When you’re asked what you did for these people when they needed it most, what you did for the future of the most radical democratic society of our time, what will you say?
After 50 days of bombardment and invasion, over 200 civilians have been killed in Afrin Canton, a diverse and formerly peaceful region of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria. Hundreds more are injured, and thousands are displaced. Residential areas are flattened; water plants and schools have been targeted; agricultural land lies untended while its owners fear Turkish bombs. Turkish forces have even used chemical weapons on civilians—a grave violation of the laws of war. The operation is making a once-untouched area of Syria that served as a refuge for thousands unlivable.
Wherever Turkish-backed forces— composed of al Qaeda-aligned groups and former members of ISIS—have advanced, they have brought death, terror, and destruction. Videos on social media show jihadists murdering civilians, stealing their property, questioning their religion as ISIS did in Yazidi and Christian areas, and mutilating dead bodies. If allowed to take Afrin, they will destroy its vibrant and pluralistic democracy, where Syrians of all ethnicities and religions have coexisted and built a free society for the first time in decades. Afrin’s democratic system will be replaced with Islamist terror.
Turkish officials have stated over and over again that the aim of the operation is to remove the Kurds from Afrin and allow other Syrian refugees to “return home” there. This is ethnic cleansing, plain and simple. Afrin has long been majority-Kurdish, with smaller Arab, Armenian, Christian and Yazidi communities. All of these groups lived in peace and coexistence there. The Turkish state cannot force them out, and cannot replace them with others. If the U.S. allows this to happen, it will insult the very principles on which it was founded.
The time to act in Afrin was nearly two months ago, when the first Turkish airstrikes landed on the outskirts of the canton. Every death since then has been preventable, and is forever on the world’s conscience. But now, as Turkish forces and their jihadist mercenaries are just 2 kilometers from Afrin, the need for action is more urgent than ever.