Turkey defies British anti-terror commander, escalating its assault on Syrian Kurds and their Yazidi allies

Yazidi fighters
Tom Coburg

The last 36 hours have seen major developments in the Middle East in defiance of British and US-led anti-Daesh (Isis/Isil) forces. First, Turkish militias are attacking anti-Daesh units near the Syrian city of Manbij. And at the same time, Turkish-backed forces have launched an attack on the long-suffering Yazidi community in Iraq.

Turkey goes against the Coalition

In February, the anti-Daesh Coalition strongly suggested that the multi-ethnic but Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were the best placed group to liberate the self-proclaimed Daesh capital of Raqqa.

The deputy commander of the Coalition forces, British Major General Rupert Jones, explained:

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The bulk of the force that is advancing on Raqqa are Arabs. The Arabs and the Kurds actually work hand-in-glove, and my expectation is if the SDF are to assault into Raqqa, that is how they’ll operate.

The SDF, whose main forces are the Kurdish-led YPG (People’s Protection Units) and their female equivalent – the YPJ, have been leading the fight against Daesh, with the help of US special forces. So it was no surprise that US General Joseph Votel also allegedly declared recently that the Coalition would protect the SDF from Turkish hostility around the city of Manbij.

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As previously reported at The Canary, the Turkish regime has expressed its commitment to taking Manbij by force from SDF control. And on 1 March, in direct defiance of the Coalition, Turkey launched attacks on SDF forces in and around the city.

Yazidis attacked

In a separate development, Yazidi Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ) in Iraq have reportedly been under sustained attack from Turkish-backed forces since the morning of 3 March.

The Yazidis are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. In August 2014, Daesh attacked Sinjar, the homeland of the Yazidis. Many people were slaughtered, and hundreds of Yazidi women were taken as sex slaves. Iraqi Kurdish forces refused to intervene. Instead, the YPG and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) came to their rescue. The YBŞ is now affiliated to these groups.

Today’s attack on the Yazidis is attributed to a 500-strong group calling itself “RojPesh” (or ‘Rojava Peshmerga’). Despite this name, the RojPesh is closely allied to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq, and is suspected of being little more than a group of Turkish-backed mercenaries. According to one commentator, meanwhile, the assault is not by the RojPesh but by KRG forces. And indeed, only a week earlier, Turkey’s president met with the head of the KRG to discuss strategy.

In short, Turkey is leading an assault on anti-Daesh forces in both Syria and Iraq. And its attacks are only likely to increase in the coming weeks.

Get Involved!

– See the Yazidis’ plea to the US and EU for help here. And see further updates on the clashes in Yazidi territory here.

– Read The Canary‘s previous articles on Rojava.

– See more international reporting at The Canary Global.

– Donate to the Rojava Plan (to support the system of self-government in place in northern Syria).

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Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

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