YPG General Commander Hemo on Syrian Democratic Force, US Weapons & Amnesty Report

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Mutlu Civiroglu @mutludc

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In an exclusive interview, Sipan Hemo, General Commander of the YPG comments on variety of issues. Below are the large summary of his remarks:

After the Russian intervention the balance of power has changed, actors have changed. This happened a bit quickly. The change is also reflected on the ground. Large assaults and fierce battles are now taking place around Hama and Idlib. Regime forces are being air covered by Russian warplanes. And around Aleppo, ISIS is taking the advantage and making territorial progress against so called moderate Islamist factions or FSA brigades. So these Islamist forces are now face to face with a breakdown in terms of morale, as they are losing territory. It is not clear whether they can recover or completely be defeated. It is clear though that opposition forces have now unfortunately received a huge blow by this Russian intervention and ISIS’s taking advantage of it around Aleppo. ISIS is capturing more villages as I speak to you in those areas.

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Our units, as you know, have actually been, for the last two months, in conflict with some Islamist factions including Ahrar-ash Sham and Jabhat al Nusra. But the new situation has led to a declination of these forces that have been attacking us. However, we are not willing to take advantage of this situation because we do not wish to see the opposition forces get weaker or lose more ground.

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In fact, there have been claims made in our name. Many times, journalists ask what side we are on. I want to make this clear that from the very start of the Syrian revolution we didn’t want to take sides with anyone. We have a stance of our own. We name this as the third road. We formulated this idea as being on our own side. We have our own solutions and projects to propose. Secondly, our war against ISIS bought about a new situation. It has enabled relations and cooperation with the US-led coalition. And for the last past we are effectively cooperating with the Coalition.

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When it comes to interventions, I can tell that people of Syria is not to be blamed. Unfortunately the war going on in Syria is about the international and regional powers’ interests. They are responsible. Both global powers and regional states like Turkey, Saudi, Qatar and Iran are responsible. They shed Syrian blood. So in response to this question I say, to stop the bloodshed and for the advancement of democracy in Syria, all powers should share responsibility. When asked whom we work with, I say it clearly, we have been fighting ISIS officially in cooperation with the coalition for a year. And our work together has made even more progress.

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The number of weapons airdropped to SDF was a limited. It was not an amount that can make a big strategic differences on the ground. But we see this as very important. It is important to us as YPG. Because with this new support, the cooperation we have had for a year has reached a new level. And we hope to increase our work together even more, we hope to work strategically. So what we received was not big. But it is big for a new start.

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As far as the structure of the SFD concerned, we hope that YPG spearhead that assault. YPG has a significant role to play. It is a long time that we have been fighting ISIS. In Syria, as you know, many factions have been formed. And they have been defeated in the face of ISIS. FSA, some other Islamist groups, etc. have been defeated. So at the end, the train & equip program too didn’t work. But on the other hand YPG has proven to be successful. Yes there were other groups fighting ISIS but with little success. So at a time when Syria was passing through most turbulent times, we got closer to some groups to form a new force, a bigger one, one that can serve all Syrians that can play a role for democracy in Syria. So this new force, Syrian Democratic Forces include all communities of Syria. It includes Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and Turkomens and… in the coming days there will be a declaration in front of the press. We hope this becomes a new start, a new step. At the same time we call upon everyone who believes in democracy for Syria, who believes in Syrian nation, to join SDF for the sake of democracy and to stand against and fight extremist forces like ISIS and give a calm country back to Syrians.

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The media and journalists write many things about Raqqa and Jarablus. We have military plans, and these plans are confidential. As the general commander of YPG, I can’t disclose them to you. On the grounds, when opportunities arise, we act accordingly. Politicians may speculate about where next we should go, but from military perspective, we on the ground act according to chances we have. So what we plan, we have revealed before, we will fight ISIS. Where the attack and when to launch these attacks depend on the circumstances on the ground…

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We saw the report of the Amnesty International. I can tell you that the timing and wording of this report is a bit suspicious. At a time when we are forming a new alliance with Syrian pro-democracy forces, and getting ready to wage a big war against ISIS this report is released. Report comes right after the coalition forces are giving us a significant aid. Hard to think it is all a matter of coincidence.

We call on the international community and the United States as well not to take this report serious. Because this is not what is happening on the ground. But again we are officially calling on independent bodies to come and see what is going on the ground.

Now, let me be clear; we have liberated some 1500 Arab villages. Some of this villages became war zones between us and ISIS. Battles took days in some villages. I am not saying there has been no harm to those villages. But they are not more than 4 or 5 villages. We have 1500 Arab villages liberated and people in them live in peace now. If it was true, why are these 1500 villages still standing? Apart from that, there are Arabs who were brought to Rojava by the Baathist regime and settled throughout the Kurds’ lands. These Arabs too in Jazira are leading respected lives. If we had an intention of driving Arabs away, we would have driven those Arabs first. I think whoever is discontent with ISIS defeats has some share in this report because we have success against ISIS. And all the world sees our effectiveness and success over this terrorist group. We have proved in practice, in liberating Rojava regions too.

One more point, 30% of YPG made up of Arabs. If allegation in the report were true did these Arabs with us committed those atrocities too? If such things were true, would they fight alongside us in Jazira and Kobane? We believe such reports want to harm our image. In our opinion, Syrian National Coalition and forces behind it has a lot to do with this. Because, at the start, for example, they couldn’t digest our liberation of Tal Abyad. So they have been spreading such rumors on purpose. But we will continue our struggle for democracy in Syria in the face of all accusations, off all such things they want to square us with. And we are open to accountability. We are respectful to human rights. Any independent body can come and investigate. We are liberating 1500 Arab villages, this report should have thanked us. We have liberated so many people. We liberated Shengal [Sinjar] and many Yezidi women. There are other interests in this report. Our units are here, anyone can come and investigate and talk to Arabs and Turkomens as well.

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Translated from Kurdish into English by Ê Din

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