Redur Xelil, spokesperson of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), denied that the group is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and is in fact fighting for all of the Kurds in Syria.
“We are the defense force of the Kurdish people,” he told Rudaw in an interview.”Everyone can easily find a place in the YPG regardless of their party affiliation or views,” he added.
Xelil said that the YPG had stood up to radical Islamic forces and liberated 23 towns and villages from their clutches.
Rudaw: What is the latest on your war with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusrah?
Redur Xelil: We started operation “Tribute to the Martyrs of Revolution” and the second phase of this operation ended the night of November 8. We liberated 23 towns and villages from armed radical groups north of Til Temir-Serekaniye (Ras al-Ayn). Some of the important bases of the armed radical groups were completely captured by our forces. Important centers such as Mishrafa, Til Khalaf, Asfar Najjar and Banajir have been completely liberated and are now under YPG control.
Rudaw: Can you tell us why you started this operation and mobilized such large forces?
Redur Xelil: First, I would like to say that these locations are part of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and are Kurdish. This was the most important reason why the YPG started this operation. In addition, Kurdish cities and towns have been under attack from radical armed groups for about three months. We tried to solve the issues with these armed groups peacefully and through dialogue, but their response was attacks. We finally felt it was necessary to stop these attacks. For this purpose, the YPG drew a military plan and acted upon it. Without a doubt, there were some very heavy clashes during this operation. In the end, these armed groups could not stand against YPG’s military force. Some of them managed to escape, but the rest were killed by our forces.
Rudaw: Last month your forces seized Tel Kocer from jihadist groups, but there is strong Sunni support for those groups across the Iraq-Syria border. Is there the risk of losing control of the border town again?
Redur Xelil: Right now, the city of Tel Kocer is under our control and it is protected by the YPG. We are taking necessary military measures to repel any attack on the city. There is no doubt that we can defend the city under any condition. The presence of armed groups in that region is very weak now. That is why we don’t think they will attack again or can take Tel Kocer city from the YPG.
Rudaw: You mentioned that the groups who ran away went toward Til Abyad. Does YPG plan to take control of Til Abyad? What can you tell us on this?
Til Abyad is a Kurdish town and it is in Rojava Kurdistan. We see presence of radical Islamist groups in this location as occupying forces. All groups living in Til Abyad are unhappy about existence of radical armed groups there. Of course, liberating Til Abyad is included in the plans YPG has. I want to be clear that when the time and conditions are right, we will liberate Til Abyad too.
Rudaw: How about Azaz and Jarablus?
The same is true for Azaz and Jarablus. We accept those regions as parts of Rojava Kurdistan. Those regions are between cities of Serêkaniyê, Kobanê [Ain al-Arab], and Afrin. In order for these cities to be connected and there will be no problem in transportation between these cities, Azaz and Jarablus must be liberated too.
Rudaw: The international media talked about your fight with Islamic groups recently, especially after the capture of Tel Kocer. Why do you think this sudden interest?
Redur Xelil: The strength of al-Nusrah and similar al-Qaeda affiliated groups was exaggerated in the world media and everyone started believing it. This was an effective media campaign. But the YPG proved it all wrong. The YPG showed that no matter how strong these groups are, no matter what heavy weaponry they possess, they will be defeated. The YPG fights on its own land and people’s support is the strongest weapon any force can have. Many people did not believe Kurds would be successful against these highly experienced and powerful groups. However, the YPG showed that we could stand against them because there is no legitimacy for their presence in these regions. Their presence was for looting and oppression; it was not in the interest of the peoples living in these areas.
Rudaw: Some media outlets reported that other ethnic and religious minorities in Rojava celebrated your arrival and are supporting you. Are these reports true?
Redur Xelil: No doubt, they are true. People living in these areas were feeling helpless because of the atrocities these groups were committing. These gangs brought along a culture that is in serious conflict with the culture of these regions. Their system was based on torture, intimidation, and looting. People of these regions have been living in peace and harmony and that is why they were extremely disturbed by the arrival of these armed gangs and their attempts to install a savage culture. This reality is the reason why people were happy when the YPG liberated those areas. Many individuals from these non-Kurdish peoples living in these areas joined the YPG and fought against these armed groups. Many individuals from these non-Kurdish peoples living in these areas joined the YPG and fought against these armed gangs. The resistance they presented was noteworthy.
Rudaw: Do you have fighters from Arab, Assyrian, and other people?
There are fighters in YPG ranks from every people living in Rojava Kurdistan. There are Arabs, Armenians, and Assyrians. Every peoples living in the region have fighters within the YPG.
Rudaw: Some still say that the YPG is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD). What do you say about this?
Redur Xelil: Those who do this propaganda try to show the YPG weak and unworthy. According to them, the YPG acts within a narrow political framework. The YPG, without a doubt, has from the very beginning served the interest of every group in the region and protected them. The YPG is not the army of a political party. We are the defense force of the Kurdish people. Everyone can easily find a place in the YPG regardless of their party affiliation or views. The first and the only legitimate force defending Rojava Kurdistan is the YPG.
Rudaw: CNN has broadcast a report showing how easily jihadist militants cross from Turkey into Syria. What do you think about this? Do you think Turkey’s support for jihadist groups continues?
Redur Xelil: We know the role of Turkey since the first day of events started in Syria. We spoke out many times, trying to reach out. We said Turkey helps radical Islamist groups. We said they are being assisted in crossing the border. We captured documents as well. Some of these extremists killed in battles had Turkish passports and Turkish Intelligence (MIT) ID cards. Our announcements were not taken seriously. CNN finally reporting on these groups and how they cross validates what we have been saying. We hope these facts will reach the people everywhere. We hope that Turkey’s negative role in the Syrian revolution will be clearly exposed and everyone will see these facts.
Rudaw: Speaking of Turkey, as you know Turkey is building a wall on the border with Rojava near Nusaybin where the mayor Ayse Gokkan went on hunger strike against it for over a week. What can you tell us about this wall?
Redur Xelil: We consider the action of Ms. Gokkan very honorable, and declare our full support for her. Turkey’s attempt at building a wall on the border towns where Kurds are the majority is not right. This is the 21st century and national borders are eroding and everyone is building relations based on democracy. Turkey building a wall has a negative meaning. I believe the Kurdish people will not allow such a wall to be erected between North Kurdistan (in Turkey) and Rojava Kurdistan. Because erecting this wall is wrong and is a product of chauvinist policies, this attempt will not be accepted.