The ‘moderate’ Free Syrian Army (FSA) has brought itself into further disrepute following comments from its military assembly head Adnan Abu Faisal. He told pro-Turkish-government news agency the Daily Sabah that the FSA is “ready to eliminate” local left-wing forces from the Syrian city of Manbij if “instructed by Ankara”.
Nothing ‘moderate’ about the Turkish-backed FSA
The fact that Turkey can ‘instruct’ FSA militias to attack Kurdish-led left-wingers in northern Syria may be a surprise to some. Because the Western press has long touted the FSA as a ‘moderate‘ opposition to the oppressive dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad. But the reality is that, as Abu Faisal said:
The FSA have sworn to bury the PKK in their own pits
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The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was founded to protect Turkey’s oppressed Kurdish population. The PKK does not operate in Manbij. The Syrian Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG), on the other hand, did have a presence in Manbij. But the YPG left Manbij earlier this year after successfully pushing Daesh (Isis/Isil) out in 2016.
As The Canary has previously reported:
Turkey has long supported the… Free Syrian Army (FSA). In January this year, FSA rebels allied with the invading Turkish army to ethnically cleanse Afrin of its Syrian Kurdish population, and remove the Kurdish-led democratic government established there.
It now appears that the Turkish-backed FSA may seek to destroy the “self-administration” established in Manbij with the support of the YPG-led but multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF); just as they did in the previously peaceful region of Afrin.
UN report on FSA abuse in Afrin
A recent UN report details ongoing human rights violations committed by the Western and Turkish-backed FSA in Afrin. The report results from investigations conducted from 16 January to 10 July 2018.
According to the report:
The bulk of ground forces [supporting Turkey’s invasion of Afrin] comprised FSA-affiliated armed groups from neighbouring territory within the Syrian Arab Republic, including Ahrar al-Sham, Faylaq al-Sham, Jaish al-Nukhba, Jaish al-Sharqiya, Jabhat al-Shamiya and Nur al-Din al-Zinki.
Residents reported patterns of arrests, beatings and kidnappings by FSA-affiliated armed groups that, beginning with their takeover of certain areas, became notorious for their arbitrary arrests and detention. Some also stated that they had been arrested by FSA factions and kept incommunicado for extended periods of time, with others also claiming that they had been interrogated by Turkish officials…
Numerous residents reported widespread looting and appropriation of civilian homes by members of armed groups when the latter entered Afrin city in March. Victims described how houses were looted to the point where they had been “stripped of furniture, electrical appliances and all decor”.
Witnesses also told the UN team that:
Turkish troops were on occasion present in the vicinity where lootings took place, but had not acted to prevent them. Further reports were received on the looting of hospitals, churches and a Yazidi shrine. Regarding the latter, the Commission also received reports on the destruction of other Yazidi religious sites in attacks that appeared to have sectarian undertones.
Manbij can expect all that, and more…
The UN report, for example, describes the replacement of the “local” direct-democratic system of “self-administration” in Afrin with “new local councils” and the appointment of “new judges” that are “paid by Turkey”. And it explains:
patterns of house appropriations, in particular from Kurdish owners who had fled clashes. Returnees were barred from their properties and informed by members of armed groups that their real or presumed support for the YPG precluded them from living in the area. Homes were then used by armed groups for military purposes, or as housing for fighters and their families [from eastern Ghouta].
The Western press has long failed to scrutinise groups like the FSA as long as they opposed Bashar al-Assad. That must change.
– Write to Theresa May and your MP about Turkish-led abuses in northern Syria. Until these stop, ask them to cancel and stop approving arms sales to Turkey; and support Campaign Against Arms Trade to help make that happen.
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