Syrian Kurds say Western allies 'betrayed them' in Afrin

Syrian Kurds say Western allies 'betrayed them' in Afrin
Around 250,000 civilians have fled the violence in Afrin and dozens of others have been killed, as well as around 1,500 Kurdish fighters.
3 min read
21 March, 2018
Turkey and allied Syrian rebel groups captured Afrin on Sunday. [Getty]

Syrian Kurds feel betrayed by their Western allies following the seizure of their stronghold Afrin by Turkish military forces and allied Syrian rebels.

Ankara and allied rebel groups captured the city from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) on Sunday, after a two-month offensive on the broader Afrin region.

Around 250,000 civilians have fled the violence in Afrin and dozens of others have been killed, as well as around 1,500 Kurdish fighters, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The loss of Afrin has been a huge blow to the Kurdish minority in Syria, which has been torn apart by civil war since 2011.

"The silence of the international community is complicit in the macabre plan of (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan. Silence means acceptance," a group of Kurds originally from Afrin and now living in Europe told the French daily Le Monde on Tuesday.

"Don't abandon your allies!" they said.

'Ethnic cleansing'

Turkey considers the YPG "terrorists" allied with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged a three-decade insurgency inside Turkey.

But Washington and the anti-Islamic State international coalition have backed the YPG to spearhead its effort to oust IS militants from Syria.

"The same fighters who fought courageously against Daesh (the Arabic acronym for IS group) are today left to the mercy of the Turkish army," said Khaled Issa, the official representative in France of Syria's Kurdistan.

"There's a moral responsibility for the international community in the face of an unjustified and illegal aggression," Issa told AFP.

"What is happening in Afrin is ethnic cleansing and the great powers are spectators," he said.

The Kurdish Community of Germany, where about one million Kurds live, claims that Turkey will face no repercussions for its offensive.

"Given that the aggressor (Turkey) is part of NATO, this violation of international law will never be sanctioned," the group said.

"Afrin is the most brutal expression of what's called Realpolitik," Didier Billion, deputy director of the Institute for International and Strategic Relations told AFP.

"The Western powers, especially the Americans, were very happy to have the Syrian Kurdish troops on the ground to fight against IS. But Ankara, a NATO member, will always be more important than Afrin," the French specialist on Turkey said.

Washington had on Monday warned Ankara of its "great concern" over the taking of Afrin.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed the same sentiments and called on Moscow, the Syrian regime's main ally, "to do all it could to stop the fighting and civilian losses".

For the group of Kurds from Afrin the West is missing the true significance of the fall of the Kurdish bastion.

"The European governments need to understand that it is not only a question of the security of our people, but the fall of Afrin means the creation of a new jihadist base threatening the security of Paris, Berlin and London," the group said.