Press Release

AFT's Statement on Syria

For Release: 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Contact:

Oriana Korin
202-374-6103
Oriana.Korin@aft.org

President Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria is a dangerous and aggressive act that puts lives at risk. His decisions will help dictators—most notably Turkey’s authoritarian leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who seeks to eliminate the Kurdish people in Turkey through an apparent genocide.

In a country already wracked by more than eight years of civil war, the Turkish military’s offensive in Syria has brought chaos to the lives of thousands of civilians forced to flee their communities and live in fear of indiscriminate killings and bombings, where homes, schools and hospitals are targets.

The escape of captured ISIS fighters during the chaos raises the specter of renewed violence and terrorism carried out by a revitalized and emboldened Islamic State.

The Turkish invasion, which represents an attempt at ethnic cleansing, is wrong. The Kurds throughout the region practice a unique form of self-rule, with term limits for elected leaders and a government marked by gender equality, where men and women share positions in government and equal duties in their efforts to fight the Islamic State.

The AFT stands against any attempt to thwart the freedom of the Kurdish people. We are proud of our work with Kurdish unions that unify teachers from the region’s diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds into a trade union movement dedicated to improving the lives of all students and teachers and their communities. 

We celebrate the Kurdish spirit of independence, and we cannot see the U.S. withdrawal as anything less than the betrayal of an honorable ally.

We join the international community in calling for the cessation of deadly, unlawful attacks on Kurdish civilians and residential areas, and we urge all parties—including Turkey, Syria and their allies—to respect international humanitarian law and promote peace in this region.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.