As far as the foreign powers involved are concerned, the ceasefire in northern Syria has shakily held up for the most part. For people on the ground, it is a very different story.
In the talks between Russia and Turkey last week, Putin agreed to preside over the withdrawal of the Syrian Democratic Forces from northern Syria, allowing Erdoğan to establish a Turkish “safe zone” between Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.
This was agreed in Sochi without any representatives of the Kurdish forces present, demonstrating clearly how Russia sees its role in the region, and the nature of the “protection” they are providing. The SDF published a statement days after the fact reluctantly assenting to this withdrawal.
The Turkish state has not ceased its bloodshed in northern Syria. The SDF has reported that Turkish forces have continued to attack villages that they were in.
It seems that there has now been a fatal skirmish between Turkish troops and Syrian government troops. On 26 October, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that since the formal ceasefire 46 civilians had been killed, and over 50 combatants (the majority of them SDF).
Militias affiliated to the Syrian National Army (formerly the Free Syrian Army) have been implicated in war crimes during Operation Peace Spring, pillaging, looting, and carrying out summary executions, such as of the Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf. In addition to this, people who have been hit by Turkish bombing seem to have injuries consistent with the use of chemical weapons.
The deadline for the withdrawal of the SDF set by Erdoğan is Tuesday 29 October at 3 p.m. Over the coming days the situation will become clearer, but if the current situation is Turkey restraining itself, then it seems clear that there is still more violence to come.
The situation for Syrian refugees in Turkey has also been miserable, where the 3.6 million who have fled war have been a constant stick used against Erdoğan’s enemies.
Previously he had threatened to “send” them into Europe if European leaders condemned his invasion. Now they are being sent to the “safe zone” for resettlement, despite coming from all over Syria. This operation has been condemned as an attempt to reduce the percentage of ethnic Kurds in the area.
Amnesty International has documented at least 20 forcible deportations, with people being tricked into signing forms and being put handcuffed onto buses. Much of this happened before the invasion, in the period of preparation beforehand.
The events of the last few weeks have created hundreds of thousands more refugees, fleeing the Turkish bombs and soldiers. In the future refugee crises will become worse not better.
If the broader left fails to speak out for international solidarity and open borders, then the consequences will be dire.