Hundreds of Syrian Kurds Protest in Beleaguered Afrin

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Hundreds of Kurds bussed in from across northern Syria demonstrated Tuesday in Afrin in a show of solidarity with residents of the enclave that Turkey attacked last month.    

Holding olive branches and portraits of Kurdish fighters killed since the start of the assault on January, they marched in the town center to the sound of traditional music.

The demonstrators, most of whom had come from Qamishli and Hasakeh, the two main cities in northeastern Syria's Kurdish heartland, chanted slogans such as "We are with you until death, Afrin".

"Down with mercenaries, down with Erdogan," some shouted, in reference to Syrian rebels Ankara is using as proxies on the ground and to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The hawkish leader fears the consolidation of Kurdish influence along his country's border and describes the Kurdish militia there as a terrorist group.

The People's Protection Units (YPG) -- which has ties with Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) -- was the U.S.-led coalition's main ground partner in the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria.

"We came all this way to tell our brothers in Afrin they are not alone and that we are with them," Qamra Ali, a woman in her fifties from the city of Qamishli.

Many Syrian Kurds feel their forces are being poorly rewarded for doing much of the heavy lifting in some of the toughest battles against IS over the past three years.

Protests have been staged in Syria's Kurdish regions as well by the Kurdish diaspora in the region and beyond to demand action against Turkey and greater U.S. support.

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