Turks Use NATO Weapons and al Qaeda Allies for Genocide in Syria
On March 16 at The Stream we warned about it. And it happened. The world stood by and did nothing, as Turkish dictator Tayyip Erdogan unleashed ethnic cleansing in Syria. Turkish Jihadi ground troops surrounded the helpless city of Afrin, killing, looting, and driving out civilians. On Sunday, March 18, Turkey took control of Afrin city, but it was largely empty. The defenders had made a strategic decision: to evacuate as many civilians as possible. The soldiers of the YPG, which defeated ISIS on America’s behalf, decided to wage a guerrilla war against the occupiers. There was no surrender.
The only remaining hospital in the region collapsed under Turkish bombs on March 16. Victims bled out on hospital floors as doctors fell to triage, caring only for the healthiest. The city already had no water, electricity, food or medical supplies. Life there had become impossible. Turkey denies that all of this happened, but the photo, video, and testimonial evidence is overwhelming.
An Open War of Genocide
Erdogan was brutally candid from the beginning. This was a war of genocide. He intended to remove Afrin’s population and replace it. Half were refugees from other parts of Syria, and half lived there throughout the civil war. Most of them were Kurds, with significant Yazidi, Christian, and other minority groups. Its new “rightful” residents? Syrian refugees who had been living in refugee camps in Turkey: people who had never lived in Afrin.
Erdogan’s ethnic cleansing happened on an industrial scale. Based on UN estimates only 50,000 people remain in Afrin city. It had held approximately 350,000 pre-war. Add in tens of thousands of refugees who’d fled from the Turks. Only around 100,000 people remain in rural areas that once held around 400,000 – 500,000 people. Half of them are children.
Mass Ethnic Cleansing
If UN estimates are correct, only 150,000 out of almost one million pre-war inhabitants remain. Even as the bombs fell, Turkey was busing people in to live in the homes “cleansed” of true owners. The scale and ruthlessness of this ethnic cleansing is almost impossible to believe. One country blatantly invaded another and cleansed an area of almost all of its population, in a period of only two months, due to vastly superior military hardware and larger armed forces. And the world just watched and shrugged.
Turkey bombed civilian vehicle convoys that stretched for miles. Refugees fled on foot over high mountain terrain in groups that also stretched for many kilometers. Some held their heads high. Some managed to laugh, holding their children’s hands as if they were on some pleasant family excursion. Wounded and old people used walkers. Mothers carried babies in their arms. Most had no winter clothes. They will face freezing temperatures. Many have no shelter at all and are sleeping on the side of roads. As later became clear, Turkish ground troops robbed or forced people to abandon vehicles, money, wallets, cell phones, and anything of value. These events barely made a ripple in the weekend news cycle.
Hundreds of Thousands Flee Islamist Gangs
It is unclear where all the refugees are. Recent reports say that 170,000 huddle in a few Shiite majority villages and towns in Northern Aleppo. Tens of thousands wait to enter areas controlled. Some 25,000 (estimate) are in the Kobani region. The Turks are shelling the areas where they were sheltering, and they have had to flee again. Authorities from the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria say there is a total of 700,000 refugees.
They desperately need humanitarian aid. But Erdogan has barred access to Afrin to UNICEF. It is very hard to get to the areas where refugees are living without shelter in villages outside Afrin. The UN says looting, destruction of properties, and the civilian exodus continues. Erdogan claims to be providing Turkish humanitarian aid. But as the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, said: “The credibility of the Turkish Red Crescent working in Afrin with the Kurdish population is close to zero.” A CNN video documents the miserable and dangerous conditions facing these refugees.
Kill a Christian? Go to Heaven
Throughout the Turkish invasion, we heard reports that its Jihadi ground troops were executing civilians, stealing even their goats and chickens, their vehicles, and looting their homes. Videos they publish show a remarkable number of farm tractors being used as vehicles. In one video, they kill a fleeing farmer in order to steal his tractor. Turkey promises to withdraw from Afrin when it finishes its “Olive Branch” mission. But the people it forced to leave will likely never be allowed to return to their farms and homes.
Jihadi troops have been told that killing a Christian gives them an automatic admission to heaven.
Reports abound of war crimes. The Syrian Islamic Council gave the Turkish ground troops a fatwa allowing them to kill indiscriminately anyone who rejects their version of Islam. Their favorite targets? Christians and Yazidis. A source I trust reports that Jihadi troops have been told that killing a Christian gives them an automatic admission to heaven with its peculiar female delights. This is a new and particularly frightening concept, not previously promoted even by ISIS. (Before the only sure admission ticket was to die in Jihad.) Like ISIS, these Jihadi warriors view Yazidis with particular contempt as infidels.
Butchering Yazidis Again
So soldiers have gone door to door, hunting for Christians and Yazidis and shooting them on sight. All 55 historic Yazidi villages were conquered, and most of their residents fled. Those who remain report that their homes have been marked with special insignia to designate them as targets. There is a heartbreaking video of an old man, a Yazidi, being abused by Turkish troops. They later beheaded him:
The turkish #terrorists army and its #jihadists proxy, beaten and humiliated This 80-year-old man Bilal Hamo, and later beheaded him in front of his family after refusing to leave his home from the village Khlolko in #afrin!@hrw @amnesty #BreakSilenceOnAfrin pic.twitter.com/EQ7YHFCrWK
— #AfrinNotAllone (@afrinhill) March 20, 2018
Another Yazidi man reportedly refused to leave his home out of fear after the Turks ordered all civilians in his village to assemble in one place. He was killed on the spot.
Turkey is rousing its population to a fierce level of anti-American sentiment. Turkish state media hurl insults at our President. Erdogan jails anyone who speaks out against the Afrin invasion. Is this the behavior of a NATO ally? Erdogan wages a relentless campaign against its tiny remaining Christian community.
Unfortunately, it will be difficult to document the full extent of the genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, deaths and injuries. Turkey bars access to Afrin. Still, it is not too soon to start discussing charging Erdogan and his generals with war crimes and prepare for prosecutions in the International Criminal Court.
Turkey Isn’t Finished
Turkey says it will continue its campaign of cleansing beginning in Manjib (threatening U.S. forces there) all the way to Quamishli. That’s the de facto capital of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, the freest region in the Middle East. This will involve more ethnic cleansing and fighting with the Syrian Democratic Forces, America’s partner in the fight against ISIS and terrorism. Turkey is openly challenging the US to a fight. Turkey is also threatening to invade Sinjar. That’s the scene of ISIS’s slaughter and imprisonment of Yazidis.
ISIS has strengthened during the two month war. There are online videos of Chinese Uyghurs dressed in Turkish military garb clamoring to join Erdogan’s forces. Erdogan’s actions have re-energized the most radical elements of the Syrian opposition. He has trained what he claims is an army of 26,000 Jihadi warriors to fight, backed with his air and land firepower.
Turkey is rousing its population to a fierce level of anti-American sentiment. Turkish state media hurl insults at our President. Erdogan jails anyone who speaks out against the Afrin invasion. Is this the behavior of a NATO ally? Erdogan wages a relentless campaign against its tiny remaining Christian community. He has imprisoned US Pastor Andrew Brunson on trumped-up charges of complicity in the 2016 coup. At any time, Erdogan could unleash mobs of Islamists to attack US military sites in Turkey.
America Must Act
Can Turkey be stopped? Yes, but only with a clear American threat of use of force.
The US could have prevented the Afrin genocide, but it chose to appease Turkey instead. What has that gained us? Nothing. We’re right back at square one. We have the same awful options: Confront Turkey, and risk Erdogan’s wrath. Or accept that we’ve lost the war against ISIS, leaving much of Syria in the hands of America’s Islamist enemies. That would mean abandoning the Federation of Northern Syria, the one Middle Eastern polity outside Israel with full religious freedom. And sit while another genocide happens. Then another, then another.
What does the US gain from having an “ally” like Turkey at this point? How does siding with Turkey in its campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Syria and its dictatorial and Islamist policies at home advance our national security interests? How does it help our long term strategy for peace and stability (and democracy and pluralism) in the Middle East?
Whatever decision is made, the sad facts remain. Almost one million people are homeless or at risk. They are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Of a plan for where they can live.