On Wednesday, Turkey launched a military attack on northeastern Syria. Just days before, in a conversation with the Turkish President Erdogan, Trump greenlit this assault.
Already, the Turkish military has launched airstrikes and a ground offensive, causing deaths, injuries, and the displacement of thousands of people. Turkey’s targets are Kurdish forces across the border that have played a pivotal role as US allies in the efforts to defeat ISIS in Syria. What’s more, in many regions under their control, Kurds have established enclaves of secular, progressive and relatively stable governance. They have advanced commitments to gender equality and women’s leadership, even while war raged.
President Erdogan has made plain the intent behind this attack. In tandem with his hostility towards Kurds within Turkey’s borders, his stated objective remains to return northern Syria to what he has called its “real owners.” This is a blatant reference to ethnic cleansing and an attempt to erase the Kurdish population.
Kurdish communities are gathering to protest the military operation through sit-ins near the border, decrying the bloodshed that has already resulted and is all too familiar. When Turkey attacked a neighboring Syrian-Kurdish region, Afrin, in 2018, thousands were killed, injured, and displaced. This new incursion worsens Syria’s crisis, where 12 million people are already displaced due to fighting.
For years, in the war in Syria and beyond, the US has prioritized military attacks over diplomatic solutions, a failed strategy to confront war and violent extremism. Since taking office, Trump has continued and escalated US military action, including by increasing airstrikes in Afghanistan and Libya, continuing air and drone strikes in Somalia, expanding the already bloated military budget, and just today, sending 2,000 more troops to Saudi Arabia. In Syria, the US bombardment of Raqqa killed more than 1,600 civilians in 2017.
To move towards peace and justice, any US troop withdrawal must be accompanied by dramatic increases in humanitarian aid and diplomacy. Instead, Trump defers to an authoritarian strongman and advances an erratic, destabilizing US foreign policy that worsens violence and ignores the needs of communities on the ground.
MADRE calls for an end to the Turkish invasion and for real solutions to endless war. This means careful, multilateral diplomacy that brings conflicting groups together, builds trust, ensures women and marginalized communities have a leading voice at the table, and sustains long-term peace. It means humanitarian aid to support communities under siege and help them rebuild.
Since 2012, MADRE has partnered with grassroots Syrian women’s organizations to meet the needs of struggling communities under attack and to partner with women leaders to achieve their long-term vision of progressive social change. We know that peace will only become a reality if we partner with grassroots organizations to strengthen human rights, confront poverty and inequality, and uplift community-based solutions to war and violence.