Against the Assad Regime’s Conquest of Eastern Aleppo

Eastern Aleppo – credit Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

We members of the Black Rose/Rosa Negra Rojava-Syria Solidarity Committee (BRRN-RSSC) in the strongest terms condemn the Bashar al-Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies for their recent conquest of Eastern Aleppo. This brutal defeat of the Aleppo rebels, who were both secular and Islamist, has entailed massively indiscriminate bombardment and besiegement by the Syrian regime and allied Russian and Iranian forces against a civilian population numbering 250,000 people over the past several months.  On December 12, 2016, this ruthless “scorched-Earth” policy targeting Eastern Aleppo yielded a final defeat of the rebels there, in addition to an “agreement” supposedly stipulating their evacuation with families to secure areas.  Credible reports nonetheless warn that, in numerous cases, Assad’s victorious forces and their allies have not observed these publicized truces since their capture of the remainder of the city: they are accused of forcibly disappearing hundreds of men and boys since taking over the remaining sections of former rebel presence within the millennia-old citadel.  The defeat of those defending what was formerly known as “Free Aleppo” was prosecuted by the cruelest of methods, involving wanton destruction of human lives, especially those of children, by regime and Russian mass-aerial bombardment and artillery strikes of the rebel-held districts.  The extensive atrocities of which the Syrian military and paramilitary forces stand accused of having committed in Eastern Aleppo are one with the Assad regime’s general modus operandi of despotic terror, which has led to an estimated 60,000 forcible disappearances since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution in March 2011.

The RSSC clearly acknowledges that the Syrian Revolution exists and continues, even amidst the loss of Aleppo to regime forces.  The devastating fall of Aleppo and the enormous human suffering this has entailed represent tragedies of immense proportions which cannot be overlooked by revolutionaries or humanity in general. This “victory” for the Assad regime and its crimes against humanity also anticipate generally negative outcomes for the Syrian Revolution. With the State’s recent capture of Aleppo and of Daraya four months ago, Assad has few major Syrian cities that remain beyond his dictatorial reach.  Save for Rojava and the territory still held by the Islamic State, only Idlib and smaller cities remain under rebel control. From pillaged spaces, the destruction of base needs, and a resurgence of rare diseases to disappearances, mass executions, being buried under collapsing buildings, and having only one hospital functioning in a city of nearly 2 million, it’s only reasonable that people escape war, or fight in it. Regarding armed struggle, we wish to clarify that the much-maligned far-right Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, or JAN) remained a distinct minority within the rebel forces of Eastern Aleppo, and that it had in fact been expelled from the district by the organized revolutionaries for nearly a year until last summer, when it regrouped to assist with breaking the siege maintained by Assad and his allies, leading to the final outcome we now observe.  In parallel, the Eastern Aleppo rebels expelled Islamic State forces from the area as early as 2014.  Under the circumstances created by authoritarian leaders like Assad and imperialistic states such as the United States and Russia, we must support refugees at all costs, and in as many ways as we can.  We expect that Assad and his Russian and Iranian military allies will now repeat the terror waged against the civilian population of Eastern Aleppo by turning to similarly bombard the remaining Sunni-majority cities and people into submission and carrying out forcible disappearances and summary executions en masse.

Aleppene refugees – credit Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters

In reflecting on the fall of Aleppo, we must be critical of the role the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its world-renowned militias, the YPG and YPJ, played in this process. While the international anti-authoritarian left has rightly hailed the Rojava Revolution (2012-present) as an emancipatory development reminiscent of the Spanish Revolution of 1936-1939, less attention has been focused to date on the relationship between Rojava and the regime.  The truth is that the undeniable gains made in the Rojava Revolution were made possible by Assad’s withdrawal of forces from the northeastern region of Syria in 2012unfortunately, the very opposite of the situation for the Syrian Revolution, with movements from the Sunni Arab-majority regions of the country arrayed against Assad bearing massive losses during these same years.  Indeed, some critical commentators have charged the PYD with either remaining “neutral” toward or even openly siding with the regime since 2012.  In terms of Aleppo, the PYD’s militias are accused of having conspired with Assad and his various reactionary international allies in dismantling the Aleppene council system and bringing the city district back under State control.  We wish to investigate these claims about the actions of the PYD’s militias in Aleppo further, expressing our concern, and we declare our support—apart from some of PYD’s military aspects—for the TEV-DEM movement struggling to implement democratic confederalism through the construction of popular power based on communes and councils in the region, as well as the specifically feminist elements of the Rojava Revolution.        

Amidst this negative turn of events following the fall of Aleppo—the very silencing of the Arab Revolutions, perhaps, at least for now—we recognize the dignity of the resistance of the Syrian civil defense to the atrocities of Assad, Russia, Iran, and their allied militias.  We declare our support for the Syrian Revolution that lives on in the remaining Local Coordinating Committees (LCCs) and parallel self-organizational efforts, as in the martyrdom of those taken since the onset of the Revolution and its development into a global/regional civil war.  We denounce the terrible disregard for human life demonstrated by the counter-revolutionary State and international military forces in Aleppo and throughout much of Syria.  We demand an immediate cessation of arms sales and transfers to the Assad regime and a withdrawal of the Russian and Iranian militaries and the Shi’ite militias from Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan that are propping up a tottering dictatorship, in addition to a suspension of US/NATO support for the Kurdish militias and the financing and arming of right-wing Islamist rebels by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other reactionary Gulf kingdoms. We believe that only by clearing the field in Syria of all imperialist interventions will progress toward justice and liberation be achieved, as these imperialist forces will inevitably only cause a degradation of liberatory strategies, and will surmount to a furthering of proxy warfare. We further support the immediate investigation and prosecution of Assad and his allies for their violations of international and natural law.  We encourage our comrades and readers everywhere to organize in favor of Syrian refugees and the threatened Revolution, against foreign intervention and militarism in Syria as well as Assad’s resurgent fascism.  

Eastern Aleppo – credit Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

!الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام

Al-sha’ab yourid isqat al-nizam!  “The People want the fall of the regime!”

– The Rojava-Syria Solidarity Committee of Black Rose/Rosa Negra