US-Backed Forces in Syria Accused of War Crimes
As with many nations in turmoil, Syria has several ethnic groups. The largest minority is the Kurds. And with many groups vying to have control of their own destiny, the Kurds have armed themselves against ISIS. Much like the Kurds in Iraq, the Kurds in Northern Syria have forged for themselves an almost autonomous territory. Unlike many of the groups in the failed Train and Equip program, the Kurds are not clashing with the Syrian Army. However, this U.S. supported group has run into some trouble.
The Guardian reports:
US-backed Kurdish forces have forcefully displaced thousands of Syrian civilians, mostly Arabs, and demolished villages in northern Syria, often in retaliation for the residents’ perceived sympathies for Islamic State and other militants, Amnesty International has said.
Amnesty said its findings were based on visits to 14 towns and villages in the provinces of Hassakeh and Raqqa this summer, areas under Kurdish control. It said the abuses amount to war crimes.
Now, this is not to say that the Kurds are murdering people. Many times when the word “war crime” is used we think of mass killing and genocide. This is not what is being discussed. Rather, this is considered a war crime because the forced removal of civilians is considered a criminal act by an occupying army.
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The Guardian continued:
The rights group said at least two villages were entirely demolished. In at least eight other villages, the residents were forced to leave and were sometimes threatened with being shot or targeted in US airstrikes. It said the victims were mainly Arab, but also included Turkmens and other Kurds.
A Kurdish official in northern Syria said that forces may have committed minor violations against people suspected of ties to Isis, but that such actions were not based on ethnicity.
This also makes this crime different from what we have come to expect. The criminals then were neither murderers nor were they choosing these people based on anything other than to whom they were or are affiliated. But this, once again, is a bad report for an American-backed group in the war-torn country.
With the war dragging on for four years and no real end in sight, the U.S. has been forced to admit that its strategy has failed. They are now rebooting their efforts to be more cost efficient and effective.
All the while, Russia is taking target practice using U.S. backed rebels. The only effective force in the country besides the Syrian Army is now drawing criticism. But it might not be completely bad news.
The Kurds are seeking to secure their territory and protect themselves from an enemy that seems to have agents everywhere. It is very easy for us, sitting safely in America to point a condescending finger at these soldiers. But, would it be different if we faced open war from the front and the possibility of a knife from a neighbor in our backs?
There were threats and some people lost their homes, but they are not dead, which to me seems like a fair trade when so much is at stake.
*Article by Michael Ware