’s usually tight control over who comes and goes has seemingly collapsed. Thousands of women and children were among those fleeing, many of them believed to be the relatives of Isis fighters.

Glass says there was a sense of abandonment among Isis supporters and fighters when the group’s leaders were suddenly nowhere to be found.

“Everybody was asking this question. Where are they? Why don’t they show themselves? They claim to be responsible for us, for the Muslims, why don’t they help us? The majority of people in Isis areas, even the majority of Isis fighters, hate them,” he says.

Glass was eventually captured as he crossed the front lines east of the town of Susah on 6 January. He was separated from his family and remains in detention to this day. His wife and children are currently being held with thousands of other families of suspected Isis members in a holding camp.

What comes next for him, and the thousands of other foreign prisoners held by the SDF, is unclear. The Syrian Democratic Forces is calling on foreign countries to take back their citizens who came here to join Isis. So far, France is the only European country to say it will bring them back. The US has also said it will try citizens suspected of Isis membership at home. The UK, meanwhile, has refused to allow its citizens to return. Defence secretary Gavin Williamson said last year: “I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country.” Germany has so far taken the same position.

“I hope Germany is going to take me back, but I don’t expect they will,” he says. “I expect they will hand us over to the Syrian government.”

It is likely he will face prosecution for belonging to Isis no matter where he ends up, even if he was not directly involved in killing, as he claims. But there will be many who don’t believe his story.

“It is simply not plausible to suggest that there was any doubt over Isis’s true nature in 2014. Indeed, by the end of January in that year the group was drawing heavy criticism from even other rebel groups for its barbarity,” says Shiraz Maher, an expert on foreign fighters in the Syrian conflict, and director at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King’s College London.

“It is true that individuals within Isis sometimes performed specialised roles, serving as doctors, engineers and so on, but interviews I conducted suggest that they did this in addition to holding combat roles. A prominent Australian doctor, Tarek Kamaleh, was revealed to be doing just that in Isis propaganda, alternating between his work as a doctor and serving on the front line,” he adds.

It will not be long before Isis loses the last of its territory, bringing an end to the caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Already, many here are preparing for what comes next. Isis has already begun to transform back into an insurgency, and has demonstrated its ability to carry out attacks.

But according to Glass, who once held the group in high esteem, it will never again be able to muster the same support it did four years ago.

“At the beginning, when they announced their caliphate, thousands of Muslims came to Syria to support it. But now we know the reality of Isis. They will not find any supporters anymore in the Muslim world. All these things Isis did, and all these crimes, made Muslims all over the world hate Isis. So it will never be able to find any supporters anymore,” he says.

“I got cheated. All of us got cheated. All of these foreigners, thousands of Muslims who came to join Isis got cheated.”

“I came to practise my religion. I thought I would find what I wanted here, but actually it was very different.”

The Independent

American troops killed in Syria bomb attack claimed by Isil

American troops have been killed in a bomb attack in Syria claimed by Isil, just weeks after Donald Trump said the terror group had been defeated and announced he would pull out US forces.

The attack took place in the northern town of Manbij, where US troops were on patrol.

The exact number of Americans killed has yet to be confirmed but a spokesman for the US-led coalition against Isil said that multiple US soldiers had died.

“US service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today,” the spokesman said. “We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 people were killed including nine civilians and others were wounded in the blast.

The attack throws into focus Mr Trump’s withdrawal from Syria, which he unexpectedly announced before Christmas and caught allies and figures in his own administration off guard.

The move triggered the resignation of two senior Trump administration figures – James Mattis, the defence secretary, and Brett McGurk, the special presidential anti-Isil envoy – and a backlash from Congress.

Mr Trump initially said the withdrawal of America’s 2,000 troops in Syria would take place in 30 days but that morphed into four months. Now the exact timetable of the withdrawal is unclear.

Justifying his decision in December, Mr Trump tweeted: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” He has also described Syria as a country of “sand and death”.

The deaths are the first US casualties in the country since Mr Trump’s announcement. Isil claimed responsibility for the attack, which appeared to be a suicide bombing.

The attack may be the most deadly on US forces in Syria since they were deployed on the ground in 2015.

A Pentagon spokesman told Reuters that only two US troops have previously been killed in action in Syria. There have also been two non-combat fatalities.

A video purporting to show the bombing broadcast by CNN showed the moment an explosion went off on a pavement of a busy street. The footage later showed pools of blood on the ground.

Reuters, the news agency, quoted two witnesses who described the blast.

„An explosion hit near a restaurant, targeting the Americans, and there were some forces from the Manbij Military Council with them,“ one said.

The Manbij Military Council militia has controlled the town since US-backed Kurdish-led forces took it from Isil in 2016. It is located near areas held by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and by anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkey.

One of the witnesses said there was a „heavy“ presence of military aircraft over Manbij following the blast, which took place near a vegetable market.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a brief statement that Mr Trump had been briefed on the attack.

“The President has been fully briefed and we will continue to monitor the ongoing situation in Syria. For any specific questions please contact the Department of Defence,” she said.

She added in a later statement „Our deepest sympathies and love go out to the families of the brave American heroes who were killed today in Syria.

„We also pray for the soldiers who were wounded in the attack. Our service members and their families have all sacrificed so much for our country.“



Guerillakämpfer Jakob Riemer in Kurdistan gefallen

VIDEO: Jakob Riemer

Der deutsche Guerillakämpfer Jakob Riemer ist am 9. Juli 2018 in Nordkurdistan gefallen. Die HPG sprechen seinen Angehörigen ihr Beileid aus.

Das Pressezentrum der Volksverteidigungskräfte HPG hat eine Erklärung zu dem im vergangenen Jahr in Çarçella gefallenen Guerillakämpfer Jakob Riemer (Şiyar Gabar) abgegeben. In der Erklärung heißt es:

„In Kurdistan findet ein Krieg statt, in dem mit großer Selbstlosigkeit und unermüdlichem Einsatz gekämpft wird. Das freie Leben entwickelt sich mit dem Glauben unserer heldenhaften Gefallenen an das Leben und die Freiheit. Die bewusste und selbstlose Lebensweise der Gefallenen hat eine Kraft entstehen lassen, die unsere Bewegung unter Führung der PKK zu einem unbedingten Erfolg führt.

Im Kampf gegen die kolonialistische Besatzung Kurdistans ist unser Freund Şiyar Gabar am 9. Juli 2018 bei einer Militäroperation der türkischen Armee in der Region Çarçella in Gever (Yüksekova, Provinz Colemêrg/Hakkari) gefallen.

Heval Şiyar ist 1994 in Deutschland zur Welt gekommen. In jungen Jahren erkannte er die Ungerechtigkeit des herrschenden Systems und suchte nach Wegen, gegen das Unrecht anzukämpfen. Er kämpfte gegen die kapitalistische Moderne, in der Menschen nicht zählen und die Schere zwischen den Gesellschaftsschichten immer größer wird. Şiyar glaubte daran, dass ein gerechtes System ohne Ausbeutung möglich ist und war in Deutschland in verschiedenen linken Gruppen aktiv. In dieser Zeit lernte er das kurdische Volk und den kurdischen Befreiungskampf kennen. Er erkannte, dass eine weltweite Befreiung auf der Grundlage von Abdullah Öcalans Ideologie eines freien Lebens erreicht werden kann und entschloss sich, in der PKK dafür zu kämpfen. 2013 ging er in die Berge Kurdistans und schloss sich den HPG an.

Şiyar gewöhnte sich schnell an die Lebensbedingungen in den Bergen. Auf der einen Seite bemühte er sich, sich ideologisch weiterzuentwickeln und seiner Sicht auf die Welt eine solide Grundlage zu verschaffen. Auf der anderen Seite konzentrierte er sich auf das Guerillaleben und wollte sich in der militärischen Kunst weiterbilden. Mit seiner Disziplin, seiner Gründlichkeit, seiner Moral und seiner Bescheidenheit wurde er von seinen Freundinnen und Freunden geliebt und geachtet. Şiyar lernte innerhalb kurzer Zeit fließend Kurdisch und galt auch deshalb überall als beispielhaft. Als Guerillakämpfer zog er es immer vor, in den schwierigsten Gebieten tätig sein. Er liebte die Zagros-Berge und wollte auf den Gipfeln dieser Gegend, die die Wiege der Menschheit darstellt, kämpfen.

Heval Şiyar ist ein Beispiel für die internationale Solidarität. Er hat sich dem kurdischen Befreiungskampf mit großer Begeisterung angeschlossen und damit einen Platz eingenommen, der niemals vergessen sein wird. Die internationalistischen Gefallenen von Haki Karer und Kemal Pir über Andrea Wolf bis zu Jakob Riemer beleuchten unseren Weg. Die Familie Riemer kann unendlich stolz auf ihren Sohn Şiyar Gabar sein. Wir sprechen ihr unser tiefes Beileid angesichts dieses schmerzhaften Verlustes aus.

Wir gedenken unserem Freund Şiyar Gabar und allen anderen internationalistischen Gefallenen, die als Zeichen der Solidarität der Völker im Befreiungskampf der unterdrückten Völker ihr Leben verloren haben. Wir geben erneut unser Wort, dass wir ihren Kampf weiterführen und die Fahne der Freiheit zum Sieg tragen werden.“

Codename: Şiyar Gabar

Vor- und Nachname: Jakob Riemer

Geburtsort: Deutschland

Todestag und -ort: 9. Juli 2018 / Çarçella



The Threat to Rojava: An Anarchist in Syria Speaks on the Real Meaning of Trump’s Withdrawal

I’m writing from Rojava. Full disclosure: I didn’t grow up here and I don’t have access to all the information I would need to tell you what is going to happen next in this part of the world with any certainty. I’m writing because it is urgent that you hear from people in northern Syria about what Trump’s “troop withdrawal” really means for us—and it’s not clear how much time we have left to discuss it. I approach this task with all the humility at my disposal.

I’m not formally integrated into any of the groups here. That makes it possible for me to speak freely, but I should emphasize that my perspective doesn’t represent any institutional position. If nothing else, this should be useful as a historical document indicating how some people here understood the situation at this point in time, in case it becomes impossible to ask us later on.

Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria is not an “anti-war” or “anti-imperialist” measure. It will not bring the conflict in Syria to an end. On the contrary, Trump is effectively giving Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan the go-ahead to invade Rojava and carry out ethnic cleansing against the people who have done much of the fighting and dying to halt the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS). This is a deal between strongmen to exterminate the social experiment in Rojava and consolidate authoritarian nationalist politics from Washington, DC to Istanbul and Kobane. Trump aims to leave Israel the most ostensibly liberal and democratic project in the entire Middle East, foreclosing the possibilities that the revolution in Rojava opened up for this part of the world.

All this will come at a tremendous cost. As bloody and tragic as the Syrian civil war has already been, this could open up not just a new chapter of it, but a sequel.

This is not about where US troops are stationed. The two thousand US soldiers at issue are a drop in the bucket in terms of the number of armed fighters in Syria today. They have not been on the frontlines of the fighting the way that the US military was in Iraq.

The withdrawal of these soldiers is not the important thing here. What matters is that Trump’s announcement is a message to Erdoğan indicating that there will be no consequences if the Turkish state invades Rojava.

There’s a lot of confusion about this, with supposed anti-war and “anti-imperialist” activists like Medea Benjamin endorsing Donald Trump’s decision, blithely putting the stamp of “peace” on an impending bloodbath and telling the victims that they should have known better. It makes no sense to blame people here in Rojava for depending on the United States when neither Medea Benjamin nor anyone like her has done anything to offer them any sort of alternative.

The worst case scenario now is that the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA), backed by the Turkish military itself, will overrun Rojava and carry out ethnic cleansing on a level you likely cannot imagine. They’ve already done this on a small scale in Afrin. In Rojava, this would take place on a historic scale. It could be something like the Palestinian Nakba or the Armenian genocide.

I will try to explain why this is happening, why you should care about it, and what we can do about it together.

First of All: About the Experiment in Rojava

The system in Rojava is not perfect. This is not the right place to air dirty laundry, but there are lots of problems. I’m not having the kind of experience here that Paul Z. Simons had some years ago, when his visit to Rojava made him feel that everything is possible. Years and years of war and militarization have taken their toll on the most exciting aspects of the revolution here. Still, these people are in incredible danger right now and the society they have built is worth defending.

What is happening in Rojava is not anarchy. All the same, women play a major role in society; there is basic freedom of religion and language; an ethnically, religiously, and linguistically diverse population lives side by side without any major acts of ethnic cleansing or conflict; it’s heavily militarized, but it’s not a police state; the communities are relatively safe and stable; there’s not famine or mass food insecurity; the armed forces are not committing mass atrocities. Every faction in this war has blood on its hands, but the People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) have conducted themselves far more responsibly than any other side. They’ve saved countless lives—not just Kurds—in Sinjar and many other places. Considering the impossible conditions and the tremendous amount of violence that people here have been subjected to from all sides, that is an incredible feat. All this stands in stark contrast to what will happen if the Turkish state invades, considering that Trump has given Erdoğan the go-ahead in return for closing a massive missile sale.

It should go without saying that I don’t want to perpetuate an open-ended Bush-style “war on terror,” much less to participate in the sort of “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West that bigots and fundamentalists of both stripes have been fantasizing about. On the contrary, that is precisely what we’re trying to prevent here. Most of the people Daesh [ISIS] have killed have been Muslim; most of the people who have died fighting Daesh have been Muslim. In Hajin, where I was stationed and where the last ISIS stronghold is, one of the internationals who has been fighting Daesh longest is an observant Muslim—not to speak of all the predominantly Arab fighters from Deir Ezzor there, most of whom are almost certainly Muslim as well.

The Factions

For the sake of brevity, I’ll oversimplify and say that today, there are roughly five sides in the Syrian civil war: loyalist, Turkish, jihadi, Kurdish, and rebel.

At the conclusion of this text, an appendix explores the narratives that characterize each of these sides.

Each of these sides stands in different relation to the others. I’ll list the relations of each group to the others, starting with the other group that they are most closely affiliated with and ending with the groups they are most opposed to:

Loyalist: Kurdish, Turkish, jihadi, rebel

Rebel: Turkish, jihadi, Kurdish, loyalist

Turkish: rebel, jihadi, loyalist, Kurdish

Kurdish: loyalist, rebel, Turkish, jihadi

Jihadi: rebel, Turkish, Kurdish and loyalist

This may be helpful in visualizing which groups could be capable of compromising and which are irreversibly at odds. Again, remember, I am generalizing a lot.

I want to be clear that each of these groups is motivated by a narrative that contains at least some kernel of truth. For example, in regards to the question of who is to blame for the rise of ISIS, it is true that the US “ploughed the field” for ISIS with the invasion and occupation of Iraq and its disastrous fallout (loyalist narrative); but it is also true that the Turkish state has tacitly and sometimes blatantly colluded with ISIS because ISIS was fighting against the primary adversary of the Turkish state (Kurdish narrative) and that Assad’s brutal reaction to the Arab Spring contributed to a spiral of escalating violence that culminated in the rise of Daesh (rebel narrative). And although I’m least sympathetic to the jihadi and Turkish state perspectives, it is certain that unless the well-being of Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Syria is factored into a political settlement, the jihadis will go on fighting, and that unless there is some kind of political settlement between the Turkish state and the PKK, Turkey will go on seeking to wipe out Kurdish political formations, without hesitating to commit genocide.

It’s said that “Kurds are second-class citizens in Syria, third-class citizens in Iran, fourth-class citizens in Iraq, and fifth-class citizens in Turkey.” It’s no accident that when Turkish officials like Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu list the “terror groups” they are most concerned about in the region, they name the YPG before ISIS. Perhaps this can help explain the cautious response of many Kurds to the Syrian revolution: from the Kurdish perspective, regime change in Syria carried out by Turkish-backed jihadis coupled with no regime change in Turkey could be worse than no regime change in Syria at all.

I won’t rehash the whole timeline from the ancient Sumerians to the beginning of the PKK war in Turkey to the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the Arab Spring and the rise of ISIS. Let’s skip forward to Trump’s announcement on December 19: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

Has ISIS Been Defeated? And by Whom?

Let me be clear: Daesh has not been defeated in Syria. Just a few days ago, they took a shot at our position with a rocket launcher out of a clear blue sky and missed by only a hundred yards.

It is true that their territory is just a fraction of what it once was. At the same time, by any account, they still have thousands of fighters, a lot of heavy weaponry, and probably quite a bit of what remains of their senior leadership down in the Hajin pocket of the Euphrates river valley and the surrounding deserts, between Hajin and the Iraqi border. In addition, ISIS have a lot of experience and a wide array of sophisticated defense strategies—and they are absolutely willing to die to inflict damage on their enemies.

To the extent that their territory has been drastically reduced, Trump is telling a bald-faced lie in trying to take credit for this. The achievement he is claiming as his own is largely the work of precisely the people he is consigning to death at the hands of Turkey.

Under Obama, the Department of Defense and the CIA pursued dramatically different strategies in reference to the uprising and subsequent civil war in Syria. The CIA focused on overthrowing Assad by any means necessary, to the point that arms and money they supplied trickled down to al-Nusra, ISIS, and others. By contrast, the Pentagon was more focused on defeating ISIS, beginning to concentrate on supporting the largely Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) during the defense of Kobane in 2014.

Now, as an anarchist who desires the complete abolition of every government, I have no love for the Pentagon or the CIA, but if we evaluate these two approaches according to their own professed goals, the Pentagon plan worked fairly well, while the CIA plan was a total disaster. In this regard, it’s fair to say that the Obama administration contributed to both the growth of ISIS and its suppression. Trump, for his part, has done neither, except insofar as the sort of nationalist Islamophobia he promotes helps to generate a symmetrical form of Islamic fundamentalism.

Up until December, Trump maintained the Pentagon strategy in Syria that he inherited from the Obama administration. There have been signs of mission creep from US National Security Advisor John R. Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who ultimately hope to undermine Iran on account of it supplying oil to China. This far—and no further—I can understand the concerns of a pseudo-pacifist “anti-imperialist”: war with Iran would be a nightmare compounding the catastrophe brought about by the war in Iraq. So yes, insofar as the YPG and YPJ were forced to coordinate with the US military, they were working with unsavory characters whose motivations were very different from their own.

To sum up: what has brought about the by-now almost total recapture of the territory ISIS occupied isn’t rocket science. It’s the combination of a brave and capable ground force with air support. In this sort of conventional territorial war, it’s extremely difficult for a ground force without air support to defeat a ground force with air support, no matter how fiercely the former fights. In some parts of Syria, this involved the YPG/YPJ on the ground with US backing from the air. Elsewhere in Syria, it must be said, ISIS was pushed back by the combination of Russian air support and the loyalist army (SAA) alongside Iranian-backed militias.

Outside Interventions

It would have been extremely difficult to recapture this territory from ISIS any other way. The cooperation of the YPG/YPJ with the US military remains controversial, but the fact is—every side in the Syrian conflict has been propped up and supported by larger outside powers and would have collapsed without that support.

People employing the Turkish, loyalist, and jihadi narratives often point out that Kobane would have fallen and YPG/YPJ would never have been able to retake eastern Syria from Daesh without US air support. Likewise, the Syrian government and the Assad regime were very close to military collapse in 2015, around the time Turkey conveniently downed a Russian plane and Putin decided that Russia was going to bail out the Assad regime no matter what it took. The rebels, on their side, never would have come close to toppling Assad through military means without massive assistance from the Turkish government, the Gulf states, US intelligence services, and probably Israel on some level, although the details of this are murky from where I’m situated.

And the jihadis—Daesh, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, and the others—would never have been able to take control of half of Iraq and Syria if the US had not been so foolish as to leave an army’s worth of state-of-the-art equipment in the hands of the Iraqi government, which effectively abandoned it. It also helped them that a tremendous amount of resources trickled down from the above-mentioned foreign sponsors of the rebels. It also helped that Turkey left its airports and borders open to jihadis from all over the world who set out to join Daesh. There also appears to have been some sort of financial support from the Gulf states, whether formally or through back channels.

The Turkish state has its own agenda. It is not by any means simply a proxy for the US. But at the end of the day, it’s a NATO member and it can count on the one hundred percent support of the US government—as the missile sale that the US made to Turkey days before the withdrawal tweet illustrates.

In view of all this, we can see why YPG/YPJ chose to cooperate with the US military. My point is not to defend this decision, but to show that under the circumstances, it was the only practical alternative to annihilation. At the same time, it is clear that this strategy has not created security for the experiment in Rojava. Even if we set aside ethical concerns, there are problems with relying on the United States—or France, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or any other state government with its own state agenda. As anarchists, we have to talk very seriously about how to create other options for people in conflict zones. Is there any form of international horizontal decentralized coordination that could have solved the problems that the people in Rojava were facing such that they would not have been forced to depend on the US military? If we find no answer to this question when we look at the Syria of 2013-2018, is there something we could have done earlier? These are extremely pressing questions.

No one should forget that ISIS was only reduced to their current relative weakness by a multi-ethnic, radically democratic grassroots resistance movement, that incidentally involved international volunteers from around the globe. In view of Trump’s order to abandon and betray the struggle against ISIS, every sincere person who earnestly wants to put a stop to the spread of apocalyptic fundamentalist terror groups like ISIS or their imminent successors should stop counting on the state and put all their resources into directly supporting decentralized multi-ethnic egalitarian movements. It is becoming ever clearer that those are our only hope.

What Does the Troop Withdrawal Mean?

I’m not surprised that Trump and the Americans are “betraying an ally”—I don’t think anybody here had the illusion that Trump or the Pentagon intended to support the political project in Rojava. Looking back through history, it was clear enough that when ISIS was beaten, the US would leave Rojava at the mercy of the Turkish military. If the forces of the YPG/YPJ have dragged their feet in rooting ISIS out of their last strongholds, this may be one of the reasons.

But it is still shocking that Trump would rush to give up this foothold that the US has carved out in the Russosphere—and that the US military establishment would let him do so. From the perspective of maintaining US global military hegemony, the decision makes no sense at all. It’s a tremendous gift to Putin, Erdoğan, and ISIS, which could take advantage of the situation to regenerate throughout the region, perhaps in some new form—more on that below.

The withdrawal from Syria does not necessarily mean that conflict with Iran is off the table, by the way. On the contrary, certain hawks in the US government may see this as a step towards consolidating a position from which that could be possible.

In any case, Trump’s decision is big news. It indicates that the US “deep state” has no power over Trump’s foreign policy. It suggests that the US neoliberal project is dead in the water, or at least that some elements of the US ruling class consider it to be. It also implies a future in which ethno-nationalist autocrats like Erdoğan, Trump, Assad, Bolsonaro, and Putin will be in the driver’s seat worldwide, conniving with each other to maintain power over their private domains.

In that case, the entire post-cold war era of US military hegemony is over, and we are entering a multipolar age in which tyrants will rule balkanized authoritarian ethno-states: think Europe before World War I. The liberals (and anarchists?) who imagine that this could be good news are fools fighting yesterday’s enemy and yesterday’s war. The de facto red/brown coalition of authoritarian socialists and fascists who are celebrating this are hurrying us all helter-skelter into a brave new world in which more and more of the globe will look like the worst parts of the Syrian civil war.

And speaking from this vantage point, here, today, I do not say that lightly.

What Will Happen Next?

Sadly, Kurdish and left movements in Turkey have been decimated over the past few years. I would be very surprised if there were any kind of uprising in Turkey, no matter what happens in Rojava. We should not permit ourselves to hope that a Turkish invasion here would trigger an insurgency in northern Kurdistan.

Unless something truly unexpected transpires, there are basically two possible outcomes here.

First Scenario

In the first scenario, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) will make some kind of agreement with the Assad regime, likely under less favorable terms than would have been possible before the Turkish invasion of Afrin; both sides would likely make concessions of some kind and agree to fight on the same side if Turkey invades. If Russia signs off on this, it could suffice to prevent the invasion from taking place. Either YPG/YPJ or SAA will finish off the Hajin pocket, and the war could be basically over except for Idlib.

Both the Assad regime and the various predominantly Kurdish formations have been extremely hardheaded in negotiating, but perhaps the threat to both Rojava and the Assad regime is so extreme that they will choose this option. It is possible that this is one of the objectives of the Turkish threat, or even of Trump’s withdrawal: to force YPG to relinquish military autonomy to the Assad regime.

YPG, PYD, and company are not in a very good bargaining position right now, but the regime knows it can at least bargain with them, whereas if northern Syria is occupied by Turkish-backed jihadis and assorted looters, it is unclear what would happen next. Rojava contains much of Syria’s best agricultural land in the north, as well as oil fields in the south.

I can only speculate what the terms of this theoretical agreement might be. There’s lots of speculation online: language rights, Kurdish citizenship being regularized, prior service in YPG counting as military service so that soldiers who have been fighting ISIS all these years can return to being civilians rather than immediately being conscripted into SAA, some kind of limited political autonomy, or the like. In exchange, the YPG and its allies would essentially have to hand military and political control of SDF areas over to the regime.

Could Assad’s regime be trusted to abide by an agreement after they gain control? Probably not.

To be clear, it’s all too easy for me to speak abstractly about the Assad regime as the lesser of two evils. I’m informed about many of the atrocities the regime has committed, but I have not experienced them myself, and this is not the part of Syria where they did the worst things, so I more frequently hear stories from the locals about Daesh and other jihadis, not to mention Turkey. There are likely people in other parts of Syria who regard the Assad regime regaining power with the same dread with which people here regard the Turkish military and ISIS.

In any case, there are some signs that this first scenario might still be possible. The regime has sent troops to Manbij, to one of the lines where the massive Turkish/TFSA troop buildup is occurring. There are meetings between the PYD and the regime as well as with the Russians. An Egyptian-mediated negotiation between the PYD and the regime is scheduled to take place soon.

This first scenario does not offer a very attractive set of options. It’s not what Jordan Mactaggart or the thousands and thousands of Syrians who fought and died with YPG/YPJ gave their lives for. But it would be preferable to the other scenario…

Second Scenario

In the second scenario, the Assad regime will throw in its lot with Turkey instead of with YPG.

In this case, some combination of the Turkish military and its affiliated proxies will invade from the north while the regime invades from the south and west. YPG will fight to the death, street by street, block by block, in a firestorm reminiscent of the Warsaw ghetto uprising or the Paris Commune, utilizing all the defensive tactics they acquired while fighting ISIS. Huge numbers of people will die. Eventually, the Assad regime and Turkey/TFSA will establish some line between their zones of control. For the foreseeable future, there would be some kind of Turkish-Jihadi Rump State of Northern Syrian Warlordistan.

Any remaining Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians, Christians, and other minorities would be expulsed, ethnically cleansed, or terrorized. TFSA and related militias would likely loot everything they could get their hands on. In the long run, Turkey would probably dump the Syrian refugees who are now in Turkey back into these occupied areas, bringing about irreversible demographic shifts that could be the cause of future ethnic conflicts in the region.

We should not believe any assurances from the Turkish state or its apologists that this will not be the result of their invasion, as this is exactly what they have done in Afrin and they have no reason to behave differently in Rojava. Remember: from the perspective of the Turkish state, the YPG/YPJ are enemy number one in Syria.

Now let’s talk about Daesh. Despite the looming threat of invasion, SDF is still finishing off the Hajin pocket of ISIS. If it weren’t for the fact that Turkey is throwing Daesh a lifeline by threatening to invade, Daesh would be doomed, as they are surrounded by SDF, SAA, and the Iraqi army. Let me say this again: Trump giving Turkey the go-ahead to invade Rojava is practically the only thing that could save ISIS.

Trump has repeatedly said things to the effect that Turkey is promising to finish off ISIS. To believe this lie, you would have to be politically ignorant, yes—but in addition, you would also have to be geographically illiterate. This describes Trump’s supporters, if no one else.

Even if the Turkish government had any intention of fighting Daesh in Syria—a proposition that is highly doubtful, considering how easy Turkey made it for ISIS to get off the ground—in order to even reach Hajin and the Euphrates river valley, they would have to steamroll across the entirety of Rojava. There is no other way to get to Hajin. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, look at a map and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The Assad regime holds positions right across the Euphrates River from both the SDF and Daesh positions, and would be willing and able to finish off the last ISIS pocket. As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather see the regime take the losses there to accomplish that than see YPG overextend itself and bleed any further. But the point here is that when Trump says something to the effect that “Turkey will finish off ISIS!” he is sending a blatant dog whistle to Turkish hardliners that they can attack Rojava and he won’t do anything to stop them. It has nothing to do with ISIS and everything to do with ethnic cleansing in Rojava.

If nothing else, even if Assad allies with the Turkish government, we can hope that the forces of the regime will still finish off ISIS. If Turkey has its way and does what Trump is talking about, beating a path all the way through Rojava to Hajin, they will likely give Daesh’s fighters safe passage, a new set of clothes, three meals a day, and this village I’m living in in exchange for their assistance fighting future Kurdish insurgencies.

So there it is: in declaring victory over ISIS, Trump is arranging the only way that ISIS fighters could come out of this situation with their capacities intact. It’s Orwellian, to say the least.

The only other option I can imagine, if negotiations with the Assad regime break down or PYD decides to take the moral high road and not compromise with the regime—who are untrustworthy and have carried out plenty of atrocities of their own—would be to let the entire SDF melt back into the civilian population, permit Turkey and its proxies to walk into Rojava without losing the fighting force of the YPG/YPJ, and immediately begin an insurgency. That might be smarter than a doomed final stand, but who knows.

Looking Forward

Personally, I want to see the Syrian civil war end, and for Iraq to somehow be spared another cycle of war in the near future. I want to see ISIS prevented from regenerating its root system and preparing for a new round of violence. That doesn’t mean intensifying the ways that this part of the world is policed—it means fostering local solutions to the question of how different people and populations can coexist, and how they can defend themselves from groups like Daesh. This is part of what people have been trying to do in Rojava, and that is one of the reasons that Trump and Erdoğan find the experiment here so threatening. In the end, the existence of groups like ISIS makes their authority look preferable by comparison, whereas participatory horizontal multi-ethnic projects show just how oppressive their model is.

Overthrowing Assad by military means is a dead project—or, at least, the things that would have to happen to make it plausible again in the near future are even more horrifying than the regime is. I hope that somehow, someday, there can be some kind of settlement between the regime and YPG/YPJ, and the regime and the rebels in Idlib, and everyone else who has been suffering here. If capitalism and state tyranny are the problem, this kind of civil war is not the solution, although it seems likely that what has happened in Syria will happen elsewhere in the world as the crises generated by capitalism, state power, and ethnic conflicts put people at odds.

What can you do, reading this in some safer and stabler part of the world?

First, you can spread the word that Trump’s decision is neither a way to bring peace to Syria nor confirmation that ISIS has been defeated. You can tell other people what I have told you about how the situation looks from here, in case I am not able to do so myself.

Second, in the event of a Turkish invasion, you can use every means in your power to discredit and impede the Turkish state, Trump, and the others who paved the way for that outcome. Even if you are not able to stop them—even if you can’t save our lives—you will be part of building the kind of social movements and collective capacity that it will take to save others’ lives in the future.

In addition, you can look for ways to get resources to people in this part of the world who have suffered so much and will continue to suffer as the next act of this tragedy plays out. You can also look to support Syrian refugees who are scattered around the world.

Finally, you can think about how we could put better options on the table next time an uprising like the one in Syria breaks out. How can we make sure that governments fall before their reign gives way to the reign of pure force, in which only insurgents backed by other states can gain control? How can we offer other visions of how people can live and meet their needs together, and mobilize the force it will take to implement and defend them on an international basis without need of any state?

These are big questions, but I have faith in you. I have to.

Appendix: Rival Narratives

Drawing on this helpful overview, here is a review of the narratives we often see from different sides in the Syrian civil war:

Loyalist narrative:

Emphasis on how the US and other countries supported and financed rebels for their own geopolitical ends as the main cause for the escalation of the conflict.

The existence of ISIS is mostly attributed to rebel support landing in the wrong hands and more fundamentally as a result of the fallout of the 2003 Iraq war.

Emphasis on links and cooperation between so-called moderate rebels and groups like Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in order to argue they are all part of the same problem.

Varying views on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its legitimacy. This seems to be different from loyalist to loyalist, with some thinking they are almost as bad as traditional rebels and others seeing them as allies against ISIS and Turkish-supported rebels. Western, gulf Arab, and rebel narrative:

Emphasis on the Arab spring and how the brutal suppression of (relatively) peaceful protests led to an escalation of the conflict and armed rebellion and eventually full blown civil war.

Existence of ISIS mostly attributed to Assad’s actions. Often claiming how his brutal actions and reliance on sectarian militias created an environment in which ISIS could grow and gain support. Moreover, the point is made that Assad’s military deliberately targeted other rebels more than ISIS, and hence is for a large part to blame for its rise.

Emphasis on how there is a clear distinction between moderate rebels and radicals, and we should separate the two in honest analysis.

Views on SDF ranging from unfriendly to outright hostile. Often coushed in emphasizing cases in which the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the SDF worked together. In milder forms, this narrative criticizes a perceived overreliance on Kurds in majority Arab areas, while still recognizing the legitimacy of the organization in majority Kurdish areas. Turkish narrative:

The Turkish narrative is basically the same as the previous on most issues, with the important exception that the hostility towards the SDF intensifies to the extreme. Here, the links between the SDF and the PKK are emphasized and the SDF is characterized as an illegitimate terror organization that is a threat to Turkey and suppresses local Arabs.

Western, Kurdish narrative:

The conflict is often seen as a historic opportunity for the Kurdish peoples in their quest for nationhood. Emphasis on how Kurds were discriminated against before the war and how they can take matters into their own hands now.

The existence and expansion of ISIS is mostly blamed on Turkey. Especially Turkey’s passivity during the battle of Kobane is highlighted, along with accusations of direct support of ISIS and importing ISIS oil.

Regarding rebels, the views tend to come closer to that of loyalists. Rebels (in relevant areas, anyway) are seen either as Turkish proxies or as radical lunatics to whom Turkey can turn a blind eye. The line between rebels and ISIS is often blurred, though they aren’t lumped in together to the same extent as in the loyalist narrative.

SDF is seen as one of the only sane and moral armed actors in a battle otherwise characterized by bad versus bad. Both rebel and loyalist atrocities are emphasized to support this point of view. ISIS and radical Islamist narrative:

The start of the conflict is seen as a great awakening of Muslims against their apostate Alawite overlords. Emphasis on the solidarity of foreign fighters towards their suffering Syrian brethren. This perspective includes ISIS itself and also Al Qaeda and similar radical groups, who see ISIS as a group that betrayed the jihadi cause.

The rebels are seen as naïve sellouts serving the interests of foreign governments and implementing non-Islamic ideals on their behalf. Emphasis is also put on how rebels negotiate and reach deals with loyalists, only to be betrayed and lose territory.

SDF are seen as atheist apostates on the US payroll. The chief difference with Turkey is perhaps the emphasis on lack of religion rather than connections to the PKK.

Originally appearing on Crimethinc


Nadia Murad

Im August 2014 überfallen Truppen des Islamischen Staats das jesidische irakische Dorf Kocho, die Heimat der heute 25-jährigen Nadia Murad. Nadia wird wie viele andere Frauen ihres Volkes verschleppt und Opfer von Demütigungen, Folter und Vergewaltigung. Heute ist sie die Stimme ihres Volkes. Als UN-Sonderbotschafterin kämpft sie für die Anerkennung des Völkermords an den Jesiden.

Nachdem sie 2014 den Völkermord an den Jesiden im Nordirak überlebt und der sexuellen Versklavung durch den IS entflohen war, legte Nadia Murad Zeugnis vor dem UN Sicherheitsrat ab. Ihre Aussagen bewegten die ganze Welt. Über Nacht wurde Nadia das Gesicht der Jesiden, einer über Jahrhunderte verfolgten und bis dahin stimmlosen religiösen Minderheit. Obwohl sie sich nach einem normalen Leben weit weg des Scheinwerferlichts sehnte, wuchs Nadia nach und nach in die Rolle einer Aktivistin, in der Hoffnung, den Genozid zu stoppen und die IS-Kommandeure vor Gericht zu bringen. Immer und immer wieder erzählte sie ihre entsetzliche Geschichte Journalisten, Politikern und Diplomaten – und wurde so Teil einer ihr fremden, global verstrickten Welt.
Mit intimem Zugang zu Nadias täglichem Leben und einen Blick hinter die Kulissen der oft absurden Konstellationen internationaler Politik, begleitet ARTE Nadia während ihrer Kampagne in ein Flüchtlingscamp in Griechenland, bei erschütternden Medien-Interviews, bewegenden Reden vor den Vereinten Nationen und Treffen mit hohen Regierungsvertretern. Der Film enthüllt das Ungleichgewicht zwischen dem Preis, den Nadia zahlt und der Erlösung, die sie mit ihrer Arbeit erfährt. Fernab von der Bühne blitzt hin und wieder die Nadia auf, die sie einst war: ein willensstarkes Mädchen, das davon träumte, einen eigenen Schönheitssalon in ihrem Dorf zu eröffnen.

Der Film enthüllt die immensen Hürden, die einer verwundeten Minderheit im Weg liegen, bevor sie gehört wird.


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