When Trump and his ally, Turkish President Erdogan, launched a new war against the Syrian Kurds in October, the news was front and center. Outside of tankie leftists and Trump sycophants, the US making way for the invasion was universally condemned. The state terrorist violence, ethnic cleansing, overall suffering, and tactical boost to ISIS, all predicted by anyone paying attention, have been proven true.
The press covered the lynching of a female Kurdish political leader. Videos of war crimes, including summery executions of Kurds and the mutilation of women’s bodies by Turkish backed jihadists, were a regular sight on my social media timelines and in a lot of mainstream press. Sanctions were threatened, and many Republicans publicly broke with Trump, some for the first time.
Just two months shy from the start of this invasion and occupation, the media and politicians have stopped paying attention. Republicans have quickly fallen in line behind Trump and Erdogan. Occupation walls are being constructed. People continue to die daily and fighting continues on multiple fronts, despite the phony “cease fire”. This, in and of itself, is not entirely surprising. That being said, however, I assumed a massacre of eight children still would normally “make the cut” when it came to some media attention. I was wrong.
A few weeks prior to the massacre of these children, the Israeli’s launched an airstrike targeting an Islamic Jihad leader and killed five children. A simple google search shows that all major media outlets covered the story, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal. Al Jeezera, the BBC, Haaretz and other foreign media outlets also all picked up the story. This is not pointed out to minimize the terror that Palestinian children deal with(also understand that if this were five Israeli children, there probably would have been three times as much coverage). The timing of the Israeli strike, however, and the fact that Palestinians and Kurds both suffer from occupation and discrimination simply makes it a fairly apt comparison.
Several days after the massacre of the eight Kurdish children (other civilians were also killed), not a single major US news outlet covered the story. Haaretz and the Independent were the only major foreign news outlet to even touch on the story. In Haaretz, the details were limited to a small paragraph, buried in a broader narrative of the greater Syrian Civil War. Not one major media outlet covered the story as a stand alone issue. UNICEFput out a statement condemning the attacks, but stopped short of saying who carried them out, as it was some act of God. My social media timeline was mostly silent, absent those directly connected to the struggle.
The Kurds have a saying: “No friends but the Mountains”. Noam Chomskyrecently remarked that it was almost a right of passage for US presidents to screw the Kurds. In my twenty years of organizing around international human rights, from Latin America to Palestine, the oppression of the Kurdish movement has been by far the most ignored struggle when it came to international solidarity and attention. In 2015–16, the Turkish military flatted and occupied multiple major Kurdish cities in Southern Turkey, killing hundreds of civilians in one city alone. This all happened without much notice or condemnation. I follow the Kurdish struggle and had not realized the sheer scale of the destruction until well after it happened do to lack of attention from progressive circles and the media as a whole.
I am old enough to remember when the Israelis flattened Jenin in the occupied West Bank. Demonstrations sprung up and the outrage among the left and international human rights organizations was deafening, as it should have been. The Kurds, however, deserve the same outrage. I am even old enough to remember the first Gulf War, where Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds in Northern Iraq, which killed thousands, was used as an opportunistic excuse for the war. What many do not realize, however, is that when the gassing was actually happening, it was utterly ignored. Not only by the US government (the US government arguably supported it), but also the media and the international community. It is time we change this bitter narrative.
Not only under vicious attack, the Kurdish community in Syria has just shed thousands of lives in a war against ISIS, a war that they themselves did not ask for, but fought in bravely. I know because I was there with them. They did this not only for their own mere existence and protection, but for the greater good as well. ISIS was one of the most prolific and dangerous jihadist terror groups the world has ever seen, but that is not all. The values of the society that the Syrian Kurds have been striving to create, also under attack, are objectively progressive and worth defending. Many internationalist have already given their lives doing so. Ethnic pluralism, decentralized democracy, ecology, and real feminism rooted in actual power for all women, have formed the backbone of the society that they have created with their new found freedom in Syria.
It is this freedom which has driven Erodogan’s violent occupation and invasions of Kurdish areas in Northern Syria. And while yes, progressives and the left should be against all violent occupations; when our feminist, democratic socialist comrades are the victims, we need to let them know that we stand with them. It is the least they are asking for.
Before being blown to pieces (I’ve seen the pictures; unlike being potentially vaporized by an airstrike, being torn apart by shrapnel is more violent, some likely suffered horrible deaths) these children were first ethnically cleansed from their homeland in Afrin. Their city, part of the Northern Syrian autonomous region of Rojava, was one of the more peaceful and thriving cities in all of Syria, home to refugees from other parts of the country and ethnic minorities such as Yezidis. Afrin was a model for direct democracy and women’s empowerment. Now occupied by Erdogan after a bloody invasion in 2018, women have been stripped of all power (unelected men now run a city council vetted by the occupation), signs in the Kurdish language have been removed, schools are banned from teaching in Kurdish and Erdogan’s gangs, when not fighting each other, loot, pillage, kidnap, murder, and torture both for money and to further ethnically cleanse the area. These children and their families were forced to flee south to Tel Rafit, outside of Turkish military control. Many live in refugee camps,who unlike ISIS refugees, are ignored by the outside world and continue to suffer vicious attacks. While skirmishes on the front lines are common, targeting civilians within Tel Rafit is not, making this terror attack and its media blackout worthy of note.
The names of the children are Abdul Fattah Aliko, age 3; Aref Jafer Mohamed, age 6; Mohamed Omer Heme, age 7; Imad Ahmed Kefo, age 9; Mustafa Mohamed Majeed, age 10; Hamodah Mohamed Alie, age 11; Sameer Abdul Rahman Hesso, age 12; and Mohamed Abdul Rahman Hesso, age 15.
Their blood is not only on the hands of Turkish President Erdogan but it is also on the hands of Donald Trump. Trump, not only a key political enabler for Erdogan and his terror, but, like his predecessors (Democrat and Republican), also supplies the Turkish forces with arms for their terrorist wars against the Kurdish people. And just for the record, Israeli arms are being used to kill Kurds as well.
In a more or less free society, media blackouts and bias are the number one reason why atrocities like this can happen. This media bias is particularly important when the society itself has a major hand in said atrocities. The fact that this massacre of eight children went down the memory hole is a part of what allows massacres like this to happen in the first place. That is why it is important for us to do what we can to hold those responsible, Donald Trump and Recep Erdogan, accountable, even if it just starts with sharing information.