In October 2019, Turkish forces invaded Northern Syria. This followed the decision of the US Government to remove its presence from the area. There were reports of civilians being killed right from the start of operations. The US had been allied with Kurdish forces, who led the campaign against ISIL in the region, but Turkey classifies the Kurdish YPG as terrorists. Turkish forces invaded Afrin in 2018, in operations that saw them accused of “indiscriminately shelling civilians” by Amnesty International.
Despite its authoritarian domestic policy, and increasingly aggressive foreign policy, the Erodgan regime in Turkey is among the world’s largest recipients of UK weapons. Since President Erdogan came to power in August 2014, the UK has licensed £1.1 billion worth of arms to Turkey. Among other weapons, these include: £206 million worth of ML10 licences (aircraft, helicopters, drones); £84 million worth of ML6 licences (armoured vehicles, tanks) and £82 million worth of ML4 licences (grenades bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
Following widespread international pressure, the UK Government joined the French, Dutch and German Governments in curbing future sales to Turkey for use in Syria. However, this did not affect extant licences, and therefore would not stop the volume of arms being transferred or those that already with Turkish forces.
This is part of a bigger picture. In September the Turkish military was among those invited to the DSEI arms fair in London. It is also listed among those on the Department of International Trades list of “core markets” for arms exports. In 2017 Theresa May visited Turkey and left with a £100 million fighter jet deal, which will see UK arms companies working closely with the Turkish military.
This is why it must also mark a turning point in UK foreign policy towards Turkey. In 2018 Turkish forces bombed Afrin and it made no difference to arms sales. That cannot happen again. If this move is to be more than symbolic then there can be no return to business-as-usual. It’s time that the rights of Kurdish people were finally put ahead of arms company profits.
Extract from a statement by Solidarity with the People of Turkey (SPOT)
The price of the war will yet again be paid by the people living in the region, including Turks, Kurds, and Arabs.
As SPOT, we stand against Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria and call on all foreign forces to withdraw from the region.
We call on the UK to end selling weapons to Turkey which are being used to kill and displace thousands of innocent people in the region, and may indeed be used in the latest invasion.
Finally, we call on our friends in the UK to oppose this invasion by foreign forces and ask you to stand with the people in northern Syria to call for peace.
You can find out more about Solidarity with the People of Turkey at: Spotturkey.co.uk.
Extract from a statement by the Kurdistan Solidarity Network
Following the removal of Kurdish mayors from Turkey’s Kurdish regions, and expanded invasion of areas under the Kurdistan Regional in northern Iraq, the Turkish state is looking to expand its racist anti-Kurdish war deeper into northern Syria. This follows the invasion, occupation and ethnic cleansing of Afrin in north-western Syria in January 2018, and puts at risk not only the peace established by the administration’s democratic system, but also the territorial defeat of the ISIS “caliphate”.
The Turkish state cannot be trusted to properly guard or resolve this issue, and an occupation would put at risk not only Kurds but all the people of North-East Syria, including Arabs, Armenians, Chechens, Turkmen, Syriac, Assyrian and Khaldean Christians and Yezidi.
You can find out more about the Kurdistan Solidarity Network at: kurdishsolidaritynetwork.wordpress.com.