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Why socialists across the world must take on the cause of Rojava

ROSA GILBERT explains how a new Italian campaign, SiAmo Afrin, aims to raise money and raise the profile of the stricken people of Afrin

EVERY year on April 25, Italians celebrate the day of liberation, marking the date in 1945 that the nazi occupation in northern Italy was defeated by the anti-fascist resistance. 

This year, the date has been chosen to launch a fundraising drive for displaced people from Afrin in northern Syria. Named “SiAmo Afrin” to mean both “We are Afrin” and “I love Afrin,” the campaign has been backed by a range of political organisations in Italy and around the world, from Australia to Poland. 

It aims not just to raise a significant amount of money for urgent aid to the displaced people of Afrin but also to break the international silence on the humanitarian disaster caused by Turkey’s war on Afrin.

The mainly Kurdish canton of Afrin in northern Syria, situated just north of Aleppo, had been attacked sporadically by Turkey in the last few years but it wasn’t until the Kurdish YPG forces defeated Isis in Raqqa that Afrin became vulnerable to full-blown Turkish invasion. 

The green light came after a meeting between the Turkish and Russian governments, leading to Russia pulling out of Afrin where it had been providing aerial coverage for the democratic self-government against jihadist invasion. 

One of the causes of this sudden embrace between two erstwhile military foes was the Russian part-state-owned energy company Gazprom being granted a permit on January 15 to carry out construction in Turkish waters, the so-called Turkish Stream, allowing it to connect into Europe via the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline and Trans-Adriatic Pipeline. Mere days after this deal, Turkey’s aerial bombardment of Afrin commenced.

Not only did Nato’s second-largest standing army attack this small enclave, a multi-ethnic, peaceful, democratic region famous for its olive trees and hills, but it did so using jihadist proxies including former members of al-Qaida and Isis, as reported in the Independent by Patrick Cockburn. 

This meant that war crimes were perpetrated, including the mutilation of female Kurdish fighters’ bodies, and since the occupation of Afrin city itself beheadings, rapes and cases of torture have been reported. 

As the main city of Afrin was surrounded by jihadist gangs with Turkish air cover, shops and homes were looted, burned and destroyed. 

Yazidis, many of whom retreated to the safe haven of Afrin from the Isis genocide at Shengal, are particularly at risk as the jihadists see them as “infidels” — despite the defeat of Isis, they have once more been subjected to forced conversion, kidnapping and rape. 

Since the start of the invasion in January, an estimated 450,000 people have fled in terror and are currently living in the open air with no assistance from international NGOs or aid organisations, leaving local NGOs like Hevya Sor (Kurdish Red Crescent) and Hevi Foundation to support the displaced population. Diseases such as tuberculosis are spreading fast and there is a desperate lack of medicine and medical equipment.

Dr Hawzhin Azeez, co-founder of Hevi Foundation and one of the co-ordinators of the SiAmo Afrin campaign, told me how the campaign responded to a call by Hevya Sor which made repeated requests for urgent aid and support for the displaced people of Afrin: “The importance of this campaign is therefore in its global solidarity, reducing the burden on the Kurdish population and widening the scope of support to the international community in supporting the people of Afrin.” 

The motivations of the campaign are not simply humanitarian — there are clear political aims in redressing the balance of international attention which has tended to focus on victims of the civil war between the FSA and Bashar al-Assad, ignoring the plight of the Kurds in northern Syria and completely occluding the role of Turkey. 

This is remarkable given Turkey’s clear economic and military support for Isis and jihadist FSA groups and their role in destabilising Syria. 

Dr Azeez pointed to the “conditional, neoliberal mechanisms of aid provision” which determine political priorities to support particular groups of people over others. 

In response, the campaign will highlight the hypocrisy of a system “in which fascist regimes such as Turkey are provided with billion-euro aid packages by the EU in support of refugees as it simultaneously engages openly in bombing and displacing civilians in Afrin.”

By launching the SiAmo Afrin campaign on Italy’s day of liberation, organisers are calling on socialist, anti-fascist organisations to look to Rojava and the partisans of today as examples of heroic resistance, and to provide emergency aid and support just as they did in previous era — from the “Aid to Spain” campaign during the Spanish civil war to the Chilean solidarity campaign which assisted Pinochet’s victims and political refugees. 

British citizen Anna Campbell was killed on March 15 by a Turkish air strike in Afrin — she had gone there explicitly to defend the women-led Rojava revolution from Turkish fascism. 

As the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava) becomes increasingly threatened by Turkey and jihadist gangs, it is crucial to keep alive the revolutionary and democratic spirit of the Rojava revolution and strengthen its resistance. 

This broader international perspective is crucial in placing responsibility on all of us to stop our governments’ disastrous foreign policies, which includes the widespread support for and weapons sales to Turkey and the tragic consequences this is having on Kurds in Turkey and Syria. 

Pointing to Germany, Britain and the United States as prime examples, Dr Azeez explained how the “conditional neoliberal aid is provided by capitalist, neoliberal states who thrive on the chaos of wars and bombing of innocent civilians to prop up their own industrial weapons and war-based economies.” 

Support for the radical, feminist, socialist revolution in Rojava cannot be left to war-hungry nation states; it is incumbent on socialists across the world to take on the cause of Rojava and support its people at this desperate time.

The €200,000 fundraising drive launches today with a logo designed by the Italian artist and author of “Kobane Calling” Zerocalcare, following a press conference in Rome yesterday.

To donate to the campaign visit www.retedeldono.it/it/progetti/gus/siamoafrin. Twitter: @SiAmoAfrin
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SiAmoAfrin

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