The Afrin massacre becomes more brutal by the day. On top of the bombs indiscriminately dropped on the center of Syrian Kurdistan’s main city for weeks, Turkish raids are now targeting hospitals and those who are leaving town. The international community has cried scandal for similar crimes in other contexts.
On Saturday, il manifesto reported on how Afrin’s main hospital was at breaking point, with large numbers of wounded and scarce resources amid the siege of the city and a drug and food embargo.
On Friday night, the Turkish air force struck the hospital three times, killing at least 16 people, including some children and a pregnant woman. The Turkish government denied the allegation, and it released aerial footage captured by a drone, saying it struck printers instead. But the images prove Ankara bombed the hospital.
The next morning, Afrin woke up to yet another hideous massacre: Turkish jets hit two vans in which dozens of civilians were fleeing the inferno. Photos posted on social media show dead bodies, unrecognizable body parts torn apart by the attack and two burnt vehicles. At least 13 were killed.
They add to the death count, which includes the 47 who died on Friday, three civilians buried under the rubble in Eshrefiye district Saturday, and the many bodies still missing from the official counts, according to Afrin’s Information Center, an organization that aims to give voice to the civilians under siege in Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch. Over 280 have lost their lives since Jan. 20.
There is no time to bury them, nor any way to do it: residents can only cremate bodies if they want to avoid leaving them on the streets. Those who have managed to escape say there are bodies in the city’s streets, in the center and along the single escape route opening southward. Turkey claims to have left it open for civilians, but it then targeted them as they looked for shelter.
Thousands have fled the battle. Local sources say there are as many as 150,000 internally displaced people in need of humanitarian aid, headed southeast to the Shehba region. Whoever can fight remains in Afrin, adamant not to abandon their city and the dream of a feminist, environmentalist self-government across ethnic groups and religions. The dream had come true, a unique political project in a world where the people’s right of self-determination is consistently violated.
Turkish President Erdogan is pleased to see victory in sight — a victory obtained by pointing weapons, jets and rifles obtained from NATO against civilians.
“We’re very close to the capitulation of Afrin. We’re about to enter the city, and good news from Afrin could be announced at any moment,” he said this weekend from the AKP congress in Mardin.
Meanwhile, Afrin’s autonomous government denounced Turkey’s crimes: “The invader army is deliberately targeting hospitals and bakeries that are vital for civilians. Thousands of Afrin residents have been forced to flee, facing a tragedy of huge proportions. We ask international organizations to condemn these barbarous attacks and to assist the thousands of civilians in their march through the Shehba desert. Among them are kids, elderly and wounded, without food or water.”
UNICEF’s director for the MENA Region Geert Cappelaere responded: “Not a single day in the last seven years have any of the parties ever respected the simplest sacred principles of protection of children.”
But the loudest voice of all is perhaps the deafening silence of Turkey’s NATO allies. They watch, without intervening, the tragedy committed with their own weapons, and whose only motivations are Ankara’s political objectives: destroying Rojava’s democratic confederation; imposing their own presence in north Syria; protecting the Islamist groups that have choked the progressive spirit of the first public demonstrations of 2011, giving way to regional Sunni governments’ and their own agenda.
Erdogan knows well that his actions today will be important to shape Syria’s political future tomorrow. There won’t be any room for actual democracy — such as the one put forward in Rojava in the last few years, a ‘third way’ between socialism and capitalism, a sort of inner-facing democracy in socially and politically fragmented Syria.
The hope is that Rojava’s political proposal resists Erdogan’s attacks, his neo-Ottoman ambitions, as well as regional and global power politics. Rojava’s people, showing their resilience, are repeating loud and clear: they will defend democratic confederalism.
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