Afrin, city of love and war

Afrin, the bride of Rojava, is one of the Kurdish cities controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in northern Syria, or as the Kurds themselves call the area, “West Kurdistan” (Roajavajê kurdiastanê). The city is famous for its olive trees: it has over 13 million of them and they decorate it like a picture of spring, bestowing wealth on it.  From the beginning of the Syrian revolution until now, it had been the most peaceful city. Despite its small area, it became home to half a million displaced people from neighbouring towns, the majority of whom were Arabs.

Today, Afrin is the target of intense, heavy and barbaric attacks. According to local eyewitnesses, devious ways have been used to target civilians; children and the elderly are covered in blood, houses are being destroyed, all with the excuse that it is a border region controlled by Kurdish organisations that are a danger to border security and to the Syrian people.

The city, the nearby villages and private property such as communal ovens and hospitals are being bombarded indiscriminately. Among the civilian casualties are children, the elderly and women. Much of the infrastructure is being destroyed, as is everything that defines it as a city: population, language, environment, and ancient monuments belonging to thousands of years old cultures and protected by UNESCO. And while the international community remains embarrassingly silent, the multicultural heritage of the Hurrians, Hittites, Arameans, Greeks and Byzantines is being systematically destroyed through intense bombing.

Since January 20th, the gates of Afrin have been resisting the invaders; they won’t allow the fields to be occupied or wild animals to frighten its babies.

The branches of the trees will continue to adorn you and you bear the title of victor. I don’t know which Gog and Magog I am talking about, which Berlin Wall, which Stalingrad, because there has never been a cry like yours, nor will we ever see courage like yours! You are so simple yet so attractive, oh city of dreams! You made the wolf and the lamb become friends. Afrin, source of heroism.

I hope you will shelter each one of your children and all those who have sought the warmth of your embrace. Protect them from the harm caused by those who considered you weak. I hope that their chauvinistic and barbarous deeds will be condemned and that this premeditated attack against you will end soon. Let this war be the last because it is nothing more than the medium through which miserable tribal conflicts are spread, racism becomes embedded and catastrophic battles never cease.

Afrin, our pens bow to you.

*This article has been published in issue #7 of “Migratory Birds” newspaper, which was released as an annex with “Efimerida ton Syntakton” newspaper (Newspaper of the Editors) on March 31st 2018.

Zara Alismail