Across the Kurdish-held territories of north-eastern Syria, people are steeling themselves for a long-threatened assault by Turkish forces – which now seems imminent after Donald Trump withdrew US forces from the area.
The Kurds took advantage of the chaos which has reigned in Syria since 2011, fighting off the Damascus regime to build their own autonomous statelet, known as Rojava.
Despite the threats posed by Bashar al-Assad, the Islamic State and Turkey – which views the local Kurdish forces as terrorist groups affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) – the region has thrived compared to the rest of war-torn Syria.
Many now wonder if the independence must be sacrificed in a deal with Assad to ward off the Turks: Trump’s decision to abandon his Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) military partners has been keenly felt as a betrayal. More than 11,000 men and women of the SDF gave their lives fighting Isis before the group was defeated in March this year.