“The USA has betrayed us. The USA has abandoned us!”Continue Reading →
There are thousands of Yazidis today who remain haunted by memories of themselves or loved ones being kidnapped, raped and abused…Continue Reading →
Every day that Afrin remains occupied is another day of suffering for those living within the region. It is saddening to hear the reports of kidnapping, murder and general disorder. How far Afrin is from safety of prior years. There are no longer local people to take care of the land. Only blood, sweat and tears remain. Olive trees now grow from blood soaked land.
Displaced Afrini residents live in scarce conditions in neighbouring Shahba canton in Tal Rifaat. Awaiting an inevitable invasion from the occupiers of the Turkish state whose desire it is to extend the occupation territory. Over a hundred thousand displaced and it is not enough to feed that violent war monger in Ankara. The new Sultan of Anatolia.
The armies of Sultan Erdogan took a region where millions of war scarred civilians sought refuge and turned it into a hellscape. Forcing those same war scarred civilians to flee once again and start over. Without home or business to provide for their loved ones. Unable to return to the area without threat of violence.
There seems to be no one that cares to stand up to Erdogan and his autocratic regime. The ones expected to are acquiescing to his demands for territory and offering up more territory under the guise of maintaining a fractured alliance. These ‘negotiations’ take the form of a proposal by the United States for a ‘safe-zone’ in Syria’s northeast. One running along Turkey’s southern border.
The United States under Trump does not currently possess a back bone. There does not appear to be anyone in Washington bold enough to act in the manner demanded by the highest office. Well Trump lampoons his critics with barrage after barrage of tweets, he cosies up to the Sultan and sends James Jeffrey to strike an appeasement deal. A deal that would trade blood for Ankara’s good graces.
Stretching from Kobani to the border crossing between Rojava and Bashur at Faysh Khabur and with a depth of five kilometres, this ‘safe zone’ would see civilians as well as Kurdish militants expelled from Turkey’s southern border. A reasonable idea to anyone with any cursory knowledge on the region but a ludicrous one to those with a proper understanding of the lives living there. There are over a million people that live in that region. That is a million plus people who will be forcefully displaced. Where will they go?
This ‘safe zone’ is nothing but a noose around the neck of the people living in the northeast. It is a death zone not a safe zone. Jeffrey is trying to convince the international community to endorse this zone and send troops to monitor it. The problem with such a plan is that disinterested parties, notably European states are not guaranteed to maintain a long term presence nor stand up to the Sultan’s armies should he decide to march them south.
The very fact that such a proposal is being made shows what era the world is in. Autocrats, whether they be moustached racist zealots to Revolutionary despots, should not be appeased. Hitler was handed Czechoslovakia through appeasement and still ended up annexing most of Europe as well as starting a world war. After most of the free world closed up that Pandora’s box, again, many nations banded together and declared, ‘never again!‘ Nearly eighty years later and you would think that ‘never again’ was declared in jest.
Since then, dictator after dictator has continued to rampage regions, creating mass violence and suffering in their wake. And, as was done in the past, someone put pandora’s box aright. One can only hope that the chaos wrought by Erdogan’s regime in Syria will be put back in its place before more suffer. I sincerely hope so or else there will be more blood.
Written by Anthony Avice Du Buisson (16/07/2019)
The Australian government’s role in the stabilisation of the Solomon Islands in the early 2000s was crucial to the restoration of law and order in the state. A diplomatic peace initiative through the ‘Pacific Islands Forum’ allowed for the Howard government’s brokering of negotiations amongst warring militias. Subsequent military and political assistance in the wake of political instability through the ‘Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands’ initiated a peace building process. This would lead to the disarmament of militias and the peaceful resolution of ethnic tensions in the state. Allowing for the Solomon Islands to re-establish law and order and provide for a benefit to Australia’s national security in the South Pacific. Through the analysis of the ethnic tensions between Malaitan and Guadalcanalese peoples in the Solomon Islands and Australia’s bilateral relations with the Solomon Islands’ government during ‘the Tension’ period, a greater understanding of the reasons leading to the ‘Townsville Peace Agreement’ will be established. Following from this analysis, there will be an analysis of Australia’s national security concerns in the South Pacific with emphasis placed on lessons learnt from former interventions in the region, specifically the intervention into East Timor in 1999. Finally, there will be an examination of the Regional Assistance Mission t0 Solomon Islands and the assistance that was provided by the Australian Federal Police, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other principal participating agencies in the restoration of order in the state. The purpose of this essay is to show the success of Australia’s intervention into the Solomon Islands helped benefit the state and secure Australia’s role as an important regional played in the South Pacific.
Increased ethnic rivalries created from disputes over land, movement and immigration in the Solomon Islands created political instability resulting in the necessity of foreign diplomatic intervention and a peace settlement in form of the ‘Townsville Peace Agreement’ (TPA). The Solomon Islands are an archipelago in the South Pacific region consisting of more than 900 islands, with two Islands being populated predominantly – Malaita and Guadalcanal (Gyngell & Wesley 2007, p. 227). During the late 1990s, the political process in the Solomon Islands deteriorated and corruption created civil disturbance as the Guadalcanal people (the Guale) and Malaitans engaged in disputes over land. For the Guale, lack of infrastructure development to the north coast, perceived disregard for customs and increased dominance of Guadalcanal by the Malaitan immigrants caused ethnic resentment to the Malaitans (Moore 2018, pp. 165-167). This ethnic resentment escalated into conflict with the formation of armed militias in 1998, first with the formation of the ‘Istabu Freedom Movement’ (IFM) that started dispossessing Malaitans of land and then the formation of the ‘Malaita Eagle Force’ (MEF) by Malaitans with the backing of Malaitan sectors of the ‘Royal Solomon Islands Police Field Force’ (RSIPF) in retaliation [see Appendix, figure 1.1 & 1.2] (Ibid, p. 166). The period that followed from 1998 is referred to as the Tension (1998-2003) as the Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara and surrounding areas were subject to clashes between the militias resulting in political instability and disorder (Ibid, p. 169).
A coup d’ etat in June of 2000 led by the MEF resulted in the forced resignation of Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa’alu creating increased political turmoil and a risk of destabilisation in the Solomon Islands. Concerned with preventing this disorder, John Howard’s government brokered a peace settlement through the Pacific Islands Forum in Townsville (Allen & Dinnen 2010, p. 306). This Townsville Peace Agreement (TPA) facilitated negotiations between the MEF and IFM leading to these militias disbanding with an ‘International Peace Monitoring Team’ (IPMT) set up to monitor the situation as well as collect weapons for destruction (Hegarty 2001, p. 1; Barbara 2008, p. 129; Scales 2007, p. 207). Despite the initiative of the IPMT (2000-2002) to maintain a long-term peace in the Solomon Islands, ethnic tensions in the state were replaced by lawlessness and corruption from ex-Militiamen joining government law enforcement forces – renewing political disorder and instability (Hegarty 2000, pp. 1-2). The breakdown of law and order in subsequent years after TPA’s signing resulted in an incursion led by Australia in 2003, contributing significantly to the longevity of stabilisation in the Solomon Islands.
The Australian government’s involvement in the Solomon Islands reflects a ‘risk management approach’ to the security of the South Pacific region and prevention of continued destabilisation from the arc of instability. The term arc of instability refers to security challenges facing Melanesia (the South Pacific) posed by the increase in terrorism, civil disturbances, transnational crime and political instability in the region during the 1990s onwards (Wallis 2015, p. 41). In the 1990s and early 2000s, the arc of instability was viewed with importance by Australian officials such as Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Affairs Minister Andrew Downer. Both argued that Australia’s security in the South Pacific relied on the maintenance of stability in neighbouring states within the Melanesian arc [see Appendix, figure 1.3]. Through bilateral and multilateral involvement with these states in the form of financial aid, diplomatic and military support, it was argued that the potential risk of political and social disintegration as well as state failure could be countered – resulting in stability for states in the arc of instability and overall security for Australia (Wallis 2015, pp. 42-44; Dobell, pp. 89-93). This risk management approach to the security of the South Pacific was reflected in the Howard government’s involvement in peacekeeping missions in the South Pacific in the late 1990s and early 2000s, such as in East Timor in 1999.
The Australian-led United Nations peacekeeping mission into East Timor in 1999 reflected Australia’s perceived role as a responsible international actor for the security of the South Pacific and provided lessons to Australia of for future increased regional engagement such as with the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) in 2003. In 1999, the Australian government – under authorisation from ‘United Nations Security Council’ (UNSC) Resolution 1264 – led a multilateral intervention through the multinational force of the ‘International Force East Timor’ (INTERFET) to provide humanitarian assistance and re-establish order in East Timor (McDougall 2009, p. 188). This intervention into East Timor was prompted by ethnic tensions within the state, human rights abuses and a breakdown of law and order. Providing over five thousand Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel to assist in restabilisation of the state, Australia provided the bulk of troops for INTERFET (Cotton & Ravenhill 2012, p. 148). INTERFET’s objective started with police reform in within the state, before evolving into rebuilding the state’s governance structures and transitioning the state towards self-governance. This development was necessary for East Timor as it allowed for the state to return to stability with law enforcement returning to a competent capacity. The perceived success of the intervention by the Howard government set a precedent for future action within the South Pacific region (Ibid).
Australia’s approach under the Howard government was a departure to past approaches of respect for sovereignty in the region under Paul Keating’s Labour Party government (1991-1996). An increased regional engagement through interventions in the South Pacific, such as in East Timor normalised as the Australian government pursued a new role as a responsible international actor in the region (Cotton & Ravenhill 2012, pp. 148-149; McDougall 2017, pp. 461-463). This approach entailed active engagement in regional affairs in the South Pacific through diplomatic and military means and provided a new lesson for Australia: intervention in pursuit of state-building in the South Pacific could be a viable means for regional stability and national security (Ibid). With this in consideration, the Howard government again pursued an intervention in the South Pacific through RAMSI in 2003.
The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands(RAMSI) facilitated the reestablishment of law and order in the Solomon Islands through the assistance that the mission provided to local law enforcement, government and economy – highlighting Australia’s key role in the nation’s development. With political instability, corruption and lawlessness risking the collapse of the state, the Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza asked for assistance from John Howard’s government in 2003. This request for assistance was accepted on the condition that a formal request from the Solomon Islands’ parliament be made (Gyngell & Wesley 2007, p. 228). Thus, giving the Australian government legal legitimacy to intervene without a breach being made in local national sovereignty or international law (Ibid). Through approval and negotiations with the Pacific Islands Forum, John Howard’s initiation of RAMSI facilitated the foundations for self-governance that was needed by the government of the Solomon Islands (Gyngell & Wesley 2009, p. 230; Cotton & Ravenhill 2012, p. 148).
Operation ‘Helpem Fren’ (Helping friend in Pigeon) – another name for RAMSI – utilised the resources of multiple departments of the Australian government and other principle participating agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Defence and Treasury to engage in state [or peace] building (Ibid, p. 229). Over 1600 ADF personnel were deployed to Honiara along with 300 AFP to assist in the training of RSIPF, with the objective of eliminating the lawlessness, corruption and instability (McDougall 2009, p. 296-298; Cotton & Ravenhill 2012, p. 148; Barbara 2008, p. 132-133). RAMSI’s state building mission in the Solomon Islands was crucial for the development of the nation’s governance and infrastructure, with $840 million being invested by the Australian government between 2003-2006 into the project (Gyngell & Wesley 2007, p, 230). This investment allowed for the training of local law enforcement that helped to maintain law within Malaita and Guadalcanal by the dismantling of weapons and crackdown of criminal organisations [see Appendix, figure 1. 4]. Fundamentally allowing for the rebuilding of the machinery of government and democracy in the state (Moore 2018, pp. 172-174). Operation Helpem Fren completed its mission in 2017, playing a key role in the maintenance of peace, reestablishment of law and order and development in the Solomon Islands (Ibid, p. 175).
The Australian government’s involvement in the Tension period through the brokering of a peace settlement in 2000 and subsequent peacebuilding mission in 2003 during the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands was highly significant for the development of peace in the Solomon Islands. The Townsville Peace Agreement allowed for a peaceful resolution of ethnic tensions between the Guale and Malaitan militias – the Istabu Freedom Movement and Malaita Eagle Force. The disbanding of these militias along with the establishment of an Australian-led International Peace Monitoring Team to dismantle weapons and monitor the situation allowed for a temporary peace. The Melanesia arc of instability altered Australia’s approach to the South Pacific, with a more interventionist Australia arising through peacekeeping and state building projects in places like East Timor. Lessons learnt from East Timor allowed Australia to pursue increased regional engagement leading to intervention into Solomon Islands through RAMSI. RAMSI’s training and development of the Solomon Islands allowed for the reestablishment of law and order, elimination of corruption and rebuilding of the mechanisms of self-governance. This intervention into the Solomon Islands highlights Australia’s key role in the development of peace in the nation and stabilisation of the South pacific region.
Allen, M & Dinnen, S 2010, ‘A North Down Under: antinomies of conflict and intervention in Solomon Islands’, Conflict, Security & Development, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 299-327, viewed 10 May 2019, < https://bit.ly/2WbbVjD>.
Barbara, J 2008, ‘Antipodean Statebuilding: The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands and Australian Intervention in the South Pacific’, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 123-149, viewed 11 May 2019, < https://bit.ly/30mUThX>.
Bohane, B 2000, A group of well armed guerrillas soldiers, members of the Isatabu
Freedom Movement (IFM), stop…,awm.gov.au,
viewed 10 May 2019, < https://bit.ly/2WceIZK>.
Bohane, B 2000, Masked and armed Malaita Eagles Force (MEF) guerrillas gather on the outskirts of Honiara. This…,awm.gov.au, viewed 10 May 2019, < https://bit.ly/2VFRUCm>.
Cotton, J & Ravenhill, J 2012, ‘Australia, the Pacific Islands and Timor-Leste’ in J Cotton & J Ravenhill (eds), Middle Power Dreaming: Australia in World Affairs 2006-2010, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, pp. 147-164.
Dobell, G 2007, ‘The ‘Arc of Instability’: The History of an Idea’, in R Huisken & M Thatcher (eds), History as Policy: Framing the debate on the future of Australia’s defence policy, ANU Press & Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Canberra, pp. 85-104, viewed 12 May 2019, <https://bit.ly/2HymdRz>.
Geocurrents.info 2014, Is There an Arc of Instability?, Geocurrents.info, viewed 13 May 2019, <https://bit.ly/30t1gAj>.
Gyngell, A & Wesley, M 2007, ‘Case Study: The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands’, Making Australian Foreign Policy, 2nd edn, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, pp. 227-231.
Hegarty, D 2001, Small Arms in Post-Conflict Situation – Solomon Islands, State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Project, Pacific Islands Forum, viewed 11 May 2019, < https://bit.ly/2Q5iyOW>.
McDougall, D 2009, ‘Southeast Asia: Indonesia’, in L Caiazzo, C Cooper, F Eden & J Whitton (eds), Australia Foreign Relations: Entering the 21st Century, Pearson Education Australia, Frenchs Forest, pp. 160-203.
McDougall, D 2017, ‘Peacekeeping from Oceania: Perspectives from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji’, The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, vol. 106, no. 4, pp. 453-466, viewed May 14 2019, <https://bit.ly/2Q6Fuxt>.
Moore, C 2018, ‘The End of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (2003-2017)’, The Journal of Pacific History, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 164-179, viewed 10 May 2019, < https://bit.ly/2W8Npj5>.
Scales, I 2007, ‘The Coup Nobody Noticed: The Solomon Islands Western State Movement in 2000’, The Journal of Pacific History, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 187-209, viewed 11 May 2019, < https://bit.ly/30rznIQ>.
Stephen, D 2003, Sergeant Adam Gilles of 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), holds a rifle from a…, awm.gov.au, viewed 18 May 2019, < https://bit.ly/2JKcKJw>.
Wallis, J 2015, ‘The South Pacific: ‘arc of instability’ or ‘arc of opportunity’?’, Global Change, Peace & Security, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 39-53, viewed 12 May 2019, <https://bit.ly/2VwfmwX>.
Figure 1.1 & 1.2 (Above from Left to Right):
Istabu Freedom Movement (IFM) guerrillas stop a vehicle in the outskirts of Honiara in 2000 (Bohane 2000). Malaita Eagles Force (MEF) guerrillas amass on the outskirts of Honiara in 2000 (Bohane 2000).
Figure 1.3 (Above):
Nations within Melanesia considered part of the arc of instability (Geocurrents.info 2014).
Figure 1.4 (Below):
Australian Defence Force soldier in front of a truck load of confiscated weapons. These weapons would be later dismantled (Stephen 2003).
Written by Anthony Avice Du Buisson (20/05/2019)
Submitted to James Cook University unit PL3250.
The flag of the Syrian Democratic Forces flies high over the last conquered area of the Islamic State’s proto-state, signalling a military defeat to the organisation. This comes nearly five years after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – leader of the organisation – took to a platform in al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul’s heart to declare the establishment of the proto-state, rallying thousands of Salafist-Jihadists to fight for the self-declared Caliphate. Coming from across the globe to kill and spread carnage, thousands of fighters once eager to expand Baghdadi’s vision now surrender en masse to the Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces, while Baghdadi – once commander of a proto-state that stretched from Raqqa to Mosul – flees to evade capture in the region. He leaves a crumbled Caliphate behind.
As Baghdadi evades detection, the remains of his vision are being cleared out by the Syrian Democratic Forces and US-led Coalition. Thousands of Syrians gave their lives in the fight against the Islamic State. These ‘martyrs’ – as they are more commonly referred to as – consist of fighters from Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian and other ethnic as well as religious communities across northern Syria. Each community gave up sons and daughters in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS), all in the cause of liberating areas that ISIS controlled. Since the battle of Kobane in 2014 and going forwards, eleven thousand lives are estimated by the Syrian Democratic Forces’ press office to have fallen in pursuit of the cause, highlighting the large list of martyrs that died in pursuit of peace in northern Syria.
These martyrs include Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection units (YPJ), the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces and the original combat force that has operated since the start of the war against ISIS. Syriac communities who fought with these Kurdish fighters gave lives to the cause too, especially from the Syriac Military Council (MFS) and Bethnahrain Women’s Protection Units (HSNB). Arab tribes from the north of Syria sent forces to fight in conjunction with this growing multi-ethnic coalition of militias in defiance of ISIS, sending Sanadid Forces and forming ranks with contingents of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), such as the Northern Sun Battalion – later known as the Manbij Military Council (MMC). Each force gave sons and daughters in the fight against ISIS.
The list of martyrs includes internationalists that ventured from across the globe to join the Syrian Democratic Forces. They were people who took up arms in the same spirit as the internationalists of the Spanish Civil War over seventy years prior, each holding different beliefs but sharing a desire to eliminate what they perceived to be a modern-day tyranny invested in taking the lives of the innocent. Leaving relatively safe homes and joining local Syrians, these internationalists fought gruelling battles in a faraway land called Syria. Internationalists such as British volunteers, Anna Campbell and Jac Holmes; American volunteer, David Taylor as well as many, many more would not return home alive, dying instead on the battlefield.
Across northern Syria (Rojava), hundreds of monuments dedicated to those who fell in the war against ISIS have been erected. Decorated with the portraits of thousands of martyrs, these locations provide a sad reminder for locals and visitors of the cost of this war. (Each portrait shows the individual’s face, along with the force that they fought in. For example, David Taylor’s portrait shows his face with the background of the YPG.) Cemeteries are also found across the north, where families, friends and loved ones still travel frequently to mourn. These graves contain the bodies of fighters and civilians alike, including humanitarian workers and local journalists such as Dilishan Ibish – a Kurdish journalist who perished in an explosion in 2017.
In Kurdish there is a proverb used to remember those that perished. The proverb is, “Shaheed namirin” and it translates in English as, “martyrs never die”. Connected to the culture of martyrdom that is common but not exclusive to communities in the Middle East, the proverb evokes an understanding of dying in pursuit of a noble cause. This can be best understood for those unfamiliar with martyr culture by reading Mary Elizabeth Frye’s poem, “Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep”. The poem speaks about the nature of death and how the spirit of those that perished lives on in the world. If the last line of Frye’s poem were to be repurposed to better understand the martyr culture of northern Syria, it would read something like this:
‘Do not stand at my grave and cry; While Rojava lives, I did not die.’
Over thirty thousand foreign volunteers joined the Islamic State to fight for Baghdadi’s vision. This vision included the mass slaughter of local indigenous people, from Yazidis to Arabs and thousands of others, a violence that robbed thousands of their homes and lives. In response to this mass violence that swept across Syria and Iraq, people took up arms in defiance of the organisation, giving their lives to destroy the vision that Baghdadi sought to implement. And as the dust settles five years later with the deaths of over ten thousand anti-ISIS fighters, the cause that each fought for still goes on. Only now over forty thousand hands are doing that work and building the society for tomorrow’s generation.
Plenty of work remains ahead now for the Syrian Democratic Forces and US-led Coalition, as the next phase of the war begins. With liberated areas in need of reconstruction and ISIS sleeper cells active in both Syria and Iraq, it is important to note that the elements that led to the formation of the Islamic State are still present. If those elements continue to remain, so too will the organisation’s appeal. Saying this, however, there will be people always ready to take up the struggle against ISIS and preserve all that makes life worth living. As long as there is resistance to tyranny, there will always be another dawn for humanity.
Written by Anthony Avice Du Buisson (07/04/2019)
Original article can be found here:
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces recently announced the final push to take Baghouz in Syria’s northeast from Islamic State fighters. This move comes months after a concerted effort by anti-ISIS coalition forces to take the neighbouring city of Hajin. As the ISIS self-professed caliphate collapses, more fighters and their families continue to be captured, and increasingly consist of foreign volunteers from northern countries such as France and the United Kingdom. The question now is whether these countries will repatriate their citizens, or leave them to face retribution from local authorities, such as in Iraq.
Forty thousand volunteers from over a hundred countries flocked to join ISIS during its rise. Crossing the border from places such as Turkey into Iraq and Syria, these foreign fighters fortified the organisation and aided in its expansion. Notorious individuals such as British foreign volunteer Mohammed Emwazi – aka Jihadi John, conducted beheadings to spread the network’s terrorism. Other volunteers such as British medical student Mohammed Fakhri Al-Khabass assisted with the recruitment of volunteers and used their skills to abet the organisation, highlighting a vast network utilised by ISIS to solidify control in Syria and Iraq.
Women flocked from across the world – voluntarily – to join the self-declared caliphate, marrying local fighters and raising children to further the ISIS ideology. These female volunteers indoctrinated the youth in Salafi-jihadist ideology, normalising violence against victims of the caliphate and preparing those youth to one day join and fight for the organisation. The result of this indoctrination is evident in the propaganda videos produced by ISIS from places like Deir ez-Zor, where prisoners were executed by young children. Given the totalitarian nature of ISIS ideology, all individuals under the proto-state’s control are used to further the expanse of the organisation.
Fighters of the caliphate were not the only ones that engaged in violence towards local indigenous populations. Wives of fighters participated in sexual, physical and emotional abuse of enslaved individuals, such as the Yazidis. Lebanese journalist, Jenan Moussa of Al Ann TV conducted an interview with an ISIS female volunteer and wife in 2017, where Jenan noted the lack of remorse for victims by the interviewed volunteer. In the interview, the woman explains in detail the process of selling and acquiring slaves – showing a lack of empathy, understanding and moral conscious for why such things are wrong.
Another interview conducted by the French journalist James Andre for France 24, highlighted a group of captured female volunteers living in a refugee camp in Syria’s northeast after being freed from places like Hajin and Baghouz. They were segregated from the rest of civilians freed from the organization’s control. In that interview, volunteers from France, Canada, Brazil and elsewhere express regret for joining the organization, emphasizing the horrible nature and alleged deceit that coerced them into joining. However, whether these ‘confessions’ are genuine is another question, as radicals amongst these volunteers still cling to ISIS ideology and harm individuals that speak out against it.
The response to the capture of foreign volunteers by the international community has been mixed. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a multiethnic coalition of militias leading the fight against the Islamic State – currently hold thousands of foreign ISIS volunteers and fighters in captivity. Coalition countries who are involved in supporting the SDF are reluctant to take back their citizens that joined ISIS. Fearing the risk these individuals pose at home, these nations – except for the United States and France – are slow to repatriate their renegade citizens and prefer that justice be delivered by the local authorities, regardless of the problems that arise from this policy.
The problems that occur from refusing to repatriate ISIS volunteers are two-fold. The first is the lack of international judicial oversight in trials in local countries such as Iraq. Islamic State volunteers who were handed over to Baghdad receive short trials that result in life sentences or death. This is despite the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) launching an investigation into ISIS’s crimes under resolution 2379 in 2017. There is a lack of proper legal course in trials that are governed by retribution rather than law. At first glance, this may not prove a problem to those who wish to see ISIS volunteers ‘get what they deserve’, but does it not serve to undermine justice for victims of the organisation’s brutality?
When the Bosnian war waged across former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the UNSC passed resolution 780. This resolution created the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY). The ICTY was tasked with the prosecution of perpetrators of human rights and international law violations. Under the ICTY, dozens were prosecuted for crimes against humanity, genocide and various other war crimes. Not only did it set a legal precedent in international law, but also verified the gravity of the crimes perpetrated by those convicted, leading to the classification of the massacre in Srebrenica – for example – as a genocide. The same process should be adopted for the prosecution of ISIS volunteers.
There is not just a legal precedent to be set, but a moral one too. Unless international support and oversight is provided to local authorities, then the system of justice that is delivered will not suffice to solidify in the public consciousness what happened to the many victims of ISIS. Ensuring an effective legal prosecution that highlights the extent of the group’s barbarism, as well as giving gravitas to the stories of victims will aim to preserve international law and human rights both in the present and the future. In turn, this will set a legal precedent and a standard from which to judge future atrocities by.
The second issue that arises from a refusal to repatriate ISIS volunteers is the security threat that these individuals pose to the longevity of the organization. There are thousands of fighters held in captivity in Syria by the SDF. Without continued support and military oversight, the maintenance of prisons which contain fighters will be challenged. With the withdrawal of the US from the region, concerns are rising over what will happen to these volunteers. These concerns are also exacerbated by the prospect of increased instability from threats of a military incursion into the area by Turkey, which is could result in a resurgence of ISIS.
As this phase of the war against the Islamic State ends, the question arises as to whether countries should repatriate their ISIS citizens or leave them to the fate of local justice. The poor quality of justice offered in those countries which currently holds ISIS volunteers, increase doubts over the effectiveness of local authorities to impartially prosecute these members. Waning military support coupled with weak infrastructure in Syria do not create confidence in the long-term security concerns of nations or for stability in the region. These concerns place the burden of responsibility on the international community in order to deal with the aftermath of ISIS. Western nations must take back that responsibility.
Written by Anthony Avice Du Buisson (20/02/2019)
Original version available at Jerusalem Post:
Yazidis are no strangers to tragedy.Continue Reading →
Trump’s desire to withdraw the US from Syria has sent shockwaves through the populace of northeast Syria who now fears the worst. In an atmosphere of growing uncertainty, solidarity from the international community is needed. And internationalists need to defend Rojava in whatever way they can.Continue Reading →
The withdrawal of United States Special Operations Forces from northeast Syria raises questions over the future of the Coalition’s fight against Islamic State and stability in the region.
The Russian-led axis and Erdogan’s Turkey both expressed in the past interest in taking parts of the region for themselves, with Erdogan recently expressing a desire to invade the north to wipe out “Kurdish terrorists.” With these threats, coupled with the Syrian government’s insistence on taking the region entirely, the people of the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria” – the de facto multi-ethnic autonomous government running the area – now fear mass displacement and violence.
Northeast Syria is one of the few areas in Syria that provides stability, security and peace in a country devastated by nearly a decade of civil war. The population in this area numbers more than two million, with an additional million internally displaced people. There are around 2,000 United States Special Operations Forces operating in the northeast, assisting local partner forces, notably the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in protecting this large population. French and British special forces also assist the Americans in this defense and provide support to local partner forces in the fight against ISIS.
A hasty US withdrawal from this region before the fight against ISIS is completely over puts the longevity of Coalition victories against the group at risk. The more than 20,000 ISIS fighters estimated to be still active in Syria and Iraq pose a threat to the region.
These fighters are active in areas like Hajin, where SDF and Coalition forces are seeking to uproot ISIS’s last territorial area of control and destroy the group’s proto-state. The SDF’s capability to combat ISIS relies in part to air power and artillery. Without this support, the fight against ISIS becomes difficult – allowing a potential for the group to resurge and recapture territory.
A Turkish incursion into the northeast of Syria without any form of deterrence or protection for the civilians within the area would put lives and stability at risk. Should Erdogan deliver on his threats to invade the northeast of Syria through an attack on Tal Abyad and Manbij, there are concerns from locals that Turkish-backed forces will loot and destroy property as well as kill civilians. These concerns arise from Turkey’s most recent military operation into the predominantly Kurdish enclave of Afrin in Syria’s northwest, where more than 300,000 civilians are displaced, and mass looting occurred. Locals fear a similar result will happen to Afrin within areas in the northeast.
The departure of the US from northeast Syria undermines all that the Coalition sought to facilitate for the future of Syria and sets a dangerous precedent for future US incursions in the Middle East. A withdrawal from the northeast of Syria lessens US influence in negotiations over Syria’s future, specifically the peace process. Before the announcement to withdraw, US envoy for Syria James Jeffrey made clear the intent of the US to play a role in pushing for a UN-backed peace process under UN Resolution 2254. Without a ground presence in the region, negotiations become difficult.
Additionally, an abandonment of local partner forces like the Syrian Democratic Forces sets a dangerous precedent that fuels animosity towards the US and increases anti-American narratives perpetuated by US enemies. These narratives make it difficult to foster trust in areas where the United States seeks to exercise influence, such as Syria and Iraq. Uncertainty is created, as locals wary of US reliability will seek to make alliances elsewhere. This harms long-term US foreign policy objectives, such as the containment of Iran in the region.
The brokering of a deal between Damascus and the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria by Russia for the handover of territory in the northeast undermines Washington’s policy of preventing the expansion of the Syrian government’s control over the country. The potential hand over of rich resources from areas in Deir Ezzor such as the Al-Omar oil fields would allow Damascus necessary resources to build up its military centers, destroyed infrastructure and allow for Iranian paramilitaries to pose a greater threat to Israel next door. Iranian paramilitaries make up the bulk of the land forces fighting for the Syrian government. Iran’s objective in Syria is to create a land corridor to expand influence in the region.
There are many issues that arise from a hasty US withdrawal from the northeast of Syria that need to be addressed. Without addressing these issues, there will be negative consequences that arise within the region and outside of it.
Written by Anthony Avice Du Buisson (1/01/2019)
Original version on Jerusalem Post is linked here: https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/The-cost-of-a-US-withdrawal-from-Syria-575987
In late November, United States congressman Thomas Alexander Garrett met with officials of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria to tour the region. Earlier in the month, the U.S. Representative from Virginia visited the Nineveh Plains and met with officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government to discuss the situation of local minorities and the plight of the Yazidis under ISIS. The visit was facilitated by the Freedom Research Foundation, who accompanied the congressman in both Iraq and Syria. During Garrett’s visit to Northeast Syria, he was escorted around the region by members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a multiethnic coalition of militias operating with US support to defeat Daesh.
Travelling from the east of the Euphrates River to the west and stopping in places such as such as Manbij, the Congressman heard stories of war from locals. The Manbij Military Council, which secures Manbij alongside U.S. special forces, showed Garrett the area that has become a point of contention for Turkey.
Turkey views Manbij— and by extension, the rest of the northeast— as a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) safe haven. The United States is attempting to work with Turkey in Manbij through a roadmap, which aims at joint control of the city between the U.S. and Turkey. However, so far, the roadmap has only taken form through joint patrols between U.S. and Turkish special forces along the demarcation line outside the city. Garrett was taken to observe this demarcation line from a safe distance by MMC officials. Thomas Garrett is not the first US official to have seen the DFNS or Manbij specifically. Midway through this year, Senator Lindsey Graham visited the region also.
The congressman was taken to many areas within the DFNS, and met with representatives of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) as well as members of the rest of the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM). In these meetings, the congressman discussed political representation, minority issues, the fight against ISIS, and the human rights violations in Afrin. Afrin has been occupied by Turkish-backed forces since March, and has been the site of gross human rights violations, which include ethnic cleansing against Kurdish inhabitants and widespread looting. Garrett returned to the US after a few days in the region.
In December, Garret delivered a presentation to Congress on his visit to Syria and Iraq, which can be found in full on C-SPAN. He began by talking about genocide and the refugee crisis that has occurred because of Syria’s civil war. Highlighting the ineffectiveness of U.S. Syria policy by pointing to the funding of the Free Syrian Army, specifically Islamist members of that entity, Garrett points out the crimes that the US-backed FSA committed against Syrian minorities. The congressmen went on to discuss the ongoing occupation of Afrin and Turkish policy in Syria:
“Turkey has taken the occasion of calamity in Syria in order to enhance and expand Turkey itself….You see pictures of the entrance to the hospital, along with areas that the Turkish have taken control of. Under the auspices of a carefully named marketing ploy…to root out ISIS. Why do Turkish flags fly above the buildings there instead of Free Syrian Army flags? Why is it that the sign in front of the hospital is no longer in Kurdish…but now in Turkish and Arabic? Why are they changing the names of the streets there to Turkish names? Why is the police force of Afrin equipped with Turkish equipment, swearing allegiance to Erdogan, speaking Turkish, and imposing a Turkish will upon a people who are not ethnically Turkish?”
The congressman went on to discuss the atrocities committed by Turkey and Turkish-backed forces in places like Afrin. Garrett went on to note the word games that the Turkish government uses when referring to the SDF and mentions the need for a proper US approach toTurkey. He said the following about Turkey’s characterisation of the DFNS and its people: “The Turks tell us that North and Eastern Syria, the Syrian Democratic Council is a subentity of the Kurds [referring to the PKK]. The Turks are lying.”
Garrett mentioned the ethnic diversity of the councils within the DFNS, noting their pluralism and democratic representation. Highlighting the important work of the SDC and the administration of DFNS, Garrett also pointed out the significant representation of women within leadership roles— a higher percentage than that of the U.S. Congress itself.
Towards the end of Garrett’s presentation, he mentioned a few active policies that the US could adopt for northeast Syria. These included political recognition of the DFNS in the Syrian peace process and as an entity within a sovereign Syria, protection of the DFNS under a US no-fly-zone, and to “make concrete commitments to these people that share our values.”
On Iraq, Garrett emphasised the need for greater financial support for minorities and increased representation of locals within the framework of a greater Iraq.
To end off this brief report, I have included one outstanding quote from the congressman’s final remarks:
“I’m not advocating on behalf of an independent nation in north and eastern Syria, but on behalf of a Syrian nation that shares values on what the leaders in this land— which has undergone so much tragedy, so much death, so much rape—have suffered through to begin. Instead, we shape our policy on what might the Turks do…. I have got bad news. There’s not a thing we can do to make them like us. Meanwhile, we’ve got people who are inherently drawn to us by virtue of an idea, that every person has a right to go to sleep in his or her community without fear that they won’t wake up in the morning, who just need us to say, ‘you have a right to be there.'”
Written by Anthony Avice Du Buisson (17/12/2018)
Link to original The region piece: https://theregion.org/article/13291-us-congressman-visits-northern-syria-calls-for-support