Turkish offensive proves Syria’s Kurds cannot trust anyone but themselves - AFP blog

The U.S. withdrawal from northern Syria, accompanied by the Turkish offensive in the region targeting Kurdish forces, has once again proven to Kurds that they cannot trust anyone but themselves, freelance photographer based in Syria’s Qamishli, Delil Souleiman, wrote in blog for AFP.

U.S. troops in Syria’s north had not only been Kurds’ partners in defeating the Islamic State (ISIS), Souleiman said, they were also a deterrent for Turkey, which has long been looking to send troops to northern Syria to establish an area free of Kurdish fighters.

Hundreds of fighters and civilians have been killed and tens of thousands forced to flee in Syria’s north since the start of a Turkish offensive on Oct. 9 targeting the previously U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The incursion followed a decision by Washington to withdraw troops from the region, effectively giving Turkey a green light.

Turkey and the United States on Thursday agreed to cease hostilities in northeast Syria, giving the SDF and other Kurdish-led groups viewed by Ankara as a security threat five days to withdraw from a 32-km deep zone south of Turkey’s border.

“We Kurds have been in a state of shock ever since US President Donald Trump ordered American troops to withdraw from our area,’’ Souleiman said, adding that Washington failed to keep its promise when it evacuated and in some cases destroyed some of their own defensive positions on their way out. 

“We gave thousands of our sons to eliminate terrorism. And our partners, the Americans, left us to face Turkey alone,’’ the photographer wrote.

Kurdish fighters have formed the backbone of the U.S.-allied Syrian SDF, which was formed in 2015 as part of the campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS).

Souleiman’s job has become increasingly difficult with each of Turkey’s three offensives in Syria over the past three years. 

“It is difficult to take photos of people dying, their hearts broken because they die knowing their country will be occupied and their headstones will be destroyed, like it happened to the Kurdish graves in Afrin,’’ he said, referring to Turkey’s 2018 operation into the Kurdish enclave.

“Often as I take photos, my eyes fill with tears,’’ he wrote. “Perhaps because I share the same fate with the people in the viewfinder''.

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