On April 23, the Turkish state initiated a large-scale military campaign targeting South Kurdistan (northern Iraq), attacking the regions of Zap, Avashin, and Matina. Since then, this unprovoked invasion has grown in intensity and scope. For years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought to secure Turkey’s position as a regional powerbroker in the Middle East at the expense of the region’s peoples, repeatedly proclaiming his desire to conquer territory once controlled by the Ottoman Empire. His first objective is to capture the two parts of Kurdistan adjacent to Turkey, Rojava (northern Syria) and South Kurdistan (northern Iraq). In 2018, the Turkish military and its jihadist proxy forces invaded and occupied the once peaceful Kurdish majority region of Afrin in Syria, and, in 2019, this occupation was extended to other areas in northern Syria, resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties and mass displacement.
The Kurdish guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are resisting Erdogan’s campaigns of military aggression and occupation. This organized Kurdish resistance is the only force preventing Erdogan’s expansion further into Kurdistan and the Middle East. In 2014, when the genocidal Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group occupied areas throughout Syria and Iraq and emerged as a major threat to global security, the PKK prevented ISIS from eliminating the Yazidi religious minority in the Sinjar region in Iraq.
NATO believes that they need to maintain relations with member state Turkey for geopolitical and geostrategic reasons, and does not challenge the expansionist policy of the Turkish regime. By remaining silent to placate Erdogan, they become complicit in his aggression. Erdogan, knowing he will face no consequences for even the worst crimes, is openly violating international law. His regime has used chemical weapons and jihadist proxy fighters in this current war in Zap, Avashin, and Matina, while its armed drones murder and terrorize civilians. Nonetheless, the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and the Council of Europe join NATO in staying silent.
In early June, an international peace delegation went to South Kurdistan, joining with various organizations around the world to launch the international initiative “DEFEND KURDISTAN Against Turkish Occupation”. By calling attention to Turkish military aggression, they courageously broke the international silence around this war. Unfortunately, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the ruling party in South Kurdistan, has taken steps to criminalize efforts taken to oppose the ongoing war, obstructing the work of the delegation for peace. Additionally, in line with European states’ ongoing policy of appeasement towards Erdogan’s regime, the delegation was also criminalized in Germany, with several members of the group, including those with parliamentary immunity, prevented from leaving Düsseldorf on June 12. Nonetheless, despite these obstacles, the delegation for peace has succeeded in raising awareness of the ongoing crisis and generating a wave of international solidarity.
We are now calling on people in the world to take to the streets on July 3 in support of the international initiative to DEFEND KURDISTAN Against Turkish Occupation, and to demand an immediate end to the Turkish military aggression against South Kurdistan and the withdrawal of all Turkish forces and Turkish-backed jihadist proxy fighters.
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