The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 23rd February 2018


by our Arab Affairs correspondent

SYRIAN people’s militia fighters have joined Kurdish defenders in Afrin, the capital of the Kurdish-run province in northern Syria, that has been fending off Turkish aggression for the last four weeks or so. The Kremlin has called for respect for Syria’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity whilst Iranian and Russian diplomats work behind the scenes to try and prevent a major escalation in the Syrian conflict.

The Syrian popular-front government in Damascus accepted Kurdish autonomy in the north in 2012 whilst retaining control of the border crossings. Though relations with the central government began well, the Kurdish administration soon gravitated towards US imperialism. Their leaders foolishly believed that the Americans were their “only allies” when Washington sent arms and military advisors to join them in the battle to drive ISIS out. Now with the Turks bearing down on them, the Syrian Kurds are now calling on the Assad government to join in the fight.

Following repeated appeals for help, a convoy of fighters from Syria’s National Defence Forces (NDF) entered Afrin on Tuesday despite Turkish attempts to block the road with artillery fire. The NDF forces, which are supported and trained by the Syrian Arab Army, have been deployed around Afrin to support the Kurdish militias defending their villages and homes against ISIS gunmen as well as the Turkish invaders and their local Arab auxiliaries. Afrin province is home to about 1.5 million Kurds and refugees from other Syrian regions, and has been part of the autonomous Kurdish “Rojava” territory since 2012.

The Turkish attack began on 20th January. The Turks say their only objective is to crush the Kurdish militias that they say have been helping to foment the Kurdish revolt in eastern Turkey. The Turkish army claim to have “neutralised” a total of 1,780 “terrorists”, a term they use to describe any Kurd they kill, wound or capture.

But the Kurds say they’ve inflicted heavy casualties on the invaders and that most of their own losses have been civilian. They say more than 630 civilians, mostly women and children, have been killed or injured by indiscriminate Turkish shelling and poison gas attacks. The Turkish army and its ‘Free Syrian Army’ auxiliaries have forced thousands to flee the border areas whilst leaving a swathe of destruction in their wake, including a number of bakeries, water-pumping stations, schools, a railway station and a number of historic landmarks.

This week Syrian MP Alan Bakr told the media that the entry of the NDF to Afrin region was a clear message to the Turkish regime to back off.

“The confrontation of the Turkish aggression which started one month ago requires the intervention of popular forces that will enter the region to help their brothers. The Syrian state’s message was clear in this regards. It will not stand idly by as Turkey carries out aggression on Syrian territory,” the MP said, adding that the time has not yet come for the entry of the Syrian army to the Afrin region.

Bakr said that the people’s militias were set up when the war on Syria first began. Popular committees were formed to protect local areas and they have now become an active power in fighting terrorism on the ground. These committees are composed of civilians, who have been trained to respect human rights and to evacuate civilians as well as to help survivors to reach safe areas.

The main base of these groups was the ‘people’s army’, which was institutionally formed in Syria decades ago, and it has trained civilians to be reserve forces. Reserve forces have become supportive of the Syrian army and they participate in the fight in accordance with the circumstances of the battles.

“Syria won’t stop its military operations until terrorism is defeated. Our response is not by declarations but by deeds,” Bakr added, underlining that the Syrian government will press ahead with both peace talks and counter-terrorism to achieve a better future for the Syrian people.