YPG Rep in Int’l Coalition Polat Can on American and Rojava Relations

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Polat Can

Mr. Can, What do you think of the ceasefire in Syria?

As this war goes on it grows more intense and there are many different players involved. This war needs to come to some kind of resolution and for this war to come to an end there needs to be a common agreement throughout the whole of the country. There needs to be a nation-wide and a region-wide agreement. As for this ceasefire, a one-week ceasefire, there have been many ceasefires but they haven’t been successfully implemented by different groups or the Syrian government. The ceasefire is broken by the terrorist groups of the Free Syrian Army or the Syrian regime.

What we want as Kurds, since the beginning of this process, is that this Syrian problem will be solved with political dialogue. But many times and in many different ways these terrorist groups and the Syrian regime they attacked us and they fought with us. But we as Kurds wanted to solve this problem in the Syria through the path of peace and dialogue. And unfortunately, like we have seen in past attempts at a ceasefire, either between opposition groups and the regime or those brokered by America and Russia. Whenever Russia and the United States have these various factions – the terrorist Syria groups in Syria, al Qaeda, al Nusra and the regime- meet in order to create a ceasefire, these groups end up attacking us. Either it’s the regime attacking us in Hasaka and Qamishlo or it’s the terrorist groups attacking us near Afrin. Two days ago we as the YPG announced that we would support the ceasefire process. We informed those parties that we would officially support the ceasefire but if any groups attack us – such as groups connected to al Qaeda – unfortunately we will be compelled to respond to defend ourselves.

There was some tension between you and Turkey last week, and this has put the US in a tough position. How is your relations with the Americans?

I want to say this. You cannot compare us as the Syrian Democratic Forces and we as the YPG/YPJ with Turkey. Because over four or five years we have proven ourselves to the world. Because in taking part in our struggle we are proceeding on a moral, ethical and humane basis, in keeping with our conscious, because what we really want is peace and we are on the side of right. In all honestly we are the only serious side taking part in the fighting in Syria and the Middle East against terrorism. Against whom? Against the al Nusra Front and its groups and on the other hand against ISIS and its supporters. And we have proven this. And we have done ISIS great damage in our fight against them. In Kobane, in Gire Spi [Tal Abyad], in Tal Hamis, in Tal Barak, in al-Hol, in Shengal [Sinjar] and most recently in Manbij and these were truly serious blows. In the Middle East, in Syria there is no one doing anything it is only us who is fighting…

Everybody except Turkey acknowledges your effectiveness though?

That’s correct. The world has been saying this. But how can you compare us with Turkey. Because it is Turkey who is engaging in terrorism. They are supporting DAESH. They are supporting al Nusra. They support the terrorism of Ahrar al Sham and all kinds of groups. Turkey is showing this very clearly during its Euphrates Shield operation in Syria. I would like share a few examples for your viewers to understand better. In 2012 different opposition groups were fighting in Homs, Hama and Damascus. For what? To overthrow the regime. And where is the regime? In Damascus. But at the end of 2012 in December Turkey brought these opposition groups to attack us in Serekaniye [Ras al-Ain] and they closed the Ceylanpinar border crossing. We were only able to push them out of Serekaniye over the course of two-years of serious fighting. So what was this about? The house of the president of the Syrian regime is not in Serekaniye. We all saw that Turkey openly and clearly supported terrorist groups during the major offensive on Kobane. In Manbij, we as the SDF fought a great battle against ISIS. We killed over 4,000 terrorists and we have 3,000 of their bodies in our possession. We also many injured many of them. We struck a great blow against them, because Manbij was the third largest city under the control of ISIS, that is after Mosul and Raqqa…

Turkey has repeatedly asked US to stop working with you and the SDF. However, both White House and Pentagon have reiterated their willingness to “continue an effective partnership” What do you think of this situation? What are your expectations from Washington?

We want to say that in such kinds of relationships one cannot entirely tie oneself to just one other party. One is obligated to establish relations with many different parties and actors. Turkey’s decision to go into Syria was, of course, not a decision it took entirely on its own. In fact, Turkey says it went into Syria as a member of NATO. Turkey has occupied Jarabulus which is a part of the land of Rojava Kurdistan and North Syria and they are now there as occupiers. They have initiated a great war against us and I want to ask this: And unfortunately many of these terrorist groups have come. We are there and we see that many of them have come to Jarabulus with American weapons and for us many of Joe Biden’s statements were out of place. Especially when there is a group like the SDF with Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens, Syriacs, Armenians, Circassians which has proved that it can go all the way until Deir al Zor and expel all of the terrorists from the country. Not only the terrorism of DAESH but the al Nusra Front is also a terrorist group and the regime are also terrorists. The Nour al-Din al-Zanki Brigade, the Sultan Murad Brigade and all of these are terrorist groups. And today how can it be that they support groups which cut off people’s’ heads and which reject the right of democracy and human rights and women’s rights and come to occupy our country and they can be against groups such as ours which fight for these human rights and democracy. Turkey’s entrance into Syria was a blow against the project of the international coalition to destroy DAESH. These attacks are against Kurds, against Rojava Kurdistan and against North Syria and the international coalition. This was also a blow against all of the groups fighting against DEASH and the al Nusra Front.

What needs to be done by Americans then?

Before all else we want all the people of the world, the people of Europe and the people of America, to know that today it is us of all the group who are at the forefront of the fight against the most vicious DEASH groups for the sake of the entire world. It is the YPG and the YPJ and the SDF. There is no one else. It is us who will guarantee the security of Europe and the United States. We are the ones who do not allow the terrorists to easily go from here to Europe and the rest of the world. It is us who have created the border between the terrorist groups and Turkey and it is us who prevent them from going to Turkey and therefore the rest of the world. We won’t allow them to develop and advance from here. After the victory in Kobane by the YPG and YPJ against DAESH the number of terrorists coming from Europe to Syria has decreased significantly. After we liberated Gire Spi the number of terrorists traveling between Raqqa and Europe also dropped a lot. Our aim is to create and real, physical border between DAESH and Turkey. But Turkey with its intervention has occupied a part of Syria and the connection between Turkey and DAESH has not been cut. Now Turkey has reestablished the connection between Turks and terrorist groups in the regions of Jarabulus, Mar’a and al-Bab. They still have relations and we don’t believe that Turkey will wage a serious war against the terrorist groups. We want to say this to the world: Turkey sees these groups as its allies and they enter into agreements and friendly relations with them. And today Turkey has created a path to occupy our lands. For this reason, there have been hundreds of friends and comrades from Europe who have joined our ranks and now they have returned to their countries. They should create movements and lobbies to inform their governments and politicians and fellow citizens about this situation and tell them not to collaborate with Turkey. Politicians, activists, and people who have fought with the YPG and returned to their countries must work so that their own governments support groups fighting against terrorism in good conscious and with a moral foundation and not with states which support terrorism.

Finally, a joint operation towards Raqa or al-Bab is mentioned in the media. What do you want to say on the possible next steps in the fight against ISIS?

Before anything the world needs to understand that we are not anyone’s fighters. We are not some paramilitary group. We are fighting for the rights of our people. We are fighting for the rights of the Kurdish people and the peoples of Syria. We have come to many agreements with the international coalition and we are working together in many arenas, but this does mean that we won’t continue to engage in our own politics or that we have given up our right to speak. And if we are not given these rights within the international coalition our people will not accept this. We cannot say to our people let us go and fight sacrifice so many of young men and women but then not have the right to speak. Our people will not accept this and no one would accept this. We have proven ourselves to the world with the struggle we have waged and therefore from this point forward the world needs to relate to us with respect for our own political will and this fight which we have given. And only then can it be possible to find a common voice with the coalition and fight DAESH on the ground. And we are ready to fight against all the terrorist groups in Syria to defeat them together with Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Syriacs, Armenians and all of the groups of this country. Let us come together and support one another and defeat them to create a stable democracy in Syria. For this the coalition and all groups outside and inside Syria must stand behind each other to build democracy. Finally, the coalition forces and other outside groups must come together with one voice and one position in order to reach our common goals.

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