Lively and disruptive protests took place on Sunday 11 March at Kings Cross and Manchester Piccadilly rail stations, blocking the track in Manchester and closing King’s Cross.
They have pushed the Turkish military assault on Kurdish-held Afrin in Syria back into the headlines.
While a siege on the enclave of Eastern Ghouta has dominated much press coverage, what has happened in Afrin has been just as brutal.
Turkey, a NATO member, is also conducting a siege, surrounding Afrin, “neutralising” almost 4,000 combatants, and shelling positions of the Kurdish militia, the YPG. 35,000 people lived in Afrin prior to Turkey’s operation, and they are likely to suffer a similar fate to the population of Eastern Ghouta. Hundreds more will die unless the combatants there manage to beat back Turkey. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed YPG-led group, has now called more of its forces back from fighting the remnants of Daesh to defend Afrin.
But Turkey is also not fighting alone. Sections of the Free Syrian Army, which Turkey has long supported, is now facing off against the Kurdish YPG. Turkey is also allied with Syrian regime backed troops and militias which plan to go from Afrin right through to Manbij on the Iraqi border.
Turkish President Erdogan wants to do as much damage as possible to the YPG and to end the possibility of any Kurdish-controlled contiguous territory, particularly by the Turkish border.
Erdogan has said Afrin is a majority Arab area and that one of the aims of Operation Olive Branch is, “to give Afrin back to its rightful owners”!
Some sources say Kurdish civilians in Afrin are being treated as human shields by the YPG and are unlikely to leave for fear of being killed as they flee by Turkish troops. The YPG deny that they plan to anyone as human shields. At the same time the Kurdish media reports that “volunteers” are heading to Afrin to do just that.
Turkey’s partners in the FSA are made up of Arab-chauvinists, and Islamists who spent much of the early years of the conflict in Syria trying to drive the Kurds out of the oil-rich territories they now control. The gains the Kurds made with the backing of the USA, particularly at the expense of the Islamist groups, will only have exacerbated the FSA’s determination to crush them.
Turkish forces have some limited experience of fighting the PKK, the YPG’s parent organisation in the streets of South Eastern Turkey in 2015 and 2016. In all these encounters there was huge loss of civilian life.
Kurds will continue to be slaughtered unless Turkey is pushed out of Afrin.