Jamaal Bowman Pivots to the Right on Syria, Turkey

Why is someone, who was elected as a progressive, aligning with the likes of Michael Flynn, Trump, and the Turkish government lobby to further war, bloodshed and occupation in Northern Syria?

Bowman is spearheading an amendment to end the US military presence in the Kurdish led democratic socialist autonomous region of Northern Syria known as Rojava. This may seem counter intuitive within standard left wing thought, but the point of the above political push by Bowman (as it was with Trump), is to pave the way for yet another disastrous invasion, war, and occupation by the Turkish state. Given recent history, it is hard to view this as an innocent misunderstanding on Bowman’s part.

Bowman has further been cozying up to the pro Erdogan (Turkey’s right wing autocratic leader) political organization The Turkish American National Steering Committee. Committee officials contributed a total of $6,750 to Bowman’s campaign during the primary. A direct relative of Erdogan, Halil Mutlu, also donated directly to Bowman.

Aside from lobbying to deny recognition of the Armenian genocide (of the more than 100 House members in April who signed a letter calling on President Joe Biden to recognize the Armenian genocide, Bowman’s signature was notably missing), Committee officials were on hand as Erdogan’s bodyguards violently attacked Armenian, Kurdish, and Yazidi demonstrators outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. in 2017 sending several to the hospital.

The Committee also lobby's for political support for the Turkish state’s war and ongoing violent, racist occupation in Northern Syria. This crime is at the heart of Bowman’s push, no matter how it may be camouflaged as “good for Syria” or “anti war” among certain pro Assad or naive leftists. There is no need to guess what will happen if Bowman gets his way.

This scenario already played out when Trump recklessly pulled troops away from the Turkish border, in coordination with the Turkish state, green lighting the bloody 2019 “war” (it was more of a massacre) and ongoing occupation of northern Rojava.

Defenseless from air attacks, the Turkish state pounded the cities of Northern Rojava with airstrikes from F-16s and heavy artillery. The attacks killed hundreds of people, including my friend. The invading ground forces carried out a campaign of literal ethnic cleansing, displacing thousands of people from their homeland, peaking with the very public mutilation and lynching of an unarmed female Kurdish politician.

Kurdish civilian suffering from what is likely phosphorus burns as a result of Turkish airtrikes

The ongoing occupation of the once peaceful and free territory is just as brutal as most violent military occupations, with the exception that no one pays any attention to it. Torture, disappearances, racism, and violence against women, once combated and outlawed under autonomous rule, are now institutionalized.

The “ceasefire” which stopped the further territorial occupation of Rojava has been violated literally thousands of times by Turkish forces. Their ongoing drone strikes, shelling, and bombing has killed countless civilians, many of whom were children, and caused the evacuation of villages and towns along the new front lines, already deep into Syrian territory. These attacks happen daily, simply to generate sheer terror, and have been increasing in recent time. This increase could be in preparation for another larger scale invasion. Given the timing of Bowman’s political push, the anti war and social justice movement should be deeply concerned.

The war in 2019 was not the only atrocity that the Kurds faced in recent times. In 2018, absent any deterrence, Turkey, NATO’s second largest army, pounded the defenseless Syrian Kurdish region with airstrikes and marched into the Autonomous Kurdish enclave of Afrin in North Western Rojava. This displaced hundreds of thousands and another campaign of ethnic cleansing ensued and continues, unabated, to this day.

Afrin, once a peaceful and free outpost from the Syrian Civil war became a bastion for institutional torture, kidnapping, rape, and lawless violence. The ongoing occupation is particularly hard on woman, who are often targeted for their ethnic backgrounds or alleged previous political support for Rojava. Other times civilians are just kidnapped and tortured for ransom by occupying gangs. The Missing Afrin Women’s Project is one of the only groups documenting these specific atrocities. Most mainstream human rights groups, along with mainstream media, and of course politicians, remain mostly silent.

As many do know, the Kurdish region in Syria was viciously attack by the forces of the Islamic State during that terror group’s offensive in 2014. Rojava’s defense forces did gather some media attention as well as a tacit military alliance with the US. The Kurdish, Arab, and Yezidi forces of the Autonomous Administration did most of the dying in the joint conflict against ISIS and in exchange Trump supported Erdogan’s 2019 war against his past Kurdish “allies”. This was widely panned as a great betrayal by all political stripes, from Noam Chomsky to James Mattis. Unfortunately, people like Jamal Bowman seem teed up to finish off what Trump and Erdogan started.

Again, if they are to get their way, there is no need to guess what will happen. The new war that Bowman and the Turkish state are itching for will be far more bloody and racist than the previous two.

Whether or not the small array of US forces in Northern Syria are actually there to prevent a war or not is largely irrelevant. Turkey can not continue its war without the green light from the US, that being US withdrawal. What is relevant is that these forces in question, currently, are the only thing that stands between a free and democratic autonomous region and war, torture, and fascism. What is relevant is that the people of that region demand their protection and presence, not simply for the price that was paid in the war against ISIS, but for the right to exist as Kurds, Yezidis and other free peoples in Northern Syria after facing decades of racist oppression.

And while many may not care, the core function of the forces in question (as back up force against combating ISIS cells) is actually useful and requested by the groups that shed the most blood in that war. Less ISIS is a good thing actually, and as the US forces are not an occupying force in the region in question, the campaign against ISIS is actually stabilizing for the region.

Do not fall for what Bowman and Erodgan are selling when it comes to Syria and the Turkish state. The small US presence in Northern Syria has nothing to do with US support for the Saudi war in Yemen or any other like atrocity. If Bowman was serious about peace, he would be supporting the oppressed people of Rojava in a free Northern Syria, where the rights of all Syrian peoples, including women, are respected. He would not be agitating for its violent extermination. He would also be supporting the only left wing and anti racist party in Turkey, the HDP, whose leaders are currently in jail and where the party as a whole is facing an outright ban by the Turkish state.

It is the duty of socialists to stand with other socialists, especially those socialists that are being jailed and tortured within Turkey and especially those socialists in northern Syria have shed enough blood already, for all of us.

I encourage all to call and email Bowman’s office and demand he distance himself from the right wing Turkish state’s violent projects against the left, both at home and abroad in Northern Syria.

Labor Organizer in PA, International Solidarity, History, Labor Politics, Single Payer Activist, Democratic Socialism.