#R2PWeekly: 7-11 October

This week in focus:

The US Withdrawal from Northern Syria

This week, the United States announced its decision to withdraw its troops from Northern Syria, causing of concern for the Kurdish and other Syrian populations living there. The decision, paved the way for Turkey to launch an offensive against the Kurdish fighters in that region, and motivated the UN Security Council to meet in an emergency closed-door meeting to discuss the situation, at the request of its European members. Many experts warn that the violence will only worsen the humanitarian situation and cause further instability.

The Kurds are an ethnic group with populations living in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) form a large part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and have been key-US allies in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, commonly referred to as “ISIS”) and are currently guarding the group’s prisoners in the region. Kurdish forces also played a key role in protecting the Yazidi population during the 2014 genocide. Turkey, however, regards the YPG as terrorists due to their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey plans to establish a “safe-zone” along the Turkish Syrian border, creating a 20-mile deep area on the Syrian side, Turkish President Recep Erdogan plans to resettle at least a million Syrian refugees from Turkey to this safe zone, by “clearing” the area of Kurdish forces. Kurdish groups fear that this could lead to potential ethnic cleansing and genocide by the Turkish forces, and many human rights groups have cautioned against its creation of the so-called safe zone, citing the massacre in Srebanica in Bosnia-Herzegovina as an example of past areas becoming death traps.

Civilians began fleeing the region upon the US announcement, creating a mass exodus of tens of thousands. Organizations call on parties to respect international law, refraining from the targeting of civilians or engaging in indiscriminate bombing.

More broadly, due to the YPG’s role in guarding prisons holding thousands of ISIL-affiliated actors, the Turkish offensive may mean the violence risks the release of alleged criminals, preventing judicial accountability for atrocities such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

syria(photo credit Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

What to Watch:

Cameroon: Cameroon’s conflict: Will the National Dialogue make any difference? (BBC)
President Biya’s National Dialogue resulted in a series of concessions and proposals, including a special status for Anglophone regions and more regional autonomy. Biya also ordered the  release of 333 separatists fighters and opposition leader Maurice Kamto, who had been arrested for leading protests over election results which he deemed were fraudulent. Biya has been facing increased international pressure due to a repression of dissenting voices and opinions. Many separatist leaders who claimed they would not stop fighting until the establishment of their own independent state shunned the National Dialogue.

South Sudan: Set Meeting on War Crimes Court (Human Rights Watch)
This week, enforcement of the peace accords in South Sudan received attention, with the United States stating that a failure to implement the agreement could result in further sanctions against political leaders in the country. Human Rights Watch also urged the South Sudanese government and the African Union to clarify the way forward for establishing a Hybrid Court. The proposed special judiciary mechanism would aim to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities committed during the war.

But Also Don’t Miss:

Central African Republic: Can the Central African Republic’s peace deal be saved?
ISS Africa analyzes the peace agreement, assessing the progress made in its implementation and the challenges it must overcome.

China: US imposes China visa restrictions over Uighur issue
The US announced visa restrictions on Chinese officials allegedly involved in the persecution of the Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.

Rohingya  refugees  exhausted  streaming  off  boats  arriving

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