Mazloum Abdi calls for global action against possible Turkish invasion
Mazloum Abdi, the commander of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Northern Syria, addressed the US public saying, "Don't forget us," in his opinion piece in The Washington Post on Saturday.
Abdi's article was published amid ongoing Turkish air raids targeting Kurdish-led militia, settlements and infrastructure in areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).
Abdi stressed that his hometown Kobani, which had been besieged by the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014, is again under threat," and the threat comes, this time, not from ISIS, "but from a US ally and a member of NATO."
"For more than a week, the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rained bombs down on our cities, killing civilians, destroying critical civilian infrastructure and targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces working to keep ISIS down," he said.
He pointed that one of the recent air strikes might have actually been conducted as an "attempt" on his life:
"One strike in the border city of Derik, home to Kurds, Yazidis and Christians, killed more than 10 civilians. Another targeted the base near the city of Hasakah, where I work with the United States to plan operations against ISIS, striking just hundreds of meters from U.S. forces. I believe it was an attempt on my life: Turkey has assassinated several of my colleagues in the SDF and our administration this year."
For the American public who may not have heard of AANES or SDF, he went on to say:
"In 2015, we established the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians committed to defeating the Islamic State. In every city we liberated, our people built local administrations that, for the first time in Syria, represented all ethnicities and religions and gave women equal power. We've been criticized at times for falling short of the West's democratic standards. Our system is not perfect: We had to build it while at war for our existence and under a crushing economic blockade. But in terms of the quality of governance and security we have been able to provide, we have outdone every other authority in Syria — and none of it would have been possible without the victory at Kobani and the international support for our resistance that it brought."
As for the claims by Ankara that SDF and AANES pose a national security threat, and that the major component of SDF, the People's Defense Units (YPG) was behind a recent bombing in Istanbul, Abdi said:
"Turkey is not threatening our people and the security and stability for which we have sacrificed so much because of anything we have done. As a pretext for war, Erdogan has accused our forces of involvement in a deadly bombing in Istanbul. Let me make it clear: We deplore and condemn this act of terror, reject all accusations of involvement and again offer our condolences to the victims. We reiterate our call for an investigation and are ready to assist if one takes place."
"We believe that the roots of the conflicts that have brought so much pain and suffering to our region are political. There is no inherent hatred between Kurds and Turks: Turkish leaders have made the political choice to see Kurds as a security threat and deny us our fundamental democratic rights. In the past, Erdogan has negotiated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to end the armed conflict between the group and the Turkish state and resolve the Kurdish question by peaceful means. When those talks were taking place, we lived in peace with our Turkish neighbors. If they were to restart, we would be able to do so again."
Noting that the international community's silence in the face of Turkey's invasion of Afrin in 2019 had led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, caused a disruption in the fight against ISIS, and resulted in "unspeakable abuses against ethnic and religious minorities and women," Abdi said:
"Had the international community stood firmly against a Turkish invasion and spoken up for peace, things may have gone very differently. Though no one can turn back time, we can learn from the tragedies of the past. We declare that we are ready to play a helpful role in restarting these talks and reaching the peace that we seek. We call on the international community to immediately take concrete steps to prevent a Turkish invasion and to promote a political solution to the Kurdish conflict based on democracy, coexistence and equal rights. The existence of our people and the security of the region depend on it."