Kobane Was Stalingrad, Make Afrin Vietnam

Gay Oak presents a letter from an Irish volunteer in the YPG facing invasion from Turkey 

Three Irish volunteers pose in front of a mural depicting Ayse Deniz Karacagil, a Turkish communist, and Robert Grodt, a US anarchist, both killed fighting Isis in 2017

My Kurdish nom de guerre, given to me by the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), is Tirpan Cudi.

I am a communist and one of three Irishmen now in Afrin to resist the Turkish invasion of Rojava, northern Syria.

I have been fighting here against Isis since 2016 as part of the International Freedom Battalion, an alliance of Turkish communist parties and international communist and anarchist volunteers.

Chinese international volunteers in Afrin write: "Down with the Turkish imperialist invasion"

My closest comrades have been here since the battle of Kobane in 2014. They are mostly from Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist-Lenninist (TKPML) and the Liberation Army of the Workers and Peasants of Turkey (TIKKO).

They have been active since 1972, mainly in the Dersim mountain range and are made up of a mix of ethnicities typical of this region: Kurds, Turks, Armenians, and people of the Allevi religion — a progressive sect of Islam that holds Mohamed’s daughter in reverence.

You realise quickly that there is not one oppressed ethnicity in the region, but alongside the Kurds, there are tens of major groups with their own languages and histories that are threatened by Turkish chauvinism.

However, allies in great number are still thin on the ground. The only thing close to a friendly neighbour in the area is in the very south of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

Since the Kurdish referendum, the Iraqi government rolled back a lot of the KRG’s autonomy, so the relatively small assistance they were previously able to get from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party areas has gone.

Former Iraqi Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is in charge of the KRG overall, and crucially that includes all of the regions that actually border Rojava.

He is an ally of Turkey and completely hostile. Even when Isis was at its strongest, he stood aside and even impeded the YPG’s fight whenever he could.

The KDP’s politics are not even Kurdish nationalist, they are feudal, tribal, opportunistically friendly with Turkey and Israel, and the party are total clients of the United States, which injects millions of dollars into its failing statelet.

The relationship with the Syrian government is complicated but I wouldn’t describe it as hostile today. Rojava is not a separatist project, its ambition is autonomy within what the Russians propose, a new Syrian Republic.

The YPG and Syrian forces have worked together in the past in the liberation of Aleppo. Many of the city neighbourhoods of Qamishli in Rojava are under government control. But even as a foreigner you can walk or drive through the checkpoints with no problems.

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has not been obstructing us in our defence of Afrin, which it could easily do.

Russia has given a decent amount of military assistance to the YPG in the past, though less than the US. It proposes replacing the current Syrian Arab Republic with a new Syrian Republic, with Kurdish autonomy, and state recognition of all minority languages.

Russia has tried to get the Syrian Kurds a place at the table for the peace negotiations, and for the first time secured one for the planned Sochi talks.

However, Russia allowing Turkey to invade Afrin shows it is no more reliable than the US. Our alliances with it were tactical and temporary, just like the YPG said from the start.

International solidarity is therefore vital. One party active here, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), put the Afrin resistance like this: Kobane was Stalingrad, make Afrin Vietnam.

This is how I would explain it to the anti-capitalist left in Europe and the United States who still struggle to understand and support us.

Like Vietnam, we have made alliances with the big powers in the past and played them off one another. But now we face Turkey, and therefore Nato imperialism, head on.

The YPG will fight the war, but you must conduct a huge and militant solidarity campaign back home. We need actions, protests and trade union declarations. We need slogans on the walls of the West.

Militarily, fighting a Nato army will be different to fighting Isis, like I did in Manbij and Raqqa, due to the Turkish air force. But ideologically speaking it is not so different.

Both Isis and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan want the total destruction of the Kurdish people, both are Islamist and, in typical fascist fashion, both are trying to resurrect an older, glorious order. While Isis wanted a caliphate, Turkey has neo-Ottoman ambitions.

The assistance Turkey has given to Isis is well documented but it failed to crush the Rojava project. So now, to weaken Rojava ahead of the Sochi peace negotiations, Turkey is taking matters directly into its own hands with the invasion of Afrin.

Given the 2015 Turkish campaign against the Kurds in Bakur, eastern Turkey, where they flattened large civilian areas of cities such as Cizre and Nusaybin inside Turkish borders, we can expect a complete disregard for civilian life.

However, in 2015 there were barely any journalists, independent or otherwise, covering those massacres because the Turkish state was able to close off the area.

The Rojava Kurds are more famous and have played a much better media game. Now the world is watching Afrin and asking why the heroes who liberated Raqqa from Isis yesterday are being abandoned today.

Even though we have seen some BBC reporters embedded with the Turkish side, we also have reporters on our side of the line.

In comparison to Isis there are three things I am glad I won’t have to deal with this time. The first is suicide car-bombs driven at speed towards us. Some of those were more powerful than the average air strike.

I arrived in the wake of one once. It had gone off at a crossroads and totally vapourised everything on the road and almost levelled all the apartments on the four corners.

The second is mines, booby traps. There are ridiculous amounts of mines planted by Isis. When they retreated they riddled the places they vacated with mines. In one apartment building in Raqqa we found 35 traps set with explosives.

The third thing is the suicide vests loaded with ball bearings on individual fighters. Although these could make a reappearance given that so many Isis and other jihadis have been recruited to Turkey’s side.

Despite Turkish troop numbers and air power, I’m optimistic. Unlike most of Rojava, Afrin is mountainous and hilly. We can fight a guerilla campaign here during the invasion, and if needs be during an occupation.

Even if we lose major areas, we will either get them back as soon as Turkey withdraws, or Turkey will eventually face losses that will cost Erdogan politically.

Having removed all the people from his administration who might have talked sense into him, Erdogan’s invasion is nothing but a madman lashing out.

The legal implications of fighting a sovereign power and Nato member state do not concern me. I’m in a sovereign state, it’s called Syria, and it’s currently being invaded illegally by Turkey.

I’m a member of the YPG, a Syrian army that’s increasingly gaining de-facto recognition. I don’t care about the legality. Turkey and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) goons have no business here and need to be crushed in their craven neo-Ottoman Salafist efforts. We are not leaving until that job is done.

If we win, then facts on the ground makes prosecuting us unlikely, or at least very unpopular as the West will be on friendly terms with the Rojava project again. If we lose we will be dead.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

20 comments to ''Kobane Was Stalingrad, Make Afrin Vietnam"

  1. If the YPG want to succeed they would be advised to get rid of its US support I.e they are being used and will be sacrificed if and when the need arises.

  2. WT
    So the YPG should go onto a modern battlefield without air support?

  3. Peter, where did I say that? To put it simply, the YPG are a cover/excuse for the US to remain illegally in Syria. The US no more gives a damn for the YPG than it does for anybody else in Syria unless of course you are an obedient puppet of the US. Using YPG controlled territory in order to stop the Syrian govt using it(btw that territory has a right few oil resources too) will probably be not forgotten long after the fat arsed G.I's high tail it out of there like they normally do when their goose is cooked.

  4. WT
    I don't get what you are on about. The YPG wanted to defend its territory in Syria against Assad and IS, the US needed boots on the ground for the same reason. There was a common objective. The US armed, trained and provided special forces and Forward Air Controllers and top cover to allow them to fight effectively. It was a mutually useful alliance. Obviously the YPG knew that the US could not back them against Turkey a fellow NATO ally. The YPG would probably have been overrun by now without US help. Why would the YPG turn its back on the US? Who else will help them?

  5. Two things - First I don't think it's looking at the full picture to view everything from a 10,000 feet geopolitical view. After all, Irish republicans never had issues with seeking money, arms and political support from the US, including from some staunch supporters of US imperialism, without that making it acceptable to dismiss Irish republicans as stooges of US imperialism. And before folk say "Ah, but that's different", I'd challenge you to think seriously on why Kurds are somehow less capable than Irish republicans of taking a clear-eyed, politically pragmatic view on the real agendas of the various imperialist forces that have been playing fast and loose with their survival for the last half-century.

    But second, on the geopolitical front - this is the biggest crisis in NATO since its foundation and defeat for Turkey in this fight is the outcome most likely to push it into sticking two fingers up to the US, walking out of NATO, and coming to a different relation to Russia. Even if have no interest in the Kurdish Freedom Movement's aims and objectives, and your all-encompassing concern is the weakening of US imperialist global reach, you still have an interest in the outcome of Turkey's invasion of Afrin.

  6. The citizen media group (Raqqa is being slaughtered silently) formerly lauded in the West for documenting IS crimes against civilians in Raqqa in the face of grave danger, with several exposed members (and innocent family members) recieving gruesome deaths on camera in their snuff productions, have been detailing near ethnic cleansing of Arabs by YPG and its parent organisations in Raqqa and other provinces under its control. In 2017 they are said to have killed nearly as many civilians as IS in Raqqa province.

    It is alleged the YPG have been forcing conscription on males in areas under their control.I know some members of the media group formerly betrayed a hostility to Kurds , seeming to celebrate IS attacks on them in 2014, so perhaps there is an agenda their, but even absent that , there is too much subterfuge to properly form an opinion on this conflict.

    Even if they deny the type of of relationship the US normally has with its proxies,explicit involvement with the biggest civilian murderers in the conflict, the Assad forces will be a tougher sell.None of this means I have a preferred side, I’m merely advocating caution in things we don’t need an immediate opinion on.

  7. Peter, the YPG had no call to 'defend itself against Assad' as they were apparently fighting the same enemy. Alas the YPG are misguided if they thought the US were/are fighting the same enemy too. All along the US objective was to overthrow Assad; ISIS was but a mere excuse to plant themselves in Syria. Now what with Russia(in Syria at the invite of a sovereign govt) along with SAA etc defeating ISIS the presence of the US in Syria is no longer viable or warranted. Thus the yanks are simply using the YPG as a salvage exercise I.e their original plan for Syria has gone to pot and thus are using the Kurds as an excuse to maintain their presence in Syria. The sooner the YPG get with the program then the sooner they could save themselves from serious harm from either the Turks or indeed the SAA. The yanks know the game is up and they'll abandon the YPG when it's convenient.

  8. Peter, if the YPG have declared war on Assad and the SAA then I must have missed it? As a matter of fact there are reports(unconfirmed by the lying standard media) that pro Syrian forces are venturing into Afrin to help stop the Turkish inevitable onslaught. If confirmed then it would appear the Kurds have come to their senses and have reached out to Assad etc. We will wait and see.

  9. WT
    I didn't say they had declared war on Assad, I said they had defended their territory against Assad forces. At the start of the conflict they engaged the Syrian army in the Kurdish district of Aleppo and cleared the north of Assad's troops killing hundreds. You still haven't explained why they should forego US help.

  10. Meanwhile another Guernica, Srebrinica, Sabrah and Shitilah (use whatever comparison you wish) is daily being played out on our tv. tablet and mobile phone screens and the est of the world does not give a damn. The true legacy of Bush and Blair's war in Iraq.

  11. Peter, I'll keep it simple especially for you- the US is beat in Syria; their plan to overthrow Assad is beat(atm). They are merely using the Kurds as a foothold to remain in Syria. The US won't take on turkey, no chance that happening, so they'll sacrifice the Kurds sin é. Added to that the Kurds are not defending 'their territory' ; its Syrian territory they inhabit. They best get along with Assad and the pesky Russians imho.
    P.s when I say the US is beat atm I am of course alluding to the very real possibility that another chemical outrage will be blamed on Assad in order to change the battlefield and get their plan back on track I.e NATO bombardment. Alas although Assad/Russia hold all the cards there are some who will believe that he will tear up the cards in order to permit NATO to enter the fray big time cos he's 'an evil dictator' and all that and that's what dictators do I.e shoot themselves in the foot.

  12. Wolfe Tone

    The Kurds occupied territory as a indigenous and distinct rthnic group in the artificial states of Syria and Iraq set up under the Sykes-Picot carve up of the Middle East during World war I 9as well as in Iran and Turkey. Surprisingly litle solidarity from a member of the MOPE with another oppressed people.

    there will be more chemical weapons outrages from Assad and the world will do not a thing about it just as they did sweet nothing about Aleppo and Eastern Gouta because aasad ants total victory like Franco in the Spanish Civil war and knows that the outside world will not give a damn because the IraQ disaster and the resultant isolationsism and Russian and Chinese vetoes omn thew UN Security Council has stymied any will to enforce international laws and norms of behaviour as thjey relate to war.

    Wolfe Tone; do ytou feel any sympathy for the defenceless children and adult civilians oin Eastern Gouta as they face daily bombardmdent on top of stravation by siege? I am pretty sure that if it was Israeli actions in Gaza and US bombing of Fallujah that we were talking about you wpold be screaming "war crimes", "massacre" and "genocide" but I think I know what your response will be,.

  13. WT
    No need to get personal. Though I rather think it is you that needs things simplified. Do you not think the Kurds are fully aware of the US's treaty obligations? Do you not think they are aware of the US's past history? Do you not think they are aware of the long relationship between the Kurds and the US in northern Iraq? Once again explain why they should refuse US help when and how they can get it.

    "its Syrian territory they inhabit". You do know that the Kurds want to create a "Kurdistan" incorporating parts of Turkey, Iraq and Syria? For them Kobane and Afrin are "their territory". Assad and the Turks see it differently but that is the great hope of the Kurds.

  14. Only eejits would listen to the Guardian these days


    I was led to believe incitement to cause hostility, violence via propaganda was a crime? Alas the US/NATO plan to bombard Syria, cheered on by westerners, is being revisited thanks to its friends and companions in the lying media. Shameful.

  16. Wolfe Tone

    So who is bombarding Gouta then?

    Or are these scenes inventions or falso flag operatins like the david Irvings of thsi world say about the gas chambers in the Nazi death camps?

  17. Gilheaney, the reason why the world seems disinterested is probably because the world has had enough lies from the biggest warmongers in our lifetime. Only idiots do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. In this case the idiots are being told we need to bomb Syria to save all the Syrian people from Assad boo hoo. No doubt whatever reason that emanates that allows NATO to intervene will turn out to be a lie......just like Iraq,Libya,.........yawn. And yes there's no doubt you would believe Assad would have the stupidity to gas his own people even though he has all but won in Syria. Common sense isn't so common but anything that fits into your comfortable narrative will always be embraced. Sad.

  18. Peter, the US is using the Kurds for its own selfish reasons sin é. I can't make it any more simple for you unless I draw you a picture. P.s pro Syrian forces have indeed been welcomed into Afrin although you won't hear it from the BBC,ch4 etc. They are too busy making propaganda for the Brit Intel run White Helmets terror group.


    Another 'Russianbot' pro Assad supporter, former UK ambassador,to Syria, Peter Ford, giving his views on the dirty tricks in Syria. Alas some on this blog know better than him! Lol

  20. Gilheaney, I never heard of David Irving so dunno why you keep bringing him up. For that matter I donno why you keep corresponding with me as its already established you have a sensitive skin so it's best to avoid me. Lol

    Anyway I would dearly love to hear your opinion on former ambassador Peter ford? I'd say he knows more about Syria and the UK than all of us combined but you no doubt will know more lol.


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