Tag Archives: Peshmerga

From genocide to resistance: Yazidi women fight back

Having suffered a traumatic genocide, Yazidi women on Mount Sinjar mobilize their autonomous armed and political resistance with the PKK’s philosophy.

By Dilar Dirik. Published 8-23-2015 by ROAR Magazine.

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The old Kurdish saying “we have no friends but the mountains” became more relevant than ever when on August 3, 2014, the murderous Islamic State group launched what is referred to as the 73rd massacre on the Yazidis by attacking the city of Sinjar (or Shengal, in Kurdish), slaughtering thousands of people, and raping and kidnapping the women to sell them as sex slaves.

Some 10,000 Yazidis fled to the Shengal mountains in a death march in which many, especially children, died of hunger, thirst and exhaustion. This year on the same day, the Yazidis marched in the Shengal mountains again. But this time in a protest to vow that nothing will ever be the same again.

Last year, the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) promised the people to guarantee Shengal’s safety, but ran away without warning when IS attacked, not even leaving arms behind for people to defend themselves. Instead, it was the guerrilla of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as well as the the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) and its women’s brigade (YPJ) from Rojava, who — in spite of carrying just Kalashnikovs and being only a handful of fighters — opened a corridor to Rojava, rescuing 10,000 people.

For an entire year, the Yazidi women have been portrayed by the media as helpless rape victims. Countless interviews repeatedly asked them how often they were raped and sold, ruthlessly making them relive the trauma for the sake of sensationalist news reporting. Yazidi women were presented as the embodiment of the crying, passively surrendering woman, the ultimate victim of the Islamic State group, the female white flag to patriarchy. Furthermore, the wildest orientalist portrayals grotesquely reduced one of the oldest surviving religions in the world to a new exotic field yet to be explored.

Ignored is the fact that Yazidi women armed themselves and now mobilize ideologically, socially, politically and militarily with the framework laid out by Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the PKK. In January, the Shengal Founding Council was established by Yazidi delegates from both the mountain and the refugee camps, demanding a system of autonomy independent of the central Iraqi government or the KRG.

Several committees for education, culture, health, defense, women, youth, and economy organize everyday issues. The council is based on democratic autonomy, as articulated by Öcalan, and has met with harsh opposition by the KDP, the same party which fled Shengal without a fight. The newly-founded YBŞ (Shengal Resistance Units), the all-women’s army YPJ-Shengal and the PKK are building the front-line against the Islamic State group here, without receiving any share of the weapons provided to the peshmerga by international coalition forces. Several YBŞ and council members were even arrested in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Photo by Dilar Dirik.

On July 29, women of all ages made history by founding the autonomous Shengal Women’s Council, promising that “the organization of Yazidi women will be the revenge for all massacres.” The women decided that families must not intervene when girls want to participate in any part of the struggle and committed to internally democratizing and transforming their own community. They do not want to simply “buy back” the kidnapped women, but liberate them through active mobilization by establishing not only a physical, but also a philosophical self-defense against all forms of violence.

The international system insidiously depoliticizes people affected by war, especially refugees, by framing a discourse to render them without will, knowledge, consciousness and politics. Yet the Yazidi refugees on the mountain and in the Newroz camp in Dêrîk (al-Malikiyah), which was created in Rojava immediately after the massacre, insist on their agency. Though some international organizations provide limited aid now, almost no aid was able to cross to Rojava for years as a result of the KRG-imposed embargo.

The people at Newroz Camp told me that in spite of attempts by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to model the camp and its educational system according to its top-down vision, the camp’s assembly resisted, forcing one of the biggest international institutions to respect its own autonomous system. Now, education in literacy, art, theater, culture, language, history and ideology are taught across ages, while commune-like units organize daily needs and issues in Dêrîk and Shengal.

“With all these councils, protests and meetings, the resistance may seem normal. But all of this emerged within a year only, and for Shengal. This is a revolution,” one Yazidi PKK fighter said. “The atmosphere of Rojava has reached Shengal.”

Hedar Reşît, a PKK commander from Rojava who teaches the sociology of Shengal before and after the latest genocide, was among the seven people who fought the Islamic State group at the beginning of the massacre and was wounded opening the corridor to Rojava. The presence of women like her from four parts of Kurdistan enormously impacts the Shengal society.

“For the first time in our history we take up arms, because with the last massacre we understood that nobody will protect us; we must do it ourselves,” I was told by a young YPJ-Shengal fighter, who renamed herself after Arîn Mîrkan, a martyred heroine of the resistance of Kobane.

She explained how girls like herself never dared to have dreams and only sat at home until they got married. But like her, hundreds have now joined the struggle, like the young woman who cut off her hair, hung the braid on her martyred husband’s grave, and joined the resistance.

Photo by Dilar Dirik.

The physical genocide may be over, but the women are conscious of a “white” or bloodless genocide, as EU governments — especially Germany — try to lure Yazidi women abroad, uprooting them from their sacred homes and instrumentalizing them for their own agendas.

Mother Xensê, member of the women’s council, kisses her granddaughter and explains: “We receive armed training, but ideological education is far more important for us to understand why the massacre happened and what calculations people make at our expense. That is our real self-defense. Now we know that we were so vulnerable because we were not organized. But Shengal will never be the same again. Thanks to Apo [Abdullah Öcalan].”

A Yazidi woman herself, Sozdar Avesta, a presidency council member of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) and a PKK commander, elaborates:

It is not a coincidence that the Islamic State group attacked one of the oldest communities in the world. Their aim is to destroy all ethical values and cultures of the Middle East. In attacking the Yazidis, they tried to wipe out history. The Islamic State group explicitly organizes against Öcalan’s philosophy, against women’s liberation, against the unity of all communities. Thus, defeating the group requires the right sociology and history-reading. Beyond physically destroying them, we must also remove IS’ ideology mentally, which also persists in the current world order.

One year ago, the world watched the unforgettable genocide of the Yazidis. Today, the same people who — while everyone else ran away — rescued the Yazidis, are now being bombed by the the IS-supporting Turkish state, with the approval of NATO. When the states that contributed to the rise of IS promise to defeat it and destroy the social fabric of the Middle East along the way, the only survival option is to establish autonomous self-defense and grassroots democracy.

As one drives through the Shengal Mountains, the most beautiful indicator of the change that hit this wounded place within a year are the children on the streets, who whenever heval — “the comrades” — drive by chant: “Long live Shengal’s resistance! Long live the PKK! Long live Apo!”

Thanks to democratic autonomy, the children who once opened their tiny hands and asked for money when peshmerga fighters drove by now raise the same hands to fists and victory signs.

Dilar Dirik is part of the Kurdish women’s movement. She is a writer and PhD student at the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge.

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When Trust Becomes a Casualty of War

By Kani Xulam, Guest Contributor. Originally published February 13, 2015 in Rudaw. Republished here with author’s permission.

American Sniper. Image via Facebook.

American Sniper. Image via Facebook.

President Obama says we’re in a “season of fear.” A leading Washington commentator writes a book that echoes his sentiment, National Insecurity. The Islamic State barbarians burn a Jordanian pilot alive—and before that, this past August, they also kidnapped and enslaved as many as 5000 Yezidi women and girls.

Perhaps this sordid slice of our turbulent reality is propelling Americans in record-setting numbers to Hollywood’s latest blockbuster, American Sniper, a biopic celebrating the life and exploits of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sharpshooter in the history of American military. Continue reading

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Kurdish Kids Get Gifts From Peshmerga

Some of us resolved to begin the year by doing more than just “slactivism” about our passions. If you are one of these people, this might be just what you are looking for.

On January 2, 2015, the Peshmerga Forces of Kurdistan delivered packages and gifts to the Kurdish children at a refugees camp in Iraq. In the video, attention is drawn to the feet of the children. Many are is sandals or other open-style footwear while clad in coats. Continue reading

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World Kobani Day vs. Turkey’s Foul Position

save-kobaneToday, November 1, is World Kobani Day. Also known as the International Day of Solidarity for Kobani, events are being held in major cities around the world.

From Kurdish Human Rights Watch: “If Islamist terrorists capture Kobane, they will massacre the remaining of its population—some 3,000 civilians are believed still to be in Kobane. An ethnic cleansing is already taking place. About 300 villages in the region have already been emptied. For the first time in more than three thousand years there will be no Kurds in the Kobane region.

Continue reading

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Kobane: the struggle of Kurdish women against Islamic State

By Necla Acik

Necla Acik is visiting Research Fellow at the Regent’s Center for Transnational Studies in London and has co-authored with Umut Erel (Open University) the report “The Struggle for Freedom and Gender Equality: The Contemporary Kurdish Women’s Movement in North Kurdistan/Turkey and the Diaspora” for London based women rights and advocacy group Roj Women. Her expertise is in gender and nationalism in Kurdistan.

Flag of the YPG. By LibComInt (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Flag of the YPG. By LibComInt (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For several days tens of thousands of Yezidis got trapped on Mount Sinjar in early August 2014 in an attempt to flee the attacks of the Islamic State (IS) on their towns and villages in Sinjar region in north-west Iraq, close to the Syrian border.

It soon turned out that these attacks were not just a strategic move by IS to provide them with a free gateway to northern Syria, but horrific tales of execution, abduction of women and children, forced conversions to Islam, and the mass exodus suggests a more sinister plan.

Amnesty International documented the atrocities of IS and accused them of carrying out ethnic cleansing on a historic scale, systematically targeting non-Arab and non-Sunni Muslim local communities, such as the Yezidi Kurds, Assyrian Christians, Turkmen Shi’a, Shabak Shi’a, Kakai and Sabean Mandaeans.

Several months before the IS attack, Yezidi leaders feared that they would be targeted by IS and tried to lobby for protection and intervention with trips to Baghdad and to the Kurdish capital Erbil. The Iraqi Army had already deserted the region, but they were reassured by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that their Peshmerga Armed Forces were prepared for an onslaught by IS and were ready to defend their Kurdish co-patriots.

Yet, as IS started to advance and attack village by village, to the surprise of everyone, the Peshmergas quickly withdrew, leaving the civilian population widely unprotected. Left behind were poorly equipped local militia and a few Peshmerga fighters who, at their own risk, stayed behind. They managed to hold back IS for a few days, enabling civilians to flee to the Sinjar mountains, but they had little power to prevent what Yezidis call the 73rd massacre on their community. This included group executions, abduction of women as spoils of war, rape and the trafficking of women and girls as sex slaves.

Kurdish female fighters rescue the trapped Yezidis from IS

via Facebook

via Facebook

As news of this humanitarian disaster went around the world and the international community was debating about a possible intervention, help came from somewhere else. The Kurdish women fighters (Women’s Protection Unit, YPJ) of Rojava (the self-proclaimed Kurdish autonomy region in northern Syria) and the women’s guerrilla units (YJA-Star) of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) along with their male comrades were the first forces to respond to the calls of the trapped Yezidi refugees. Setting off from Rojava, these fighters cleared more than a 100km passage through northern Iraq to Mount Sinjar and broke the siege of IS. They provided the desperate refugees with a secure corridor, which enabled them to embark on a 24 hour march into the relatively safe northern part of Syria/Rojava, where they received immediate medical attention, food and shelter.

The PKK guerrillas and the fighters from Rojava were the only force on the ground to respond immediately to the crisis preventing further IS massacres in early August. It was also striking that whole women’s units were among them, not just individual female fighters. Especially, as female fighters arouse so much attention. IS fighters were said to be dreading that the door to paradise would be shut to them if they had been killed by a woman.

While such tales have certainly increased the popularity of Kurdish female fighters in the international media – this was even featured in the free paper Metro – the reality is that these women and men who dared to stand up against IS put themselves in a very vulnerable position; they became the primary target of IS. Although they have been the strongest to fight back against IS, only the Peshmergas have been supplied with weapons and included in the US coalition to combat IS.

The PKK and Rojava administration were neither consulted about co-ordinated actions against IS, nor were they supplied with weapons to defend themselves and the population against further IS attacks.  As the founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres Dr Jacques Bérès has stated, the Kurdish women fighting IS have nothing but their “courage and Kalashnikovs”.  Even two months after the IS massacre on Mount Sinjar, it is again the women’s defence force of the PKK who are protecting the civilian population from ongoing IS attacks. They have also vowed to find the thousands of abducted Yezidi girls and women. Swedish politicians joining this campaign have urged the United Nations to investigate and identify the young women who may have been trafficked to other countries.

The ‘Rojava Revolution’ and the Kurds in North Syria

via Facebook

via Facebook

Amid the civil war in Syria and the withdrawal of the Syrian Army in the north of Syria in 2012, the population of Rojava took control of their region and declared a democratic multi-ethnic and multi-religious autonomy similar to the Swiss model with three separate and geographically detached administrative regions or cantons (Kobane, Afrin and Cizire).

Despite economic hardship and a de facto embargo from trade with other parts of Syria, Turkey and KRG, the people of Rojava have been using their newly acquired freedom to experiment with radical democracy. They are applying the Democratic Autonomy project propagated by the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, which is also being embarked upon by the Kurdish movement in North Kurdistan/ Turkey.

Within two years Rojava has witnessed substantial institutional and political changes and for the first time in Syrian history, the communities are governing themselves without the intervention of an authoritarian central government. Referring to these developments as the ‘Rojava Revolution’, the people of Rojava have eagerly been involved in organising their own affairs, from running schools and hospitals to generating electricity and even making their own tanks.

The most visible change has perhaps been the inclusion of women in the defence force and the police as separate units through the establishment of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) and the Women’s Security Forces (HAJ). According to various estimates, female fighters make up between 7,000 and 10,000 of the Kurdish forces fighting in Syria, representing roughly one third of the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) in Rojava, the military force that has been set up to defend Rojava.

The empowerment of women has been a key to the Rojava revolution, which explains its popularity particularly among women. A recent report on Rojava commissioned by the London based women’s rights and advocacy group Roj Women, shows that since the self-declared autonomy, Kurdish women have established a dozen women’s unions, associations and committees and have carried out gender awareness campaigns on a large scale in all three cantons.

Among the new regulations instigated to combat gender discrimination are a ban on polygamy for men and underage marriage. Also, unusual for the region, cases of domestic violence are being taken more seriously by being referred directly to the police and courts, while women and their children are provided with temporary safe accommodation. To ensure that women are represented in public offices and in civic life, positive discrimination measures, similar to those practiced within the Kurdish movement in Turkey, are introduced. These include the co-chair system where key decision-making positions are shared by men and women, and the establishment of various women-only bodies making sure that women’s voices and interests are no longer ignored.

Rojava’s model of gender equality borrowed from the Kurdish movement in Turkey and the PKK

Kurdish YPJ forces. Image via Twitter.

Kurdish YPJ forces. Image via Twitter.

Rojava’s model of empowering women is based upon the gender liberation perspective developed by the PKK and applied by the Kurdish movement and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Turkey, which runs the local governments in a number of Kurdish provinces in the South-East of Turkey or Northern Kurdistan.

A strength of the PKK and the Kurdish movement in North Kurdistan has been their criticism of Kurdish society in terms of class and gender inequalities. Women’s participation in the armed struggle and their success as political activists has broken many taboos in Kurdistan as national movements very often do, but it has not stopped there.

While in the 1990s women were mobilised into the Kurdish national movement primarily to support and legitimise the national cause, with the new political shift towards Democratic Autonomy, stronger emphasis has been put on everyday politics and of provoking change from below and within the society rather than waiting for the ‘big revolution’ to happen. The Kurdish movement and the PKK put so much emphasis on women’s liberation, that women’s demands for more power and recognition within the movement could not easily be ignored.

In addition to this, very much to the dismay of many feminists however, the women trusted Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the PKK, in guiding them towards gender liberation. Despite his imprisonment since 1999, it was women who supported him most during the turbulent years following his arrest and the declaration of his new political, and at that time controversial, line. In return Öcalan became more radical in his promotion of gender liberation and urged women within the party to question male dominance within their own ranks.

Thus, the ideological support provided by the PKK and its leader Abdullah Öcalan has helped women within the Kurdish movement in North Kurdistan/Turkey to question and challenge women’s oppression and gender inequalities and many women began to develop a feminist consciousness. They strengthened their position within the legal Kurdish movement and built autonomous and semi-autonomous organisations including women’s assemblies within the pro-Kurdish political parties, women’s centres and associations, a press agency, women’s cooperatives, women’s academies and so on.

Within the guerrilla movement, women also organised as separate and independent units by setting up their own party, the Kurdistan Woman’s Liberation Party (PAJK) and their own guerrilla force (YJA-Star).

Today, women constitute a strong force within the pro-Kurdish parties in Turkey. They have been working initially on low level grass-roots mobilization but have also demanded more recognition for their political work. This has led to the introduction of positive discrimination policies and includes the implementation of a 40 per cent quota of women by the pro-Kurdish parties in Turkey. It ensured that women were elected into local and national governments as councillors, mayors and as members of parliament.

For example in the 2007 national election the pro-Kurdish parties won 21 seats, with a female representation of 38 per cent. This was a significant achievement as the overall female representation in the parliament of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition, the Republican’s Peoples Party (CHP) was only 9 per cent. In the latest local elections in March 2014 in Turkey, only 37 women were elected as mayors (out of a total 1,364), of which over half were women from the pro-Kurdish parties who have applied the women’s quota rigorously. Besides the quota, the pro-Kurdish parties have been applying a pioneering power sharing system since 2009 that allows key decision-making positions within the party to be shared by both men and women. This means that all elected mayors and councillors have a co-chair who share their salary as well as duties and have equal rights of representing their constituency.

This system has been expanded to other civil society organisations embedded within the Kurdish movement. These and other positive discrimination policies have been highly effective in bringing women’s issues to the agenda of Kurdish politics and raising the profile of women in politics more generally. Arguably, Kurdish women’s representation in political positions and parties has become a yardstick for democratization that has challenged other parties in Turkey to follow suit.

Rojava benefited from the political expertise of the PKK and the Kurdish movement in North Kurdistan/Turkey in setting up a self-governing system and in pursuing gender equality initiatives. The Rojava revolution might seem very ambitious, given that no regional or international power has any interest in supporting and maintaining them. Yet, it was their idealism and their belief that diversity in the Middle East is an asset rather than a problem that led them to take responsibility and to go to Mount Sinjar to rescue the besieged civilian population. Their vision of self-rule and their success in building political capacity has enabled Rojava to become a relatively stable and secure region, offering tens of thousands of refugees from Syria and Iraq, a shelter. This however changed with Rojava becoming the focus of intense IS attacks.

The siege of Kobane

Kurdish YPJ fighter overlooks battlefield. Image via Twitter.

Kurdish YPJ fighter overlooks battlefield. Image via Twitter.

Rojava is now paying the price for taking on IS and for exercising popular self-governance. Despite ongoing US air-strikes on IS strongholds for over three weeks, the Kobane canton of Rojava has been under heavy attack by IS since September 15. The geographical position of Kobane makes it difficult for any outside help from the other cantons and the PKK guerrillas to get through. Its border to the north with Turkey is heavily guarded. The rest of Kobane is encircled by IS. The surrendering of Kobane is most likely to set off another massacre similar to that on Mount Sinjar. Most of the estimated 160,000 inhabitants of Kobane have already fled the area, but for those thousands of residents who have remained in Kobane attempting to defend themselves against IS, the future looks very grim.

An unclassified US memo written by the former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, suggests that Turkey is pushing for a Sunni-Islamic state in Syria, regardless of the demands of much of the opposition for a secular and multi-ethnic federation as suggested by many Syrians and particularly the minorities such as the Christians, Alawites, Druze and Kurds.

Moreover, in the same memo, Turkish officials are reported to have suggested that a future Syrian constitution should be “Without mention of the Kurds and that any Kurdish problems should be resolved through local municipalities”. It is exactly this mentality of denial and the subsequent assimilation policies of the Turkish state – and similarly that of Iraq, Syria and Iran – that led to the uprisings of the Kurds in the region, causing the loss of over 40,000 lives in the conflict in Turkey alone.

Thus, despite being besieged by IS in Kobane, the Kurds in Rojava deeply mistrust any Turkish military intervention, not least because they accuse Turkey of actively supporting IS by allowing them to cross the border back and forth. For Turkey, struggling with concessions for their own Kurdish population, an autonomous Rojava run by Kurds affiliated to the PKK is an absolute no. A Turkish intervention in Rojava would not only threaten the autonomy of Rojava, which represents a model for the PKK in Turkey, but would also threaten the peace process with its own Kurds in Turkey.

Democracy in action in the Middle East

via Facebook

via Facebook

The autonomous region of Rojava and its unique population is illustration enough of what we have long understood from Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflicts around the world; that democracy has to come from within. No military intervention from the west or from a third power can teach a country and its citizens how to reconcile differences and build a future together.

Yet, Rojava is being punished for trying to stand on its own feet and for their alliance with the PKK which has helped them ideologically and logistically to set up their own administration as well as with their fight against al-Qaida affiliated groups.

Although the PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation, and has indeed been engaged in violent conflict and has been ruthless at times towards internal opposition, their policies and strategies have changed over the years. Their popularity among the Kurds remains high as they have been leading the struggle for civil liberties, political representation and recognition of cultural rights for the last 30 years or more.

The Democratic Autonomy project has been one of the key political projects of the PKK devised as a long term solution for the Kurdish question in the Middle East. Proposed as an alternative to a separate Kurdish nation state, it focuses on widening democratic forms of participation and developing alternative forms of governance and economy. This moderate political line of the PKK, compared to the 1980s and 1990s, has allowed the Kurdish movement in Turkey to strengthen its legal political struggle and aims to open up negotiations for a peaceful political solution.

A secular, multi-religious and multi-ethnic Rojava with democratic ambitions constitutes a threat for IS and equally for the conservative Islamic government in Turkey. For the west however, which complains about the lack of democracy in the Middle East, what makes them hesitate to support such a progressive movement, one wonders?

This movement has not only been halting the advance of IS but has also providing security and stability in the areas run by them, it has empowered women and built an inclusive form of governance, involving many of the region’s diverse populations such as the Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, and Armenians.

This article appeared in OpenDemocracy.net on October 22, 2014, and is republished here under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 licence.

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Independence, Ukrainian-Style

Ukrainian flags. Photo uploaded by Vladimir Yaitskiy (Flickr: Ukrainian flags) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ukrainian flags. Photo uploaded by Vladimir Yaitskiy (Flick:) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On January 8, we published “Honor and Dignity,” a story that noted the difference in the observance of Iraq’s Army Day between the bulk of Iraq and those within Kurdistan, the later of whom observed the losses to the Peshmerga forces suffered while under the rule of Saddam Hussein.

Today, we again observe a country caught between very opposing views as we mark the 23rd anniversary of Ukraine’s independence. No one can argue their first couple of decades have been challenging.

On Sunday, August 24, thousands gathered in Kiev as a festive atmosphere, designed to boost morale, filled the air. Parades of new military hardware, uniformed soldiers and artists adorned in traditional parade attire were cheered from crowds waving Ukrainian flags and shouting “Glory to Ukraine” and “Death to enemies.” President Poroshenko addressed the crowds, promising a $3 billion dollar investment to modernize and equip Ukraine’s military forces.

Meanwhile, according to a report in The Guardian, “In Donetsk, where the suburbs of the city continue to be subjected to heavy shelling on a nightly basis, separatist fighters organised their own parade as a riposte to Kiev, displaying destroyed Ukrainian military hardware in a central square and forcing captured Ukrainian soldiers to march through the centre of the city at gunpoint. Around 60 dejected looking prisoners were made to take part, as the crowd screamed “Fascists!” at them. A municipal cleaning vehicle tailed them, washing down the streets where they had walked to “cleanse” them.”

These activities follows Saturday’s action of Russia pulling the trucks in their “humanitarian aid convoy” back across the Russian border. The convoy was delayed at the border for over a week while “discussions” about the contents and inspection of the trucks were waged. Russia had decided to move the trucks toward Luhansk despite lacking Ukraine’s authority to cross the border, resulting in Ukraine declaring the convoy an invasion. Russia has continued to build troops and military equipment in larger and larger areas within a stone’s throw of the eastern border of Ukraine.

President Putin has always told the world what he is doing – by making statements of what he is not doing. When he invaded the Crimea, he did so by telling us he would only protect “pro-Russian civilians” while planning to take the jewel of the Black Sea the entire time. When he invaded Georgia, he did so by saying he would only do so to protect “pro-Russian civilians,” and decided to stay. We think he has worn out his welcome in all places of aggression he has exerted on the borders of sovereign states that surround his country.

We congratulate Ukraine in the celebration of 23 years of independence. The people of Ukraine deserve to make their path forward as a people without the influence of “pro-Russian separatist” that are suspect of crossing the border to wage their “pro-Russian” agenda on a people who have previously had no reason to reject this portion of their historical and ethnic past.

 

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