A one-year-old baby girl is in critical condition at the hospital in Raqqa, Syria, after Turkish armed forces bombed her home near Ain Issa, Syria, while she and her family members were sleeping on Tuesday, August 4, 2021. Four of her family members died in the attack, including a 12-year-old boy and two young girls. The images of their bodies have been made public by the Syrian Democratic Forces. 

According to North Press Agency, “between two and three in the morning on Tuesday, a Turkish tank bombarded a civilian home in the village of Safawi, east of Ain Issa. The shelling killed four members of the same family: 54-year-old Zidan Khalaf al-Issa, 12-year-old Ziyad al-Issa, Muna Khalaf al-Issa, and Huda Khalaf al-Issa.”

This is a crime under international law. Whether public outcry may prevent further Turkish aggression is not certain. The bombing within the sovereign territory of another nation-state is an act of aggression under multiple international treaties to which Turkey is a party, such as the Charter of the United Nations. However, Turkey seems to have abandoned international norms on human rights, as evidenced by the country’s jailing and/or sacking of journalists, political opposition, university professors, and others who criticize the current regime. The Turkish government seems to have made the calculation that no one will actually stop them.

The Charter of the United Nations makes it clear that member nations should not engage in force against other member nations, stating, “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” 

Of course, the charter contains an exception for nation-states acting in self defense. This is why Turkey has made claims that it is in fact acting in self defense, claiming that the people of North and East Syria are engaging in acts of terrorism that actually violate their own security and sovereignty.

This “terrorism fallacy” in the logic of international law is being erroneously applied to the people of North and East Syria. There can be no clearer picture of this error than the images of dead children and a one-year-old baby girl in a hospital in Raqqa — dead at the hands of Turkey.

This one-year-old baby girl is not a terrorist. Turkey is in naked violation of international law. It was in violation in March 2018 when its military marched into the fertile region of Afrin, Syria — a region it brutally occupies to this day, with its own forces and its proxies. 

Turkey was further in violation in October 2019, when Turkish forces invaded the regions of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) and Tel Abyad (Gire Spi), an invasion green-lighted by then-President Trump and broadly condemned by governments, public figures, and human rights observers across the globe. All of the critique and all of the outcry did little to slow the Turkish military tanks as they seized villages.

The question becomes, what will it take for the international community to act to stop Turkish aggression?

Perhaps the images of these children in North and East Syria, killed by soldiers wearing the Turkish flag, may turn the heads of those who have so far chosen to look away.