DAMASCUS, SYRIA (01:05 PM) – Thousands of people have taken to the streets in the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin on Friday, to denounce the mobilisation of Turkish armed forces at the borders.
Demonstrators in the predominantly ethnically Kurdish city openly protested recent statement by the Turkish government and president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“We want to tell Erdogan that his dream would vanish just as his dreams vanished when he tried to enter Kobani, so Afrin would be your graveyard,” one protestor told Russian news outlet RT.
Turkey has been preparing its armies alongside the border with the Syrian district of Afrin. The area is under control of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units’ (YPG) militias, which Turkey considers to be a terrorist organisation and an affiliate of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is operational as a rebel group within Turkey.
The YPG is part of the larger, and US-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) outfit, a coalition of armed militias that mostly has been fighting ISIS terrorists, as well as Al-Qaeda affiliates and even so-called “moderate” rebel fractions that are part of the Turkish “Euphrates Shield” operation.
Tensions flared up earlier this week, when the United States of America announced it would form a standing “border security force” of up to 30,000 troops, predominantly Kurdish. This decision, which is illegal according to international law as there has been no permission from Syria or UN mandate for it, has alarmed both Syria and Turkey. Many fear that this new force could be a next step in a US plan to establish an independent Kurdish mini-state that would secede from Syria.
Turkey reacted to the plan by announcing it would undertake direct military operations against the YPG forces in Afrin, a decision that has been heavily condemned by the Syrian government as an open and blatant breach of Syrian territorial integrity and sovereignty.
“Today the people are protesting to assure that Afrin will never fall into the Turkish traitors’ hands,” a female protester was reported as saying by RT.
To which a young man added: “We as people from Afrin, we will defend our city and those fascist Turks can’t defeat us, we will be defending to the last drop of blood (…) Erdogan, listen: neither you, ISIS nor FSA [Free Syrian Army], you and all of your mercenaries can’t break our will, and [you should] stop interfering in our land and be aware that Kurds from all countries will come to defend us.”
The Syrian government also warned Ankara in a similar tone, adding that Syrian forces would treat any Turkish military incursion as an invasion, and would not hesitate to shoot Turkish planes from the sky.