The Kurdistan National Congress, or KNK, called for the immediate implementation of a no-fly zone over the predominantly Kurdish region of North and East Syria on Tuesday in an urgent appeal to the UN, the Global Coalition Against ISIS, the EU, the Council of Europe, and the League of Arab States.
The Brussels-based KNK, a multi-national platform for political parties and groups which aim for Kurdish self-rule, released the statement in response to heightened pressure from Ankara as Turkish aerial assaults and shelling continue to bombard predominantly Kurdish areas in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also publicly stated his intention to launch a new cross-border offensive against areas controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, and other groups associated with the KNK.
“Erdoğan has long pledged to unilaterally establish a so-called ‘security zone’ within North and East Syria/ Rojava, and his actions have made it clear that his true aim is to invade, conquer, and ethnically cleanse these areas,” the KNK said in the statement.
Turkey seized large areas of North and East Syria during a previous offensive in 2019, and Erdoğan ordered the creation of a 30-km deep “safe zone” south of the border where he said some of the millions of Syrian refugees hosted in Turkey would be resettled.
But the KNK and local organisations say the safe-zone plan amounts to a scheme to displace the original Kurdish inhabitants of the region and replace them with pro-Turkish settlers.
Ankara has fought a long war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which launched an armed struggle for Kurdish self-rule in 1984 before pivoting to a political struggle after 1999. Turkey counts the PKK, the SDF and other Kurdish-led groups in Turkey and Syria as terrorist organisations, and says military operations were necessary for the country’s security interests.
The KNK, however, said Turkey’s persistent bombardment of populated areas in northern Syria serves no other purpose beside the desire to clear Kurds away from the Turkish border, and added that other minority groups were also caught in the shelling.
“This morning the Turkish army has been bombarding Kobanê in northeastern Syria from the air and on the ground, and these attacks follow a number of killings of civilians with Turkish military drones in recent weeks,” the KNK’s statement said. “The goal of Erdoğan and the Turkish state is clear: ethnic cleansing of the Kurds. Additionally, these attacks have also targeted the Syriac Christians of the region.”
The international community must put an end to the “implicit approval” of Turkey’s “strategy of ethnic cleansing” and call a no-fly zone to protect the people of the region, the KNK said.
The statement added that Kobanê, Manbij, Tell Tamer, Sherawa, Tell Abyad (Girê Spî) and other areas targeted in recent Turkish shelling and aerial assaults in northern Syria had all been marked in a map of a “safe zone” that Erdoğan proposed to the UN General Assembly in 2019.
Erdoğan’s plan would see Turkey take control of a 30-km deep, 480-km long stretch of territory in the predominantly Kurdish areas south of the Turkish border.