Sorry, We Need To Cover The War Crimes Today
Donald Trump gave the green light to Turkey's invasion of northern Syria last week, and now we're getting reports of war crimes committed by the Syrian Arab militias Turkey has been using to supplement Turkish military attacks on Kurdish-held areas. Among those killed were female Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf, who was among nine civilians killed Saturday.
The Guardian reports:
Khalaf, 35, was "taken out of her car during a Turkish-backed attack and executed by Turkish-backed mercenary factions", the political arm of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said in a statement. "This is a clear evidence that the Turkish state is continuing its criminal policy towards unarmed civilians."
Khalaf was the secretary general of the Future Syria party. Mutlu Civiroglu, a specialist in Kurdish politics, described her death as a "great loss".
"She had a talent for diplomacy, she used to always take part in meetings with the Americans, the French, the foreign delegations," he said.
We should let you know in advance that there's going to be some disturbing stuff here about what Donald Trump set in motion without giving it a lot of thought, so you may want to stick to today's open thread if you'd rather not read it. God knows we'd rather not write it, but it has to be talked about. We won't include any graphic imagery, but we should warn you that stories we link to may.
We've seen a number of claims on Twitter that Ms. Khalaf was raped and stoned to death (or beheaded) by the militia, and even that there's video of the atrocity, but none of those has linked to an independent source, so as with everything you see on social media, we'd suggest caution (some tweets have links to sources you'd expect to be valid, but the linked stories don't mention the grisly details claimed in the tweet). The Rojava Information Center, a media organization run by activists in the Kurdish-controlled area of norther Syria being invaded, says graphic video, supposedly of Khalaf's corpse, that's being circulated on Twitter(graphic) is not her. That same tweet appears to be the origin of the claim Khalaf was raped.
The Washington Post reports Turkish media is bragging about Khalaf's killing as
a "successful operation" against a politician affiliated with the "terrorist" People's Democratic Union, the Kurdish political party that runs northeast Syria.
The newspaper said she had been "neutralized" in the operation, and described her death as a major setback for the group.
Regardless of whether those particular atrocity claims are substantiated, and they may yet be, the point is that a leader of a political party that supported women has been killed, and her story is just part of a disaster unleashed by Trump. As many as 300,000 people could ultimately be displaced, just after Trump and Stephen Miller made sure the US would admit the smallest number of refugees in modern history.
The Post and other sources report on a separate incident Saturday, in which Syrian fighters appear to execute Kurdish prisoners, which is a war crime:
The most gruesome and explicit of the videos shows Turkish-allied Syrian fighters pumping bursts of automatic fire into the body of a bound man lying on the side of a desert road as a gunman shouts to his comrades to take his phone and film him doing the shooting. Another trembling, handcuffed man crouches on the opposite side of the road as the shooting erupts. "Kill them," one man is heard shouting.
The video is one of a series of photographs and videos posted on Twitter accounts of the Turkish-backed rebel groups and circulated by the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces that suggest some of the Syrian rebels participating in Turkey's offensive to capture territory in Syria might have committed war crimes. 0
The Post also describes a video that may have shown the prelude to Khalaf's killing.
A separate video shows fighters crowding round a black, bullet-riddled SUV that had apparently come under a hail of gunfire before being forced to stop. The fighters step over the body of a dead man in civilian clothing to reach inside the vehicle.
"Another fleeing pig has been liquidated by the hands of the National Army," says one of the fighters as the others clamor to be filmed. "He was fleeing in an armored car."
A female voice is briefly heard coming from the back seat.
Turkey and the Syrian militia deny the militia was anywhere near the scenes of the killings Saturday, and one militia leader suggested to CNN it was actually just Kurds shooting each other in an internal dispute, so now Trump has something to say when he's asked about it on the way to a helicopter. His hands aren't bloody AT ALL.
So far, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that 38 civilians have been killed in the Turkish invasion, a number that's sure to rise.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on CBS's "Face the Nation" this morning that the video, if verified, does seem to show that Turkey " appears to be" committing war crimes.
"It's a very terrible situation over there, a situation caused by the Turks. Despite our opposition, they decided to make this incursion," Esper said.
Esper also said officials need to "sort ... out" reports that Turkish forces attacked U.S. Special Forces in Syria.
"We gave them the location of our forces [but] there's a fog out there, things happen," he said.
The Pentagon said last week that before Trump's phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Esper and the Joint Chiefs of Staff had definitely "consulted" with Trump about the Turkish strike against the Kurds, but that Turkey had "Unfortunately [...] chosen to act unilaterally," a talking point Esper repeated on TV this morning:
Turkey committed this action despite our protestations, all of our warnings [...] We are doing what's in the interest of our servicemembers not to put them in harm's way.
As long as it's just foreigns killing other foreigns, who's to say Trump bears any responsibility for removing the US troops who'd been in northern Syria as a tripwire to prevent an invasion, and for then telling Erdogan to go do whatever it was he wanted? Even if you're not thrilled by US foreign entanglements, Trump's indifference to the invasion is disgusting.
[Guardian / WaPo / CNN / Reuters / NYT / The Hill]
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