Turkish army attacks almost daily along the border with northern Syria, resulting in deaths and injuries
A conversation with Meike Nack by Gitta Düperthal, published in junge Welt, Sept. 7, 2016, trans. Janet Biehl
Meike Nack is the European speaker of the Fundation of Free Women in Rojava (Weqfa Jina Azad A Rojava, WJAR)
Q. In northern Syria, just south of the Turkish border in the Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava, attacks by the Turkish military are escalating. You’ve lived there for a year and have contacts there. What effect are the attacks having on the people?
A. On Tuesday friends reported to me that in recent weeks military attacks took place in Kobani and other border cities in Rojava, including Kamishli (in Kurdish Qamishli) in Ras al-Ain (Sere Kaniyê) Amuda, and Al-Darbasija (Dirbesiye). Turkey is trying to build a wall along the whole border. When it entered northern Syrian territory, it provoked popular resistance. In Kobani people have held a vigil. They could at least push the wall back to Turkish territory. The Turkish military under the AKP government fired on protesters, injuring some and killing two. On Monday in Amuda teenagers on the way to a demo to demand recognition for the Kurdish autonomous region were shot: one was killed, another injured. In Sere Kaniyê border guards killed one adult and two children trying to cross into Turkey. Others were captured but the YPG freed them. Such cross-border attacks by the Turkish military are almost commonplace.
Q. How are the people of Kobani, the city that previously repelled IS, providing for themselves ?
A. The supply situation in the destroyed city is bad, because the border is almost impermeable. Relief aid can’t be brought in, either by trade or smuggling, because Turkish border guards will shoot immediately. Rojava is cut off to its north by Turkey and to the south by the terrorist militia Islamic State. On Monday there was another suicide attack in Al-Hasaka (Hesice). The war goes on, and parts of many cities are ruined.
Q. Are there any unaffected areas?
A. Hardly. On Tuesday the health commission told me that even where cities are still standing, health care is languishing. There aren’t anywhere near enough medications, or equipment for X-rays, topography, or ultrasound. Material for dressings is scarce. The embargo against Rojava is an attempt to wreck the democratic political project that has earned such international sympathy. Turkey is most responsible but also its allies in Syria and in Iraqi Kurdistan, run by the KDP under president Massed Barzani, who has closed the KRG’s border to northern Syria.
Q. How can progressive projects in Rojava, intended to advance for example the equality of women, function under these circumstances?
A. Many people want to stay in Rojava under all circumstances. They prefer to stay and build constructively rather than become a refugee than in another country. They are organized in councils and discuss how to create solutions. To compensate for the food shortages, they grow vegetables and fruits in gardens and prepare for the winter. There is a cement factory now, burning building materials. They are starting to produce medicines from herbs to treat kidney or gastrointestinal ailments, to reduce dependency on the outside. That’s why hundreds of thousands of people have fled cities like Aleppo or Idlib to come to Rojava, as well as injured from Jarabulus (Cerablus) and Manbij (Minbic).
Q. How can people help Rojava?
A. Many German people are enthusiastic about Rojava’s democratic project that furthers the emancipation of women—for example, key offices are held by both a man and a woman. It’s important to donate to particular projects and to expert pressure on governments that behave in opposition to it and take the side of Turkey.