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No to war! No to Turkish state’s military operation in Northern Syria (Rojava)!

Canan Sahin

October 11, 2019

The consensus between the Trump government in the US and the AKP-MHP alliance - the alliance between the ruling Justice and Development Party and fascist Nationalist Movement Party that has been in effect since the defeated military coup attempt - paved the way for an anti-Kurdish military operation in Northern Syria.

During the 2013-2015 peace negotiation between the Turkish State and PKK, the leading guerilla movement in the northern Kurdistan within Turkish State’s borders, we saw a rapid decline in the military conflict and deaths in the region. The process also contributed to development of a peaceful atmosphere in the Kurdish populated regions. On the other hand, since the summer of 2015, the return to war policies created immense suffering for the populations in the Kurdish areas. Also, the resort to war has contributed to construction of thick walls between the populations in the region.

The Turkish state has shamelessly named its recent military operation as “The Fountain of Peace”. The key to peace is not a full-fledged military assault on the Kurds in Northern Syria but the resolution of the Kurdish issue by recognizing their right to self-determination, which will allow the peoples in the region to build a peaceful future for themselves.

The current military operation has two major objectives. One is definitely destruction of the Kurdish autonomy as well as its political power in Northern Syria. The second objective is to create a so-called ‘safe zone’ into which the Syrian refugees will be sent back. In the context of the latter, by referring to the refugees as the source of social, cultural and economic crises, the Turkish state threatens the security of millions of Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey. Scapegoating migrants as the source of all economic and political problems is a phenomenon that we are familiar with in European and Northern American political context, too.

We, as socialists, always fight against anti-migrant ideology and policies, arguing that the major reason for economic crisis, increasing living expenses and unemployment is not migrants, but greedy capitalists and their political guardians. The solution to the problem cannot be sending the refugees back but banning the discharge of refugees in workplaces, taxing the businesses that benefit from the cheap refugee labor, lifting the strike bans that make it impossible for a joint struggle to emerge and introducing anti-austerity policies that can benefit working classes as a whole. Sending refugees who fled from oppression, war and torture back to Syria is not only a violation of human rights but a strategy to divide the working classes deeply. 

The AKP government is currently launching an oppressive public and media campaign that labels whoever opposes the war as “traitor”. Unfortunately, those who were seen as the hope of the left against AKP in the major opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) are now lined up with the state’s military agenda. The new Istanbul major and CHP leadership openly and immediately endorsed AKP’s war policies. This is the proof of the weakness of coalition strategies against AKP, whose major principle has so far been building an empty anti-AKP front without real political content. The military operation and the consensus created around it shows us that without building an internationalist democratic platform, it is not possible to create a persistent movement against war, authoritarianism and austerity in Turkey.

Socialists oppose war also because war means depriving the workers and the oppressed of their basic rights, including their right to live. Military operations always bring with themselves an upsurge in nationalist ideology. Whoever is not considered nationalist enough is attacked and antagonized by the state. Freedom of expression, organization and protest is severely attacked in the periods of war. A war beyond the borders also means a war at home against whatever remnants of democracy exist.

The dominant state discourse since 2015 in Turkey has been built around an artificial imperative that put the “survival of the state” in the centre. This strengthened militarist centralization of the state. A military operation in Syria will give this rhetoric a new content. In a geopolitical conflict, where both the big powers like USA and regional powers like Turkey have a stake, a war can also unleash a large-scale destructive process. In this context, Trump’s racist and aggressive public discourse evident in his tweets is not an insult on Turkish nationalism as ruling party and major opposition claim, but an attempt to demonstrate who holds the power to set the terms in the region against the rival forces.

The only way to prevent a large-scale destruction is to oppose the military operation of one’s own state. It is only by unmasking the Turkish state’s sub-imperialist policies can a movement fight against imperialism of the USA at the same time.

Some voices in the anti-war platform call for peaceful negotiations between the Turkish state and the Assad regime, a regime responsible for about 500.000 deaths in Syria. Thinking that the way to peace is the recognition of the Assad regime as legitimate is beyond comprehension. Recognizing the right to self-determination of the peoples of Syria is what we need to defend. Recognizing a brutal regime as the legitimate point of negotiation is what we need to fight. Those who conflate the two cannot build an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist solidarity movement that can link the emancipation of the working classes and Kurdish people living in both Turkish and Syrian borders.

Therefore, it is important to raise an anti-war voice in Turkey that recognizes Kurdish people’s self-determination as well as refugees’ right to stay in Turkey.

Canan Sahin is a member of the IS, International Socialists, in Canada and her sister organization DSIP, Revolutionary Socialist Worker Party, in Turkey.
(The article is mainly based on the written statements issued by DSIP in Turkey against the current war campaign of the Turkish state)


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