QAMISHLI (Kurdistan 24) – Thousands went out and staged demonstrations and sit-ins in cities and towns in northern Syria, along the border with Turkey, protesting the looming Turkish military operation on the region, civilians and activists told Kurdistan 24 on Monday.
In the towns of Qamishli, Kobane, Serakaniye and Tal Abyad, people of all ages gathered –some in front of the UN offices in Qamishli and hundreds near the border with Turkey in other towns.
“Why would Turkey invade the safest area in Syria? Where is the international community and the United Nations? Why the world is silent?” a protester in Serekaniye asked Kurdistan 24.
“Turkey will attack the region and let thousands of Islamic State terrorists get out from prisons,” said another protester in Tal Abyad.
Protesters in Qamishli called on the UN to prevent the Turkish invasion, claiming it would lead to massacres in the region.
“We will either leave or be killed when Turkish troops and their Syrian militants come to our region. They are extremists and consider Kurds as pagans,” argued a 52-old Kurdish woman at a sit-in in Qamishli.
In surveys conducted by Kurdistan 24 reporters in northeastern Syria, the overwhelming majority of people were concerned by the Turkish military operation on the region.
Many said they would leave their homes and move to the south, in areas under the Syrian regime’s control.
Others stated they would move to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq as some are wanted by the regime, either for political reasons or to avoid the regime’s obligatory military service.
These limited options for civilians could lead to large waves of displacement and evacuation from the north.
Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stated two weeks ago that he intends to establish a “safe zone” in northern Syria to resettle two million or more Syrian refugees. For some, however, Erdogan’s real objective is to eliminate the self-administration Syrian Kurds established during the fight against the Islamic State.
Experts on the Kurdish question say the aim is to change the demography and dilute the Kurdish representation by creating a large influx of Sunni Arabs, as most Syrian refugees in Turkey are from Idlib and Aleppo – the most conservative areas of Syria.
Protesters also warned that Islamic State prisoners would be freed if Turkey were to invade the region and hand them over to their allied militants, known as Euphrates Shield, who have been receiving training in Turkey for about five years.
On Sunday, the White House issued a summary of a telephone call that US President Donald Trump held with President Erdogan earlier that day. The statement explained that Turkey was about to attack northern Syria and US forces would be withdrawing from the immediate area of the Turkish military operation.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), swiftly condemned the decision by the Trump administration to allow Turkish forces to invade northern Syria.
“To abandon us now would be tragic, to disregard our partnership would also send a clear signal to all would-be partner forces of the United States that a US alliance may not be trustworthy,” the SDC statement read.
“We will be facing a grave humanitarian disaster if the Senate does not make a resolution to stop this. Don’t allow a repeat of the Turkish invasion of Afrin.”
The Turkish military and its local Syrian rebel allies have been occupying the predominantly-Kurdish city of Afrin since early 2018, resulting in the displacement of some 170,000 residents.
“Their military and militias have committed grave atrocities and human rights abuses there. We do not want a repeat of the invasion and occupation of Afrin,” said the SDC.
Editing by Nadia Riva