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“If the war reaches us, we will defend ourselves”: Syria’s Kurds prepare for a Turkish invasion

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Dozens of dead, destroyed houses and constant fear of the combat drones – northern Syria’s Kurdish autonomous region has been bombed by the Turkish army for days. Head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan had announced that he wanted to occupy a zone 600 kilometers long and 30 kilometers deep.

“We are a military force, but we have not decided on war,” says Nesrin Abdullah, commander of the Kurdish forces Women’s Defense Units YPJ, the daily mirror. “But when war reaches our homes, we will defend ourselves. We are prepared because we have gained a lot of experience over the past ten years.”

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The women’s units of the YPJ belong with the larger YPG associations to the multinational, non-denominational SDF alliance. The SDF has 60,000 men and women, it is the de facto army in northern Syria’s autonomous region. With the help of the USA, the SDF defeated the “Islamic State” (IS) as a territorial power.

Northern Syria’s autonomous region is dominated by the secular PYD. In terms of ideas, the party is close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK. Its leadership retreated to northern Iraq during the war with the Turkish army in the 1990s.

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Erdogan has been attacking the self-government for years, and Ankara’s army has occupied northern Syrian cities together with Islamist militias. In Iraq, the Turkish air force is also bombing suspected PKK positions. Erdogan is demanding that the Swedish government boycott the Syrian Kurds, otherwise he will not allow the country to join NATO.

We are a military force, but we have not chosen war.

Nesrin Abdullahcommander of the Kurdish Women’s Defense Units YPJ

In addition to the Scandinavians, the USA in particular had largely recognized the autonomous administration. Washington helped the SDF in the anti-IS fight with military equipment – the Kurdish-led alliance did not receive anti-aircraft weapons.

“In the air defense we actually have problems,” said YPJ commander Abdullah. “Especially because the United Nations has not imposed a no-fly zone over northern Syria.” The Turkish army is also intensifying its bombardment because it is finding it difficult to assert itself against the locally anchored SDF units on the ground.

YPJ commander Nesrin Abdullah during a visit to Italy in 2015.
© Getty Images / Awakening

In international talks, the autonomous administration is again calling for a no-fly zone. SDF officers are speaking these days with officials from the US and Russia – both powers have troops stationed in Syria. Washington is apparently helping the Kurds less and less, while Moscow continues to support the Damascene ruler Bashar al-Assad,

Kremlin boss Putin is informed about Erdogan’s attack plans

Erdogan, in turn, helped Islamist insurgents to overthrow Assad soon after the war broke out. The Turkish government has since moved away from this. Erdogan and Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin regularly talk about Syria, which is why it is certain that Ankara’s current offensive is coordinated with Moscow.

It is all the more astonishing that Syrian government soldiers have now also been killed by Turkish drones. So although Erdogan’s air force killed Assad soldiers, the Damascene regime is holding back. The central government does not coordinate with the autonomous administration, said YPJ commander Abdullah, probably because Assad himself wants to control the Kurdish regions in the medium term.

Within the SDF it is assumed that Erdogan wants to occupy a larger area than the announced buffer zone. Most recently, the Turkish Air Force even had Deir-ez-Zor bombed, it was said, is 70 km south of the Syrian-Turkish border.

Despite the Turkish superiority, the Kurdish forces have no intention of fleeing. YPJ commander Abdullah said: “And if we die, it will be on our home soil.”

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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