We are against wars! - Life matters, war kills!

On military offensive of Turkey in Syria

by Human Rights Association (HRA) and Human Rights Foundation Turkey (HRFT)

It is, in fact, humanity itself that dies with each shot fired in wars. When you label some others enemies and dehumanize them, you actually trample on the most fundamental values of humanity.

Today both Turkey and the world are in a severe crisis of humanity because there is a global state of emergency regime on the grounds of all kinds of “war” including economic, cultural, religious, ethnic and other ones. Violence, whether structural or physical, has been imposed on all societies as the sole fact of life. Thus, the ideal of peaceful coexistence based on human rights and democracy faces a great risk. The United Nations (UN), on the other hand, fails to promote human rights values and is far from protecting peace.

We do not need to look far ahead, what has been happening in our next door neighbor Syria is the most concrete instance of this.

People in Syria, where all kinds of imperialist/colonialist powers have been involved in since 2011, have experienced so much pain and agony, have been so dehumanized that concepts like human rights and peace have no longer any meaning for them.

Millions, who had no options other than violence, hunger, torture and death in their own countries, had to flee to lands occupied by people about whose language, culture and beliefs they knew nothing of by the simplest human urge to survive. Seldom were they lent a helping hand here. They were rather alienated; subjected to harassment, abuse, all kinds of discrimination and hate; they were otherized… They were robbed of their status as subjects bearing rights, thus, dehumanized: They have become nothing, nobody and invisible…

Except for those involved in relationships based on self-interest, empty rhetoric and gratitude; can we, as people/citizens with common sense and conscience, argue with peace of mind that Turkey does not have the slightest share in this?

We, as human rights defender organizations that are guided by universal principles and norms which hold their independence and impartiality above all else, have from the outset persistently opposed any involvement in the Syrian War because of others’ political ambitions, dreams and opportunism. We have qualified this as adventurousness because the values we are dedicated to tell us that it is essentially life that matters. We cannot talk about rights if there is no life. War and violence, however, are the arch enemies of life.

When we focus our attention to a much closer place to our country, we see the ways in which the idea of peaceful coexistence based on human rights and democracy has been abandoned piece by piece through the de facto and permanent state of emergency regime that started with preferring violence in the resolution of the Kurdish issue once again since the summer of 2015 and maintained by such grounds as coup d’états, regime changes, personal survival matters. The concepts of “survival” and “violence” have formed the basic rhetoric of the political power in this process during which the constitution and laws were ignored; all political and non-governmental institutions, particularly the parliament itself, were rendered dysfunctional and ineffective; all identities other than the dominant one, notably the Kurds, women and LGBTI+ individuals, were attempted to be annulled by developing antagonistic and disregarding content. The government has been trying to consolidate its power particularly over its survival discourse. The fact, however, is this very discourse itself leads to polarization in the society enough to create a survival problem and it pushes off and casts out especially the Kurds.

The military offensive launched into north-eastern Syria yesterday without deriving even the slightest lesson from what is happening today, is imposed on the society as if it was an indisputable necessity. Its reason, on the other hand, is quite clear: the political power’s need to manufacture social consent as it struggles with governance problems due to the economic, social and political crisis brought about by the erroneous policies pursued, notably those we have mentioned above.

History has also taught us that the easiest way to manufacture consent for governments that drift away from rule of law and democratic values all over the world has always been to start wars. But governments have always ignored this simple rule: There are no victors in wars!

What is even more tragic is that the parliament has extended the mandate for military action which allows for cross-border operations for another year without being able to remember this rule.

The military offensive into north-eastern Syria will, before anything else, violate the right to life of thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people. News reports on numerous casualties have started to come in as the military campaign started.

This offensive will lead to new suffering for Syrian peoples, notably those living in the regions targeted by the offensive, to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians, thus, to a new humanitarian crisis. The building of peace and calm that Syria is in urgent need of will be put off to a far away future. It will further deepen and prolong the economic crisis, felt profoundly by workers and the poor.

The political power will be attempting to further intensify and make permanent its state of emergency practices, which it has been maintaining de facto for a long time, by taking advantage of war. Numerous fundamental rights and freedoms will be restricted, notably freedoms of thought and expression along with assembly and association, therefore, the political and civilian fields will be turned into a field of control/measure in their entirety by rendering citizens’ agency impossible which has been prevented and violently repressed at every opportunity.

Above all, the ideal/desire of peaceful coexistence based on human rights and democracy will be irrecoverably destroyed.

Further, enforced transfer and/or refoulement of millions of Syrians taking refuge in Turkey to north and north-eastern Syria is also against the “Geneva Convention” on the protection of civilian persons. Article 45 of the Convention clearly prescribes that a protected person shall in no circumstances be transferred to a country where he or she may have reason to fear persecution. Moreover, causing such population movements by arms and force is a violation of humanitarian law. Besides, what is at stake is millions of people, not a simple item of cargo…

Consequently, human rights ethics and principles we are committed to require us to unconditionally stand against wars because we know that it is, in fact, humanity itself that dies with each shot fired in wars. When you label some others as enemies and dehumanize them, you actually trample on the most fundamental values of humanity. Therefore, the military offensive launched should immediately be put to an end in order to prevent further casualties and non-violent, peaceful solutions should be explored. We, hereby, invite all persons and institutions respecting human rights, democracy and peace acknowledge the threats we are facing and to protect the ideal of peaceful coexistence, to put in their efforts to stop the military offensive.

Joint statement from Human Rights Foundation (HRFT) & Human Rights Association (HRA) on military offensive in Syria: Life Matters. War Kills. We Are Against Wars. October 10, 2019.

Keywords:    ⇒ Syria   ⇒ Turkey   ⇒ War