Hemin Kobane is the Syrian Democratic Forces liaison with the international coalition against the Islamic State.
Not that long ago, the people of northeastern Syria were greeting U.S. troops as our saviors, as the torchbearers of freedom. Children gathered around the American visitors and expressed joy at the hope they were bringing for the future of our lands. Now those same Syrian children may face death amid the chaos of a new conflict.
This week, as we now know, President Trump spoke with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has long made his plans for northeastern Syria clear. He wants to occupy a 19-mile-wide belt of territory along the border and to radically transform its demographics, replacing the Kurdish population there with 3 million Syrian Arab refugees from cities across Syria. We believe that he ultimately plans, in agreement with the Russians and the Syrian government, to settle our region with jihadists and their families displaced from other parts of the country.
Trump made it clear to Erdogan that the Turks may act as they see fit — and now Turkish troops have crossed the border into Syria, shelling and bombing our communities as they go. The attack threatens to cause a vast humanitarian disaster.
The United States has cast aside the Kurds and free people of Syria, leaving them to their fates at the hands of their mortal enemies. The international community is silent. This is yet another bitter defeat for the people of northeastern Syria.
We regarded the Americans as our friends and brothers in the fight against Islamic State, our common enemy. They worked at our side in hard times. They bled with us, bore witness to our 11,000 martyrs, the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the common cause. They saved hundreds of our friends who were wounded and might have otherwise died.
As a result of our work, we were able to save the international community from the threat of the Islamic State, which ended with the liberation of all Islamic State-held territories following the historic battle of Baghouz in March. U.S. troops and advisers on the ground contributed to the gains we made in stability, peace and freedom.
We fought together on the front lines. There were many sleepless nights, and we spent many hard days together. We know that you truly believe in our cause. We believed that you will stand with us to the end. We hoped that the stability and freedom of the area under our control would offer a strategic stronghold for the future of the entire region. Our fellowship was a light of hope for the citizens of all of Syria.
Unfortunately, yet once more, our foes in the region are conspiring to destroy our people. The tragedy of the Kurdish people, who have suffered for so many generations, is about to repeat itself.
One need look no further than recent history. Last year, the Russians evacuated their positions in the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin and allowed the Turks to move in. The Turks, who supported a variety of radical factions, allowed their fundamentalist allies to occupy the town. Nearly 1,500 people from Afrin, half of them civilians, were killed; the rest — 300,000 people altogether — were displaced to refugee camps.
Now, as a result of this fateful decision, the Kurds of Syria will see the United States as a collaborator of Erdogan, the dictator who wishes to destroy everything we have built. Yet we trust in the principles, values and freedoms of the American spirit. We understand fully that Trump’s position is his own, and that it does not represent the position of the American people. We have always regarded the U.S. soldier as a friend, one whom we always aimed to guard and protect. We always lived up to our words and cherished our fellowship.
We hope, in these hard times, that we will once again have your support to change our fate — to save our people from genocide, because Turkey had previously supported the Islamic State and the Islamist radicals in killing and displacing our people. They failed in that mission, so now they are now trying to do it themselves. We hope the free world and democratic Syria will prevail.