In Syrian Kurdistan, the Turkish drone war

At just under 18, Randa Baker is showing a determination that nothing seems to undermine. “The Turks attacked us because they know we are preparing to be the future leaders of our community. It scares them.”, announces the young woman with long brown hair, wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt, from a base of the YPJ (Women’s Defense Units, a Kurdish militia within the Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF) in Hassaké in northeastern Syria. Without blinking, she recounts how on August 18 she escaped a Turkish drone strike aimed at her school in Chamouka, 45 kilometers from the border with Turkey. At his side, more discreetly, is Novine Azad, 17, still traumatized.

Five of her comrades were killed playing volleyball in the yard, and eight others remain hospitalized. All are former child soldiers selected to take part in a demobilization program supported by Unicef ​​and the Northeast Syrian Autonomous Administration’s Ministry of Education. Randa was recruited by the YPJ when she was 12 years old. Novine joined them at the age of 15. Both say they joined the militia out of conviction. “I don’t want to be part of a society that oppresses women”explains Randa Baker.

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The attack on the Chamouka School marked a new escalation in Turkey’s assassination campaign against the Syrian Kurdish military and administrative apparatus affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Turkish organization classified by Ankara as a terrorist. In the summer of 2022, this campaign intensified after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to get the green light from the Americans and Russians to launch a ground offensive aimed at establishing Turkish control over a 30-kilometer strip of northern Syria. By intensifying its fire campaign in the area, Ankara is reminding the two powers of their failure to prevent the FDS presence there, in line with the commitment they made under the ceasefire agreed after Turkey’s occupation at the end of 2019 from Ras Al Ain and Tall Abyad. It also puts Washington and Moscow at odds with their respective allies, the SDF and the Syrian regime.

The walls of a schoolyard building hit by shrapnel during a drone attack in Hassaké, Syria, on September 12, 2022.

“Hiting targets in public space”

“After 2019, the Russians and the Americans opened Heaven for Turkish attacks. They say they cannot stop these attacks because Turkey does not need to ask their permission and they are small planes or drones that radars cannot detect.”, explains Newroz Ahmed, member of the FDS Management Committee. The relationship between the Kurdish forces and Washington is being tested by these attacks. The American-led international coalition committed to fighting jihad alongside the FDS has only twice condemned these attacks, most notably the attack on the Chamouka school, which took place a few kilometers from their bases. “The guarantor states must clarify their position and put an end to this”called the head of the SDF, Commander Mazloum Abdi, again on September 28 and stated that there had been fifty-nine Turkish attacks in 2022.

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