Are Kurds Killing and Displacing Arab Civilians in Raqqa Operation?

Sinan Cudi

The Wrath of Euphrates forces finished the first phase of the operation to liberate Raqqa from the Islamic State (IS) group on 14 November.

The statement revealing the details of the first 10-days of the operation was released by the Operations Room in the Hîşa village; recently alleged to have been hit by anti-IS coalition airstrikes. The statement, read by the Operation Room’s spokesperson Cihan Ehmed said 36 villages, 31 hamlets, 7 strategically important hills and two important regions providing water and electricity had been liberated in a 550km area from the IS group. It was also stated that 167 IS militants had been killed and 4 taken prisoner.

The statement added that the IS group had tried to mount 12 VBIED attacks but that all of the vehicles had been destroyed. A large number of weapons and other vehicles had also been disposed of, with 240 mines being defused. The statement said that only four Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters had been injured in the first phase of the operation.

It also mentioned that the siege of Raqqa was continuing but that people in the liberated areas would be allowed to return to their homes once the defusing of mines had been completed.

The statement also refers to the claim about the Hîşa (Hisah) Village, which is the topic of this article and says, “Although we have not found any evidence that civilians were harmed during the operation, we are continuing to investigate claims.”

Putting aside the content of the statement about the Hîşa village, the fact that the statement was made in the village where the alleged attack was said to have occured is a message to those making these claims. That journalists were allowed to enter and investigate in the village following the press release is further proof of the SDF’s and Wrath of Euphrates’ Operation Room’s confidence that claims are false.

Similar claims have been made before. Every time IS is struck a blow, lies such as ‘Arabs are being displaced’, ‘there is ethnic cleansing going on’, ‘demographics are being changed’, ‘civilians are being killed’, are put into circulation to disrupt the war against the jihadist group.

The underlying message repeated with these claims is this: ‘Kurds are killing Arabs, displacing them, appropriating their land and trying to create a Kurdish state.’ From afar this may seem plausible too. After all, we live in societies where people have drunk from the poisoned chalice of nationalism and been infected by its ideas and would, if given the chance do the above to people.

However it is important to emphasise certain facts.

Firstly, most of the fighters taking part in the Raqqa offensive are Arabs. The components of the fighting force taking part in the operation are in proportion to the population of Raqqa. This means that Kurds make up 25% of this force, relative to the Kurdish population living in Raqqa.

Secondly, for more than a year, since the al-Hawl offensive, Kurds are not acting unilaterally. The commanding and fighting forces in all operations and military actions are being decided upon by the SDF. There is a common order and command centre. Which means that there is an army jointly administered by Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians and Turkmens.

And finally, if Kurds had intended to and wanted to displace Arabs they would have started with the Arab population moved by the Baath regime into Kurdish settlements as part of the Arab belt-cordon initiative in the 1960s.

It is possible to list many more facts, but three is sufficient for those who are listening.

What is interesting however though is that those making these claims are completely silent about the massacres committed by Turkish warplanes in Afrin and the Shehba region, the razing of Kurdish villages and displacement of thousands of Kurds.