Turkish armed drones assassinate women political leaders in Rojava

June 28, 2023
protesting Turkish drone attack in Sydney
Protesting the Turkish drone attack in Sydney. Photo: Peter Boyle

On June 20, a member of NATO and the Council of Europe carried out a targeted assassination of local political leaders in a neighbouring state, as they were carrying out their public duties.

The murderer was Turkey, the people killed were in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (Rojava, West Kurdistan) — and the world took no notice.

The United States issued one of their less than useless statements urging “all parties to deescalate”, as though there was some equivalence between being a council leader and murdering one. When Turkey breaches international mores, no one wants to know, especially if the victims hold few cards in the world of Realpolitik.

Tuesday’s attack brings to 48 the number of people in North and East Syria killed by Turkish drones since the beginning of this year; and a further 38 have been wounded. Thirteen of those killed were civilians. The rest were soldiers who had defended their land and the world against ISIS. None were a threat to Turkey.

Civilian leaders have been specifically targeted. This week’s drone hit a car carrying leaders of Qamişlo Canton administration on a visit to local councils. It killed the female co-chair of Qamişlo Canton Council, Yusra Derwêş, the female deputy co-chair, Liman Şiwêş, and their driver, Firat Tûma. The other canton co-chair, Gabî Şemûn, was injured but is now out of hospital. The two women are both Kurdish, while the men are Syriac Christians, typifying the multi-ethnic nature of the Autonomous Administration’s structures.

Attacks helping ISIS

Turkey began to carry out drone assassinations in June 2020, with the murder of three members of the Kongra Star women’s organisation who were meeting in a house near Kobanê. A year ago, the co-chair of the Autonomous Administration’s Executive Council was murdered by a drone attack on his car, and the co-chairs of the Justice and Reform office were killed in a similar attack in September.

The drone attacks have been accompanied by constant bombardments. These don’t register in international news media, but they contribute to a war of attrition that is designed to prevent the Autonomous Administration from building a stable society, to destroy its popular support, and to drive the local population away from the border areas. Although these attacks are all in breach of the ceasefire agreements signed by Turkey after their 2019 invasion into Syria, the US and Russia — the guarantors of those agreements — have done nothing to stop them.

The destabilising impact of the attacks is increased by the sustenance this gives to ISIS. ISIS still maintains a network of cells in the region, and — as captured ISIS fighters confirm — receives support from Turkey and from the Turkish occupied areas. Lack of stability and of possibilities for a secure livelihood create the conditions on which ISIS thrives.

A further indication of Turkey’s relationship with ISIS was provided in a report this week from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. This claimed that 37 ISIS prisoners had escaped from a prison in Turkish-occupied Serê Kaniyê with the help of Turkish-backed militants, who then took them into the area run by the Autonomous Administration. Eighteen have been caught, but the others are now contributing to the threats in the region.

There has been an increase of bombardments and drone attacks since the beginning of last week and since the announcement by the Administration that they would stop waiting for the world to act and would carry out trials of ISIS prisoners themselves. Organising such trials becomes even more difficult under the threat of attack, and there has been speculation that the rise in attacks is a response to the announcement of trials that would put a spotlight on Turkey’s role in the growth and support of ISIS.

The rise in attacks has also coincided with the latest round of talks on the future of Syria, between Russia, Turkey, Iran and the Syrian regime. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s diplomacy is often accompanied by threats, and exemplifies Clausewitz’s dictum that “war is a mere continuation of politics with other means”.

Astana talks

The deputy foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, Iran and Syria met in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana over June 20 and 21. This was the 20th such meeting between representatives of the four states, and its agreed final statement is almost word for word the same as that put out after the 19th meeting last November.

As before, common cause is found in an extensive attack on the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, which receives added accusations of restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly; there are new references to the earthquake and earthquake relief; and an additional paragraph talks about the “constructive spirit” of the discussions. The United Nations’ Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, was there as an observer, but the UN has also allowed no place for representatives from North and East Syria in discussions about Syria’s future.

As before, the Syrian representative insisted that any progress towards normalisation of relations between Syria and Turkey will be dependent on Turkish withdrawal from the Syrian territories it occupies. This is not mentioned in the statement, which is a document issued by the other three countries — the so-called guarantor countries.

The Autonomous Administration has expressed their frustration at Russian attempts to portray them as promoting separatism from Syria and at Russia’s claim that Washington has prevented the Administration from talking with Damascus. Separatism should not be taboo, but it isn’t what they are demanding, as Russia must be well aware.

The Administration has a clear and public program for a peaceful solution for the whole of Syria, and they also stress that they are not subject to others in what they can discuss.

Foreign relations co-chair, Bedran Çiya Kurd, denounced the process as political deals made at the expense of the people of Syria, which misrepresent the Autonomous Administration — and not Turkey — as a threat to Syria, and which promote division and confrontation rather than dialogue and consensus.

[This article is abridged with permission from MedyaNews.]

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