Ras al-Ain and how to forgive betrayal

The second anniversary of the Turkish occupation of Sere Kaniye (Ras al Ain) and Tel Abyad passed as it was expected, where no Syrian solidarity was shown towards the victims, who are thousands of those forcibly displaced from their homes and farms. This is a disappointment that can be explained in light of the fact that we face divided and  foreign-loyal Syrian communities, and most importantly, warring and lacking the lowest levels of solidarity among them. This is to be expected of a society that has been subjected to prolonged authoritarian rule. What Hannah Arendt said in describing authoritarian regimes as “destroying unity among people,” and by isolating people, it “intends to destroy human plurality,” seems very current and extends to the entire time of the Syrian war. However, if the Assad regime isolated people from each other, the Turkish regime conducted the policy of destroying the human plurality literally. It goes beyond the idea of isolation to the idea of erasure, expulsion and uprooting.

As for the Syrian opposition, it did not call the Turkish presence as occupation, because the Turkish war only affects the Kurds, or the Syrians involved in the Autonomous Administration project. This means that the occupation is justified since it targets a specific group and not all Syrians. From the perspective of the opposition, it targets the outsiders and separatists. Thus they deserve to be punished by Turkey, and Turkey has the right to rush to protect its alleged national security. This behavior perhaps goes beyond the idea of lack of solidarity with the Syrian Kurds to the involvement of punishing them.

The core of the project of the Turkish occupation is replacement, as it aims at replacing the indigenous residents with new ones. This is what exactly happened in Afrin, which the Turkish president, Erdogan, forged the facts about its ethnic structure prior to occupying it when he stated in front of a mass gathering of his supporters in the city of Bursa in 2018, that 55% of Afrin residents are Arabs, and only 35% are Kurds, and he would work to bring back “the indigenous people” to the region. If the essence of the Turkish policy is based on forging the facts that 95% of the population of Afrin are Kurds, then those who contributed to the policy of uprooting and reducing this overwhelming Kurdish percentage were Syrians who engaged in the plan of the demographic change and population replacement. In horrible consistency to what had happened in Afrin, the occupation of Sere Kaniye and Tel Abyad occurred for the same purpose. Prior to the invasion of the two cities, Erdogan stated that this region “is not suitable for the Kurds to live in. Rather, it is for Arabs.” Remarkably, those statements aroused no “national” outrage or solidarity that could prevent Turkey to conduct that racist activity and repeat it.

Despite the harsh days experienced by the IDPs in these areas and those who are under the control of the occupation and its Syrian agents, whether militants or civilians, the persistence of letting down through refraining from showing solidarity keeps the Syrian Kurds in the position of the unique victim of their suffering. Perhaps what hurts the soul more and doubles these painful feelings are those Syrians who have turned into a vulgar propaganda platform that justifies expulsion, uprooting, killing and looting, and denying human rights reports on the crimes and violations committed against the Kurds. What increases the sorrow is that the names of the military operations that have been adopted by Turkey, as is the case in taking the word “peace” as a title for war and occupation, as it is the areas of “Olive Branch” and “Peace Spring” although an older peace that Turkey had brought to Cyprus in 1974 by calling its aggression the “Peace Operation” which led to the expulsion of the original Cypriot population and the division of the island in all arrogance. In a sense, adopting the occupation’s literature and labels leads to a partnership with its actions and a further oppression of the victims.

Returning to the second anniversary of the occupation, there are some open questions about the “right to return”, which seems to be an expression derived from the Palestinian tragedy, which is a right dependent on the leaving of the Turkish occupation and dismantle the armed opposition militias and expel them, as it is not possible for the residents of the region to return unless the Turkish occupation and its militias leave the region. This is heavily linked to the political changes that may Turkey itself witness in its future government and parliament. This will likely happen given the decline in the popularity of the ruling party (the Justice and Development Party, AKP), its consecutive failure, and the change in the international vision for the future of Syria, which no longer matches the Turkey’s nihilistic vision. While the IDPs pay no attention to the side that will reclaim the region, whether it is Russia, the regime or both, as the comparison is based on the possibility of return or not.

It is true that parts of the city were destroyed, its houses and farms were robbed, and the service facilities have become more like ruins than to be a city out of control, however, what controls the feelings of the IDPs are the waves of nostalgia for the places in their pre-war form, which makes it difficult for them to stay outside the city forever, as if they were expelled from the place into nowhere. It does not matter if Ras al-Ain has been destroyed or even wiped off the face of the earth, the displaced people can start over again. However, what cannot be forgiven is the betrayal they have been subjected to. This is something cannot be erased from the memory of those who were persecuted, uprooted from their land, displaced and resided under the shades of tents.