SDF has maintained its unity even in the face of Turkish occupation – US Middle East Analyst

Syrian Democratic Forces (North Press)

(North Press) – The Kurdish National Congress of North America (KNCNA), a nonprofit organization founded in 1988 focused on Kurdish rights and the attainment of an independent Kurdistan, held an online seminar on North and East Syria titled “Where’s Rojava Today?” on Saturday. The seminar’s panelists included Syrian Democratic Council Representative to the US Sinam Muhammad, Middle East Scholar Dr. Amy Austin Holmes, Rojava Activist and KNCNA Member Dr. Ihsan Efrini, and Kurdish Journalist and Analyst Mutlu Civiroglu.
The organization has been organizing conferences since 1988, and wanted to organize a conference in Washington, but “because of [coronavirus], we couldn’t go ahead, therefore we thought about a webinar,” Ihsan Efrini, a native of Afrin currently residing in Canada, told North Press. “In 2019, Rojava was trending, but it seems like people have forgotten the region. There is still a lot happening in the region that needs to be talked about,” he added about the need for such a conference to take place.
Sinam Muhammad opened the discussion by talking about the dissolution of the Syrian opposition and the invasion and occupation of her native Afrin. “Afrin was a painful moment not only for Afrinis, but for all people in Syria, and also Arabs. They felt that they were also under attack and worried about Turkish intervention in Syria, and this is what Turkey did [in Sere Kaniye and Tel Abyad].” Muhammad went on to discuss the completion of the first stage of the intra-Kurdish dialogue, stating, “It was so good that we reached an agreement together with the help of the United States, and I would like to thank Mr. William Roebuck this effort.” She added, “it is good for Kurdish parties to have unity…in order to have a stronger administration and stronger political solution to present to the future constitutional committee of Syria.”
Dr. Amy Holmes discussed several subjects, chief among them the unity of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as one of its key characteristics from which it draws its strength. “The SDF is a multi-ethnic force…and a multi-religious force, with Muslims, Christians, and Yezidis,” said Dr. Holmes, who previously completed a thorough and comprehensive study on the SDF in all regions of northeastern Syria.
“When Turkey invaded in October 2019…many people thought that the SDF would disintegrate, or that, for example, the Arabs in the SDF would defect – that they would go back to the regime with Assad, or that they would join Turkey…but really, nothing like that happened. There [were] no major defections within the SDF as the result of the Turkish intervention,” Holmes explained, later telling a personal anecdote about an Arab individual from Sere Kaniye who joined the SDF in 2015, as well as mentioning Kurds who joined the SDF to liberate Arab-majority areas such as Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. “The SDF has maintained its unity even in the face of this Turkish aggression,” she continued.
Mutlu Civiroglu further commented on the talks, saying that “the initiative has brought a very optimistic atmosphere to the region…[it] has caused happiness among the people: activists, local people, military people, and politicians.” Civiroglu also mentioned local concern about the Caesar Act, saying “the other major topic in the region was the Caesar Act, and its impacts on the region under the Syrian Democratic Council or Syrian Democratic Forces’ control – how will the region be protected?”
The seminar lasted around an hour and a half, with each panelist sharing their views and answering viewer’s questions in the end. Many topics, including the intra-Kurdish negotiations, entry of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq-based Rojava Peshmerga into Rojava, the Turkish occupations of Afrin, Serekaniye, and Tel Abyad, and the efforts and unity of the Syrian Democratic Forces, were discussed during the meeting.

 

Reporting by Lucas Chapman

https://npasyria.com/en/blog.php?id_blog=2860&sub_blog=12&name_blog=SDF%20has%20maintained%20its%20unity%20even%20in%20the%20face%20of%20Turkish%20occupation%20-%20US%20Middle%20East%20Analyst

Turkish airstrike kills five civilians in Kurdistan Region of Iraq; Youth and Sport Authority in North and East Syria march to U.N. building in Zalin (Qamishli) condemning Turkish bombings

ZALIN (QAMISHLI), Syria / ŞÊLADIZÊ, Iraq – On Thursday, the Youth and Sports Authority of Gozarto (Jazira) Region organized a demonstration in Zalin (Qamishli) city denouncing the Turkish attacks on the areas of Shingal and Makhmour Refugee Camp in northern Iraq.

Several sports teams and a large gathering of people from all over Gozarto participated in the demonstration, as well as the Deputy Co-Chair of the Youth and Sports Authority, Sobhi Malki.

Under the slogan “In the spirit of revolutionary youth and resistance, we will destroy the occupation, we will win our struggle,” the demonstrators gathered at the 12 March Martyrs Stadium where a minute of silence was observed for martyrs, after which the demonstrators marched to the U.N. headquarters in Zalin chanting slogans denouncing the recent attacks by the Turkish military.

There, a speech was delivered by the Co-Chair of the Youth and Sports Authority, Amed Mammo, in which called on U.N. to force Turkey to cease its illegal bombing campaign in region.

On Friday, as the Turkish bombing campaign continued, a Turkish airstrike killed five civilians driving on a mountain road in Şêladizê in Duhok Province.

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https://syriacpress.com/blog/2020/06/19/turkish-airstrike-kills-five-civilians-in-kurdistan-region-of-iraq-youth-and-sport-authority-in-north-and-east-syria-march-to-u-n-building-in-zalin-qamishli-condemning-turkish-bombings/

Vakıfbank kendini AKP’nin yerine koydu: KHK’liye parasını vermedi

Amed’de hesabına yatırılan parayı almak için Vakıfbank’a giden N.K.’ye, KHK ile ihraç edildiği için “Sakıncalısın” denilerek, parası verilmedi.

Amed Eğitim Sen Şubeleri, Kanun Hükmünde Kararname (KHK) ile ihraç edilen üyelerinin banka hesabına gönderilen paranın Vakıfbank tarafından “Sakıncalısınız” denilerek, el konulmasına ilişkin yazılı bir açıklama yaptı. Açıklamada, söz konusu durumun insani olmadığı ve Anayasa’ya da aykırı olduğu vurgulandı. Açıklamada, hükümete bir an önce KHK’lilerle ilgili gerekli adımları atması yönünde çağrıda bulunuldu.
Açıklamada, OHAL nedeniyle 126 bin 806 kişinin kamudan ihraç edildiği bilgisi paylaşılarak, “Kurulan ve 2 yıl çalışacağı söylenen OHAL komisyonu 4 yıldır çalışma/mamaya devam etmektedir. Özellikle KESK üyesi kamu emekçilerinin dosyaları sona bırakılmaktadır. Çünkü KESK üyeleri yıllarca her türlü darbeye karşı durarak demokrasiyi, insan haklarını, barışı savunmuş, yıllarca kamu kaynaklarının cemaatlere peşkeş çekilmesine karşı durmuştur” denildi.
 
Ölüme sürükleniyorlar

Eğitim-Sen Amed Şubeleri olayla ilgili yaptığı açıklamada hükümetin ihraç edilen emekçileri ölüme sürüklediğini belirterek şunları aktardı: “Pasaportlarına el konuluyor, sağlık hizmeti almaları engelleniyor. İnsani ve hukuki olmayan bu uygulamalar sonucunda yüzlerce kamu emekçisi ağır psikolojik travmalar yaşamaktadır. 6 KESK üyesi vefat ettikten sonra komisyon kararıyla iade edilmiştir. Yaşadıkları sorunlardan dolayı 52 kamu emekçisi intihar etmiştir. Son olarak vefat eden ihraç bir arkadaşımızın çocuklarına arkadaşları tarafından dayanışma amaçlı yine kendisi de ihraç olan N.K.’nin hesabına gönderilen 150 Euro’ya Vakıfbank tarafından el konulmuştur. N.K, parayı alıp aileye ulaştırmak için ilgili bankaya gitmiş, ancak ‘ihraçsınız’, ‘sakıncalılar listesindesiniz’ denilerek uzun süre bekletilmiş ve sonrasında mesai bitti denilerek ödeme yapılmamıştır. Bu durum insani olmadığı kadar Anayasaya da aykırıdır. Bu yaşananları kınıyoruz, bir daha böyle bir durumun yaşanmaması için hükümetin bir an önce KHK’lilerle ilgili gerekli adımları atması çağrısında bulunuyoruz. Olaya ilişkin video görüntülerini paylaşıyoruz.”

Olayla ilişkin video görüntülerini gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu Twitter hesabından paylaştı

Mutlu Civiroglu

@mutludc

Eğitim-Sen Diyarbakır şubesine göre ihraç edilen üyesine yurt dışından gelen parası, banka tarafından KHK’lı diye verilmemiş @egitimsen21

Yerleştirilmiş video

Son dakika – SDG ile anlaşan Suriye ordusu Menbiç’e girdi, sırada Kobani var

Türkiye’nin Suriye’nin kuzeyine yönelik askerî harekâtının beşinci gününde Suriye ordusunun ana omurgasını YPG’nin oluşturduğu Suriye Demokratik Güçleri (SDG) ile anlaştığı öğrenildi. Bu anlaşma kapsamında Suriye ordusunun Menbiç’e girdiği duyuruldu. Suriye ordusunun bu gece de Kobani’ye gireceği belirtiliyor.

Menbiç yerel kaynakları Suriye ordusunun çeşitli bölgelerden kente doğru ilerlemeye başladığını aktarıyor.

Menbiç’e giren Suriye ordusundan ilk görüntüler geldi.

Fırat Bölgesi Savunma Komitesi Eşbaşkanı İsmet Şêx Hesen de Kuzey ve Doğu Suriye Özerk Yönetimi’nin Suriye rejimi ile anlaştığını açıkladı. Hesen “Rusya ve Suriye rejimiyle anlaştık. Bugün akşama kadar gelmeleri gerekiyor” dedi.

Mezopotamya Ajansı‘nın haberine göre Hesen “Elimizden geleni yapıyoruz. Bütün devletlere çağrıda bulunduk; ancak bir şey yapmadılar. Kendi derdimize derman olacağız. Yaralarımızı kendimiz saracağız” diye konuştu.

Gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu da Kuzey ve Doğu Suriye Özerk Yönetimi’nin Şam yönetimi ile SDG’nin Suriye sınırını birlikte koruması konusunda anlaşmaya vardığını yazdı. Çiviroğlu, anlaşmanın Afrin de dahil tüm bölgelerin özgürlüğüne kavuşturulmasını da içerdiğini belirtti.

North Press Agency’nin haberine göre Suriye rejiminin Fırat Bölgesi Başkan Yardımcısı Mohammed Shaheen, SDG ile anlaşan Suriye ordusunun bugün Kobani bölgesine girmeye hazırlandığını duyurdu.

Kobani’deki SDG yetkilisi, Suriye hükümetiyle birkaç saat içinde Kobani’ye girmek için bir anlaşma yaptıklarını söyledi.

Gazeteci Aylina Kılıç da bölgedeki bazı yerel kaynakların SDG ile anlaştığını ve Suriye ordusunun Kobani’ye gireceğini bildirdiğini yazdı. Kılıç, “Aynı zamanda Minbiç için de bu yönde bir anlaşma olduğu belirtiliyor. Dün akşam ABD ile Rusya’nın Minbiç’te görüştüğü iddia edilmişti” dedi.

Kılıç anlaşamaya Rusya’nın dahil olduğuna dair haberlerin bulunduğunu belirtti.

https://ahvalnews.com/tr/firatin-dogusu/son-dakika-sdg-ile-anlasan-suriye-ordusu-menbice-girdi-sirada-kobani-var

Kurds and Republicans unite ahead of Istanbul election re-run

A coalition of opposition groups including Kurds and Republicans are joining forces ahead of a crucial election, which analysts predict may deliver the biggest political upset in Turkey in decades.

The initial poll in March to choose a new mayor to govern Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, secured a victory for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), but on a margin of just 14,000 votes.

CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu’s campaign was boosted by tactical voting from Kurds and other minorities seeking to oust the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Imamoglu was in office for just 19 days until Turkey’s Supreme Election Council annulled the result after claims by the AKP of irregularities at polling stations.

Now with the controversial re-run just days away, the Kurdish vote has been described as the “golden key” at the forthcoming ballot and CHP, Turkey’s oldest political party, is now considering a series of concessionary reforms that could allow for the teaching of the Kurdish language in Istanbul’s public schools for the first time.

 

Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) addresses his supporters in Istanbul, Turkey, April 17, 2019. /Reuters Photo

 

Vote switching

The vote in the mayoral election on March 31 collapsed in confusion, amid a news blackout over exit poll results, with both the CHP and the AKP candidate former prime minister Binali Yildirim claiming victory.

Ahead of voting, Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which has seen its relations with the ruling AKP deteriorate over the war in Syria and a renewal of the armed conflict in the Kurdish majority southeast of the country, took the radical step of withdrawing its own candidates from the mayoral race in Istanbul and in six other cities. Instead it urged its supporters to vote CHP.

Research by the Ankara-based economic think tank TEPAV suggests around 80 percent of the HDP supporters, close to a million voters, switched sides accordingly.

Now in a second round in which every vote counts, the Kemalist CHP appears to be shifting position on its historical antipathy towards the issue of Kurdish rights.

Imamoglu has told a Kurdish news channel “Kurdish language and songs are a part of Turkey’s societal unity.” While the veteran leader of the CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, similarly told Turkish television that learning and receiving education in mother tongue is an individual’s “essential right.”

In a move that surprised many Kurds, CHP members also spoke out against the result of mayoral elections in the southeast of Turkey, where successful HDP candidates in five districts were removed from office and replaced with AKP runners up. While last year, former CHP presidential candidate Muharrem Ince visited the HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas at his prison cell in Edirne, where Demirtas is serving a four-year term over the party’s alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

People walk past by AK Party billboards with pictures of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and mayoral candidate Binali Yildirim in Istanbul, Turkey, April 1, 2019. /Reuters Photo

 

Conciliation

This new conciliatory tone from Republicans has been cautiously welcomed by Kurdish voters. Mutlu Civiroglu, a Washington D.C.-based Kurdish affairs analyst, says ideologically the two political parties have much in common. “By nature CHP is (HDP’s) closest partner, but because of the disagreements over the Kurdish question, they have always distanced themselves. But now both sides feel equally victimized by the government and the Kurdish vote has the power of change.”

Istanbul-based analyst Gareth Jenkins describes the current coalition as a marriage of convenience in the harsher political climate. “There is a sense that the HDP is being squeezed out of the political space completely, that the Kurds can’t get their message across any other way.”

He cautions “CHP has always been seen as the main suppressors of Kurdish identity…the party still has a long way to go to convince the Kurds that it has changed. They don’t just have to win the trust of Kurds, they also have to persuade them to go out to vote.”

Supporters of imprisoned Selahattin Demirtas rally during a presidential election campaign in Istanbul, Turkey, June 17, 2018. /AFP Photo

 

Others in the Kurdish movement see HDP’s endorsement of the Republicans as a leap of faith that may not pay off. They point out that it was CHP parliamentarians voting in favour of AKP legislation to lift immunity from prosecution for lawmakers that led to the jailing of Demirtas and his party colleagues.

Ibrahim Dogus of the London-based Centre for Turkey Studies says the current alliance “is fragile… it remains to be seen if this strategy will bear fruit, but a renewed CHP victory in Istanbul on the back of HDP support would be difficult to ignore, likely forcing CHP to deepen its engagement with Kurdish issues.”

However Civiroglu sees a possible turning point, particularly on the contentious issue of Kurdish language provision. “The (Istanbul) municipality has a lot of power, a huge budget and 16 million residents. It can promote services, whether that is language teaching in Kurmanji or Zaza, supporting cultural and social activities for Kurds…it’s really a test case.”

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at an election rally in Istanbul, Turkey, June 23, 2018. /Reuters Photo

 

‘Irreversible decline’

With the next vote on June 23 and opinion polls neck and neck, electioneering in Istanbul is intense, particularly in the predominantly working-class districts of Esenyurt, Buyukcekmece and Beylikduzu, with large Kurdish populations that voted CHP in March.

However analysts warn the focus on minority and floating voters misses the bigger problem for the AKP, namely the growing disillusionment with the party among its traditional support base; poorer, conservative Turks who have been hit hard by the worsening economic outlook.

Gareth Jenkins says whether the AKP wins the Istanbul mayoralty or not, the second election will prove a decisive moment for modern Turkey after two decades of AKP rule. “What we have seen in the past six months is an irreversible decline (in the AKP), the only question is the pace at which it is happening. Many younger members are aware that the grounds for the re-run in Istanbul are spurious and the party has been discredited.”

He predicts that “If the second election is fair then Imamoglu should win. But the real concern for the AKP is how any future opposition government will act. Will they do to AKP what the party itself has been doing to its own opponents over the past two decades? That is their fear.”

(Cover: Supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu wave Turkish national flags during a rally for the upcoming local elections, in Istanbul, Turkey, March 28, 2019. /Reuters Photo)

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-06-19/Kurds-and-Republicans-unite-ahead-of-Istanbul-election-re-run-HEQv63TbCE/index.html

 

Özgürlüğe yakışıklı girmek istedim

DAİŞ’in köle olarak alıkoyduğu Êzîdî çocukları bir bir kurtarılıp ailelerine teslim ediliyor. Ednan, Kînan, Walîd kurtarılan çocuklardan sadece üçü. Kînan, özgürlüğe takım elbise ve kravatla adım atarken, Ednan QSD’nin DAİŞ’ten kurtardığı annesiyle buluşacağı günü iple çekiyor.

Babası Şengal Katliamı’nda katledilen Kînan, annesi ile birlikte DAİŞ çetelerince köle olarak kaçırıldı. Ancak annesi bir patlamada yaşamını yitirdi. Ebû Saed isimli DAİŞ çetesinin İdlib’e kadar kaçırıp 30 bin dolar karşılığı amcasına teslim ettiği Kînan, gazetecilerin karşısına takım elbise ve kravatla çıkıyor ve ekliyor: “Özgürlüğümün ilk günlerinde yakışıklı görünmek istedim.”

DAİŞ çetelerinin kıstırıldığı son toprak parçası Baxoz’da, 3 Ağustos 2014’teki Şengal Katliamı tekrar gündeme getiren gelişmeler yaşanıyor. Kaçırılan Êzîdî kadınlar ve köleleştirilen çocukların trajik öyküleri çıkıyor karşımıza.

Ednan, Kînan, Walîd… Üç çocuğun da babası katledilmiş ve anneleriyle kaçırılmış. Kînan ve Walîd’in anneleri ise DAİŞ’in kontrolündeki bölgelerde yaşanan patlamalarda hayatını kaybetmiş.

Ednan onlara göre biraz daha şanslı, bir süre önce annesi de QSD savaşçıları tarafından özgürleştirilmiş ve şimdi bir birlerine kavuşacakları anı sabırsızlıkla bekliyorlar.

Ednan annesine kavuşuyor

Gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu önceki gün Twitter hesabından DAİŞ tarafından kaçırılan ve QSD savaşçılarınca kurtarılan Êzîdî bir çocuğun görüntülerini paylaşarak, söz çocuğun ailesine bir an önce kavuşmasını umduğunu söyledi.

Aynı gün akşam saatlerinde Êzîdîlere ait Ezidipress internet sitesi DAİŞ’in elinden kurtarılan çocuğun annesine kavuştuğunu duyurdu.

Çiviroğlu paylaştığı görüntüde çocuğun ismini sorması üzerine, “Benim adım Ednan” diyor. Ezidipress yetkilileri de çocuğun annesine ulaşarak oğlunun kurtarıldığının haberini veriyor. Haberi duyan anne mutluluk gözyaşları döküyor. Ezidipress Ednan’ın annesinin, QSD savaşçıları ile Mutlu Çiviroğlu’na teşekkür ettiğine de yer verdi.

DAİŞ çeteleri 3 Ağustos 2014 Şengal’de Êzîdî Kürtlere yönelik gerçekleştirdikleri soykırım saldırısında Ednan’ın babasını katletti. Çeteler, annesi ve kendisini de köle olarak götürdü. Annesinin de bir süre önce DAİŞ’ten kurtarıldığı belirtiliyor.

DAİŞ’in köle olarak kaçırdığı Êzîdî çocuğu Kînan, “Çok ölü gördüm, katledilen çok insan gördüm” diyor.

Kînan ömrünün tam yarısını DAİŞ’in zorbalığının altında geçirmiş. Bir süre önce QSD savaşçılarınca kurtarılmış. Fransız radyo kanalı France İnfo’nun haberine göre, Ebû Sead isimli DAİŞ çetesi sivillerin arasında küçük Kînan’i de yanına alarak Baxoz’dan kaçarak İdlib’e gitmiş.  Şengal Katliamı’nda Kînan’ın babası da katledilenler arasında. DAİŞ’in yanında yaşadığı kabusu ise Kînan, “Ben çok ölü gördüm, DAİŞ’lilerin eliyle katledilen insanlar… Bizi çok dövüyorlardı. Babamı haksız yere öldürdüler” şeklinde bir çırpıda özetliyor.

Şık bir şekilde radyo muhabirleriyle görüşmesi, dikkat çekmiş.

Bir iki boy büyük de olsa takım elbise giymiş ve kravat takmış. Şık giyinmeyi de “Özgürlüğümün ilk günlerinde yakışıklı görünmek istedim” sözleriyle ifade ediyor.

Büyük ablasını DAİŞ’liler tarafından satılmış. Annesi ise Baxoz’da yaşanan bir patlamada yaşamanı yitirmiş. Küçük Kînan annesinin ölümünden sonra Ebû Saed’in kendisini, hiç bir sebep yokken de dövmeye başladığını söylüyor.

DAİŞ çeteleri Kürtçeyi yasakladıkları için Kînan da bir çok Êzîdî çocuğu gibi 5 yıl içerisinde ana dilini tamamen unutmuş.

Baxoz, QSD savaşçılarınca kuşatmaya alındığı süreçte Ebû Saed İd lib’e kaçmaya karar vermiş. Kînan’ın amcası Ebû Saed’e ulaşarak Kînan’i almaya çalışmış. Ebû Saed amcasından aldığı 30 bin dolar karşılığı Kînan’ı bırakıyor, O da 5 gün sonra Güney Kürdistan’daki amcasına ulaşıyor.

Walid de kurtarıldı

France İnfo muhaberleri göre Kînan ve amcası ile görüşürken, amcasının telefonuna bir mesaj ile fotoğraf düşüyor. QSD savaşçıları 9 yaşında bir çocuğu kurtarmış. Adı Walid ancak DAİŞ çeteleri ona Ebdul Haman ismini vermiş.

Onun da babası DAİŞ çetelerince katledilmiş ve onun da annesi Kînan’ın annesi gibi bir patlamada ölmüş. Şimdi Walid de kurtarılan ve annesine kavuşma anını iple çeken Ednan gibi emin ellerde ve özgür…   

DÊRAZOR/PARİS


Baxoz’da 6’sı çocuk 8 Êzîdî kurtarıldı

Demokratik Suriye Güçleri (QSD), DAİŞ çetelerine karşı final savaşının yürütüldüğü Baxoz’da 6’sı çocuk olmak üzere 8 Êzîdî’yi daha kurtardı. Alınan bilgilere göre, QSD savaşçıları Baxoz’daki operasyon sırasında 8 Êzîdî’yi daha kurtararak güvenli alanlara ulaştırdı. Kurtarılanlar 6 çocuk ve 2 kadından oluşuyor. Operasyonda kurtarılan kadınların, T. S. ve E. M. olduğu öğrenilirken, çocukların isimleri ise şöyle: Eymen Xelil Heci, Dilbirîn Celer, Xeyri Şeref, Musa Hadi, Ayşe, İbrahim.

ANF/BAXOZ

 

Özgürlüğe yakışıklı girmek istedim

The distant dream of a secure safe zone in northern Syria

On January 13, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed, in an ambiguous tweet, the creation of a 20-mile safe zone in northern Syria.

Almost 10 days later there is still considerable confusion over what exactly it means and how it might be implemented. The Turkish government wants the area cleared of Syrian Kurdish forces, for instance, while Syrian Kurds oppose any Turkish role. And will it be primarily a Turkish venture, or might the United States spearhead its creation?

Ankara’s preferred safe zone is one that is free of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Syrian Kurdish fighters that make up the bulk of the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that with U.S. help have largely defeated Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. The Turkish government says the YPG is as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule inside Turkey since 1984.

“The leaks about the buffer zone are unworkable,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East programme at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Ahval News. “This is going to be fraught and tenuous.”

“I have a hard time accepting why the SDF would choose the U.S. proposal over the [Syrian] regime alternative, and how Moscow could then blow all this up,” he said, referring to talks the Syrian Kurds began with Damascus following Trump’s Dec. 19 announcement he was pulling the U.S.’ 2,000 troops from Syria. The Kurds hope that by ceding their border regions with Turkey to Damascus they can prevent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threatened offensive.

Syrian Kurdish authorities have affirmed they will support the creation of a buffer zone if established and run by the United Nations or the U.S.-led coalition. But UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the UN had no plans to participate in the creation of such a safe zone.

The Kurds adamantly oppose any Turkish involvement in the safe zone.

“We really need a safe zone, but without Turkish fingers,” Salih Muslim, former co-leader of the political wing of the YPG, told Kurdistan 24. “We want a safe area with an air embargo. There must be no role for Turkey.”

Any safe zone that is 20-miles deep along the northern Syrian border would include all the major Kurdish cities in Syria.

“The problem with the buffer zone is that there is little information on how the U.S. expects to keep Turkey from attacking and destroying the SDF,” said Nicholas Heras, Middle East Security Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “This is the heart of the matter because Turkey’s vision for the buffer zone is for the Turkish military to control the major Kurdish population centres in northeast Syria.”

“A large component of the SDF comes from these Kurdish areas, and it is to be expected that the SDF would fight Turkey, rather than be dismantled by it,” he said. “The buffer zone concept was supposed to achieve a deal between Turkey and the SDF that allows for power sharing in northeast Syria, as a way to prevent disastrous conflict between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds. Any plan to allow Turkey to control the Kurdish areas of northeast Syria will force the SDF into conflict with Turkey because the SDF is existentially threatened by Turkey.”

Heras said the SDF was trying to reach an agreement with Russia and Syrian President Bashar Assad to prevent Turkey seizing land in Syria.

Yaşar Yakış, a Turkish former foreign minister, believes the terms buffer/safe zone are vague.

“A safe zone as it is conceived by Turkey is difficult to set up in northeast Syria. Russia, Iran, the U.S. and many members of the international community will have to be persuaded for it,” Yakış said.

He said Turkey had no means of persuading the SDF to peacefully leave the area.

“However, it may dare to achieve it by using its military power, without persuasion,” Yakış suggested. “If Turkey succeeds in persuading the U.S., Washington has the means to force the YPG to establish a safe zone. But if this is going to be a safe zone with international legitimacy, it has to be sanctioned by a U.N. Security Council resolution, which means that the permanent members of the Security Council – Russia, China, France and the UK – also have to be persuaded.”

Turkey fears the creation of a safe zone similar to the one in northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, which led to Iraqi Kurds achieving autonomy, he said.

“This will be considered a nightmare by Turkey, as it is vehemently opposed to the emergence of any type of Kurdish entity in the north of Syria,” Yakış said.

Mutlu Civiroglu, a Syria and Kurdish affairs analyst, said Trump’s tweet suggested a preference for protecting Syrian Kurds before mentioning the 20-mile safe zone.

“It’s not clear what it really means,” he said. “Assuming the buffer zone is something the U.S. is going to initiate to protect Kurds, that would be positive and would be accepted by Kurds and their allies.”

Russia could stymie the creation of such a zone though, Civiroglu said.

“Moscow can certainly undermine not only this safe zone, but also any development in Syria since it has the power,” he said. “Its move will depend on the details. Russia has the power and capability of preventing or shaping the steps taken by Turkey, the Syrian government and any other player.”

Mustafa Gurbuz, a non-resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the United States had engaged in dual discourse by promising Turkey a safe zone along its southern border on the one hand and promising Syrian Kurds protection from any potential Turkish attack on the other.

“YPG leaders will not retreat in a silent matter,” he said. “The YPG will exploit U.S.-Russia competition to prevent the Turkish safe zone and, in the case of Turkey-Russia agreement, may use its ties with the Assad regime. Thus, it’s a troubling case for Turkey.”

Paul Iddon

https://ahvalnews.com/buffer-zone/distant-dream-secure-safe-zone-northern-syria

Winners and Losers in Trump’s Planned Troop Withdrawal From Syria

Kurdish residents of Amuda in northeastern Syria. One holds a flag of Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of the separatist Kurdish Workers' Party.
Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

President Trump’s decision this week to withdraw all American troops from Syria within 30 days risks leaving United States’ allies in the long-running war weakened while strengthening rivals backed by Iran and Russia.

American troops entered Syria in 2015 as part of a coalition fighting the Islamic State, which had seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. In the three years since, the extremist group’s self-declared caliphate has crumbled. But the continuing lack of stability in both Syria and Iraq could provide fertile ground for the jihadists to retrench.

The American pullout could also weaken the country’s influence over any negotiations on a settlement to end the conflict.

“The leverage that might have been there for the United States in Syria is no longer there because now everyone knows that the United States will leave Syria unconditionally,” said Joost Hiltermann, the Middle East director of the International Crisis Group, a conflict and foreign policy research organization.

Here are some of the parties to the conflict that have the most to gain or lose from an American withdrawal.

President Bashar al-Assad and his chief international backers, Russia and Iran, would all benefit from an American troop withdrawal, which would further tighten Mr. Assad’s once-tenuous grip on his battered country.

Iran is one of the biggest winners as the international ally with the most invested in Syria and the most at stake. During the war, Iran embedded itself in Syria, redrawing the strategic map of the Middle East.

It has sent in thousands of Shiite forces, who fought on the ground, and deployed drones and precision weapons to keep Mr. Assad in power. That secured an all-important land bridge through Syria to supply weapons to Hezbollah, Iran’s Shiite militia ally in Lebanon and a steadfast enemy of Israel.

Iran trained and equipped Shiite fighters while strengthening ties with allies in Iraq and Lebanon in hopes of building a united front in the event of a new war with Israel.

Russia also stands to benefit. A day after Mr. Trump’s announcement on Wednesday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia applauded the decision, saying during a news conference, “Donald’s right, and I agree with him.”

Credit…Alexander Nemenov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Russia contributed around 5,000 troops and a few dozen aircraft to prop up Mr. Assad’s government, which secured Moscow’s strategically important naval facility in the Syrian city of Tartus on the Mediterranean Sea. Russia also expanded its military footprint in Syria during the war.

“It certainly helps the Russians, who have benefited tremendously from a quite limited investment in Syria,” said Jon B. Alterman, director and senior fellow of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Through its alliance with Syria, Russia has maintained its influence in the Middle East.

“They re-established themselves as a global player when the conclusion had been that the glory days of the Soviet Union were dead and gone,” Mr. Alterman said.

For Mr. Assad, the American withdrawal means the path forward for Syria will be shaped largely by forces sympathetic to his government and its interests.

The two biggest threats to his leadership have been substantially neutralized — the myriad rebel groups that tried to overthrow the Syrian government and the Islamic State — the latter thanks largely to the military force brought to bear by the American-led international coalition that fought the militants.

Turkey and the United States, NATO allies, have frequently found themselves at odds in Syria, even though both opposed Mr. Assad. That is because the United States backed a mostly Kurdish force in Syria, saying they were the fighters most capable of pushing back the Islamic State.

Turkey has long battled Kurdish separatists at home in the country’s southeast and saw the rising power of Kurds along its border in northern Syria as a threat. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey recently threatened military intervention against the Kurdish forces in Syria that Washington has backed since 2015.

The exit of American troops would leave Turkey open to taking action to curb the power of Kurdish forces in Syria.

Credit…Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“We have won against ISIS,” Mr. Trump declared in a video that was published on Wednesday. But experts, including some of Mr. Trump’s own staff and coalition partners, disagree.

Though the militants retain just 1 percent of the territory they held at the height of power, this would remove a major military adversary in the region. During a State Department briefing on Dec. 11, Brett McGurk, Mr. Trump’s special envoy in the fight against the Islamic State, said the battle was not over.

“The end of ISIS will be a much more long-term initiative,” Mr. McGurk said. “Nobody is declaring a mission accomplished.”

Despite being America’s key allies in the fight against the Islamic State, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are being virtually abandoned, critics of the withdrawal say. The Kurds have relied on American support, and a sudden withdrawal could be disastrous, leaving them exposed from all sides.

The Syrian Democratic Forces denounced the withdrawal in a statement on Thursday.

“The White House’s decision to withdraw from northern and eastern Syria will negatively affect the campaign against terrorism,” the group said. “The fight against terrorism is not over yet, and the final defeat of terrorism has not come yet.”

The group warned that the move would create a “political-military vacuum” that would allow the Islamic State to thrive again.

Kurdish forces are likely to lose territory and control as a result of Mr. Trump’s decision.

“Kurds and their allies have paid a very heavy price,” said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Washington-based Kurdish affairs analyst. “They have fought on the front line, and thousands of Kurdish men and women lost their lives fighting on behalf of the entire world.”

He said many now feel betrayed: “They feel like all the efforts are about to go in vain.”

Kurdish fighters who have battled the Islamic State in Syria.
Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

As the Kurds — a stateless and often marginalized group — took back territory from Islamic State forces in northern Syria, they worked to created an autonomous region.

A newly empowered Iran with unfettered land access to their Hezbollah allies — without American forces in the north of Syria as a counterweight — poses an existential threat to Israel.

“Israel will be very unhappy about this because they see it as a net gain for Iran, and they are right,” Mr. Hiltermann said.

As Israel’s most powerful ally, the United States plays an outsize role in security for the country, and the withdrawal of troops could threaten that balance.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict in Syria for years, with millions displaced from their homes and millions more who fled the country struggling abroad as refugees.

Aid groups warn that further destabilization of northern Syrian could spark yet another humanitarian disaster in the region.

A paramedic carried an injured child after Syrian and Russian forces struck the rebel-held town of Hamouria.
Credit…Abdulmonam Eassa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The International Rescue Committee, which has been working to provide humanitarian assistance in parts of Syria for years, warned that a potential Turkish offensive in the region could be devastating.

“Throughout this conflict, these political and military decisions have been made without any apparent consideration of the humanitarian consequences. As a result, every decision has heightened the danger and distress for civilians,” said David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee.

Many Kurdish civilians would likely flee the area if the Kurdish militias lose control of northern Syria.

“There will be a humanitarian crisis, there is no question,” Mr. Hiltermann said.

By 

How long will Turkey stay in Syria?

In recent months, Turkey has made significant investments in areas under its control in northern Syria, launching local employment projects, opening Turkish post offices and even building a new highway linking the Syrian city of Al-Bab to Turkey. These commitments indicate that Ankara seeks a significant role in shaping the future of northern Syria, an area of great strategic importance.

Turkey currently controls a large swathe of territory in northwestern Syria consisting of Al-Bab and the border cities of Jarablus and Azaz, captured from Islamic State (ISIS) in the Euphrates Shield operation it launched in August 2016. It also occupies the enclave of Afrin, situated a little further westward of the Euphrates Shield zone, which it captured from Syrian Kurdish forces in its Olive Branch operation early this year.

Earlier this month, Turkish media highlighted several new projects launched by Ankara. It began training 6,500 more of the proxy militiamen who fight on Turkey’s behalf under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Azaz. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that 260,000 Syrian refugees had successfully resettled there. Turkey also supplied 3.6 million textbooks to Syrian schools and drilled 69 wells to provide water for 432,000 people. A business association head also announced that 4,000 Turkish firms were operating in both the Euphrates Shield zone and Afrin.

State-run Turkish news outlets have a clear motive in extolling Turkey’s more humanitarian endeavours. Nevertheless, such reports demonstrate a clear intention on Ankara’s part to consolidate its sizeable foothold in northern Syria.

“The head is Turkish, the body Syrian,” quipped one Syrian man when describing all the various institutions, ranging from the security and police forces to the local councils that Turkey has established in the areas it controls. ‘Brotherhood has no borders’ is also a slogan inscribed on those Turkish-built institutions in both Turkish and Arabic. While such anecdotal examples may indicate that Turkey seeks to gradually annex these territories, Ankara invariably stresses that it supports preserving Syria’s territorial integrity.

Turkey’s two operations into Syria did fulfil some of its security needs. ISIS no longer has a foothold on Turkey’s border thanks to Euphrates Shield, and Olive Branch fulfilled Ankara’s goal of preventing the Syrian Kurds from taking over all of Syria’s northern border. Remaining in Syria, or at least retaining a sizeable proxy FSA presence there, will help ensure these battlefield victories are not undone.

“Turkish actions in northern Syria are driven by security concerns,” Timur Akhmetov, a Middle East analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Ahval News.

“To enhance its chances there, Turkey supports a military presence by providing limited humanitarian assistance. It is not, however, feasible at the moment to see if such investments will be guaranteed by the main actors in Syria, such as Damascus, or whether they will result in pro-Turkish sentiments in the long-run.”

The Syrian regime, which has retaken most of the country, has staunchly opposed Turkey’s cross-border incursions since the start of Euphrates Shield. Russia has proven more tolerant of the Turkish military presence, but is unlikely to recognise or acquiesce to any potential Turkish annexation of Syrian territory.

“Turkey is trying to convert its presence into political influence, but Russia so far has clearly signalled to Turkey that the Turkish presence in northern Syria is tolerated due to Turkish security concerns, meaning that no political claims are recognised as legitimate by the Astana agreements,” Akhmetov said.

Akhmetov compared Turkey’s presence in Syria to Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon to remove the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) from the south of the country next to its border. For much of the next 18 years, it controlled a swathe of southern Lebanon alongside a proxy army called the South Lebanon Army (SLA) that, much like the Turkish-backed FSA forces today, it armed and trained to help enforce a buffer zone in that area, before finally withdrawing in 2000.

As with most analogies, there are some important distinctions between this ongoing case and that historic case.

“I’m not sure if the best way to look at it is in terms of legal annexation,” said Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank. “These areas have been a direct Turkish sphere of influence, and have been getting more and more integrated into Turkish administration. In many ways, for historical, political and cultural reasons, that goes well beyond what Israel had in southern Lebanon.”

Badran, like Akhmetov, sees Russia as the primary player in determining how long this situation lasts.

“For as long as the status quo between Turkey and Russia persists, and the limitations on the Assad regime’s manpower and capabilities continue to be an obstacle to its territorial ambitions, then I suspect this arrangement is likely to remain in its current, de facto, form,” Badran said.

While the Euphrates Shield zone has proven relatively stable and secure under Turkish control, the same cannot be said about Turkish-occupied Afrin.

“When you look at Afrin today there is no stability or security, it is just chaos,” Mutlu Çiviroğlu, a Kurdish and Syria affairs analyst, told Ahval News.

“Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the U.N. Human Rights Commission all state that human rights violations, torture, kidnapping and looting are common in today’s Afrin. This was a region which had exemplary stability and was a refuge for many thousands of displaced people. A place where Kurds and Arabs, Muslims and Yezidis and so on coexisted.”

Çiviroğlu said most of Afrin’s residents had been displaced by Turkey’s invasion while Ankara has facilitated the resettlement of many Syrians from across the country there, sparking accusations that it is working to alter Afrin’s Kurdish-majority demographics.

This month, clashes in Afrin between Turkish-backed factions have left at least 25 dead and bode ill for Ankara’s claims to have brought stability to the tiny enclave. “The clashes provoked terror among civilians,” said the head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdul Rahman, who summed them up as “unprecedented since the rebels seized Afrin”.

Çiviroğlu said that since Turkey is the “occupying power” in Afrin it had the responsibility to maintain stability and security, both of which Afrin has been chronically lacking.

“Turkey’s argument of removing terrorists from that region and bringing stability and security rings hollow,” he said, adding that Turkey’s occupation of Afrin is an attempt to “expand the territories under its control to use as a bargaining chip for negotiations so it can have more of a say over Syria’s future.”

Paul Iddon

https://ahvalnews.com/syrian-war/how-long-will-turkey-stay-syria

Syria tensions ramp up as Assad eyes Afrin

Political tensions are mounting once again in Syria as Damascus prepared to send troops into Afrin, where the Turkish military has launched a large-scale operation against Kurdish militants, the People’s Protection Forces (YPG).

As news of the possible deal between Damascus and the Kurds broke, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu warned that no one would stop Turkish troops should Syrian forces enter the enclave, in a barely veiled threat of confrontation. Turkey’s main share index fell on the news.

Turkey, the United States and Russia, as well as Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Kurds, are vying for control of northern Syria, ratcheting up tensions in a seven-year war, after the virtual defeat of Islamic State. The area, home to a mixture of Kurdish and Sunni Arab minorities, is strategically adjacent to Iraq and Turkey, with important oil resources.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad will enter Afrin in the coming hours after reaching an agreement with Kurdish forces, Syrian state media said. Syria woukd also re-establish a military presence along the border with Turkey, which has actively supported a range of armed groups intent on overthrowing Assad’s government, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), deployed against the Kurds, it said

“If they (the Syrians) are entering to protect the YPG/PKK, nobody can stop the Turkish army,” Çavuşoğlu said at a news conference in Amman, Jordan.

FSA

Militants of the Turkish-backed FSA in Syria

Turkey has rejected any talk of Assad retaking the border, saying his government has courted and supported the Kurds against Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered Turkish troops into Syria on Jan. 20, saying an operation was needed to cleanse the area of Kurdish militants allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade war for autonomy from Turkey at the cost of about 40,000 lives, most of them Kurdish.

Russia, however, is concerned about possible clashes between Turkish and Syrian troops should Syria’s army be deployed, and has approached Turkey to negotiate a possible deal, according to Timur Akhmetov, a journalist and researcher for the Russian International Affairs Council.

The deployment of Syrian troops would come just three days after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Ankara and agreed with Turkey to set up working groups to deal with differences between the two NATO allies over Syria. Washington has opposed the Turkish incursion, saying it threatens to de-stablise Syria further and hurt the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) — the Kurds are the most powerful allies as the West does battle with the group.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is now “pushing the Assad piece forward” after Ankara and Washington reached the agreement to patch up their relationship, Tim Ash, senior emerging markets strategist at BlueBay Asset Management in London, said on Monday.

Moscow, which has benefited from a closer relationship with Ankara as ties with the U.S. frayed, could now close Syrian airspace to Turkish jets, leaving Turkish troops exposed on the ground, Ash said.

Turkey has broken international law by occupying Afrin after it realised its support for Islamist terrorists flowing across the border from Turkey failed, Bouthaina Shaaban, an aide to Assad, said on Monday, according to Turkish news website Gazete Duvar.

Mutlu Civiroglu, an expert on Kurdish affairs, said the deal between Damascus and the Kurds isn’t done, though may be signed in the coming hours.

Turkey’s main BIST-100 share index fell 0.2 percent to 116,330 points at 3:04 p.m. in Istanbul, reversing earlier gains.

Mark Bentley

https://ahvalnews.com/syria-turkey/syria-tensions-ramp-assad-eyes-afrin