On Saturday, Kurdish political leader Hevrin Khalaf was killed by militants backed by Turkey, with chilling footage of the killing being circulated on the internet. The militants executed nine civilians, including Khalaf and her driver.
The war in Syria entered a new phase last week when Turkey launched an offensive against the West-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whom Ankara considers as terrorists.
Turkey intends to create a “safe zone” 30 kilometres inside Syria along the border between the two countries, by forcing the SDF out of that strip. The SDF is primarily Kurdish.
The killing of Hevrin Khalaf
Khalaf was the secretary-general of the Future Syria Party, an outfit which had contacts with US officials since its foundation in 2018. The party was formed after the SDF captured Raqqa city from Islamic State (ISIS) forces in 2017. It had taken part in the administration of northern Syria.
Khalaf, a civil engineer, was travelling back from the northeastern city of Hasaka when her vehicle was ambushed by militants at Tal Abyad, close to the border with Turkey. The militants who killed Khalaf recorded the assassination, and the video also showed several other people being shot.
Aged 35, Khalaf had taken part in negotiations with the West, and was known for her diplomatic skills.
Turkey and the SDF
The SDF, which had been backed by the US and its allies, was abandoned by the Trump administration last week, clearing the path for Turkey’s invasion. Turkey has insisted that the Kurdish YPG, a group that is part of the SDF, is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, an outfit that has been up in arms against Ankara since 1984 in an armed conflict that has claimed over 40,000 lives.
Since Wednesday, Turkey and its Syrian allies have begun an offensive against the Kurdish YPG. Turkey’s allies in Syria were previously involved in the armed resistance against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and are now supporting Turkey against the SDF.