Bus convoy of 2,000 women heads to Syria for women’s rights march

Women sing the rain as they prepare to embark on buses in Istanbul on March 6, 2018 ahead of a "Conscience Convoy" organizeed by Turkish Humanitarian Aid Foundation. (AFP)
Updated 06 March 2018
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Bus convoy of 2,000 women heads to Syria for women’s rights march

ISTANBUL: An international group of 2,000 women set off from Istanbul on Tuesday for Turkey’s border with Syria, part of a “conscience convoy” to raise awareness of the plight of Syrian women after seven years of civil war.
The convoy of buses is expected to reach the southern Turkish province of Hatay on Thursday, International Women’s Day.
The multi-sided conflict in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions from their homes, and the group of activists, from 55 countries, aims to highlight the plight of women in prison in particular.
“We need the world to take the best and quickest measures for the protection of women in all wars, not just those in Syrian prisons,” said Nour, a Syrian activist, who declined to give her full name. She said she was unjustly imprisoned for a month by the government of President Bashar Assad for her humanitarian work.
“Women have been exposed to war, suffering, asylum, and forced displacement in all countries subjected to war. We call on the entire world to protect women,” she said.

Organizers of the convoy say that 6,736 women, including 417 girls, are currently being held in prisons in Syria. Thousands of women have also been identified as having been subjected to torture, rape or other inhumane treatment in Syrian prisons since the war began, they said.
Assad’s government has denied allegations of systemic torture, as well as allegations of widespread war crimes by government-backed forces and Syria’s security services.
Massive displacement, both inside Syria and across its borders, has left millions of women and girls vulnerable to sexual violence and trafficking, the United Nations says. The collapse of the economy and health care system is also seen disproportionately affecting women.
“No matter what religion, race or ethnicity, women from the world are coming together today to start a journey of humanity,” said Yvonne Ridley, a Scottish activist. “We are setting off on this journey to be among those, to help those who are in Syrian prisons.”


Syrian fighters to support anti-Kurdish forces in northeast

A military vehicle is transported as part of a convoy on the outskirts of the city of Kilis, southeastern Turkey, close to the border with Syria, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (AP)
Updated 22 min 56 sec ago
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Syrian fighters to support anti-Kurdish forces in northeast

  • Turkey has already swept YPG fighters from Afrin and other areas west of the Euphrates in military campaigns over the past two years

ISTANBUL: Up to 15,000 Syrian fighters are ready to join a Turkish military offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, but no date has been set for the operation, a spokesman for the main Turkish-backed Syrian opposition group said on Thursday.
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey would launch the offensive in a few days, targeting a border region east of the Euphrates River which is held by the YPG Kurdish militia.
The announcement prompted a sharp rebuke from the Pentagon, which said any unilateral military action into northeast Syria would be unacceptable.
The US has been supporting the YPG in the fight against Daesh insurgents since 2015. Following cross-border shelling from Turkey into Kurdish-controlled territory two months ago, US forces have set up three military observation posts near the border.
Turkey says the YPG is a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the state in southeastern Turkey for more than three decades.
On Thursday the Turkish military said one of its soldiers stationed in Syria’s Afrin region was killed by fire from YPG fighters, who were in the Tel Rifaat area. Both areas are west of the Euphrates in northern Syria.
Turkish forces returned fire, the military said. Turkey has already swept YPG fighters from Afrin and other areas west of the Euphrates in military campaigns over the past two years, but has not gone east of the river — partly to avoid direct confrontation with US forces.
But Erdogan’s patience with Washington over Syria — specifically a deal to clear the YPG from the town of Manbij, just west of the Euphrates — seems to have worn thin.
The spokesman for the National Army, a Turkish-backed opposition force aimed at unifying disparate factions in northwest Syria, said on Thursday that there was no set date for the operation, which would start from both Syrian and Turkish territory.
“The battle will be launched simultaneously from several fronts,” Maj. Youssef Hamoud told Reuters.
“It will be in Manbij and Tel Abyad and Ras Al-Ayn,” he said, referring to towns about 200 km apart near Syria’s northern border.
Hamoud said the operation from Turkey might begin a few days before the move from within Syria.
In a speech on Wednesday, Erdogan said that Turkey’s target “is never US soldiers.”
Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement that unilateral military action into northeast Syria by any party would be of grave concern, “particularly as US personnel may be present or in the vicinity.”
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford spoke with the chief of Turkish General Staff Gen. Yasar Guler on Thursday.
“Dunford emphasized that the observation posts will continue to focus on and deter threats from Syria toward the Turkish southern border,” a US military statement said.
“In addition, he reiterated that the US remains committed to coordinating efforts with Turkey to bring stability to northeastern Syria,” it added.