Syrian Kurdish commander rejects Erdoğan rationale

There is no truth in Turkey’s claims that its invasion of Syria’s Afrin region is intended to neutralise a security threat, said a commander of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Mahmoud Berkhdan wrote for Project Syndicate and suggested that Turkey’s real motives were to change the demographic balance in Afrin.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he said “has claimed that he wants to deliver Afrin to its real owners, thereby enabling the more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to return to their own land as soon as possible. Yet, to many of us, Erdoğan’s true objective in Afrin is to make the region Kurdenrein, turning us into a minority in our own home. Where are we expected to go? Kurds are not squatters in Afrin.”

Berkhdan rejected accusations that SDF forces had, in the past, sponsored attacks against Turkey, another reason used to justify the operation, and challenged Turkey to provide any evidence that the SDF are “terrorists”.

“In reality, our biggest threat to Turkey is not our weapons, but our ideas and political organisation. Erdoğan fears our democratic values; we have brought freedom to regions ruled by brutal dictatorship for most of five decades. As Erdoğan gives free rein to his autocratic tendencies, he worries that a true democracy on Turkey’s southern border could threaten his own grip on power.”

With regards to Western backing for Kurdish groups in Syria, who have played a key role in the successful campaign against ISIS, Berkhdan wrote, “now that the fight against ISIS is winding down, the U.S. seems less eager to support us, which has allowed Turkey to fire missiles and artillery at us with impunity … At the moment, we are exposed to the full wrath of a NATO army, without access to even a single helicopter to evacuate our wounded.”

The Turkish military operation in Afrin was launched on Jan. 20th this year. So far the Turkish military says it has “neutralised” nearly 2,000 of Afrin’s mostly Kurdish defenders while avoiding inflicting any civilian casualties.