Turkey’s cruel joke as its fighters loot Afrin

Turkey’s cruel joke as its fighters loot Afrin

Hours after the Turkish army and its Syrian allies declared they had taken full control of Kurdish Afrin, it seemed like the war in Syria had entered a new phase. Pictures circulated on social media showing fighters inside Afrin tearing down and destroying the statue of Kawa, a mythological Kurdish hero, in a scene similar to when Daesh destroyed archaeological statues and gravestones in some regions of Syria and Iraq.
In fact, the war in Afrin did not end with the Turkish military taking control of the Kurdish province. Instead a second conflict broke out; this time a media war linked to the pictures and videos showing the desire for “vengeance” of Olive Branch fighters.
The destruction of statues is not new in the history of the war in Syria. Factions of the Syrian opposition have already destroyed the statue of Ibrahim Hanano, one of the leaders of the Syrian revolution against French occupation, in the city of Idlib and decapitated the statue of the poet Abu Al-Alaa Al-Maari in his hometown Maarrat Al-Numan.
Back then, Syrian opposition factions used the pretext that the fighters thought they were statues of Hafez Assad. The same excuse was used by the supporters of the Turkish operation as they claimed the fighters had assumed the statue was that of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan. They added that statues were an expression of the “sanctity” of idols and the renunciation of religion, and a symbol of pagan worship, in order to justify the act of destruction.

The raising of Turkish flags and the destruction of the statue of Kurdish hero Kawa took place under the eyes and ears of Ankara’s military leadership.

Diana Moukalled

The video focused on the enthusiasm that was expressed the second the statue was brought down, as fighters declared their victory by shouting “Allahu Akbar” and other slogans encouraged by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to justify its military operation. These slogans were also adopted by groups allied with Turkey and by those who invaded Afrin and stole it, considering their act “the first Fatah Al-Islam” (operation embracing Islam) in the modern age.
Once again, Afrin is being dealt with as a city inhabited by Kurdish “infidels.” Thus, the motivations for revenge multiply and are introduced as having historic religious dimensions. This is exactly what Erdogan did when he linked the war on Afrin with expressions from the Qur’an such as “figs and olives.” The Turkish media focused on the statue, describing it as one of the pillars of the Turkish victory in Afrin and bragging about it.
The official Turkish acknowledgement of the robbing and looting operations by armed fighters who entered the town in the context of operation Olive Branch seemed like little more than a cruel joke. The fighters in the videos and pictures we saw — invading houses and stealing cars, livestock and everything they could carry — entered Afrin in the context of the Turkish military operation. The Turkish flags that were raised and the statue of Kawa that was destroyed took place under the eyes and ears of the Turkish leadership. Therefore, the campaigns launched by Syrian activists in solidarity with the Turkish military operation reflect a type of duplicity and hypocrisy, as these activists themselves have launched campaigns criticizing robbing and looting operations, but have also welcomed Turkey’s invasion of the Kurdish-Syrian town and its occupation.  

• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. Twitter: @dianamoukalled
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