Interview with Rohilat Afrin
of YPJ General Command

Rohilat Afrin is commenting on the current wave of Turkish attacks

Interview with Rohilat Afrin
of YPJ General Command

With regard to the ongoing wave of attacks which began on October 5th, I first want to emphasise that this is not a new situation. These are in no way new attacks that have only started recently. From the very outset of the Rojava revolution we have seen such attacks, and so it is essential that the current wave is recognised as a continuation of the attacks that began years ago. I want to further emphasise that, from the very beginning, the revolution here in North and East Syria was organised under the leadership of women and the YPJ. It was the YPJ who would become the vanguard force against the darkness of ISIS. For more than ten years the YPJ has resisted on an organisational, ideological, and military level, and to this day we are on our feet with a clear attitude. The revolution has been developed for eleven years now, and throughout these years the Women’s Protection Units played a pioneering role.

The most important question regarding these current attacks, is the question of why now? Why in the month of October? In the last few years there have been key moments in our history that occurred in October, such as in 1998 on October 9th, when Abdullah Ocalan was forced to leave Syria. This is why October alone is known as the month of the International conspiracy that was carried out against Abdullah Ocalan, and against the whole Kurdish people. The abduction and imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan was a deliberate action to prevent the Kurdish people from achieving their own identity, from developing their own strength of will; in order to keep them from rising up against dictatorships and colonisers like the Turkish state. This international conspiracy is thus, in its essence, an attack against a people, against their culture, and against their own language. It is for this reason that, every October, there are attacks on our land, on our people, and of course against the women. The attacks that are now happening aim to eradicate an identity, culture, and language. To alienate people from the revolution and their own cultural identity. To expel the people from their indigenous lands and put fear in their minds. Particularly the targeting of infrastructure like oil wells, water stations, and wheat depots is intended to deliberately harm the civil population. The turkish state uses this harm to create food shortages and in this way force the people to flee their homeland. This is the reasoning behind the Turkish state’s attacks on vital civil infrastructure. First to make the people starve, and then to assimilate them. And of course to crush their willpower. Perhaps there were similar attacks here last November, but this current wave of airstrikes aims to completely displace the people of North and East Syria. We need to understand well that these attacks are serving the aim of the Turkish state to expand its occupation – in fact, we could call it a new strategy of occupation. It is a strategy that seeks to simply displace the entire population from its homeland. Under international law regarding war and conflicts, legitimate self-defense is a guaranteed right. The Turkish state has made many agreements with various guarantee powers in order to be allowed to carry out its genocidal plan against our people. Targeting our infrastructure, as we are seeing now, is part of a plan to completely annihilate our existence as a people.

Having enphasised that the current wave of aggression is not new, that it didn’t explode out of nowhere, it is important to analyse the very real danger these attacks bring. The most important aspect that the international community, the democratic forces, and the women of the world should know is that these attacks are, once again, opening the door to an ISIS resurgence. For years there have been constant threats against our regions that aim to break free the ISIS detainees currently held in camps and detention facilities in North and East Syria. We know that there are serious, existing attempts to liberate them. That is why we must view the current attacks in essence as an opportunity to restrengthen ISIS. There are many states who actually stood against ISIS, but are now cooperating with the Turkish state, which holds the territories it occupies by employing mercenaries like Islamic State. This is why we must understand the current attacks as acts to strengthen ISIS, to bring darkness again to the region and destroy the achievements made by the people and the revolution.

A second important event that occurred in this month and which I want to highlight is the anniversary of the violent occupation of Serekaniye and Girê Spî on October 9, 2019. It is not a coincidence that this is the same date as the international conspiracy against Abdullah Öcalan, so we can not analyse them separately from each other. We understand October 9 as the day of the international conspiracy against our people, and moreover against all of the freedom loving peoples in the world who want a life of equality and dignity. The conspiracy was directed against Abdullah Öcalan, but it targeted the will of a people and all democratic forces. In the occupied regions of Serekaniye, Gîre Spî – and also Afrin, which had been violently attacked and occupied in 2018 – human rights are violated on a daily basis and the demography is being changed. In the Turkish occupied areas of Afrin, Gire Spi and Serekaniye, mercenary groups were placed and trained, and attacks are launched from these areas towards our territories and against our people. So in this sense we can understand the meaning of this time of the year as a time of the annihilation of a language and culture, of forced displacement, severe assimilation politics, the enforcement of obedience to an oppressive system, and the silencing of the voice of freedom. So to attack at a time of the year with such historical meaning, the ongoing attacks send a clear message: dont resist, do not have your own will power, and do not believe you will ever be allowed to organize your society in self- administration.

Additionally, we know that the Turkish state is afraid of our forces as well as our people, who both have a clear attitude and willingness to resist the attacks. This is something we are proud of. As YPJ we have always maintained a clear attitude towards these attacks. For so many years of revolution we have fought as a vanguard force and built up the organized strength that defeated the darkness of ISIS. Even before October 5th our areas had been attacked, from Minbic to areas like Deir-ez Zor and Til Temir, these events are not detached from the current one. The attacks that happened recently in Deir-ez Zor were thwarted by the forces of the YPG, YPJ and SDF. The attacks against Minbic and Til Temir were also stopped with the clear stance and resistance of the YPJ. So we need to understand that even before October 5th there have been extensive attacks.These were thwarted by the YPJ and by our people, who analysed the situation well and organised themselves against these aggressions on a political, social and military level.

Many of the vanguards that took leading roles in these resistances later on became targeted themselves, like YPJ commander Şervîn who was assassinated in a Turkish drone attack on September 15th of this year. Our comrade Şervîn had been involved in the struggle of the YPJ from the beginning of the revolution and had joined many offensives and battles against ISIS. Targeting the vanguards of the YPJ is therefore an attack on the memory, history and experience of the YPJ, on its culture of resistance. As YPJ we organized ourselves from the beginning of the revolution and defeated ISIS. In this way we became an example to the whole world to not give up against ISIS. Now everyone wants to learn from our experience. To target YPJ commanders like Commander Şervîn and all the others who were assassinated in targeted drone strikes in the last years by the Turkish occupation forces is in its essence an act that enables ISIS to regain strength.

We, as the YPJ will continue with the spirit of resistance that we have shown from the beginning of the revolution until today. We will carry out our right of legitimate self-defense and continue to play a vanguard role for women against the attacks of the Turkish state and the forces connected to it. To the international public and especially to all democratic forces and the women of the world, we call on you in this time of such heavy attacks that everyone should rise up. We call on the people to follow the situation, analyse what is happening, and become a united voice for democracy. We especially hope that the women worldwide, from whose attitude and solidarity we have always gained the highest motivation, will stand up against these attacks. Here, we have only one voice, but it needs to be amplified around the world. In order to defend our homeland, women’s freedom, and our culture, we believe that all freedom loving people and women defending the idea of women’s liberation will stand together with the YPJ and our people. We call on everyone to be the voice of democracy and show unity against the attacks of Turkey and ISIS. We hope that all democratic forces and those defending the rights of humanity will show a clear attitude and unite their voices against the ongoing barbaric attacks.