On Octo­ber 8 2019, the Turk­ish regime launched its offen­sive against North­ern Syr­ia, in Erdoğan’s expla­na­tion, to re-estab­lish peace by expelling the ter­ror­ist groups.

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One week lat­er, we see he has sent to the front lines of his attack a good part of the avail­able “gangs” he was hold­ing close or pro­tect­ing and arm­ing around Idleb and in Afrin for the past year. The ter­ror­ists are there, indeed. These com­pos­ite groups sprang up from Jihadist anti-Bachar wings – at one time grouped under the “Free Syr­i­an Army” umbrel­la, and armed by the coali­tion for a while in the Syr­i­an chaos that pre­vailed over these past years.

Suc­ces­sive agree­ments from the so-called Astana process (Turkey-Iran-Rus­sia) had led in 2017 to a cease-fire in the civ­il war and the estab­lish­ment of 4 zones known as ‘secu­ri­ty zones’ in Syr­ia. How­ev­er the Syr­i­an regime had not rat­i­fied this agree­ment and re-occu­pied pock­ets, towns in cor­re­spond­ing zones, with Russ­ian sup­port and cooperation.

From one agree­ment to anoth­er, armed groups in these zones were trans­ferred, along with the pop­u­la­tions who agreed to move on to Idleb which also shares a region­al bor­der with Turkey, on the Anti­och side. Turkey was then asked by Rus­sia to tidy things up among the “gangs” radi­at­ing out from Idleb, the con­trol for which had been assigned to Turkey.

The pup­pet gov­ern­ment of the “Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion”, root­ed in Gaziantep in South­ern Turkey, is sup­posed to super­vise… some­thing, and man­age the pock­et of Idleb, still tar­get­ed by the regime. It is a known fact that gangs thrive there. When Erdo­gan now describes as non-Jihadists the armed back)up troops for the Turk­ish inva­sion known in his par­lance as the “Syr­i­an Nation­al Army”, he is pulling a fast one on the Astana agree­ments by recy­cling killers and adding to them Turk­men mem­bers with accounts to set­tle with the Kur­dish move­ment. All are fight­ing for mon­ey, revenge and a patri­ar­chal islamist ide­ol­o­gy. And they are charged with the dirty work of ter­ror­iz­ing the pop­u­la­tions, and com­mit­ting tar­get­ed actions that amount to as many crimes of war. The mem­bers of these gangs are thus the ones who assas­si­nat­ed civil­ians at the onset of the offen­sive, among them a spe­cial­ly tar­get­ed Kur­dish woman, mem­ber of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Coun­cil, Havrin Kha­laf. As these groups often film their exac­tions or move­ments, some can be identified.

Legal author­i­ties at the UN have declared that Turkey could be held respon­si­ble for these war crimes. To these should be added an attack against civil­ians in Serê Kaniyê (Ras al-Ayn on the maps), now com­plete­ly doc­u­ment­ed by videos from all sources, an attack that caused 75 dead and wound­ed, jour­nal­ists among them.

In this phase then, invad­ing Turk­ish forces have most­ly made use of the pos­si­bil­i­ty offered by an open air space, although this space is depen­dent on Rus­sia and the coali­tion, as a fron­tier artillery post for indis­crim­i­nate bomb­ing. The Serê Kaniyê sec­tor, an impor­tant pen­e­tra­tion node, has been sub­ject­ed to inces­sant pound­ing, while ground forces have attempt­ed to infil­trate it. It is cur­rent­ly the the­ater of very strong resis­tance and fight­ing, the FDS hav­ing chose it as a fix­a­tion point, no mat­ter what the agree­ment may be with the regime con­cern­ing the deploy­ment of Bachar’s troops.

As I indi­cat­ed in the first arti­cle, each of the inter­na­tion­al or region­al pow­ers is now show­ing its hand.

Since then, the Unit­ed States have with­drawn their con­tin­gents from the war zones, bring­ing along in their lug­gage the few remain­ing French troops, head­ing for Irak and what comes next. Man­bij was occu­pied by what is known as the legal Syr­i­an army, and small Russ­ian patrols insure that Bachar and Erdoğan’s troops do not come into con­tact, as they say in the mil­i­tary. So far, there have been only a few “blun­ders”. Of note on Octo­ber 16th, a front guard of regime troops entered Kobanê, the town sym­bol­ic for its resis­tance against ISIS, giv­ing a fresh impe­tus to Rojava’s demo­c­ra­t­ic and com­mu­nal­ist polit­i­cal project.

How­ev­er, it appears that both the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia, — after both seem­ing to take a laiss­er faire approach, are now chang­ing their posi­tions and, in the case of Rus­sia, assum­ing a rather con­quer­ing atti­tude. Soon­er than expect­ed, the lat­ter facil­i­tat­ed occu­pa­tion of the zones by the regime’s army, and is cur­rent­ly con­demn­ing Erdoğan. A Putin-Erdo­gan meet­ing should occur short­ly, while Trump sends his emis­saries, puts a freeze on Turk­ish assets, announces eco­nom­ic sanc­tions, all on the back­ground of rounds of Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil meet­ings at the UN, out of which noth­ing emerges.

In order to under­stand what is hap­pen­ing inside Turkey, it is impor­tant to rid one’s self of the vision of a bina­ry oppo­si­tion — “sec­u­lar pro­gres­sists vs obscu­ran­tism” — so dear to ori­en­tal­ists. Con­stant­ly repeat­ing this stu­pid­i­ty on tele­vi­sion may give the appear­ance that one is a spe­cial­ist and it so hap­pens to flat­ter anti-Mus­lim pub­lic opin­ion, while doing noth­ing but adding to the confusion.

Turkey’s polit­i­cal axis, the one that struc­tures its pub­lic opin­ion, its polit­i­cal strug­gle and even­tu­al views for the future is that of nation­al­ism, either ultra, islamist or repub­li­can, and the ide­ol­o­gy of tur­kic­i­ty that serves as the nar­ra­tive for the nation­al sto­ry, against anti-nation­al­ism and the demo­c­ra­t­ic real­i­ty that would take into account the mosa­ic of peo­ples that make up the coun­try. In short, the dif­fer­ent Euro­pean left­ist cur­rents must con­sid­er a heart­break­ing revi­sion and a nec­es­sary dis­tanc­ing from the Turk­ish Kemal­ist his­tor­i­cal novel.

It then becomes easy to under­stand why the major­i­ty oppo­si­tion, ultra-nation­al­ists and Erdoğan are joined up togeth­er under the invader’s uni­form. In even clear­er terms, Istan­bul’s dash­ing new may­or, Erdoğan’s con­queror, the one sup­pos­ed­ly rep­re­sent­ing the future, has aligned him­self and his par­ty behind the killers I men­tioned above. How pro­gres­sive, no? All those under the blood red cres­cent ban­ner, from nation­al­ist grey wolves to big­ots, praise the offen­sive, even in school­yards, with a stream of sup­port­ive prayers.

Only the HDP par­ti­sans – which are far from all being Kur­dish — might oppose this war, along with a few aca­d­e­mics, artists and human rights activists. Hard­ly had they begun to express them­selves, whether in Istan­bul or in Diyarbakir these past few days, that the repres­sion and arrests began.

The Turk­ish regime is mak­ing total use inter­nal­ly of this fight against the so-called exter­nal ter­ror­ism. This is a com­mon car­ac­ter­is­tic to all iden­ti­tar­i­an pop­ulisms. There­fore, the regime con­tin­ues its purges against Kur­dish may­ors, for exam­ple, places oppo­nents in cus­tody through a pro­hi­bi­tion on crit­i­cism of the ongo­ing war; such crit­i­cism being con­sid­ered as sup­port for the des­ig­nat­ed ter­ror­ists, which is to say the demo­c­ra­t­ic polit­i­cal project of the Kur­dish move­ment in Roja­va, and by rebound, the HDP in Turkey. Here again, all the oth­er polit­i­cal com­po­nents agree, of course, includ­ing a cer­tain may­or in Istan­bul, elect­ed thanks to the Kur­dish voic­es that made the difference.

Relax­ing vig­i­lance and sup­port for the true oppo­nents in Turkey would mean a lack of under­stand­ing of what is tru­ly being played out and, inverse­ly, in speak­ing for Roja­va, only men­tion­ing ongo­ing com­bats along with the hor­rors or exac­tions, with­out men­tion­ing the ongo­ing polit­i­cal set­back, would also be mak­ing the same mistake.

What is cur­rent­ly tak­ing place dur­ing this his­tor­i­cal moment, was sum­ma­rized for me in a recent com­ment on Kedis­tan, in the expres­sion 1936 Span­ish war – 2019 Roja­va. For the his­to­ry of eman­ci­pa­tion strug­gles, this is a blood­cur­dling short­cut, one that fore­shad­ows somber days.

May Serê Kaniyê not become anoth­er Guernica!

To be continued…

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…