North and East Syria was previously an oasis of stability in the country. Under the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) of North and East Syria, 5 million Syrians of various ethnic and religious backgrounds – Kurds, Arabs, Christians (Armenians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs), Turkmens, Chechens, Alevites, and Yazidis – peacefully coexisted and were given a voice in their own affairs. After many months of threats, on 9 October, the Turkish military initiated an unprovoked, large-scale attack on North and East Syria aimed at destroying the DAA and ethnically cleansing the region. While a chorus of international condemnation followed, the events of the last few weeks have demonstrated the unfortunate limits of the world community to act in support of unrecognised governmental entities such as the DAA, and now the existence of the DAA is at risk.
In particular, the attacks of the Turkish state and its allies target the historic gains that women in Northern and Eastern Syria have managed to obtain over the course of seven years. Against the sexual violence of ISIS and similar groups, women from all ethnic and religious communities have built up their own structures to create a life in freedom and equality in the region. As the execution of Kurdish politician and women’s activist Hevrin Khalaf and the torture of the corpses of female Kurdish fighters by Turkey’s allies show, systematic violence against women appears to be a major objective of the military aggression.
As long as a formal political recognition of the DAA is not obtained, the Turkish state and military will continue to attack, invade, and occupy areas of North and East Syria under the governance of the DAA. Indeed, other state actors such as the Syrian regime will have a free hand to attack this once peaceful region under the current status quo, which represents a persistent existential threat to the peoples of North and East Syria. While the Turkish military and jihadist militias under its command commit well-documented war crimes, nothing can be done legally or politically because the DAA is an unrecognised, non-state actor. International legal institutions provide a framework for justice for state actors only, and, thus, the United Nations is, in effect, more a union of states than nations, and one in which non-state actors and vulnerable, oppressed peoples have little voice.
Our urgent call:
1. Call for and enforce the unconditional and immediate withdrawal of all Turkish forces from North and East Syria, including Afrin
2. Provide guarantees for the safety of the peoples of North and East Syria
3. Establish and enforce a ban on all flights in the airspace of North and East Syria (with the exception of flights whose sole purpose is humanitarian)
4. Establish a United Nations peacekeeping force including international military observers to be urgently deployed along the border between Turkey and North and East Syria
5. Officially recognise the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (DAA) and invite representatives of the DAA to participate in the constitutional committee on Syria recently organised by the United Nations
Kurdistan National Congress (KNK)