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How the Syrian Conflict Became a War of Ethnic Cleansing
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Syrian Arab militiamen leading the Turkish attack on Afrin in northern Syria are threatening to massacre its Kurdish population unless they convert to the variant of Islam espoused by Isis and al-Qaeda. In the past such demands have preceded the mass killings of sectarian and ethnic minorities in both Syria and Iraq.

In one video a militia fighter flanked by others describes the Kurds as “infidels” and issues a stark warning, saying “by Allah, if you repent and come back to Allah, then know that you are our brothers. But if you refuse, then we see that your heads are ripe, and that it’s time for us to pluck them.” Though the Kurds in Afrin are Sunni Muslims, Isis and al-Qaeda traditionally punish those who fail to subscribe to their beliefs as heretics deserving death.

“The video is 100 per cent authentic,” said Rami Abdulrahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which released it, in an interview with The Independent. He adds that he is very concerned about the fate of some Yazidi villages in Afrin captured by the advancing Turkish forces, saying he has seen videos taken by the militiamen themselves in one of which “an elderly Yazidi man is questioned by them, asking him how many times he prays a day.”

Such interrogations of Yazidis by Isis to prove that they were not Muslims often preceded the killings, rapes and the taking of Yazidi women as sex slaves when Isis seized Yazidi areas in northern Iraq in 2014. Mr Abdulrahman, who is the leading human rights monitor in Syria with a network of informants throughout the country, says he is worried that international attention is entirely focused on the Syrian army assault on Eastern Ghouta and “nobody is talking about” the potential slaughter of the Kurds and other minorities in Afrin.

He says that the two situations are similar since “President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have taken 60 per cent of Ghouta and [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s forces have taken 60 per cent of Afrin.” He says that as many as one million Kurds may be threatened and adds that it is becoming extremely difficult for them to escape from Afrin because Syrian government checkpoints on the only road leading south to Aleppo “are demanding bribes of up to $4,000 per family to let people through.”

Mr Abdulrahman points to growing evidence drawn from videos taken by themselves of militiamen claiming to be members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that the units advancing ahead of regular Turkish troops are extreme jihadis. This has previously been asserted by a former Isis member in an interview published by The Independent last month who said that many of his former comrades had been recruited and retrained by the Turkish military. He said that Isis recruits had been instructed by Turkish trainers not to use their traditional tactics, such as the of extensive use of car bombs, because this would identify them as terrorists. He suspected that Isis fighters would be used as cannon fodder in Turkey’s war against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and then discarded.

As the Turkish army closes in on Afrin and the Syrian army penetrates deeply into the opposition stronghold of Eastern Ghouta, people in both areas fear that they will be the victims of enforced demographic change. One Kurdish observer in Iraq said that he thought Mr Erdogan, who has claimed that the majority in Afrin is not Kurdish, will “bring in Turkmen and others to replace the Kurdish population.”

Isis is particularly hostile to the US-backed YPG, as its most effective enemy which drove it out of a quarter of Syrian territory and captured the de facto Isis capital of Raqqa last October after a four-month siege.

As Mr Abdulrahman says, the sieges of Afrin and Eastern Ghouta have much in common, though the number of those trapped in Afrin may be larger. Motives for refusing to leave are also much the same. “I will never leave Ghouta,” said Haytham Bakkar, an anti-government journalist living there, speaking just as the present Syrian Army assault was getting underway. “We have lived here for hundreds and thousands of years. Here our grandparents lived. Here are our houses and tombs. We were born here and we will die here. Our souls and roots are here.”

Bakkar says that most people in Eastern Ghouta are convinced that their departure is part of a broader government plan to make drastic demographic changes whereby their property would be given to others. He says that even if people survived the dangerous journey out of the area, they did not want “to watch TV news and see strangers living in our homes.”

Kurds make a similar calculation, but it is also becoming extremely dangerous for them to try to flee. Precedents have already been set for ethnic and sectarian cleansing all over Syria since 2011 as those in control oust members of other communities.

The YPG is a formidable force and the YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud says that the group has 10,000 fighters in the enclave who would fight to the end. He says that Kurds are already being displaced and “in one village alone 600 people were told to go.” He said that the Kurds feared a genocide was in the making and complained that “the international media focus on Eastern Ghouta has given the Turks the opportunity to step up their attack on Afrin without the rest of the world paying much attention”. The Kurdish authorities are trying to publicise the sufferings of civilians in Afrin, but are so far not having much success.

In the long term – and possibly in the short term – Afrin may prove to be indefensible. It is surrounded by Turkish forces and their FSA allies who are vastly superior in numbers and heavy weapons and are able to use air power and artillery without opposition.


None of the foreign players in the Syrian crisis show any sign of intervening against Turkey. The Turks were able to invade Afrin on 20 January because Russia decided it would no longer defend its airspace as it had been doing previously. Kurdish leaders say they believe that Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed that Turkey will get Afrin, possibly in exchange for the Turks agreeing to drop their support for the one big remaining anti-Assad enclave in Idlib.

The Turkish offensive against the Kurds in Afrin will not end when it falls, but its elimination may set the stage for further Turkish attacks against Kurdish-held territory further east. This will bring the Turks into a confrontation with the Washington which will try mediate, but, if US forces are to stay in Syria, then they will still need the Kurds as their one ally on the ground. But, if the fall of Afrin is accompanied by mass killings and ethnic cleansing, then the war in northern Syria is about to get a whole lot worse.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Kurds, Syria, Turkey 
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  1. T. G. says:

    More details on the NATO war on civilians in Syria:.

    Almost nothing, a few lines, from the CBC, and BBC.

    TD: East Ghoutta over a period of the last 7 years has shelled Damascus repeatedly, to a cost of 1500 children killed so far, over the last 7 year(s). Thirty two thousand people are maimed, loss of limbs. And around about 25,000 killed (inaudible) approximately. So, the Syrian government turned its attention, offered the East Ghoutta people amnesty to surrender or take them to Idlib, and they immediately started shelling Damascus. In the first day, the first month there was over a thousand shells rather in Damascus. Yesterday there was 270 plus shells blasting Damascus. And I spent yesterday watching doctors put a young girl’s – a 17-year old girl’s brains back inside her skull, and she died late in the last hour. And that’s the reality.

    GR: I understand there had been a ceasefire, at least between 9 and 2 in the afternoon?

    TD: Ceasefire on between the UN that was brokered by the Russians and the Syrian army with the terrorists, and that ceasefire lasts from nine o’clock in the morning to two o’clock in the afternoon. What happened yesterday is that terrorists shelled Damascus at eleven o’clock. They attacked the schools in Damascus (inaudible). And then they attacked Jeremana.

    GR: They talk about people in cages…the militants are putting people in cages and using them as armed – as human shields. Can you comment on that?

    TD: They did that two year(s) ago in Jobar. The same group that’s in East Ghoutta is from Jobar. They put Allawine, Christian, and other ethnic groups that (inaudible) in cages and put them on the rooftops and on the streets, so that the Syrian government wouldn’t fire on them.

    I watched a child die yesterday! I was standing there watching them put her brains back in her head! And it’s not a pleasant site. I watched a policeman come in with a hole in his leg! I’ve seen women who didn’t know her daughter had died. And she was given (inaudible) All she wanted to know is if her daughter was okay and they couldn’t tell her anything because she had a big hole in her back.

    They target schools! They target hospitals! When I was in Aleppo, we discovered the headquarters of every terrorist group was in a school! They surround themselves with human shields which are children!

    Truth and Lies of the Syrian Conflict

    Conversations with Eva Bartlett, Tom Duggan and Patrick Henningsen. Global Research News Hour episode 212

  2. Of interest:

    Document:The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is a Propaganda Front funded by the EU

    New York Times admits fraudulent Syrian human rights group is UK-based “one-man band” funded by EU and one other “European country”

    Disclaimer (#3)Document.png article by Tony Cartalucci dated 12 April 2013Subjects: Rami Abdulrahman, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Al Qaeda
    Source: Global Research (Link)

    In reality, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has long ago been exposed as an absurd propaganda front operated by Rami Abdulrahman out of his house in England’s countryside. According to a December 2011 Reuters article titled, “Coventry – an unlikely home to prominent Syria activist,” Abdulrahman admits he is a member of the so-called “Syrian opposition” and seeks the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad:

    After three short spells in prison in Syria for pro-democracy activism, Abdulrahman came to Britain in 2000 fearing a longer, fourth jail term:

    “I came to Britain the day Hafez al-Assad died, and I’ll return when Bashar al-Assad goes,” Abdulrahman said, referring to Bashar’s father and predecessor Hafez, also an autocrat.

    One could not fathom a more unreliable, compromised, biased source of information, yet for the past two years, his “Observatory” has served as the sole source of information for the endless torrent of propaganda emanating from the Western media. Perhaps worst of all, is that the United Nations uses this compromised, absurdly overt source of propaganda as the basis for its various reports – at least, that is what the New York Times now claims in their recent article, “A Very Busy Man Behind the Syrian Civil War’s Casualty Count.”

    The NYT piece admits:

    Military analysts in Washington follow its body counts of Syrian and rebel soldiers to gauge the course of the war. The United Nations and human rights organisations scour its descriptions of civilian killings for evidence in possible war crimes trials. Major news organisations, including this one, cite its casualty figures.

    Yet, despite its central role in the savage civil war, the grandly named Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is virtually a one-man band. Its founder, Rami Abdulrahman, 42, who fled Syria 13 years ago, operates out of a semidetached red-brick house on an ordinary residential street in this drab industrial city [Coventry, England].

    The New York Times also for the first time reveals that Abdulrahman’s operation is indeed funded by the European Union and a “European country” he refuses to identify:

    Money from two dress shops covers his minimal needs for reporting on the conflict, along with small subsidies from the European Union and one European country that he declines to identify.

    And while Abdulrahman refuses to identify that “European country,” it is beyond doubt that it is the United Kingdom itself – as Abdulrahman has direct access to the Foreign Secretary William Hague, who he has been documented meeting in person on multiple occasions at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. The NYT in fact reveals that it was the British government that first relocated Abdulrahman to Coventry, England after he fled Syria over a decade ago because of his anti-government activities:

    When two associates were arrested in 2000, he fled the country, paying a human trafficker to smuggle him into England. The government resettled him in Coventry, where he decided he liked the slow pace.

    Abdulrahman is not a “human rights activist.” He is a paid propagandist. He is no different than the troupe of unsavory, willful liars and traitors provided refuge in Washington and London during the Iraq war and the West’s more recent debauchery in Libya, for the sole purpose of supplying Western governments with a constant din of propaganda and intentionally falsified intelligence reports designed specifically to justify the West’s hegemonic designs.

    Abdulrahman’s contemporaries include the notorious Iraqi defector Rafid al-Janabi, codename “Curveball,” who now gloats publicly that he invented accusations of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the West’s casus belli for a 10-year war that ultimately cost over a million lives, including thousands of Western troops, and has left Iraq still to this day in shambles. There’s also the lesser known Dr Sliman Bouchuiguir of Libya, who formed the foundation of the pro-West human rights racket in Benghazi and now openly brags in retrospect that tales of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s atrocities against the Libyan people were likewise invented to give NATO its sought-after impetus to intervene militarily.

    Unlike in Iraq and Libya, the West has failed categorically to sell military intervention in Syria, and even its covert war has begun to unravel as the public becomes increasingly aware that the so-called “pro-democracy rebels” the West has been arming for years are in fact sectarian extremists fighting under the banner of Al Qaeda. The charade that is the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” is also unravelling. It is unlikely that the New York Times limited hangout will convince readers that Rami Abdul Rahman is anything other than another “Curveball” helping the corporate-financier elite of Wall Street and London sell another unnecessary war to the public.

  3. Renoman says:

    Sometimes I think we should just Nuke the whole Middle East and get it over with.

    • Replies: @Weaver1
    , @nijetakolose
  4. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Afrin is a Kurd city. The Kurds are biologically identical to the Jews. They look like Jews too. Let the Jews help them.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  5. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Shut up liar. Who wants to be part of the criminal tribe? These lies are made only by dummies. Traitor kurds are pawns of US – Israel thieves, terrorists and rapists who will be executed since they have assisted the evil empire and its terrorists in Syria and elsewhere to implement their geopolitical plan to help zionist criminals and expand their hegemony where NO ONE ACCEPT.

    The illiterate, ignorant, zionist pimp is a mass murderer, terrorist and a theif who has invaded Syria with the help of the TRAITOR KURDS, captured 1/3 of Syrian land with its gas and oil resources.
    This is crimes against humanity and HE IS A ZIONIST ILLITERATE THIEF where the UN chairman has no word against it in order to keep his PETTY JOB. He is one of the behind lickers of the evil empire to feed himself so ICC consists of criminal pimps who go after the victims and leave all these war criminals including Blair, Bush, Obama, Clinton, Kissinger, Samantha Power, Netanyahu and thousands more off the hook to keep their petty jobs.

    Russia must order these invaders and thieves to fuck off from Syria, if they don’t then shoot at them and kill all the invaders otherwise Putin and Lavrov must shut up and fuck off from Syria.

    We are waiting to see that Russia is not a traitor and Putin and Lavrov nor cowards, or servant of the zionist interest. We will soon get the message, then we will expose the behind zionist lickers and racists. Down with Evil empire.

    As Stephen Gowans correctly writes:

    {The United States HAS ROBBED SYRIA of “two of the largest oil and gas fields in Deir Ezzour”, including the al-Omar oil field, Syria’s largest. [18] Last September, the United States plundered Syria of “a gas field and plant known in Syria as the Conoco gas plant” (though its affiliation with Conoco is historical; the plant was acquired by the Syrian Gas Company in 2005.)}

    [..Now arrives the latest US transgression on the ideals of sovereignty, independence, and the equality of nations: marauders in Washington have pilfered part of the territory of one of the last bastions of Arab independence—Syria. Indeed, Washington now controls “about one-third of the country including most of its oil wealth”, [1] has no intention of returning it to its rightful owners, has planned for an indefinite military occupation of eastern Syria, and is creating a new Israel, which is to say, an new imperialist outpost in the middle of the Arab world, to be governed by Kurdish proxies backed by US firepower. [2] The crime has been carried out openly, and yet has hardly been noticed or remarked upon.

    Here are the facts:

    In January, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that US “troops will remain in Syria” indefinitely “to ensure that neither Iran nor President Bashar al-Assad of Syria will take over areas” [3] the United States captured from ISIS, even though these areas belong to the Syrian Arab Republic, by law and right, and not to Washington, or to Washington’s Kurdish proxy, the SDF. The SDF, or Syrian Democratic Force, is a US-constructed outfit which, in journalist Robert Fisk’s words, is neither Syrian (it’s dominated by Kurds, including those of Turkish origin) nor democratic (since it imposes Kurdish rule over traditionally Arab areas and dances to a tune called by a foreign master.)

    In addition to US military advisers, Army Rangers, artillery, Special Operations forces, satellite-guided rockets and Apache attack helicopters [10], the United States has deployed US diplomats to Syria to create government and administrative structures to supersede the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic. [11] Plus, the United States “is now working to transform Kurdish fighters into a local security force” to handle policing [12] while US diplomats on the ground work to establish local governments to run the occupied territory’s affairs. [13]

    “The idea in US policy circles” is to create “a soft partition” of Syria between the United States and Russia along the Euphrates, “as it was among the Elbe [in Germany] at the end of the Second World War.” [14] On top of the 28 percent of Syria the United States occupies, it controls “half of Syria’s energy resources, the Euphrates Dam at Tabqa, as well as much of Syria’s best agricultural land.” [15]

  6. FB says:

    Well…the legendary [in his own mind] ‘war correspondent’ Patrick Cockburn brings us a breathless ‘interview’ with the ‘the leading human rights monitor in Syria with a network of informants throughout the country’…

    One Mr Abdulrahman…who lives in Coventry, England [flight distance Damasucs to London…~3,500 km]…

    His wikipedia entry tells us he ‘owns a clothes shop’…and has a staff of 1 person…which naturally qualifies him as…

    ‘…the leading human rights monitor in Syria…’

    Here is the man himself…as pictured in the NYT…

    NYT tells us that Abdulrahman…

    ‘…operates out of a semi-detached red-brick house on an ordinary residential street in this drab industrial city…’

    Anyway…the jackass Cockburn is more useful than he imagines…

    This latest piece of agit-prop railing against the Turks and their operation against the Kurds in Afrin is quite useful in gauging the frustration of the US regime-change project in Syria…

    For those…like myself…who had been somewhat suspicious of the Turks’ true motives in Syria…and that they may well be doing the US a favor [at the expense of the Afrin Kurds]…by carving out yet another foreign-controlled enclave in Syria…

    …This hostility towards the Turks and their FSA proxies…now bitterly compared to ISIS…[where previously both the SOHR and the MSM had lauded the FSA as ‘freedom fighters’]…actually tells us plenty…

    So thank you Jackass Cockburn…like all prevaricators who are too clever for their own britches…they inevitably trip themselves up in their own fancy footwork…

    We now can rest assured that the Turks are indeed squeezing the US pimple to its bursting point…

    Hence the increasing crescendo of protestation from useful idiots like Jackass Cockburn…


  7. Antiwar7 says:

    Why are Afrin and eastern Ghouta described the same way in this article, when it only includes evidence of ethnic cleansing in Afrin?

  8. Weaver1 says:

    Or we could just bring all troops home and cut spending. There’s no purpose to the warring.

  9. @Renoman

    Sometimes I think we should just Nuke the whole USA and get it over with.

    • Replies: @anonymous
  10. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Very good idea, the only way humanity can be saved.

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