Dilar Dirik is from northern Kurdistan (Turkey). She is an activist of the Kurdish women’s movement and writes on the Kurdish freedom struggle for an international audience. She is currently working on her PhD at the Sociology Department of Cambridge University, United Kingdom.
Recently The Region conducted an interview with Dilar Dirik discussing the revolution in Rojava and Turkey’s aggression in Afrin. The Balochistan Post is republishing this interview for the interest of our readers.
The US, the UK and France attacked alleged chemical facilities in Syria on April 14. This made clearer the relevance of a leftist alternative to the military regimes in the region. Every project that is neither supportive of Bashar al-Assad and his allies, Iran and Russia, nor supportive of the Syrian rebels and their European and US allies, is purported to be a danger by the neighbouring countries. However, the Kurds of Syria, even as they have been left alone by the pro-Assad forces and the anti-ISIS international coalition, have kept fighting their existential war against the Turkish authorities. The Turkish army entered into the Afrin Canton last March 18, as the conclusion of the operation “Olive Branch” that began last January 20. It seems that the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, engaged in strengthening his links with Teheran and Moscow, considers, both internally and externally, a pro-workers, pro-ecology, pro-women liberation and communalist movement to be an even greater threat than ISIS. Here, The Region speaks to Dilar Dirik, activist of the Kurdish Women Movement, in order to better understand which would be the future of the Rojava project in this context of armed war.
As pro-Turkish rebels are ruling Afrin, can we argue that the Rojava dream is ending?
Not at all, the resistance in Afrin is strong. After 58 days of resistance, the YPJ/YPG fighters decided to transform the nature of the war. Henceforth they will be engaged in a guerrilla war. The resistance is not over at all. This has been only a fight within the war. For the Kurdish militants, Rojava is an idea, a political project that has influenced hundreds of thousands of people. Time has not passed in vain. The experiment of democratic autonomy will go on: this is only a temporary withdrawal. The Kurdish fighters might go back to Afrin after a while, and there project maybe even more radical. When the Kobane inhabitants have been forced to leave their town because the ISIS jihadists occupied it, after YPG/YPJ defeated ISIS, they went back asking for more democratic structures. The same will happen in Afrin.
Why has the International community abandoned the Kurds again?
This is not the true international community. We should make a distinction between the true civil international community that mobilized everywhere: in Afghanistan, Japan, South Africa as well. In other words, there has been a mobilization for Afrin even in countries where there is not a Kurdish community. The international community of the states abandoned the Kurds instead.
However, the word “abandoned” might be misleading.
The Kurds did never count on international support in the first place, and we knew very well that US support was only a tactical, and military alliance. We knew that when ISIS would have been defeated, the Kurds would have been left alone. To the international conferences on Syria, the Kurds are not invited in order to avoid any kind of Turkish irritation. Turkey is strategic for them and it is aneighbourr for al-Assad. Nobody would expect that a Leftist revolution with a central role for women could have succeeded in this region. We knew that at a political level, they would have never supported us. In addition, the Turkish attacks took place with Western complicity: Italy, the UK and Germany are selling weapons that targeted Afrin. They need for the war to continue in order to spread chaos in the Middle East. Their aim is to prevent any kind of leftist revolution or leftist political project from materialising.
The numbers are clear enough: the Turkish attacks brought about hundreds of causalities while a UN ceasefire on Syria had been imposed. For this reason, can we say that Erdogan is a war criminal?
Erdogan is a war criminal, and he does not hide it. He supported jihadist groups on the ground. The pro-Turkish forces committed and recorded their war crimes, murders, tortures and lootings, and afterwards even published documentation of their crimes onto social networks. They are sure about themselves. This is clear from Erdogan’s own words: “We will clean this land and give it back to the legitimate owners”. He defined all Kurds as terrorists and he wants to move them from the North of Syria to create a buffer zone. So this is really an ethnic cleansing. They imposed Turkish flags everywhere in Afrin, they demolished the Kawa statue, a symbol of the Kurdish resistance. Thus, they deliberately attacked Kurdish culture. And they want to eradicate the democratic project of Rojava. They argue that Arabs and Turks are against the Kurds, but actually Arabs, Syriacs and Armenians fight together with the Kurds.
Rojava is not a threat for Turkey, as we fight for women liberation, etc. Erdogan instead, as the Baath party has done in the Sixties, want to displace the Kurds from Northern Syria in order to let them always be a minority. With this pretext, they destroyed entire regions in Turkish Kurdistan and committed massacres of civilians in Cizre and Nusaibin for example. A dirty war is the Erdogan politics against the Kurdish autonomy and the idea of democracy. In a nutshell, he considers unbearable a revolutionary system close to the Turkish borders. What a shame that the international community does not define him as a war criminal!
The biggest disaster is the high number of refugees and displaced people due to the Turkish attacks. How is it possible that the EU confirmed the second tranche of 3 billion euro in aids to Turkey in this context?
There are more than 300,000 displaced people after the Turkish attacks. Erdogan is using refugees as a threat towards Europe. He promised the German authorities that Turkey would keep the refugees within their territory. However, he is creating thousands of new refugees to continue threatening Europe of an immigrant invasion. In addition, he is using this issue in order to divide the refugees and trigger the fight among Syrians and Kurds in Turkey. He tried to Islamize and indoctrinate the refugees. The PKK and YPG/YPJ welcomed thousands of refugees from Sinjar in Rojava. It was a safe place for all the refugees. It is for this reason that the Afrin population doubled in last years.
What will happen in Afrin?
It is a long war. Decisions come from Russia and the United States. They let Turkish aviation to use the Syrian airspace. The Kurdish movement will never leave Afrin to the Turks. Thus, we have asked to begin a campaign to boycott Turkey.