Defending Afrin means defending democracy and women’s liberation

March 15, 2018
Protester speaking on microphone
Sydney protest on March 10 in solidarity with Afrin. Photo: Peter Boyle

Afrin, a city within the canton of the same name in northern Syria , is under siege by the Turkish military, supported by right wing jihadist forces, including al-Quaeda, al-Nusra and the remnants of ISIS. Fifty-two days after the invasion began, more than 290 civilians had been killed.

Despite a United Nations Security Council resolution for a ceasefire across Syria, Turkish aerial bombardments have intensified and troops are within sight of the city centre. The city may be overrun at any moment, leading to a massacre of innocent civilians, many of them refugees from other parts of Syria.

Right now, convoys of supporters are making their way to Afrin from across northern Syria (also known by its Kurdish name Rojava), and from over the border to stand as human shields to protect the people of Afrin. Supported by forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and their allies, this people’s resistance is the only thing standing in the way of Turkey’s aggression.

Turkey’s war on Afrin is an attack not only on Kurdish self-determination, but on democracy and women’s liberation in the Middle East.

The political and social revolution underway in the canton of Rojava represents a beacon of hope for the people of Syria, the Middle East and the world. Rojava is governed by a multi-ethnic, feminist, ecological and democratic system — an alternative to the neoliberal capitalist, genocidal politics dominating the region.

On International Women’s Day (March 8), Kurdish women launched a call for a global women’s movement, to “turn the 21st century into an era of women’s freedom”.

“Today in northern Syria, for the first time, a system is being constructed which is based on women’s equal and free participation, ethnic and religious pluralism, and participatory democracy. As a democratic alternative, this model poses a solution to the obsolete issues of the Middle East, against the masculinist, sexist, monistic, nationalist, sectarian regimes, which have been fuelled by the global system for decades.

“This is the reason why the Turkish state, which has the second largest army in NATO, launched an operation against Rojava/northern Syria’s Afrin canton on January 20, 2018 with all its force. This is also the reason why foreign powers such as the USA, Russia, and the EU are not obstructing the military attacks on Afrin.”

Turkey’s intention is to crush the revolution in Rojava and to wipe out the Kurdish resistance. Turkey’s army is equipped with the most sophisticated weapons produced by several countries, including permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM — the coalition of parties governing the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria/Rojava) is calling on the UN Security Council to intervene and stop the Turkish invasion of Afrin and to demand that the Security Council stand firm in defence of its ceasefire resolution (Resolution 2401).

They are calling for the implementation of a No-Fly-Zone over the Afrin region, inviting the international community to help enforce it with peacekeeping troops or observer delegations, and for the international community to ensure the delivery of humanitarian and medical aid to civilians who are in desperate need, both in Afrin and in Ghouta.

The world cannot stand by and allow this invasion to succeed. The progressive forces of Rojava have been abandoned by the same western powers that relied on their military support to defeat ISIS in Raqqa. It is a familiar story. Now it is up to the international community, the left and progressive forces to act.

Protests have been taking place across the world over the past weeks, including in Australia.

The Australian government has been silent in the face of this terror being unleashed by the Turkish state. PM Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop must act immediately and condemn Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.

[Susan Price is a national co-convener of the Socialist Alliance.]

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