Database: Over 30 Turkish cross-border attacks against Rojava in 2019, only 1 attack targets Turkey


A new Rojava Information Center database has documented over thirty Turkish cross-border attacks targeting North East Syria since the beginning of 2019 alone, with rocket and heavy weapons fire wounding and killing at least 27 civilians.

In contrast, these eight months saw only one attack into Turkey carried out from North East Syria by unknown forces, with the perpetrator arrested by the SDF. In contrast to frequent Turkish claims repeated in the world media, the database indicates North East Syria far more likely to face unprovoked attacks from Turkey than the reverse. 

Key Findings:

  • Approximately 87%, of attacks directly targeted civilians or civilian areas
  • At least 27 people have been injured or killed in these attacks, and all of them have been civilians
  • Turkish attacks have resulted in the death of one child, Maher Hussan, and the injuries of at least 2 others
  • A majority of attacks, around 40%, targeted Kobane or nearby villages
  • General increase in attacks peaked in July, with 7 violations plus civilian deaths documented in a month which only saw one cross-border violation from North East Syria into Turkey

Despite Turkish claims that the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria is the aggressor, necessitating the construction of a “security corridor” to protect them against attacks from the border with the autonomous region, the research indicates that Turkey is far more likely to launch cross-border attacks into North East Syria than the reverse – only one attack from North East Syria into Turkey has been documented since the start of the year. 

Fouad Abdo, shot in the leg by Turkish forces while tending to his crops

Our database includes: the date, time and location of attacks; type of attack; description of material damage caused by attacks; media such as photos or videos of some of the attacks; and personal information on those killed and injured. Full sources are available on request, and linked in the database where available online.

Rojava Information Center visited one of the victims, Fouad Abdo from Batirzani, near Cilaxa. He said:

“I operate a combine harvester to collect chickpeas and lentils, and we have other crops, melons, for example.  I was with a friend of mine, taking care of our crops, and as we were returning the Turkish border guards shot at us, firing one bullet into my leg.

When I was a child, there was no wall here. Now there is fear in the village. We don’t know if they will shoot at us or not. We cannot plant grain close to the wall anymore.  The shepherds cannot go to their fields, people are scared to go into the garden.

We stay in our homes, work, and spend time with our family and children. We are not a threat to Turkey.”

Robin Fleming of the Rojava Information Center says:

“Turkey claims that the ‘buffer zone’ is necessary to protect itself from attacks from the Autonomous Administration along the border, but we can see it is Turkey who is most often the aggressor, violating the border of North and East Syria and frequently targeting civilians without provocation.

In fact, the SDF have virtually never launched such cross-border attacks against Turkey. A BBC report found that Turkey grossly exaggerated the number of such attacks, then used them as an excuse to invade and occupy Afrin in January 2018.

Turkey claimed it had experienced 700 cross-border attacks from Afrin a year – but the BBC could find only 15 attacks launched from Afrin, even with a wide definition including stray fire landing on Turkish soil.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates at least 422 Syrian civilians have been killed by Turkish border guards since 2011.

As negotiations over the proposed ‘buffer zone’ in North East Syria continue, it’s important to look clearly at who is the aggressor and who is acting in self defense.”

Newroz Ahmed: “Many of our people have been killed along the Turkish border…”

Newroz Ahmed, YPJ General Commander and member of SDF General Command, says: “Many of our people have been killed along the Turkish border, and as such it is impossible for us to accept their insistence on having a presence in the region. We are capable of ensuring security along the border and preventing any attack from our side.

The Turkish state has a plan to impose a 32km deep ‘safe zone’. In this way, they want to divide the whole region and eliminate the achievements here, won at such great expense. It is impossible for us to accept this.

Our region is already safe – the safest in the wider region. Here, different peoples live in peace, with their own identity and own faith. But because we do not want our people to face war once again, we are open to the establishment of a safe zone under certain conditions.”

Please get in contact with us if you’d be interested in using our database in a story, and we can share more information; photos and videos; or help arrange an interview with people affected by Turkish attacks.

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