Trump’s worst crime abandoning Syrian Kurds – columnist

The worst crime in U.S. President Donald Trump’s four years in office was the greenlighting of Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria against Kurdish forces, which resulted in an ethnic cleansing of Kurds from the region, columnist Patrick Cockburn wrote for the Independent on Monday.

Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring of Oct. 2019 led to the “murder, rape and expulsion” of Syrian Kurds, Cockburn said. “Trump did nothing as the Turkish army occupied the Kurdish enclave of Afrin and replaced the population there with Syrian Arab jihadis.”

Trump’s “complicity in the ethnic cleansing of Syrian Kurds,” Cockburn said, “should top the charge sheet,” in the unlikely event that the president ever stands trial, calling what Trump did a betrayal of American allies against ISIS.

The decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the region, an action that Cockburn called treachery, “was the direct cause of murders, kidnappings, disappearances,” the columnist said.

Human rights violations and possible war crimes in the Turkish-controlled Afrin province have been documented in a recent United Nations report. Conditions in Turkish-controlled Afrin, Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain have made it virtually impossible for independent reporters, but Cockburn “was finally able to make contact last week via the internet with an eyewitness in Afrin who gives a grim but compelling account of her personal experience of ethnic cleansing.”

Kurdish Mathematics teacher Rohilat Hawar, 34, told Cockburn that Turkish-backed Syrian jihadis shot and killed many people trying to leave Afrin, including one of her friends and her 10-year-old child. Hawar was not allowed to leave to cross into Kurdish-held territories, but the militias also made it “impossible for Kurds to stay.”

The extremists now in charge in the city consider all Kurds to be heretics and pagans, “who should be killed on orders from God,” Hawar told the columnist, “even more dangerous” than the Turkish army, which considers Kurds to be “terrorists.”

Kurdish women who didn’t normally wear a veil were forced to don hijabs, the woman said. According to the Afrin resident and former teacher, girls and women were subjected to frequent sexual harassment by the militias, including incidents of groping on the streets.

Hawar said the occupying militias cut down olive trees to “sell as firewood.” Meanwhile, reports have come out saying Turkey confiscated olive oil from the region to be sold on international markets, including the United States.

Turkey is now working to persuade the militias to volunteer as proxies in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, he continued.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also “threatened to launch another invasion that would in practice finish the job of cleansing the Kurdish population,” but U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will be significantly less likely to greenlight another Turkish incursion, the columnist said.