1500 martyrs, 72 jets, 58 days of resistance…
In the Resistance of the Age, the people of Afrin resisted NATO's most fascist and technologically-advanced army for 58 days, yielding about 1500 martyrs among citizens and military forces.
The Turkish state's Afrin Occupation Operation, which was carried out with the approval of the United States and Russia, was one of the most violent strikes in history. Despite Erdogan's claim that "we will enter in a week and disperse them," the Turkish army and its SNA gang collaborators were defeated in the first week. The YPG, YPJ, Asayish (Public Security), Revolutionary Forces, Erka xwêparastin, Self-Defense Forces (HPC), internationalist fighters, and the people fought together, shoulder to shoulder.
THE RUSSIAN DOUBLE GAME
The groundwork for the invasion attack was laid during the SDF's campaigns against Turkish state gangs and ISIS-occupied areas in Shehba, and against ISIS in Manbij. During the Manbij and Shehba campaigns, the Turkish state backed its proxies and targeted SDF forces in both areas as well as Afrin.
While the Turkish state was attempting to obstruct these steps, it pursued both a threat and a relationship policy with the United States and Russia. On August 24, 2016, with the approval of the United States, an agreement with Russia was reached, and the Shehba Occupation Operation, which was launched from Jarablus, started. While ISIS withdrew from the fight with Turkey in several places, Turkey confronted the SDF, which was running a campaign against ISIS in al-Bab. On October 20, 2017, the Turkish state carried out an air strike on the SDF forces carrying out operations against ISIS in al-Bab. This attack claimed the lives of 22 SDF fighters. Russia, which had previously supplied air support to the SDF in the Shehba operation, forged the al-Bab deal with Turkey against Aleppo, allowing Turkey to enter Syrian territory in 2016.
While the SDF was conducting operations against ISIS alongside Coalition forces in the east of the Euphrates, YPG reached an agreement with Russia to counter Turkish threats in Afrin. On the basis of this agreement, the Russians established themselves in the Kefercanê village in Shera, Afrin in March 2017 as a guarantor against Turkey's threats. With the announcement that Russians would be deployed to Afrin, Turkey intensified its attacks on Afrin and Shehba. As a guarantor, the Russian military settled in Shehba in August 2017. While the Russians reached an agreement with the SDF on one hand, they pursued various bargains with Turkey based on the Astana Agreement on the other.
INVASION ATTACKS IN COLLABORATION WITH RUSSIA AND THE USA
The Afrin Occupation Operation, like the Shehba Occupation Operation, was carried out after Turkey negotiated and received consent from the United States and Russia. Tayyip Erdogan revealed this truth as he stated, "If we agree with Russia, we will enter Afrin, and if we agree with the United States, we will enter Manbij."
The remarks of the time’s US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, "We will train a border guard force of 30,000 personnel in Northern and Eastern Syria," became the first flare for the invasion. "We will continue to engage with allies and partners like Turkey in the fight against terrorism, in addressing the terrorist danger in Idlib and Turkey's concerns about PKK members elsewhere," Tillerson said of Turkey's reaction to the US statement. The message from the US official was, "The way is paved."
Russia, on one hand, bargained with Turkey over Ghouta and Afrin, while it on the other hand pledged to maintain its guarantorship in Afrin. Starting from the beginning of January 2018, the Turkish state's artillery attacks on Afrin intensified. Erdogan gave the news of the Afrin Occupation Operation in his speech at the AKP's Elazig Provincial Congress on January 13, 2017. “You will see how we will turn there upside down in less than a week,” Erdogan said.
Even after Erdogan's announcement, Russian officials told the YPG that their troops would continue to function as a guarantor. On January 19, 2018, while the Turkish press was creating headlines such as "Russian military retreated from Afrin" as a confession of the agreement, Russia denied this withdrawal.
72 JETS FOR 3850 SQUARE METERS
Following Erdogan's remarks, Afrin was subjected to artillery fire for days. Despite all of its assurances to the Afrin people, Russia withdrew its forces from Kefercanê on January 20, 2018, signalling the start of the Turkish invasion operation.
"Russia withdrew on the day the jets struck," reported journalist Egid Roj, who followed the developments in Afrin before the invasion and the Turkish state's Occupation Operation on the ground, and added “They had not provided any information to the YPG prior to their withdrawal. Russia kept its agreement with Turkey hidden until the day of the attack, when they abruptly withdrew, they paved the way for the invasion operation."
At 16:10 on January 20, 2018, 72 Turkish jets attacked Afrin, a small area of 3850 square meters in total. Turkish jets attacked around 180 civilian and military buildings in Afrin center, Jindires, Rajo, Shera, Sherawa, and Mabeta districts and villages in their first attack. In addition to the aerial bombardment of Afrin, the Turkish state and its mercenaries used artillery to attack Shehba. At 17:00, the Turkish state announced the launch of the "Campaign Olive Branch," an invasion and genocide operation on Afrin, which is famous for its olives.
ENKS AND ISIS ATTACKS BY LAND
The Turkish state, which began the invasion operation with 72 jets and hundreds of artillery on January 20, launched a ground aggression on Afrin on January 21, 2018 from 7 locations including Azaz in the city's east, Kilis in the north, Hatay in the west, and Atmê Refugee Camp in the southwest.
On the first day of the land offensive, the Turkish state concentrated its attacks on Hamam village in Jindires, Kêvirê Ker Hill in Rajo, and the strategically important Kastel Cindo Hill on the Afrin-Azaz-Kilis border. After a heavy bombardment of airplanes and tanks, Turkey had its proxies launch an assault on Afrin to the accompaniment of surveillance aircraft, targeting seven locations from three directions. The Turkish state also let the FSA, ISIS, and Al-Nusra mercenaries loose on Afrin after it recruited, reformed, and declared them as the Syrian National Army (SNA) on December 30, 2017.
25,000 mercenaries took part in the invasion operation including gang groups of the Samarkand Brigades, Liwa El Shamal, Liwa El Munteser Billah, Ceysh El Ehfad, Ehrar El Sharqiye, Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigades, Sultan Osman Brigade, Quwet El Mexewir, Firqet El Sefwe, Sultan Murad Division, Firqet El Hemze, Siwar El Cezira, Al Xamês, Firqa 23, Liwa Al Muttesim, Feyleq-2, Firqa Al Shamaliye, Fewc Al Mistefa, Ceysh Al Islam, Tecemuh Festakim Kema Umêrt, Cebhet Al Shamiye, Liwa 51, Suqur Al Sham, Harekat Ehrar Al Sham, Firqa 9, Ceyş El Nûxbe, Feyleq El Şam, Liwa El Sultan Süleyman Shah, Liwa Suqur El Şemal, Nuredîn Zenki, Cebhet Tehrîr Syria. ENKS officials admitted that 6 gang groups affiliated to them under the Samarkand Brigades participated in the invasion operation.
THE INVADERS WERE SMASHED IN THE FIRST WEEK
Forces from the YPG, YPJ, Jabhat al-Akrad, Seyş El Siwar, Asayiş, HPC, and Erkexwê Parastin held positions throughout Afrin and fought shoulder to shoulder. Hundreds of Afrin civilians joined the Self-Defense Forces (HPC) and surged onto the front lines to confront the invaders.
Contrary to Erdogan's boast that "we will take Afrin in a week," NATO's greatest fascist power, the Turkish army, and its partner ISIS-Al-Qaeda-brokered SNA mercenaries, were smashed in the first week by those joining the Resistance of the Age. The occupation forces that managed to enter some villages without firing a shot after intense air and ground bombardment, were driven out of almost all of the areas they had entered by the self-sacrificing fighters of the Resistance of the Age.
On January 26, 2018, at a roundtable meeting on the Turkish army operation on Afrin, CIS Institute Vice President and Russian military expert Vladimir Yevseyev evaluated the operation from a military standpoint, saying, "The Turkish army, which has been fighting for less than a week, is stranded there. This is the most heinous military operation imaginable." Yevseyev argued that despite Turkey attacking Afrin with 72 warplanes and targeting the military forces and the civilian population with all NATO's techniques, the air strikes are still insufficient and provided Turkey with the perspective of using more air strikes and more troops and mercenaries in the Afrin Occupation Operation.
'THERE WASN’T A SINGLE PEAK AND POINT LEFT THAT WAS NOT BOMBED'
Karker Efrin, a member of the YPG Afrin Command at the time, stated that the weather conditions were initially favorable for Afrin Resistance fighters, stating, "There was rain and fog for the first few days. The enemy was employing very aggressive tactics, but our comrades responded with action after action, taking advantage of the weather. They ruined the enemy. When the rain stopped, it was even easier for the occupiers to employ their techniques. They were ruthlessly employing jets, reconnaissance aircraft and explosives. I believe there isn't a single peak or point in Afrin where hundreds of tons of bombs did not hit during the battle. They attacked very brutally. Our forces fought a self-sacrificing struggle.”
A SELF-SACRIFYING RESISTANCE
Karker Efrin stated that a tremendous and selfless resistance developed on numerous fronts in Afrin, and told about some of the fronts and heroes of the Resistance of the Age as follows: "A huge resistance arose under the leadership of Rajo and the martyr comrade Umut Ali.
For days, comrade Umut dealt tremendous blows to the enemy in the Gunde Quda-Ademe line. They couldn't get any closer to the Rajo line till he was martyred. For more than a week, a strong resistance formed on the Jindires line, particularly in Hamam village, led by Martyr Arteş. They attacked heavily, but they were unable to advance until Arteş fell as a martyr. The Turks and gangs entered the village many times, only to be driven out by our comrades. For a week or ten days, on the Bilbile line, under the leadership of comrades Şervan Amed and Mazlum Ciger, a strong resistance arose, particularly in Şêx Xurze. As soon as they approached, our comrades intervened and sent them away. The further they advanced, the more our comrades hit and killed them, taking the village back.
The battle and resistance dragged on for a long period. Comrade Kahraman was on the Bahçe village line for 45 days. That was the extent of the enemy's attacks. That front did not give way even for once. Only when an air attack killed Heval Kahraman, could the enemy proceed. On the Shera line, the Turks used all of their means to attack Kastel Cindo Hill, but the resistance lasted 9 days. They only entered this line 9 days later, after organizing all of their resources, carrying out attacks day and night with jets and tanks. Many of my martyred comrades played critical roles in the battle. Comrade Armanç carried out numerous actions on the Mabata line. Even a helicopter was shot down. A large number of actions of self-sacrifice were carried out. Many comrades attacked the enemy in a selfless manner, and many of them fell as martyrs."
‘WE WERE FIGHTING AGAINST JETS, NOT PEOPLE’
Karker Afrin remarked that the Resistance of the Age had the advantage until the first 45 days of the invasion campaign, and said: "The enemy could not advance easily. The more they attempted to move forward, the more losses they suffered. But it wasn't a hand-to-hand fight. It was more of a technical attack. Of course, it was a brutal conflict. They were shooting people and carrying out massacres. Due to the massacres, many people were forced to flee their villages.
The invaders did not approach any village where our comrades were stationed. First, they attacked the village, using jets, helicopters, reconnaissance aircraft and tanks, nearly obliterating the settlement. They entered the village only after making sure that there was no one else in the village. As a result, there was no one to fight. It seemed as though you were confronting a technique. Despite this, they were unable to penetrate Afrin that easily. The comrades struck a significant blow to them in many locations. Thousands of them died.”
Thousands of Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, Turkmen, Circassians, Yazidis, Armenians, and people of many beliefs from various cities in Northern and Eastern Syria moved to Afrin, despite the quiet support of international forces and states for the occupation. Human shield operations against Afrin began in the first week of February and lasted until mid-March. Kurds from Shengal, Southern Kurdistan, and Eastern Kurdistan took part in the Human Shield actions as well. Despite Turkey bombing some human shield convoys on the route, the demonstrations continued.
"The entire world has left Afrin alone," stated journalist Egid Roj and added, “Yet, risking death, the peoples of Northern and Eastern Syria, as well as honorable Kurds from all around Kurdistan, flocked into Afrin. The inhabitants of Afrin gained a lot of morale as a result of this circumstance. In Afrin, there was such a spirit of resistance that Arabs, Circassians, Syriacs, and internationalists all resisted together, and their blood mingled."
SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS, WATER RESOURCES WERE BOMBED
When Turkey was unable to make significant advances by land for around 45 days, it increased atrocities against civilians in order to make the people surrender and force them to flee. Despite the fact that the horrific occupation attacks on Afrin were broadcast live on Turkish television, the UN and international human rights organizations remained deafeningly mute.
The Turkish state expanded its massacres against civilians, aided by the silent participation of foreign powers and institutions. For 58 days, the invaders attacked the inhabitants of Afrin with enormous vengeance and fury. On the other hand, they targeted the water sources, bakeries, ambulances, and schools in the city in order to displace people. The Meydankê Dam, which supplies most of Afrin's water needs, was bombed by the Turkish state.
Between January 20, 2018, and March 18, 2018, 31 schools in Afrin and its districts were attacked by air and land, killing 13 students. During the attacks, the Turkish state and its mercenaries also destroyed historical sites like Eyn Dara, Nebî Hûrî, Girê Îska, Dêr Belût, and Girê Cindirêsê.
Turkish jets, on the other hand, targeted scores of health clinics and bakeries. Turkish airplanes attacked Avrin Hospital, the major hospital in Afrin, on March 16. On the same day, fighter jets murdered 35 civilians in the Mahmudiye neighbourhood.
According to Afrin Canton Health Council data, 176 civilians were killed in the first month of the invasion attacks, including 27 children and 21 women, while 484 people were injured, including 60 children and 71 women. According to the Afrin Human Rights Organization announcement in December 2020, 498 civilians were murdered by the invaders during the 58-day of the Resistance of the Age.
THE AFRIN ADMINISTRATION DECIDED TO EVACUATE PEOPLE
On March 16, the Afrin Administration decided to evacuate the inhabitants of Afrin as civilians were being targeted and the threat of a massacre rose. Due to the Turkish occupation, around 300,000 inhabitants from Afrin, which had a population of around 500 thousand, were forced to migrate to Shehba between March 16 and 18.
In a press release issued in Shehba on March 18, the Democratic Autonomous Administration of Afrin Canton stated that, "The Afrin resistance has reached a new phase, and it has been decided to evacuate the residents from the city in order to prevent a huge humanitarian tragedy.” According to the statement, by the 58th day of the resistance, 500 civilians, including children, women, and the elderly, were martyred, 1030 civilians were injured, and 820 fighters were martyred.
2422 OCCUPIERS WERE KILLED
In a statement issued in January 2019, the YPG made public the balance sheet of the 58-day first phase of the Resistance of the Age. According to this declaration, the Turkish state launched 1098 airstrikes and 3577-4000 heavy weapon attacks against Afrin for 58 days, while the Resistance of the Age fighters carried out at least 900 actions against the invaders. These actions resulted in the destruction of two helicopters, two unmanned aerial vehicles (one drone and one Bayraktar), 122 military vehicles (tanks, panzers, armored vehicles), two bomb-laden vehicles, and one bomb-laden motorcycle, as well as the damaging of 32 vehicles. 2422 invaders were killed as a result of the actions conducted by the resistance fighters.
Rojava Martyrs' Families Institution, informing ANF, said that 987 fighters of the Resistance of the Age have been martyred since January 20, 2018. The institution declared that their research on the martyrs of the Resistance of the Age continues.