Syria
#Wewillnotreconcile

Syria: protests against Turkish ‘reconciliation’ call

Thousands of local residents held protests across the Turkish occupation zone in northern Syria to oppose calls by Ankara for “reconciliation” with the Bashar Assad dictatorship. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking to diplomats in Ankara the day before, said, “We have to somehow get the opposition and the regime to reconcile in Syria. Otherwise, there will be no lasting peace, we always say this.” Angry protests, under the slogan “We will not reconcile,” were held in the towns of al-Bab, Afrin and Jarablus. In the town of Azaz, a Turkish flag was burned by protesters. (Photo via Syria Direct)

Syria
drone

Turkey escalates drone strikes on Rojava

A Turkish drone strike targeted three members of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) who were driving in a vehicle near the northeast Syrian town of Qamishli. All three women were killed, and several passers-by injured by shrapnel. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) said that it was the second drone strike on territory of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in North & East Syria (AANES) in the past 48 hours. The YPJ is the women’s wing of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the territorial defense force of the autonomous zone, in the region known to the Kurds as Rojava. Turkey has carried out repeated drone strikes within AANES territory this year, amid apparent preparations for a new military incursion into the autonomous zone. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Greater Middle East
gezi

Europe rights court censures Turkey over detained activist

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Turkey violated a prior judgement in the case Kavala v. Turkey by keeping activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala in detention. Kavala was arrested in 2017, ostensibly for involvement in the Gezi Park protests in 2013 and an attempted coup d’etat in 2016. Kavala brought a complaint to the ECHR for wrongful detainment and won his case, with the court ordering his release. However, upon his release, he was immediately detained again, this time on the charge of “espionage.” Kavala was then sentenced to life in prison, and the ECHR opened infringement proceedings to determine whether this new sentence defied their original judgement. (Image: #OccupyGezi)

Syria
syria refugees

Syria aid access resolution expires amid UN standoff

A Security Council resolution that allowed the UN to deliver humanitarian aid across Turkey’s border into northwest Syria without President Bashar al-Assad’s permission expired  as diplomats failed to come to a deal in the face of a Russian veto. Russia, which has long opposed the cross-border aid operation as an affront to Syrian sovereignty, used its veto to stop a one-year renewal. Its own proposal for turning aid deliveries over to the Assad regime after six months was voted down by the US, UK, and France. The Assad regime is accused of denying aid to besieged rebel-held enclaves. Aid workers in the region are warning of imminent “famine” in northern Syria in the wake of the resolution expiration, which coincided with the Eid al-Adha holiday. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

Greater Middle East
MLSA

Turkey arrests 16 Kurdish journalists

Turkish officials formally arrested and jailed 16 Kurdish journalists after detaining 21 journalists for eight days without charges. Five of the original 21 were released. According to Turkey’s Media & Law Studies Association (MLSA), the 21 journalists were originally detained on suspicion of “terrorism.” The MLSA’s Mehmet Ali Birand dismissed the validity of the charges, saying: “Most of these colleagues were working in media organs such as DÄ°HA [news agency] and Ă–zgĂĽr GĂĽndem [newspaper]… None of these journalists participated in terrorist activities. None of these journalists carried a gun, pulled a trigger, or killed anyone.” Turkish officials claimed the arrests were part of an investigation into the “press committee” of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). (Image: MLSA)

Iraq
Rojava

Podcast: Rojava and Ezidikhan in the Great Game

In Episode 127 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the Kurdish-controlled Syrian city of Kobani, which became a global icon of resistance to ISIS in 2014, is now under threat of Turkish aggression. The Syrian Kurds were betrayed in 2019, when their autonomous zone of Rojava was greatly reduced by Turkey’s first thrust into their territory. Erdogan is now threatening to extinguish it altogether, and incorporate all of Rojava into his “security zone.” There is growing speculation that the US could “green light” this aggression in exchange for Turkey dropping its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Meanwhile, the Yazidis of northern Iraq, who were subjected to genocide at the hands of ISIS in 2014, now face extermination of their hard-won autonomous zone of Ezidikhan at the hands of Baghdad’s military—acting under pressure from Turkey. Great Power meddling in Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan alike is pitting the peoples of the region against each other, portending a disastrous Arab-Kurdish ethnic war. How can activists in the West help break this trajectory? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Rojava Solidarity NYC)

Syria
Syria oil map

Erdogan preparing new Syria incursion?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄźan is ramping up threats to invade more areas of northern Syria, saying that he plans to “clean up [the Kurdish towns of] Tal Rifat and Manbij of terrorists,” and establish a greater “security zone” in Syrian territory along Turkey’s border. Much of this region is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey considers to be a “terrorist organization” because of its ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—a Turkey-based Kurdish separatist organization. It’s not clear if ErdoÄźan will go ahead with a new incursion now, but some wonder if the US, which has backed the SDF, may be willing to turn a blind eye to such an offensive if Turkey backs off its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

North Africa
libya

Russian mercenaries accused in Libya atrocities

A report to the Security Council by a panel of UN human rights experts finds that foreign fighters and private military companies are responsible for grave abuses in Libya—especially naming Russia’s Wagner Group. The report was classified “confidential,” but a copy was leaked to the Associated Press. It finds that both Turkish-backed militias loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNA) and the Wagner Group, apparently contracted by eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, have employed mercenaries who were veterans of the war in Syria. GNA-aligned militias are implicated in abuses of migrants, who have been “regularly subjected to acts of slavery, rape and torture.” The Wager Group is accused of planting unmarked anti-personnel mines on the southern periphery of Tripoli, when the city was besieged by Haftar’s forces from April 2019 to October 2020. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Syria
Kobane

Syria: Turkish drones target Kobani

Two drone strikes targeted the Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria, after weeks of intermittent shelling of villages in the surrounding countryside. The attacks are apparently being launched from the area of Jarabulus immediately to the west, which is held by Turkish occupation forces and allied militias. According to the Rojava Information Center (RIC), some 35 drone attacks on the Kobani area have already “killed at least 13 people & injured 34 in 2022 alone.” Kobani became iconic in 2014, when the city’s Kurdish defenders waged a heroic resistance against ISIS. But since the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish autonomous zone, known as Rojava, in late 2019, the city has been a precarious enclave of remnant Kurdish control, in an uneasy alliance with Assad regime forces. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

Iraq
ybs

Iraq: thousands displaced in new battle for Sinjar

Clashes between the Iraqi military and a local Yazidi militia have forced more than 3,000 people to flee the northern town of Sinjar. Fighting erupted when the military launched an operation to clear the area of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia with ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Many of those displaced are Yazidis who survived the 2014 Islamic State genocide against the ethnicity. They are now distributed in camps across Iraq’s Kurdish region. In 2020, Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) signed a pact to restore their joint control to the autonomous Yazidi enclave, known as Ezidikhan. The deal has not been implemented until now, despite growing pressure from Turkey, which has carried out intermittent air-strikes on the Sinjar area. (Photo: A poster commemorating a slain YBS fighter on a bombed-out building in Sinjar. Credit: TNH)

Europe
Crimea

Tatars demand return of Crimea to Ukraine

Crimean Tatar community leaders issued a demand that return of the Crimean Peninsula, unilaterally annexed by Russia in 2014, be a condition imposed by Kyiv in its talks with Moscow to end the war in Ukraine. The decision to adopt this demand was taken in a virtual meeting of the Mejlis—the traditional assembly of the Crimean Tatars, which has now been suppressed within Crimea by the Russian occupation forces. “The re-establishment of the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, including the republic of autonomous Crimea and Sevastopol, should be an obligatory condition for official negotiations between Ukrainian representatives and the aggressor state,” said the chief of the Mejlis, Refat Chubarov. The online meeting of the Mejlis took place ahead of a new round of talks between Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

North Africa
libya

Libya’s two prime ministers

Libya’s eastern-based parliament chose a new prime minister for the country, former interior minister Fathi Bashagha. The only problem… Libya already has an interim prime minister: Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, chosen by a UN-led process to head the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord. Dbeibah was supposed to guide the fractured country through presidential elections in December, but they were postponed after contestation over the rules governing the process. Dbeibah had promised not to run for president but put his hat in the ring anyway, with the rules apparently mandating that he step down as prime minister three months before the polls—which he did not do. The Tobruk-based parliament says the deadline means Dbeibah’s time is up, but he says he won’t hand over power until elections take place. He reportedly survived an assassination attempt shortly before the parliament’s move to replace him. None of this bodes well for Libyans’ long quest for a united country. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)