Aid Groups Warn of Humanitarian Crisis from Turkey’s Assault on Syria

Doctors Without Borders and other groups raise alarm over everything from massive new flows of refugees to conditions for Islamic State fighters detained during a previous phase in Syria’s chaotic civil war.

By James Reinl
at UN Headquarters
Inter Press Service

Aid groups operating in northeastern Syria have been raising the alarm about civilian casualties and an impending humanitarian crisis this week, as Turkey began a military assault on the turbulent region’s Kurdish militants.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other groups warned about everything from massive new flows of refugees to conditions for detained Islamic State (IS) fighters from a previous phase in Syria’s chaotic civil war.

Turkish forces began an offensive in Syria’s northeast on Wednesday to clear out Kurdish militias and return Syrian refugees, within days of United States President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria’s turbulent north.

MSF teams “remain ready to provide medical care after the Turkish military launched operations” and “are preparing for a potential increase of patients linked to the conflict,” the group said in a statement Wednesday.

UN Security Council meeting this week. (UN/Manuel Elias)

“We have seen people being displaced from locations along the border due to the conflict and are extremely worried that the military intervention will threaten the safety and wellbeing of the Syrian people,” the group said.

Military operations against Kurdish fighters began Wednesday with air strikes rocking the Syrian border town of Ras al Ain with large explosions, as Turkey moved tanks, artillery, and howitzers in preparation for a broader assault.

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United Nations spokesman Farhan Haq said aid groups would have “scale-up at a time of crisis” and urged the region’s armed forces to keep the Turkey-Syria border open so that aid trucks could bring food, medicine and other gear to those affected by fighting.

Returning Millions of Refugees

Ankara seeks to create a “safe zone” to return millions of refugees to Syrian soil and end a “terror corridor” on Turkey’s southern border. Turkey says Kurdish YPG fighters in northeast Syria are terrorists due to their links to militants waging an insurgency inside Turkey.

Turkey had been preparing to advance into Syria’s northeast since U.S. troops started pulling out of the area in a policy shift by Trump that was widely condemned in Washington as a betrayal of America’s armed Kurdish allies.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Government of Russia)

Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, an aid group, blasted Trump’s policy shift and rounded on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “shockingly irresponsible” assault, which “will put lives at grave risk.”

“Trump’s decision to give Turkey the green light to launch an incursion into northeast Syria could have major humanitarian consequences,” Schwartz, a former U.S. State Department official, said in a statement.

“It could open new fronts in the conflict and newly displace hundreds of thousands of civilians across an area already in the grip of a humanitarian crisis [and] likely force international relief groups to evacuate just when they are most needed.”

Doz, a youth aid organization, said Ankara’s stated objective of resettling some 2 million Syrian refugees from Turkey back to their homeland was tantamount to “demographic engineering and ethnic cleansing.”

In a statement, Doz urged the European Union, the UN and the U.S. to try to “prevent this war,” which will have “dramatic consequences such as new mass forced migration and directly affect the life of 6 million civilians.”

Fighting in the struggling northeast could “revive” prospects for IS and “cause the release” of some 12,000 hardline militants who are detained by Kurdish forces at al-Hol and other camps in Syria’s northeast, said Doz.

HRW, a New York-based campaign group, said the detained militants across some seven lockups in the northeast included 4,000 foreign fighters who should be repatriated to their countries of origin.

“Thousands of people, including children, are stuck in what amounts to shockingly overcrowded prisons on suspicion of being IS, but no one is accepting responsibility for them,” said Letta Tayler, a crisis researcher for HRW. 

 “Any authority that effectively controls these informal prisons is legally bound to urgently improve conditions and ensure that each and every detainee is held lawfully.”

James Reinl is a correspondent for Inter Press Service.

This article is from Inter Press Service.

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23 comments for “Aid Groups Warn of Humanitarian Crisis from Turkey’s Assault on Syria

  1. Guy
    October 14, 2019 at 12:03

    Crying crocodile tears for terrorists in disguise of civilians; where were these people when Aleppo was being held under siege by these cut throats and the same in most of Syria. Pure propaganda for the masses of the dumbed down .
    The Kurds need to reconcile with their rightful leader in Damascus.

  2. Fabrizio Zambuto
    October 14, 2019 at 08:37

    exactly
    “Trump’s decision to give Turkey the green light to launch an incursion into northeast Syria could have major humanitarian consequences,” Schwartz, a former U.S. State Department official, said in a statement”
    the former State Dept official apparently wasn’t so worried during the previous 5 years of War created under the Obama Administration when they crippled Syria with sanctions, sponsored Al Qaida elements, let “ISIS grow” (says john Kerry in a secretly recorded conversation with opposition) and prevent Syrian army from freeing zones under siege by terrorists.
    I’m not defending Trump or Erdogan (I dislike both) but this newfound humanitarian concerns by former State Dept Officials smacks of hypocrisy and it’s quite obviously (and cynically) politically motivated.

  3. incontinent reader
    October 13, 2019 at 16:00

    What is happening to the Kurds- and has happened to them since WWI, and the carve-up of the Middle East without providing them with their own homeland- is tragic. But until there is a compelling reason to redraw the borders, it will not happen nor receive international approval, regardless of what the US or Israel or NATO have intended.

    The border zone that the Turks claim is being cleared is a swath 32 kilometers (20 miles) deep. According to reports, already over 170,000 of the estimated 500,000 Kurds in the region have left, and one might assume they have moved deeper into the interior of Syria, rather than crossed the border into Turkey.

    Meanwhile, Russian and Iranian diplomacy have been very active, and while Turkey has imbedded itself for some time in Syria, and profited from ISIS’s presence and theft of oil in the NorthEast, IMHO there is an endgame that is being worked out between the parties that is being choreographed by the Russians with possibly the tacit approval of Trump. Namely, that the Kurds will seek Syrian protection in exchange for their acknowledgment of Syrian sovereignty over the border area, and will drop its separatist agenda, including any threat to Turkish sovereignty on the other side of the border, while perhaps receiving some measure of local autonomy from the Syrians- with the Astana group (including Turkey) signing on as guarantors of an agreement memorializing the parties’ respective interests and compliance thereof. The point being that the Russians and Iranians are seeking some measure of compromise that meets the core interests of all parties, to return the area to peace and stability, consistent with the international law paradigm of each UN member nation state’s territorial integrity and sovereignty provided under the UN Charter.

    While Erdogan is less than trustworthy (and has also repeatedly denied Turkey’s history of ethnic cleansing of the Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians 100 years ago), and Turkish proxies and the Turkish military could remain in Syria much longer than he has proclaimed, e.g.,in what would become a ‘frozen conflict’, there are limits to his freedom of action, and obligation to his partners in the Astana process, as well as the incentive of benefits he has been receiving from Russia- and would receive in the future from trade and anti-terrorism coordination with Russia and Iran.

    • Deniz
      October 14, 2019 at 23:23

      I agree, I think Erdogan has too many problems with the US to also cross Russia, Iran and China’s interests. As long as Putin backs the new Kurd alliance with Assad, and the Kurds are sincere, Erdogans options are limited. This could be a coordinated play to finally get the US out.

    • John Wright
      October 15, 2019 at 16:46

      I agree. I would only amend that Israel prefers chaos as it is always seeking to leverage it to its advantage in order to advance its greater Israel project.

      That said, Trump could’ve prevented a lot of needless bloodshed and destruction if he had a spine and some vision, and had negotiated a peaceful transition during the past two plus years. Yes, he would’ve had to acknowledge Assad as legitimate and worked with Russia, but if he was serious about getting the U.S. out of Syria, that was what was required.

      May the Kurds eventually get their own homeland.

  4. William H Warrick III MD
    October 13, 2019 at 15:09

    DWB is Controlled Opposition and is staying on script for the Foundations that pay them.

  5. Moi
    October 13, 2019 at 02:42

    It all goes to show how the “moral authority” of Nato is less than zero when one of their members can use proxies to invade another nation, loot it resources and create millions of refugees. Then they invade again using their own troops in order to relocate the refugees they created in the first instance.

    So called “international law” is a farce.

  6. john wilson
    October 12, 2019 at 05:15

    I see the American main stream media has started wringing their hands for the Kurds and castigating Turkey for entering Syria. Does it no occur to the US media that American troops (two thousand of them) are also in Syria and there illegally under international law. The Syrian people just want the war Lords of outside forces to go away and leave them alone. There never was any ISIS in Syria before the arrival of the US and their mercenary proxies.

  7. MarB
    October 12, 2019 at 01:24

    To even call whats happening in Syria a Civil War is a gross misrepresentation if not a travesty, for although there were genuine protests in Dara in March 2011, and the beginning of an uprising against the Assad Government.. the genuine protests were quickly subsumed by Islamist groups , who as has been revealed fired on those protesters in the hope of blaming Assad’s Police forces..
    .
    The CIA Op to clandestinely arm and train those groups including Islamic State .. even has a name “Timber Sycamore”
    Attempts at destabilizing Syria as shown by William Blum among others were ongoing as soon as Assad snr took power…and The CIA and British intelligence services have a history of cultivating Islamist groups in North Africa and the Middle east since the late 40’s, notably Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt !

    • Charlene Richards
      October 13, 2019 at 00:52

      The problem is that if you asked a hundred Americans at your local DMV about ANY of this they would have NO IDEA what you were talking about.

      Nor could any of them find Syria on a world map.

      THIS is the main problem those of us who ARE paying attention have!

      NO OTHER AMERICANS know or care about ANY of this.

      The dumbing down of America is right on track.

      No idea of what is happening or where? No protests or voting that is based on any intelligent analysis of the pressing issues that are costing U.S. treasure and human lives.

      Just have a beer and watch the latest schlock on Netflix. Next day, repeat.

    • AnneR
      October 14, 2019 at 08:08

      Yes, Mar B you are right in your overview. Thanks.

      Charlene Richards – you are indeed generally correct – I would only enlarge on your assessment to include most, not all, but most of the very well-educated, comfortably off Americans, too. Yes, they would be able to find Syria on the map, more or less. And doubtless they watch/listen to/read the MSM CIA, MIC controlled propaganda versions of what is (not) happening and so on.

      BUT they don’t give a flying f*** about what this country, our military, our government is doing, has been doing in the MENA countries (or elsewhere, further south in the rest of the Americas or in eastern Europe or in Asia and on and on). NOT happening here, to “us,” safely over there, thousands of miles from these shores. Unimportant. They are (and I would suggest have been since the draft ended in 1973) been disengaged in the US (with the UK-IS) imperialist bombing for “humanitarian, democracy spreading (so long as *our* sort of corporate-capitalist controlled “democracy” of course) causes.”

      It is clear from what I’ve heard and read regarding the bourgeois, comfortably off supporters (that I am acquainted with personally) of various Demrat contenders (particularly Sanders and Warren) – they really feel that they have their fellow countryfolk’s interests at heart (pro-MFA). BUT they have NO interest at all in their preferred candidates’ foreign policies (war, imperialism, US hegemony, US bomb, bomb, bomb). What we and our “allies” do – usually illegally – to other peoples in other parts of the world is of NO consequence to them (it won’t affect them personally so of no import, apparently). Therefore, this will play NO role in their voting, none. AND these are well educated people, who read a lot – though largely in the MSM and the Jacobin/Salon style “alt” media.

    • John Wright
      October 15, 2019 at 17:03

      The vast majority of Americans, whether they can find Syria on a map or not, will not care until they are directly affected when the U.S. economy crashes.

      Then, they will look around and wonder what happened.

      The job of those of us who have been paying attention is to tell them the truth and not let them be led to war by a Deep State stooge dressed in either red or blue.

      Thus, we need to keep engaging everyone in a friendly dialogue and slip some reality in as often as we can (i.e. gently prod them to THINK).

      We are the leaders we have been waiting for.

  8. John Wright
    October 11, 2019 at 22:27

    The United States, with its destruction of Iraq and attempted destruction of Syria, should shoulder the primary responsibility for solving this crisis. Unfortunately, Trump lacks the moral courage, wisdom and vision to find a peaceful solution. It is Trump’s weakness, and perhaps some personal business interests, that has allowed Erdogan to push this violent “solution” to his problems with refugees and his concern over an increasingly strong Kurdish population on his southern border, one that readily connects to an active minority within Turkey.

    The ideal solution would be for the U.S. to re-assert itself with Turkey and halt the present invasion. A relatively simple enforcement of a no fly zone would bring an immediate cessation to the hostilities. A U.S. special negotiator could then assemble all the interested parties and hammer out a deal that would satisfy the concerned parties. However, this appears extremely unlikely, primarily because it would require the U.S. to recognize the legitimacy of the Assad regime, something Trump clearly lacks the spine for.

    We can only hope that Russia will insert itself, at the request of Syria and with the acquiescence of Turkey, to assert some much needed leadership before too many Kurds are killed, too much more of Syria is destroyed and any of ISIS manages to escape and re-form.

    Much of ISIS could be moved to holding facilities outside of Syria (Iraq?), thus relieving that burden from the Syrians as they rebuild and resettle. There, the ISIS members could be identified and sorted by country of origin and criminality, and be either rehabilitated or incarcerated at the expense of the country of origin and/or the U.S. The family members could be given the choice of staying near the inmates or returning to their countries of origin, once again at the expense of their countries of origin and/or the U.S. Clearly, the greater international community would need to exert pressure on the recalcitrant countries to take responsibility for their citizens.

    Simultaneously, the various parties involved in the Syrian territories would need to negotiate a long term solution that would also be acceptable to both Turkey and Iraq. Reparations by those countries who precipitated the destabilization of Syria would help underwrite the rebuilding of the affected areas. Perhaps already proposed pipeline projects could also be leveraged to help rebuild these devastated areas (although I suspect that the Russians might want to slow this down as much as possible, perhaps the U.S., as well, but that’s an entirely other stack of considerations. China might be interested in playing a constructive role, as well, but the U.S. would almost certainly oppose that).

    The clock is ticking. Absent a strong, far reaching and peaceful solution, we could very well see genocide against the Kurds, a return of ISIS, an even greater destruction of Syria and a massive increase in refugees, many ultimately destined for Europe. In the end, not even Turkey would “win” should much of this come to pass.

    • Guy
      October 14, 2019 at 12:12

      In a just world ,the US should pay reparations for all the damage and innocent civilians that died during this conflict and we now know that this was planned,even before the invasion of Iraq. See Wesley Clarke’s videos on how wars were planned in seven countries in the Middle East.

    • John Wright
      October 15, 2019 at 16:55

      Guy –

      I’m quite familiar with Wesley Clarke and the plan to invade seven countries in five years, as well as his war crimes in the Balkans.

      Be well.

  9. Tom Kath
    October 11, 2019 at 20:49

    Continued use of the terms “Terrorist” and “Terrorist Organisation” as a description of anyone with differing cultural values, is a misleading and contributing factor. In many cases even the term “Enemy” may better describe the one using the term than the one being attacked.

  10. Deniz
    October 11, 2019 at 16:50

    There is certainly is extensive ethnic cleansing in the Middle East, but it was created by Israel, Big Oil and the Arms Merchants through their prostitutes in DC, London and the media over the past 2 decades. And in fact, the Kurds were instrumental in it.

    This is the inevitable consequence for the Kurds of a military alliance with Israel and the US, the endless pearl-clutching of the “informed” is tiresome. Exactly how do you think the US storm troopers would respond to Vlad arming Native Americans on the Shale Oil Fields, when they can’t even tolerate student protests on Wall Street?

    • Seamus Padraig
      October 12, 2019 at 14:02

      Good point.

  11. luke
    October 11, 2019 at 14:10

    Yeah, all these groups care about the human cost and are not merely dismayed at the continued decline of US hegemony in the region.

  12. Robert
    October 11, 2019 at 13:42

    Yes, the Turkish attack on NE Syria will result in ethnic/religious cleansing of the area of Kurds, Yazidi Christians, and moderate Muslims. The reason is that the main military force for the attack is not Turkish soldiers, but Free Syrian Army (Al Qaeda) forces stationed in and armed by Turkey. These forces were the darlings of Obama and John McCain, and were funded, armed and trained by the US to attack Assad. Turkey expects them to free ISIS forces being detained by the Kurds, populate the territory, and continue their fight against Assad. The territory they conquer will be part of Turkey. The precedent is Idlib, where Al Qaeda has taken over and even moderate Sunnis are being targeted. Humanitarian concerns over the atrocities committed in Idlib have been negligible. The best options are for the US to withdraw completely from Syria, for the Kurds, to negotiate with Syria, Russia, Iran, Iraq, and, yes, even with Donald Trump (if permitted to do so by MIC) to stop this Turkey-initiated conflict from turning into an humanitarian disaster.

  13. Robert
    October 11, 2019 at 13:33

    Yes, the Turkish attack on NE Syria will result in ethnic/religious cleansing of the area of Kurds, Yazidi Christians, and moderate Muslims. The reason is that the main military force for the attack is not Turkish soldiers, but Free Syrian Army (Al Qaeda) forces stationed in and armed by Turkey. These forces were the darlings of Obama and John McCain, and were funded, armed and trained by the US to attack Assad. Turkey expects them to free ISIS forces being detained by the Kurds, populate the territory, and continue their fight against Assad. The territory they conquer will be part of Turkey. The precedent is Idlib, where Al Qaeda has taken over and even moderate Sunnis are being targeted. The best options are for the US to withdraw completely from Syria, for the Kurds, to negotiate with Syria, Russia, Iran, Iraq, and, yes, even with Donald Trump (if permitted to do so by MIC) to stop this Turkey-initiated conflict from turning into an humanitarian disaster.

  14. AnneR
    October 11, 2019 at 12:17

    Frankly, I am exceedingly dubious about any of the groups (HRW, MSF et al) herein mentioned in support of the writer’s position and against what Turkey is up to. This does not mean that I am “for” the Turkish operation or against it. I simply do not know enough but am aware that we in the west are being fed anti-Syrian, anti-Russian, anti-Iranian propaganda on a daily, sickening basis.

    We are in Syria illegally. We have been supporting the jihadis (especially perhaps the offshoots of Al Qaeda) even as we have pretended to be fighting against them (real reason for being in Syria to balkanize it and grab its oil resources). We have pretended to be the ones who “defeated” the IS-Al Qaeda lot in Syria when in fact most of that was done by the SAA and Russia. And HRW does not have a stellar record, being all too willing to ignore the atrocities visited on the Palestinians on a daily basis. And it doesn’t seem to be all that bothered by the ongoing slaughter by bombs and starvation in Yemen, aside from the occasional (blaming the Houthis) critique.

    There is an excellent critique of these so-called (western viewpoint) NGO groups purporting to be on the side of the beleaguered and supposedly completely non-partisan. It is a book by Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon, The Human Right to Dominate. Not an easy read, but an incisive and necessary critique.

    Unfortunately this article does not seem to be in the same critical of US-UK-IS mold as many earlier ones used to be on CN and that is bothering. I hope it is not indicative of the future here where I have been coming for sanity after listening/hearing the Orwellian garbage spewed daily by NPR and the BBC World Service.

  15. October 11, 2019 at 11:41

    Turkish troops entered Syria. Ankara plans to cleanse the Turkish-Syrian border and surrounding territories from terrorists and Kurdish militia units. Danger Zone: what will happen to the Turkish troops in Syria; see: http://www.writenaregiven.com

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