We envision a Syria based on peace, prosperity, and human rights. Every Syrian deserves the freedom to live without fear of bombings, harassment, intimidation, and violence. Every Syrian who had to flee their homes due to war, instability, and occupation should have the right to return home. No Syrian should have to worry how their children will be fed, how they will survive the cold winter, or how they will pay for medicine if they get sick. We wish only for peace and stability in order to rebuild and recover, and for the economy of our region to bounce back.
Unfortunately, we are so far from where we need to be. In the past ten years, Syrians have seen so much hardship, death, war, violence.
In North and East Syria, our people are in need of much reconstruction, following the Syrian civil uprising starting in 2011, the brutal rise of ISIS in our region, and now Turkey.
In the past six months, Turkey has significantly accelerated the pace of weaponized drone attacks in our region. An analysis by the US organization JINSA shows that Turkey has launched at least 23 attacks against “Kurdish targets” since the beginning of August 2021, many of which have fallen in North and East Syria. Last month, Turkish President Erdogan issued a new round of threats against us, saying he intended to expand his operations “to eliminate the threats emanating from Syria.” The inhumane Turkish occupation of our region continues — the large agricultural region of Afrin, as well as the villages of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) and Tel Abyad (Gire Spi).
In Afrin, Turkey has been engaged since 2018 in a systematic campaign to drive the Kurdish population out of the region and replace them with inhabitants who are friendly to the Turkish government. About 300,000 of the original inhabitants have fled. Now brutal Turkish-backed militias patrol the streets in gangs, stealing our resources, selling drugs and anything of value, promoting Islamic extremism, and intimidating and harassing women, marginalized peoples, and anyone who dares to criticize the Turkish occupiers. Over 400,000 new inhabitants have taken up residence in Afrin since 2018, mainly the families of the Turkish-backed militias. These Turkish-backed militias have had the audacity to call themselves the “Syrian National Army.” But these militias do not serve Syria. They serve Turkey. And they are given weapons, paychecks, logistical support, and marching orders from Turkey as well.
In Sere Kaniye and Tel Abyad, few of the original inhabitants remain, and new Turkish drone attacks continue to rain down on the region. These villages were invaded by the Turkish military in October 2019 during the so-called “Peace Spring” operations, that saw scores of deaths and over 100,000 new displaced Syrians. These displaced people, most of whom are living in camps and temporary shelters all over North and East Syria, wish to return to their homes.
Our people have not provoked any attack. Turkey continues its claims that they are bombing us due to concerns about terrorism from North and East Syria. But there has not been one cross-border attack against Turkey coming from us. What Turkey is actually doing is waging further genocide against ethnic minorities in our region: Kurds, Yezidis, Syriac Christians, and others. Turkish President Erdogan beats the war drum against us in order to stir nationalist sentiment to serve his domestic political agenda. He uses the racism of the nationalists within Turkey to consolidate his power.
Turkey is our neighbor, and we wish to have good neighborly relations. But how can we survive with a neighbor such as this one? Currently, it is Turkey who is robbing North and East Syria of the stability that we need to thrive. We ask the international community to act to stop Turkish aggression against us.
Our people are ready to do the work of reconstruction. We have hundreds of thousands of people who wish to return home, cook in their own kitchens again, tend their own gardens, and sleep in their own beds. We have students and teachers who wish to return to the classroom. We have nurses and health care workers who are ready to roll up their sleeves and bring our healthcare system back. We have farmers who wish to get back to their land and their animals and do the hard work of providing food for our country. We have shop owners and service personnel ready to enliven our cities, towns, and villages again with commerce. We have construction workers who are ready to rebuild schools, roads, irrigation systems, and hospitals that were destroyed by explosives. We have artists, musicians, and dancers who wish to fill our lives with color and song again. We wish to rebuild our country, recover economically, and return to peace.
But first, we need the international community to pressure Turkey into stopping its aggression against us. We need the skies free of bombs and drones, so that we can see the sun rise on a stable, secure, prosperous Syria.