In response to Turkey beginning an operation on 20 January to clear the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from the Efrin canton of Syria on its border, a unit of foreign fighters has been announced in the enclave using the name of the “Antifascist Forces in Afrin” (AFFA) or the “Martyr Michael Israel Brigade”, referring to one of the Westerners killed fighting for the PKK in Syria. Their statement is reproduced below.
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Statement from Antifascist Forces in Afrin
On the 20th January 2018, Turkish army and Islamist terrorists supported and sponsored by the Turkish state launched an invasion against Afrin, a Kurdish majority enclave situated in the northwest of Syria—ironically named “Operation Olive Branch”.
Afrin is one of the cantons of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria—commonly known as Rojava. In 2011, the people of Afrin, Kobani and Cizre region rose up in arms and declared themselves autonomous in the midst of a brutal civil war and sectarian conflicts. In the next six years, from elevating the role of women in politics and society, dismantling patriarchal and feudal cultural practices, building a political system that emphasises direct democracy, municipalism and pluralism, to creating an economic system that is based on needs, equality and sustainability, the revolutionary people of Rojava were able to initiate widespread social reforms.
One of the most despicable outcomes of the Syrian civil war was the ascension of the Islamic State (ISIS). This barbaric gang took advantage of the chaotic geopolitical situations, they were able to take over large swathes of territory. Tens of thousands of civilians lived under a regime of terror installed by the Islamist terrorist group. ISIS was seemingly unstoppable, until the battle of Kobani, where the terrorist group experienced their first major defeat at the hands of the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), Women’s Protection Unit (YPJ) and allies. From Kobani, Manbij, Raqqa, to Deir Ezzor, the revolutionary forces of Rojava played an essential role in the defeat of ISIS.
From the beginning, the Turkish state had sought every opportunity to blackmail, blockade, sabotage and destroy the Rojava revolution. This stemmed from a long history of systemic oppression and discrimination of the Kurdish people. But it also demonstrated the resurgence of the tendencies towards fascism of the Turkish polity. Under the leadership of Erdoğan and his AK party, the Turkish state engaged in a series of mass arrests, brutal crackdowns on opposition and harsh censorship of free press under the pretence of anti-terrorism. Thousands of innocent people including democratically elected opposition representatives were thrown into jail without fair trials. Enforcement of conservative religious values and practices, including discrimination against LGBTQ communities, as well as an increasingly expansionist and neo-colonial foreign policy signal the rise of a fascist regime in Turkey.
Today in Afrin, we are witnessing another attempt by the fascistic Turkish state to attack the revolutionary aspirations of the autonomous people of Rojava. Erdoğan has even openly called for the “Arabisation” of the overwhelmingly Kurdish region of Afrin. Facing a genocidal enemy with absolute military superiority, but with will and determination, the people of Afrin have already unflinchingly resisted the imperialist invasion for more than twenty days while the world’s governments have so far turned a blind eye.
We are a group of communists, socialists, anarchists and antifascists, hailing from different parts of the world. Despite coming from different ideological and cultural backgrounds, we are united in Rojava by the principles of solidarity, internationalism and antifascism. From Manbij to Raqqa, we have fought alongside YPG, YPJ, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and a number of Turkish revolutionary forces against the barbaric ISIS. Now in Afrin, we have once again come together to fight alongside our comrades against fascism, imperialism and terrorism.
Internationalists have shed blood for this struggle against fascism. From Şehid Ivanna Hoffman who was one of the first international women martyrs in Rojava, Şehid Michael Israel who was murdered by a Turkish airstrike in Manbij to Şehid Jac Holmes who fell in Raqqa as the capital of ISIS was liberated by the antifascist forces, we honor the martyrs by continuing their struggle.
The resistance of Afrin is one of the most critical moments in the struggle against fascism of our
time. The time to act is now.
We call for international solidarity with the struggle of Afrin.
We call on determined international revolutionaries to join our struggle.
We also call upon widespread civil actions against the Turkish state around the world.
In unity, we will be triumphant. In solidarity, we will defeat our enemies.
Şehid namirin! Bijî berxwedana Efrînê!
Death to Fascism! Death to colonialism!
Long live international solidarity!
Antifascist Forces in Afrin (AFFA)
Şehid Michael Israel Brigade
13th February 2018