Assessing the ISIS attack on Sina prison in January, MLKP’s Rojava representative Ahmet Şoreş appealed to the world: “For the oppressed masses to achieve their own freedom, self-government must prevail. People should show this through solidarity actions wherever they are, and by coming to participate in the practical construction processes of Rojava.”
Ahmet Şoreş, Rojava representative of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Turkey and Kurdistan (MLKP), has assessed the ISIS attack on Sina prison and subsequent events on the Rojava programme of Özgür TV. He pointed out that ISIS executed the ultimately abortive attack with the help of the Turkish state and other reactionary players in the region, but as the result of a rapid and well-organised resistance the popular revolutionary forces were able to inflict yet another major defeat on the terrorist group.
We know that ISIS launched an attack on Hesekê involving violent clashes that lasted for days. How do you assess the attack overall?
Yes, there was an extensive attack by ISIS on the Sina prison in Hesekê. Firstly, we must pay tribute to the SDF fighters who fought back heroically and organised the defence immediately, protecting our people and the structure of the Autonomous Administration, and above all for preventing ISIS from achieving their goals. They were able to crown the battle with victory. We want to commemorate the fighters who were martyred in this heroic struggle, and renew our promise to uphold the legacy they have handed to us.
Based on the overall picture that has emerged, it is not difficult to see that this was a large-scale and militarily well-planned attack on the part of ISIS. This could be seen from the field of battle. If we look at the ISIS statements, their main goal was to retrieve some of their administrators and commanders from the prison. Of course, they were aware that this mission would turn into a bigger battle.
ISIS is a militia that knows war well and is a capable fighting force, having waged war for years on the YPG and YPJ, the international fighters, the Communist and SDF fighters and the popular militias. So we are facing an organisation which is well-informed about the field of battle and the forces at play. It was therefore able to carry out an attack of this scale with extensive preparation as well as outside support.
ISIS claims that in the course of the attack it actually did manage to recapture certain people. For now we can say that this is only a claim – why? Because thousands of them surrendered to the SDF. The children who they used as human shields were rescued. All this was made public in video footage. In this regard, the SDF was successfully able to live up to its status as a people’s militia fighting for humanity, freedom, women’s liberation and revolution, and to thwart this attack with utmost sensitivity.
ISIS is an organisation that slaughters people, objectifies and exploits everything and everyone to serve its goals. By contrast, the Rojava self-government, its people and militia – guided by the revolutionary and socialist views that formed the basis of their very origin – acted responsibly, taking many prisoners alive. Only our militia – the men, women and children of our people who have fought for their own self-government together with our revolutionaries, Communists and patriots – could achieve such a success.
Thousands of ISIS members were arrested, but some of them managed to escape prison. They spread out in the interior and surrounding neighbourhoods of Hesekê, where many were rounded up later. They were caught in the streets, in the countryside, in houses – many were handed over to our militias by people whose homes they were trying to hide in. Some families fought, and some were murdered in the process.
Operations are still ongoing. Everything possible is being done to successfully complete them. Do not expect that scattered ISIS members will be able to hold on long enough to regroup and attack again. We can state with certainty that the work of our people’s army, our autonomous government structure and our people as a whole would quickly put down any further such attack. Of course, this process has involved martyrs. Everyone knows that it is difficult to defend a country, to defend freedom, without martyrdom. Every person who believes in and fights for freedom knows this. We have also experienced it here.
There are statements from captured ISIS members that the Turkish state provided direct support to the attack. Turkey is also carrying out direct attacks in Tîl Temîr, Ayn Îsa and Şengal. How is this to be assessed?
ISIS presented itself in opposition to the dominant elements of the imperialist-capitalist system as the true representative of the Muslim peoples and oppressed Muslim religion. Everyone knows that this is not so.
While ISIS is indeed a force which emerged from the breeding ground created by the cooperation of regional reactionary forces with imperialism, the illusion that it represents Muslims was swiftly unravelled in the context of the popular democratic revolution that started in Rojava and spread to Arab lands. The Arab, Kurdish and Assyrian peoples have proclaimed very strongly that ISIS is the enemy of the oppressed. Each fought heroically against the terrorist gang and was clear about its character
ISIS suffered its first and greatest defeat in Rojava. Then their defeats started to spread. They wanted to revive in Rojava, and the imperialist coalitions and the Turkish state gave them new life. This is beyond doubt. Sure, ISIS is a force on its own, but it could not have developed as it did without support. The order ISIS wanted to establish was not strictly in opposition to the imperialist powers – especially the United States, the colonial-fascist regime of Turkey and the dictatorship of Assad.
These very forces are behind the attack on our Autonomous Administration in Hesekê as well. The countries of the imperialist coalition have opened the field for fascist Turkey, like Russia and the Assad regime, to play a decisive role. Any force with any experience with geopolitics can piece this all together very easily – the role of the Turkish state in this attack is clearly visible.
We can prove it concretely. The ISIS attacks took place on certain historical dates, like Kobanê liberation day and the anniversary of the occupation attack on Efrîn, with special significance for the Rojava Revolution and our system of self-government. At the same time, the Turkish state organised a bombardment attack on Şengal, a region southeast of Hesekê, where solidarity and cooperation with fighters from Rojava is known to exist.
Then they attacked Ayn Îsa. From the moment our line of defence was organised around Sina prison, Turkey increased its deployment at the Til Temir and Zirgan lines – planning to speed up the escape of ISIS gangs and allow them to flee in that direction. Facing our resistance, the Turkish state once again rushed to ISIS’ aid to help them accomplish what they could not do quickly enough on their own.
It is the imperialist NATO coalition, along with Putin and Assad who allow the presence of the Turkish state in northern Rojava and eastern Syria. It is inconceivable that they did not know about the attack plans in advance. When we look at the timings of attacks on Şengal and Ayn Îsa, it becomes clear Turkey was present when the Hesekê plan was drawn up.
The other forces also knew about it for sure, because they withdrew forces from some places – for example, the Assad regime evacuated certain parts of Raqqa. This created gaps in that region, mobilising forces elsewhere and drawing attention from Hesekê. These are some detailed tactical elements of military operations – in short, we see a definite role played by Turkey in the attack.
Was Hesekê the only target here or were there considerations about an even wider ISIS attack?
Perhaps the attack was to serve this goal, but it had such extensive force and planning that ISIS is not capable of organising alone. The suggestion that ISIS itself, which was defeated in its current form, is gaining new life does not have a particularly strong ground. The people here are on the side of their Autonomous Administration, because it is defended by and integrated with its army, with the Arabs, Kurds, Armenians and Assyrians, the religious communities, people of all genders. Each of these dynamics participated in the defence according to their mutual interest – while ISIS can only see the liberation of its so-called emirs as a priority.
But ISIS has been able to hide certain forces brought in from outside at times, and other forces have played their part. The Turkish state may have had its own strategy – to hold Hesekê as long as possible, combine the attack with Til Temir or unite the region with ISIS-held areas in Iraq. These are important questions, and they are being discussed by the SDF and Autonomous Administration by looking at the geopolitical context and statements of other relevant forces.
For example, for Russia and Syria, the more the territory of the Autonomous Administration is shaken up, the more the peace is disturbed and structures compromised – the more opportunities for these powers to seize on for their own political interests. We can see that they have quickly positioned themselves before, during and after the attack.
ISIS has suffered this defeat on the anniversary of the victorious Kobanê resistance. What do you want to say about the Kobanê anniversary and Hesekê victory?
ISIS’ biggest weakness is that it is dealing with a force that is one with the people. It does not stack up well against a government and people’s army which stand up for the rights of everyone to use their hard-won freedom to express their faiths and national identities as they please. This was reflected in the de facto support of the imperialist coalition forces – especially the United States. Training, weapons assistance and opening corridors – this is coalition policy.. They wanted to destabilise our systems here so that ISIS could gain a foothold and re-emerge on the scene.
The Turkish state also attempted to break Kobanê using ISIS. They were rooting for Kobanê to fall. Here we are again – Turkey is struggling to maintain its occupations. The autonomous government has declared that our people will fight it with everything we have, contrary to the interests of other imperialist forces. So the ISIS trump card was played again. And just as in Kobanê, ISIS was defeated again.
As everyone knows, there was a lot of destruction, a lot of wounded and martyred in Kobanê. All this was taken in stride with the euphoria of building a new country. Today it is similar. With the spirit of our resistance and victory, we will always look forward with euphoria. Those who organised, led and supported this attack, especially Erdogan and Assad, can be left to struggle with the despair that these defeats have brought them. We have won.
The invasion attacks continue. What would you like to say about the developments in north and eastern Syria and the future of the revolution?
It is known how far our Rojava Revolution has expanded. It started with the Kurdish revolution and became a democratic people’s revolution involving the Arab, Armenian and Assyrian peoples. The land of self-government, which can be defined as a democratic people’s power, has crystallised over the last years. We have discussions about the occupations of our country. Efrîn is the soil of our country – it is occupied. Girê Spî and Serêkaniyê are our territory, and they are occupied. This is how the Kurdish, Arab, Armenian and Assyrian peoples who defended the revolution, defended the free land, define the situation.
Assad says “foreign powers should leave”. The Turkish state says “foreign powers and terrorists should get out”. Other imperialist forces speak similarly, in the language of colonialism. They consider us foreigners to our own land. But our people call them the invaders, the colonialists, the foreign powers. We are a people who are living, who want to live freely on our land. And you can see in the recent attack that we are ready to defend it.
One of the most important factors was that our people did not leave the city. In previous battles there were many more refugees. Here it was different – the people did not abandon Hesekê. As part of defence and detection of hidden gangs and for the safety of the people, some neighbourhoods were temporarily evacuated. Apart from this, there were no signs of panic and fear. This is very important. The capitalist-imperialist powers and colonisers, especially Turkey and Assad, are panicking at the extent of our revolution and throwing everything they have at us – be it by exploiting different elements like tribes or using corruptible people as agents. None of these have prevented our Autonomous Government from confidently maintaining its existence intertwined with that of the people.
But is this enough? That it is not can be seen by our people here on the ground, the revolutionaries and democrats who keep an eye on us. No revolution can solve all the problems arising from class society and patriarchy in one go. But it can set the course to start solving these problems. We are continuing on this road, just as we continue to resist these attacks and invasions. And not just by resisting but by building, we are continuing our work for the future. Our people believe in this process.
Revolutionaries across the world must also believe in it. They need to broaden their perspectives and sharpen their faith so that more powerful, more successful forward leaps can be taken. Rojava needs the support of the oppressed peoples of the world. And the oppressed peoples of the world need Rojava.
As this revolution unfolded, ISIS was defeated again and again – why should people continue to live in fear in other regions? The power of reaction should not be exaggerated: it can be defeated. It is a very brutal fight, of course. But if man lives for the sake of freedom, for the freedom and equality of humanity, of all living beings and nature, there is no enemy that he cannot defeat.
For the oppressed masses of the world to achieve their own freedom, self-government must prevail. People should show this through solidarity actions wherever they are, and by participating in the practical construction processes of Rojava. We need a skilled labour force, a skilled fighting force. We need people who can establish technique, technologies and systems. There are Communists, revolutionaries, seekers of freedom and equality all around the world – they can come and work here voluntarily in the ranks of reconstruction and defence. This is exactly what Rojava needs.
If Sina prison was capable of holding these ISIS gangs securely, this breakout attempt would have been doubly impossible. But it isn’t. It is a school building which was converted into a prison. Anyone who knows a bit about construction can see what a difficult undertaking this is. Nevertheless, the people here showed their faith in the Rojava Revolution by thwarting the attack.
What would you like to add in conclusion?
In order to defend our socialist construction, the Autonomous Administration focuses on joint development with the people in terms of political, military, economic and ideological integrity. In order for the revolution to develop and grow, we want all political forces and individuals to work towards their tasks and responsibilities from defending Rojava to building the socialist state.
We hope and expect that all Communists, revolutionaries and other organised people will take even faster steps in organising and executing the socialist construction. Our people are already undertaking this process, and they will not rest.