Chicago, IL, October 9, 2019 – Heartland Alliance International (HAI) denounces the U.S. Administration’s rash and immoral decision to withdraw from Syria and support the Turkish invasion of northeast Syria. The decision to step aside and allow Turkish military forces to invade puts more than two million civilians at risk of military conflict. Such a move instantly casts into doubt the fate of the Kurds, Christians, and Yazidis who are the majority in the region. HAI works with and alongside the Kurdish people and this blatant disregard for their safety is appalling. This is truly a dark time in history. The global community must remain vigilant to ensure accountability and respect for international humanitarian law.
With the support and encouragement of the U.S., the Kurdish people joined with their Arab and Christian neighbors in Syria to fight the Islamic State. The Turkish government, however, permitted tens of thousands of foreign fighters to enter Syria and join the Islamic State, and supported Al Qaeda affiliated groups as part of its national policy to deny the Kurdish people their political, linguistic, and cultural rights. The current Turkish invasion is not intended to prevent Islamic State abuses or end the Syrian civil war, but to deny Kurdish civil and political rights.
Further, the Turkish invasion will cause widespread internal displacement in Northeast Syria, similar to what happened when militias backed by the Turkish government occupied Afrin and ethnically cleansed the Yazidi religious minority. An invasion will end efforts to reunify women and children kidnapped by the Islamic State. This grave betrayal by the U.S. will have implications far beyond Syria. Other hostile powers– Al Qaeda, Russia, Iran, the Assad regime – will benefit from the retreat and will result in an increase in human rights violations and lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.
Finally, this decision sends a broader message to millions of people depending on U.S. security assurances and humanitarian support around the world. That is: how good is America’s word? No matter how valiant an ally or partner you might be, this episode underscores that one day you might end up like the Kurds. You might end up abandoned.
Heartland Alliance International (HAI) implements programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and in Chicago at the Marjorie Kovler Center. HAI’s technical areas include mental health and psychosocial support, gender equity, access to justice, and stigma-free healthcare.
In Iraq, we support religious and ethnic minorities, people experiencing displacement, trafficked persons, and survivors of other human rights abuses. Our programs address gender-based violence, improve access to mental health services, and provide juveniles with access to justice. HAI has been working Iraqi Kurdistan since 2004, but is active throughout Iraq.
In Lebanon, we serve women and girls impacted by the Syrian refugee crisis and other marginalized populations, including host community members. Our programs provide sexual and reproductive healthcare to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.