Tag Archives: war crimes

The Darker Side of the Western Enthusiasm for “The Kurds”

A version of this article was published in The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 24 November 2019

Solider from the Syrian regime holds up a portrait of Bashar al-Asad and a Syrian national flag, another stands by the Kurdish YPG/PKK flag, in Kobani, 18 October 2019. (AFP)

Mustafa Bali, head of the press office for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the coalition partner against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, sent a tweet on November 14 showing Turkey’s Arab proxies engaged in “ISIS chants.” By this, he meant the takbir, “God is Great,” an expression used by Muslims every day. When criticised, Bali doubled down and blocked many critics. This was a microcosm of one of the darker threads in an SDF messaging strategy that is among the most effective propaganda campaigns on record. Continue reading

Trump’s Middle East Failure Was Made By Obama

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 19 November 2019

President Barack Obama meeting President-elect Donald Trump, 10 November 2016 [image source]

October 2019 may well remain in the popular memory as the inflection point marking the collapse of America’s — and by extension, the West’s — position in at least the northern Middle East. Having been thwarted twice before in efforts to leave Syria, in March and December 2018, President Donald Trump made one more try. For many, ‘Trump betrayed the Kurds’ will be the summary of the events that followed as Turkey made a swift move into the vacuum. The reality is a lot more complicated, and in truth the amount of blame that Trump can take for the events of the last month is rather limited. This catastrophe was baked into the policy of Barack Obama, and Trump’s main fault is to have followed the policy track laid down by his predecessor. Continue reading

The West and its Foreign Terrorist Fighters

Published at The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 June 2019

An Islamic State being led into the Iraqi Criminal Court in Baghdad, 5 May 2019 (AP)

From May 26 to June 3, Iraq’s government sentenced to death 11 Islamic State operatives who had been captured in Syria. The novelty in the cases was that the Iraqis said the militants were French and ten of them were. The other was Tunisian.

The French government has made a pro forma protest against the death sentences but did nothing to impede the process. This is of a piece with the general approach European countries, including Britain, have taken to their citizens who joined jihadi groups in the Levant. Continue reading

Europe Tries to Re-engage in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 October 2018

Istanbul summit, 27 October 2018 (image source)

At Saturday’s summit in Istanbul between Turkey, Russia, France and Germany, the focus was on extending the September 17 Turkey-Russia ceasefire agreement reached in Sochi that spared Idlib a full-scale offensive by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his supporters, and to “progress” on the political track. Continue reading

The Failure of the United Nations in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 14 May 2018

United Nations in East Ghouta, Syria (image source)

At best, the United Nations has been impotent as Syria was destroyed. But when the U.N.’s role is examined more closely it looks more like a collaborator, than a bystander, to that destruction. Continue reading

The Criminality of the Syrian Regime

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 April 2018

A satellite image of Sednaya prison, about 20 miles north-east of the presidential palace. CNES and ASTRIUM / Amnesty International via AFP

To accompany the release of “Syria’s Slaughterhouses”, a film by TRT World’s “Off The Grid”, I was asked to give an overview of the available evidence of the Assad regime’s crimes against humanity.

The launching of a limited punitive raid against the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad for the use of poison gas has brought some attention to the regime’s crimes. The regime’s visible crimes are numerous and devastating.

In addition to using weapons of mass destruction, fighter jets have levelled ancient cities, sieges have starved populations into submission, and improvised explosives like barrel bombs have maimed thousands. These tactics are part of what UN investigators have called a “systematic and widespread attack against [the Syrian] civilian population”.

The UN commission recently noted that what the Assad regime has done amounts to crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, rape, and torture.

What does not get enough attention is the part of Assad’s criminality that is most difficult to see: that which takes place in the prisons, a vast network of concentration camps where torture and murder is routine. Continue reading

United Nations Documents Human Rights Abuses By the “Syrian Kurds”

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 March 2018

Kurdish YPG/PKK fighters (Rodi Said/Reuters)

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry (IICI) on the Syrian Arab Republic was set up in 2011 by the United Nations Human Rights Council to track human rights abuses in Syria.

Naturally, this has meant that most of the Commission’s work is focused on the industrial-scale crimes against humanity committed by Bashar al-Asad’s regime and his enablers in Russia and Iran. Later, as non-state terrorist and extremist groups intruded into Syria, the Commission documented the atrocities by the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which works under the label of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria and dominates the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that the U.S.-led Coalition works with against IS. The Commission has also recorded abuses by rebel groups.

The Commission’s latest report, released on 6 March 2018, “draws from more than 500 interviews and encapsulates the trends over the past six months in the Syrian Arab Republic, with particular focus on the impact of the offensive against [the Islamic State] and the use of siege warfare on the civilian population.” The report, therefore, has something of a focus on the SDF/PKK human rights violations, though IS’s horrific treatment of religious minorities and so on, plus the pro-Asad coalition’s ongoing campaign of massacre and displacement in areas such as East Ghuta, are given ample attention. Continue reading