Turkish airstrikes hit Kobanê and other towns in Syria and northern Iraq

Statement by our Foreign Affairs Spokespersons Feleknas Uca and Hişyar Özsoy:

Turkish airstrikes hit several Kurdish towns across northern Syria and Iraq, including the city of Kobanê, late on November 19th and in the morning of the next day. Kobanê is the city that defeated ISIS in 2014 with the support of the international community and the sacrifice of thousands of young lives, many of whom were women. So far Turkish airstrikes have reportedly killed thirteen civilians, including one journalist, and fifteen Syrian soldiers, and injured many others. According to local sources, a hospital, a grains silo, and a power plant were among the destroyed civilian infrastructure.  

These attacks followed the heinous bomb attack that took place in Istanbul on 13 November 2022, which the Turkish government instantly blamed on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Both have strongly denied any involvement in the attack and expressed condolences for the victims. The statements of the Turkish interior minister have mystified rather than revealed the truth behind the attack, creating a lot of questions and confusion.  

We may never really learn about the forces behind the Istanbul bomb attack and their purpose, but one thing is very clear: The Turkish government has been using this attack as a pretext and legitimizing ground to further its aggression against the Kurds in Syria. President Erdoğan is trying to gather international support for a major new incursion into northern Syria ahead of next year’s elections. Amid further deepening economic troubles, he conducts his election campaign on war-making and warmongering.

Turkey has publicly declared her desire to control a complete band of territory adjacent to their southern border with both Syria and Iraq, and in order to do this they have employed militants and mercenaries from multiple backgrounds, mostly Islamists. This is an acknowledged aim. But the recent attacks themselves also serve the purpose of boosting the election chances of President Erdoğan. They can be used to unite voters around a nationalist and anti-Kurdish agenda, to demonise and crack down on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is the kingmaker party in the upcoming elections, and to side-line other opposition parties, which can be expected to tail end Erdoğan’s nationalism. 

Turkey has a history of blasted bombs in the run-up to elections and blood-soaked electioneering. In 2015 after the AKP lost its majority in parliament in the June elections and called a snap election for November, violence escalated across the country; people were subjected to several assaults, including bomb attacks. In the attack on the Labour, Peace and Democracy Rally in Ankara, over 100 people, many of whom were HDP sympathizers, were killed and more than 500 were injured. Then, the government also blamed the PKK and demonized the HDP as a key discourse in its electoral campaign. Later, it was found that ISIS was behind the attack.

We also know that every recent Turkish election has been preceded by an invasion into northern Syria: Jarablus before the referendum on the presidential system in 2017, Afrîn before the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018, and Serêkanî-Girê Spî before the local elections in 2019. President Erdoğan and his allies seem to have already started their election campaign for the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2023.

Let us emphasize that Turkey, which is a member of NATO and the Council of Europe, is using Russia-controlled airspace to attack the Kurds in Kobanê and many other towns, who had defeated ISIS with much sacrifice in 2014 and have been continuing their fight since then. So far, Turkey has organized such attacks against the Kurds in northern Syria with impunity. Interestingly, this time the Syrian regime has not raised any strong objection, either. 

The international community should not remain silent in the face of such deadly attacks that are in clear violation of international and humanitarian law. We hereby call on the international community, our friends and international institutions, to take immediate action against Turkey’s cross-border attacks and prevent another humanitarian catastrophe. 

Feleknas Uca & Hişyar Özsoy
HDP Co-spokespersons for Foreign Affairs
21 November 2022