Erdoğan, Trump Syria strategy paving way for further human rights abuses - analyst

By aligning itself with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Syria, the West has turned a blind eye to abuses including the potential demographic re-engineering of Kurdish regions, wrote Foreign Policy Research Institute fellow Elizabeth Tsurkov in Haaretz newspaper.

The United States and Turkey reached a ceasefire agreement last week, suspending the Turkish military operation in northeast Syria which began on Oct. 9. The truce demands the retreat of Kurdish forces from a designated safe zone, where Turkey plans to resettle millions of Syrian refugees it currently hosts.

Hailed by the Trump as “a great day for civilization,” Thursday’s agreement in Syria between Turkey and Kurdish forces approves Turkish control over Syrian land and the subjugation of the inhabitants to Turkish-backed factions which have been accused of field executions and systematic looting, Tsurkov wrote.

The Turkish operation follows a decision by Trump to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria, leaving the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), without support.

While Trump’s green light paved the way for the offensive, the article said, it would not have been possible without the normalisation of human rights abuses throughout the eight-year civil war in Syria.

Reports of daily abuses happening in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, where Turkey launched another offensive in 2018, including looting, kidnappings and property confiscation, were met with blank stares and hand-wringing by the international community, Tsurkov said. 

Thousands of ISIS detainees and their family members are stuck in the country following the defeat of the jihadist group, including at least 9,000 children under the age of 12, according to humanitarians working in Syria’s Al-Hol displacement camp in northeast Syria. 

Since the beginning of the Turkish offensive, over 300,000 civilians have been displaced and 86 civilians killed, while Syria’s towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ayn have suffered immense destruction. 

The ambiguous language of the U.S.-Turkish deal, which expires late on Tuesday, makes it unclear whether Turkey will prelaunch its effort to expand eastward, toward the major Kurdish population centres, displacing more residents, Tsurkov wrote. 

While ethnic cleansing and mass population transfers constitute war crimes under international law, the world has turned a blind eye to what is unfolding in Syria, she said.