MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: Kurds accuse Turkey of destabilizing Syria two years after offensive / AFTER BIDEN’S TROOPS LEFT THE AREA

10.10.2021 ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – On the anniversary of Turkey’s offensive in northeast Syria, Kurdish authorities vowed they would regain control of territory they lost two years ago to Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies. Ankara marked the occasion with a message of congratulations to its troops.

Turkish forces and their allied Syrian militias launched Operation Peace Spring against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria (Rojava) on October 9, 2019, invading the border towns of Sari Kani (Ras al-Ain) and Gire Spi (Tal Abyad) after Washington pulled American forces back from the border. This was the second Turkish military offensive against Kurdish fighters. The first was in Afrin, in northwest, the previous year.

Most of the Kurdish population fled, but similar to Afrin, the invading forces are accused of committing violations against the Kurds who stayed behind.

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES) on Saturday called on the international community to prevent “the dangers of the Turkish policy in Syria,” claiming that Ankara’s goal is to establish a “new Ottoman project aimed at striking the stability of Syria and the region.”

NES renewed its pledge to continue its effort to regain control of Sari Kani and Gire Spi.

The Turkish defense ministry commemorated the anniversary with a tweet, congratulating its army for their “great heroism and self-sacrifice” and for establishing “peace and trust” through the military campaign. Ankara has labelled Kurdish forces in Rojava as a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and considers them a threat to its national security.

The invasion was ended with ceasefires brokered by Washington and Moscow that saw Kurdish forces withdraw from the Sari Kani and Gire Spi, and Russian and Syrian regime troops deployed to the frontline between the Kurds and Turkish-backed groups. The truces have been frequently violated.

A United Nations enquiry found civilians living under the rule of Syrian militias backed by Turkey in Sari Kani suffered from “increased levels of violence, including numerous car bombs and artillery shelling… Compounding the fragile security situation, civilians continued to endure international human rights violations at the hands of forces operating under the umbrella of the opposition Syrian National Army.”

The report, published in August, added that “Civilians – primarily of Kurdish origin – continued to be unlawfully deprived of their liberty” by Turkey-backed militia groups who were also accused of looting and appropriating civilian property and land belonging to Yazidis.

The Syrian National Army (SNA), an umbrella group of Turkey-backed militias was established in October 2019, told the UN investigators that its military judicial system was investigating those accused of violations, “with a view to holding them accountable.”

Three Syrian rights groups – PEL, Hevdesti Association, and Syrians for Truth and Justice – documented “large-scaling looting and pillage operations” by SNA factions in Sari Kani and Gire Spi in a report published on October 6.

The rights groups accused the SNA groups of looting 220 stores, warehouses and industrial facilities in Sari Kani when invading it, in addition to “robbing” residents of the town.