Syrian refugees, locals in Kurdistan Region protest Turkish invasion
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Syrian Kurdish refugees organized demonstrations in multiple cities of the Kurdistan Region on Thursday to condemn Turkey’s ongoing military invasion of areas in northern Syria.
Crowds of refugees in Erbil took to the UN headquarters in the regional capital to call for action. One demonstrator shouted, “We are here to deliver our voice to the international community and human rights organizations to stop this blatant aggression against our people.”
“Allowing Turkey to attack Rojava [northeastern Syria] goes against the democratic and humanitarian values that world powers speak of,” another demonstrator said while speaking to Kurdistan 24.
The cities of Sulaimani, Rania, Qaladze, and Kalar, among others, saw similar demonstrations, with locals joining in to support fellow Kurds from Syria.
Turkey’s incursion began on Wednesday with heavy artillery shelling and airstrikes of several areas along the sprawling Syrian–Turkish border close to which are towns and cities run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Attacks continued on Thursday, leading to over ten deaths including a twelve-year-old boy and his seven-year-old sister in the border city of Qamishli. Scores more have been injured.
Ankara sees the leading component of the SDF known as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that has waged a decades-long insurgency against Turkey for expanded Kurdish rights.
Kurds, Arabs, and Christian groups are groups primarily affected by the military campaign which Turkish strongman president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been threatening to carry out for months.
The offensive began a few days after Washington announced the withdrawal of a number of its troops in critical locations in Syria as Ankara was gearing up for the attack. US President Donald Trump's stated reasoning behind the move has often mystified allies or has contradicted earlier statements.
Middle Eastern countries from Saudi Arabia to Iran criticized Turkey’s military attack. While Ankara has received a round of strong condemnations from European nations and international human rights organizations, Erdogan seems to be undeterred, having threatened to open the gates for 3.5 million refugees currently inhabiting his country to move towards Europe.
The wave of migrants that were forced to flee their homes during the Syrian civil war—precipitated by the violent crackdown of Bashar al-Assad on civilians during the so-called “Arab Spring” eight years ago—led to an immigration crisis in Europe. This has had the secondary effect of increasing the popularity of far-right parties voicing anti-immigrant sentiments.
The United Nations also denounced Ankara’s military aggression but has yet to offer any steps to slow Turkey’s march, even as civilians flee in fear of their lives.
In a statement released on Thursday, the UN's refugee agency stressed, “Hundreds of thousands of civilians in northern Syria are now in harm’s way, civilians and civilian infrastructure must not be a target.”
Editing by John J. Catherine