The ACTU is deeply concerned with the latest aggression by Turkey against the Kurdish people in Syria, which comes days after US President Donald Trump’s announcement on 6 October that the US would withdraw its troops from the area. Turkey’s attack on Kurdish-run Rojava in northern Syria, dubbed ‘Operation Peace Spring’, is in breach of international law and risks unleashing a humanitarian catastrophe which has already forced 130,000 people to flee their homes, and which the United Nations estimates could displace up to 400,000 people.


From late 2014 until Trump’s sudden reversal of US policy on 6 October, the US and other Western powers were in a military alliance with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to fight ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). The SDF have borne the brunt of the fighting against ISIS and suffered significant casualties, including 11,000 fighters killed. Turkey regards the Kurdish fighters as terrorists, and the US presence acted as a restraint on Turkish aggression, but Trump’s announcement of withdrawal from northern Syria has given Turkey tacit approval for invasion, which has increased the threat that ISIS may be revived in Syria.


Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who has led the country since 2003, represents an authoritarian regime leading the violent persecution of the Kurdish minority, as well as the repression of workers, human-rights activists, journalists, and other dissenting voices. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) named Turkey as among the world’s ten worst countries for workers in its 2019 Global Rights Index report, finding that peaceful assemblies were violently dispersed by the police, workers and union leaders were detained, and in 2018 the leader of the rubber and chemical workers’ union was murdered while visiting a worksite. 


We call on President Erdogan to stop Turkey’s invasion of Rojava and immediately withdraw its forces, and we call on the Australian government to condemn Turkey’s invasion and demand an immediate cessation of the hostilities.