The focus of the world is on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in the wake of the mammoth loss of human life and infrastructure. However, what is going unnoticed is the atrocities that Turkey is committing on Syria. At the start of this month, Turkey launched an aerial bombing campaign in Syria’s northeast after it said militants who were behind the attack in Ankara came from and were trained in Syria.
The semi-autonomous Kurdish administration controlling North-East Syria has denied this claim of Turks as Turkish authorities haven’t provided any hard evidence to substantiate their claim. Turkey relentlessly has been pounding the Kurdish-governed zone in Syria with drones, fighter jets, and artillery. Turkish bombardment has damaged more than half of Kurdish-held northeast Syria’s power and oil infrastructure, dealing a blow to its energy-dependent economy. Moreover, these attacks have caused massive damage to the vital infrastructure facilities that were already in dire condition after more than a decade of war and economic crisis. The most prominent of these is the Suwaydiya power station, which was the only power source supplying northeast Syria’s Jazeera region with energy. The plant is currently out of service following the Turkish air raids. The supply of potable water in the region is also dependent on electricity therefore, local people are currently deprived of both the essential needs of power and water.
Turkey’s targeting of vital infrastructure is part of a concerted effort to cripple economic life in the Kurdish-led zone and weaken public support for the local administration. Previously, on many occasions, Turkey has targeted the Kurds in Syria. But this time, however, the military operation was much different, both in terms of its geographical scale and the nature of the targets. Several airstrikes were conducted near the city of Hasakah, about 70 km from the Turkish border.
The area of operations was also expanded to include territories controlled by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) in Hasakah, Aleppo, and Raqqa. The scale of the attacks suggests that the list of critical infrastructure targets was likely compiled well before the incident in Ankara took place. In fact, it seems that President Erdogan is using this attack in the Turkish capital just as an excuse to carry out a new military operation against Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria’s northeast.
Turkey has been continuously attacking not only PKK bases but generally every kind of Kurdish structure in its vicinity. Syrian Kurds have been regularly targeted by Turkey and its allied militias. Through regular shelling of Kurdish positions and military campaigns like Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch. Syrian Kurds are on top of the Turkish hit list as they are the major obstacle in Ankara’s expansionist policies in Syria. Turkey justifies its fierce hostility to Kurdish forces in Syria by arguing that Kurdish-controlled regions in northern Syria are terrorist dens and shelters for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has launched a guerrilla campaign against Turks since 1984. But Turks failed to provide any evidence that Kurds have launched any terror attacks against Turkey from Syria.
The real motive behind these kinds of military operations launched by Turkey is to drive out the Kurds from these areas and get the pro-Turkish population settled there. It is evident from the fact that in its previous operation in Afrin, Turkey engaged not in counter-terror, but in ethnic cleansing. In its multiple reports, Amnesty International has reported that Turkish military forces and their allied armed groups. Have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life, carrying out serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians, during the offensive into northeast Syria.
The Ottoman Empire was a global power that, at its peak, controlled vast areas of territory in the modern Middle East, North Africa, the Caucasus, and the Balkans before its ultimate dissolution after World War I. The foreign policy of its successor, the Turkish Republic, has in recent years resembled an attempt to increase Turkish influence in the regions of the former empire and especially in the immediate neighborhood. Ankara’s Neo-Ottoman approach in the region has been clearly visible through its repressive policies towards Syrian Kurds.
Right now, the world’s attention is diverted towards the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Turkey is taking full advantage of this diversion and carrying on with its atrocities in North-East Syria as Turks know that Syria’s beleaguered Kurds have slipped to the bottom of the US and Western countries list of priorities. Erdogan also warned the United States over its continued alliance with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the Pentagon’s top partner in the fight against the Islamic State. He said, “Nobody should doubt that sooner or later, we will respond to those who stand by the terrorists during our struggle [against them]”. But the United States has to realize it sooner than later that the Syrian Kurds are valuable partners in America’s efforts to fight ISIS and contain Iranian influence. Washington should not allow them to fall prey to Turkish ambitions.