A Turkish military convoy moves in the east of Idlib, Syria. Syria’s official news agency said Sunday, March 1, 2020, that two of its warplanes were shot down by Turkish forces inside northwest Syria, amid a military escalation there that's led to growing direct clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces. SANA said the jets were targeted over the Idlib region, and that the four pilots ejected with parachutes and landed safely. File picture: AP
A Turkish military convoy moves in the east of Idlib, Syria. Syria’s official news agency said Sunday, March 1, 2020, that two of its warplanes were shot down by Turkish forces inside northwest Syria, amid a military escalation there that's led to growing direct clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces. SANA said the jets were targeted over the Idlib region, and that the four pilots ejected with parachutes and landed safely. File picture: AP

Turkey’s hypocrisy about Syria should be challenged

By Reneva Fourie Time of article published Mar 2, 2020

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Inputs by Turkey, the United States of America and the rest of their NATO allies at the almost weekly, United Nations Security Council discussions on Syria, evoke frustration. The latest UN Security Council meeting took place on Thursday, February 27, with an urgent meeting on Friday, February 28, spurred by the death of 34 Turkish soldiers in Idlib, Syria; the Syrian soldiers who died in defence of their people, who are subjected to the most brutal atrocities by the insurgents, going unmentioned. 

Those participating in and following the deliberations were subjected to the USA and Turkey garnering sympathy for the fallen soldiers, lauding their military occupation in Syria as being in the interest of the well-being of Syrians. The material realities expose the duplicitousness of their sympathies. Such hypocrisy should be challenged.

For one, they fail to acknowledge that they are unwelcome invaders on SYRIAN soil. Then, as Turkey professes its supposed determination to protect the people of Syria, it in addition to looting machinery and commodities simultaneously targets infrastructure that is critical for human security. 

In the very week of the UN Security Council meeting, they were complicit in stopping the water supply from Alouk water station and expelling the workers servicing it, thereby denying over 600 000 people living in Hasaka city, Tel Tamer and the surrounding residential neighbourhoods access to this fundamental basic commodity. Electricity infrastructure was also targeted, the most recent being the Tamer Power station. Workers trying to restore electricity were mercilessly killed.

Most importantly, civilians in Idlib are being prevented, by forces supported by them, from using the safe exit passages provided to them by the Syrian government, as it responds to attacks by the extremist insurgents and Turkish soldiers armed with the most modern Western artillery, rockets and drones; and US-made shoulder-fired missiles. 

Hundreds have died in the past two months and hundreds of thousands more have been displaced. The USA and Turkey unashamedly quote the figures, while knowing that they are directly responsible for the situation. If they truly cared about the people of Syria, they would have respected Syria’s sovereignty and vacated its territory. Sanctions against Syria would also have been lifted.

Israel is equally complicit in efforts to destabilise Syria. Just before midnight on the evening of Sunday, February 23, Israel exerted its usual tyranny on Damascus, by bombarding the city with missiles, most of which, fortunately, were shot down by the Syrian air defence. On Thursday evening too, Israeli aircraft fired missiles onto the city of Quneitra, located 65 kilometres south of Damascus, and the nearby towns of al-Qataniyah and al-Hurriyet; this after having murdered an innocent policeman in Hader village with a drone-fired missile, earlier in the day. It baffles the mind that the UN Security Council discusses the situation in Syria so often, yet at each occasion, the attacks by Israel go unaddressed.

That the people of Syria feel that the world does not care, is understandable. They watch the USA and Turkey boldly misleading the international community and making a mockery of their suffering. They witness being treated as manipulatable statistics by Turkey and its NATO allies to justify its presence in their country; and by human rights organisations to get access to funding. They observe the murders by Israel going unchallenged. The frustration with the porousness of the system that is meant to protect them is exacerbated by the challenges of living in a conflict environment as they lose loved ones, struggle to make ends meet and are unable to comfort their traumatised children. There is a reason for the sense of despondency at the absence of decency in humanity, to run deeply. 

Ironically, the despondency at the lack of external empathy has strengthened their internal resolve to remain victorious. Rather than dwelling on their tremendous losses and pain - for there is not a single Syrian that has not suffered severely because of the war- they live each day as if it is their last; espousing compassion, solidarity, and determination.

Much effort is going into rebuilding infrastructure and restoring historical sites and artefacts. The Aleppo airport became operational within a few days of the area being liberated; and the highway between Aleppo and Damascus, which was estimated to take months to repair, is now functional too. 

Likewise, efforts to beautify the country are underway. Two car bomb explosions occurred in Damascus on Tuesday, February 25. The first, near Tishreen stadium, killed one civilian and injured another. The other, was an assassination attempt on journalist, Nabil Khaddour, whose car exploded in the busy tunnel-end of Omayyad square. The insurgents intended to communicate that the country remains vulnerable despite the Syrian government’s victory in securing Aleppo. But life in Damascus continues unabated, for the people of Damascus refuse to be restricted by fear. Symbolic of their determination to celebrate life, a group of volunteers have committed to complementing their government’s efforts to replant gardens that had been destroyed during the war. They are determined to elevate one of the oldest cities in the world, to its former glory. 

The resilience of the people of Syria is admirable, but they need to know that the rest of the world cares. They need to know too that their voices are being heard; and that their will for their country takes precedence - not that of the USA, not the United Kingdom, not France, not Israel, and not Turkey. The people of Syria are quite capable of managing and resolving their own challenges and they should be respected and given the space to do so. 

The hypocrisy of countries destabilising Syria should not be tolerated, and pressure is required so that the unsolicited foreign interventions come to an end. In particular, the South African government and the African National Congress should leverage their close relationships with the Turkish government and the AK Party respectively by engaging President Erdogan directly and challenging him to stop being a USA/Israeli proxy for driving a regime-change agenda in Syria. The people of Syria deserve peace and prosperity.

* Reneva Fourie is a policy analyst specialising in governance, development and security.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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