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

IS Foreign Women Smuggled Out in Northeastern Syria Camp

In this Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, photo, women who recently returned from Al-Hol camp, which holds families of Islamic State members, gather in the courtyard of their home in Raqqa, Syria, during an interview. The Kurdish-led administration has…FILE – Women who recently returned from the Al-Hol camp, which holds families of Islamic State members, gather in the courtyard of their home in Raqqa, Syria, during an interview, Sept. 7, 2019.

WASHINGTON – A group of intruders who disguised themselves as security forces protecting al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria have helped smuggle out several women affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) fighters, local authorities told VOA.

“Some smugglers put on SDF uniforms or security police outfits, and they helped some IS women escape the camp for money,” said Judy Serbilind, who monitors IS female affiliates detained at the overcrowded camp.

Serbilind refused to disclose the number of the escaped women but said there were dozens. She said most of them came from outside of Syria, particularly from Europe.

“We believe that they fled to Idlib then to Turkey. We think some of them might reach out to the embassies of their countries and some (will) stay in Turkey.”

Al-Hol is a makeshift encampment set up for those who were displaced during the war against IS in eastern Syrian province of Dir el-Zour. The camp’s population skyrocketed from about 10,000 refugees in December 2018 to over 70,000 by April 2019 following a U.S.-led operation that defeated IS from its last stronghold of Baghouz.

After several escape incidents, fearing a larger attempt by IS to infiltrate the camp, Kurdish-led security forces who guard the camp promptly increased their numbers around the area, Serbilind told VOA. To ease burden on the overloaded camp, management also released dozens of Syrian women with IS affiliation to their families and tribes provided that their families guarantee they will not go back to the militant group.

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 11,000 of people in the camp are foreign women and children related to IS.

Local Officials: IS Women in Syria’s al-Hol Camp Pose Security Risk

Daily Incidents

Syrian Kurdish officials in the past have said they were holding hundreds of foreign fighters in their prisons, along with thousands of their wives and children from 44 countries. The officials said they were overwhelmed by the burden and asked the countries to retake their nationals.

At al-Hol camp, officials say they are struggling to control order as reports of arguments, fights, stabbing and even murders are on the rise. Many of these issues go unresolved due to the lack of professional personnel and as camp officials prioritize more urgent needs such as food and water.

Last July, a pregnant Indonesian woman believed to be affiliated with IS was found dead in the camp. Local security forces said an autopsy showed the woman was murdered and her body showed signs of torture.

Serbilind said that the supervisors and security forces report the IS women as saying they want to re-establish an Islamic State inside the camp. She said large blades and knives were banned from entering the site. Nevertheless, two security officers were recently stabbed by IS affiliated women using kitchen knives.

“They are also threatening to revolt once Turkey carries out its threats of crossing the borders to Eastern Euphrates,” Serbilindadded, referring to Turkey’s announced intention to enter northeastern Syria to go after the Kurdish fighters if a “safe-zone” agreement with the U.S. is not implemented.

Ankara considers Kurdish YPG group a terrorist organization and an extension of the Turkish-based Kurdistan Workers Party. But Washington considers the YPG a key ally in the fight against IS and disagrees with Ankara on the linkage.

A Time Bomb

The desperate situation of al-Hol camp has long triggered international attention, with many aid organizations warning the site could be the birthplace of IS’s revenge generation.

UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry on Syria earlier this month reported that the situation in the camp was “appalling,” urging international community to take action. The investigators said most of the 3,500 children held there lacked birth registration and risked statelessness as their countries of origin were unwilling to repatriate them, fearing extremist links.

An IS propaganda video that circulated among the group’s social media users recently showed a group of women allegedly sending a message from the camp.   The black-veiled women vowed to revive the so-called caliphate which was announced defeated in March after losing its final stronghold of Baghouz.

“We ask that were you able to contain the Mujahideen’s women that you are keeping in your rot camp? We tell you no, they are now a ticking bomb,” one of the IS women is shown as saying in the video.

Some researchers believe that women themselves may not be able to actively participate in a possible resurgence of IS, but their extreme viewpoints could encourage sympathizers around the world and affect the future of their children.

“I think that the danger lies in their ability to ensure that the next generation are raised with really radical viewpoints,” said Mia Bloom, a professor of communications and Middle Eastern studies at Georgia State University.

“The danger is less from the women themselves than the women are able to perpetuate the conflict moving to the next new phase,” Bloom told VOA.

UN’s Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee in a report earlier this year warned that IS could morph from a territorial entity into a covert network. The report added that the terror group is “in a phase of transition, adaptation and consolidation, seeking to create the conditions for a resurgence.”

According to Bloom of Georgia State University, the threat of IS re-emergence will remain until the international community shows enough political will to deal with the root causes of extremism that originally led to the rise of the group.

“Until we address these underlying issues, there will always be recruitment opportunities for Jihadists and extremists who exploit that fact that the international community won’t do anything to halt the violence by corrupt regimes and restore justice for civilians,” Bloom concluded.

Nisan Ahmado, Mutlu Civiroglu

Turkish army pull out will bring peace to Northern Syria

The Turkish troops constantly harass the local, and the only way to return peace and stability is to transfer the land under control of the Syrian government.

Firas Samuri

Why Turkey is building a wall around Syria’s Afrin

Last month, Turkey quietly began building a wall around the northeastern Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, which it has occupied since early 2018. Amid increased attacks on its soldiers and Syrian militiamen proxies in the enclave, one purpose of the wall is to provide additional security.

Yet there are fears the wall could be a major step by Turkey to annex Afrin and prevent the return of the tens of thousands of Kurds who had to leave their homes there as a result of the Turkish invasion.

“Sources on the ground in Afrin see this as another step of Turkey’s annexation of Afrin into its own borders,” said Mutlu Çiviroğlu, a Syria and Kurdish affairs analyst. “Since last year Afrin has been controlled by Turkey and its Syrian proxies. The civilian affairs are run by Turkey’s Hatay Governorate.”

Çiviroğlu also pointed out that the wall cuts Afrin off from the rest of Syria, in particular areas around the nearby city of Tal Rifaat, where well over 100,000 of Afrin’s displaced are currently living. This may indicate that one of Turkey’s primary aims is to prevent these Kurds from returning and reclaiming their homes.

“Locals are worried that this wall is another step by Turkey to annex Afrin,” he said. “At the same time they expect the Syrian government to give a tougher reaction, but so far we haven’t seen that.”

Çiviroğlu also pointed out that “some other sources say that this wall is designed to prevent the increased number of Afrin Liberation Forces (HRE) attacks, which have recently afflicted serious losses on Turkish soldiers and Turkish-backed forces in Afrin.”

The HRE – the Afrin branch of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) – has targeted Turkish troops and Turkish-backed forces in both Afrin and the town of Azaz, which is part of the Syrian territories Turkey captured from Islamic State (ISIS) in its 2016-17 Euphrates Shield operation. Ankara invariably responds to these attacks by firing artillery at alleged HRE targets in the Tal Rifaat area.

Professor Joshua Landis, head of the Middle East Studies Department at the University of Oklahoma, said Turkey’s wall serves several purposes.

“The cement wall around Afrin represents a visual reminder of Turkish control,” he said. “It is meant to indicate to both inhabitants of Afrin and the world that the border is permanent; Ankara is serious about staying in north Syria. On a more practical level, the wall provides security against insurgents and those who seek to return Afrin to Kurdish control and expel the Turks and Arab militias.”

Notably, the Syrian and Russian governments have not severely criticised Turkey for this action, indicating there is some acquiescence on their part.

“There is a perception among the Syrian Kurds, activists and journalists, that Russia is trying to appease Turkey on this matter so the deal to sell Ankara S-400 missiles is finalised and Moscow gets what it wants in Syria’s Idlib province,” said Çiviroğlu.

At an April 29 press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was unaware of the project.

“To be honest, I have never heard anything about a wall around Afrin,” he said. “But I proceed from the fact that the Turkish leadership was adamant in confirming a number of times that Turkey’s anti-terrorist activities in Syrian territory are temporary.”

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad recently reaffirmed Damascus’s opposition to Turkey’s military presence in Syria and reiterated the government’s determination “to liberate every inch of Syrian territory”, but did not mention the new wall in Afrin.

“The Syrian and Russian governments have been silent about this latest Turkish provocation because they are busy pushing north from Hama against HTS and Turkish control in the Idlib enclave,” Landis said, referring to the jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which controls parts of the northern Syrian province.

He pointed out that there have been suggestions “that Turkey and Russia have come to an agreement in which Turkey will be allowed to extend its control over the north Aleppo in exchange for Syria extending its control over Idlib.”

“While the Turks push south against the Kurds, the Syrians will push north against Arab rebels,” said Landis.

Landis concluded by pointing out that there is some possibility that Damascus “may also be reluctant to stand up for the Kurds in north Aleppo province as a form of revenge against the Kurds of Rojava [Syrian Kurdistan] who have asked for a permanent American presence in northeast Syria.”

Güney Yıldız, a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, thinks the walls main purpose has more to do with security than any long-term Turkish plan to annex the enclave or permanently alter its demographics.

“I think the primary purpose of the wall is to prevent the ongoing YPG – or HRE as the YPG in Afrin calls them – attacks in Afrin,” Yıldız said. “The attacks have increased in the last few weeks and Kurdish officials indicate that they will intensify their attacks during the summer.”

“Cementing demographic changes or annexing Afrin to the Turkish territory doesn’t necessarily require constructing a wall,” he said. “Having said that, I believe that Afrin will be the last place Turkey will withdraw from in Syria.”

Yıldız noted that Turkish officials value the country’s continued occupation of Afrin more than its occupation of the other, much larger, northwestern territories Turkey captured from the Islamic State in the aforementioned Euphrates Shield operation.

“For Turkish officials, agreeing to give back Al-Bab, Jarablus or Azaz or working with Russia to return Idlib back to the regime control is more preferable than ceding control in Afrin,” Yıldız said. “Turkey wants to keep the Kurds as far away from the Mediterranean as possible.”

Gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu: IŞİD’in Bağhuz’daki son günlerini anlattı

Amerika’da yaşayan gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu, Mart ayı başlarında Suriye’nin kuzeydoğusuna giderek IŞİD’in ilan ettiği hilafetin son günlerine tanıklık etti.

Suriye Demokratik Güçleri’nin (SDG) IŞİD’in son kalesinde sürdürdüğü operasyonları yakından izleyen Çiviroğlu, The Defense Post’a gözlemlerini aktardı.

Aryen Haber Sitesi tarafından çevirisi yapılan röportajın tamamını siz okurlarımızla paylaşıyoruz.

Ne zamandan beri Bağhuz’dasınız ve ön saflara ne kadar yaklaşabildiniz?

Üç haftadır Bağhuz’da bulunuyorum. Zaman zaman Kobani ve Rakka gibi farklı şehirlere seyahat ettim. Bağhuz’un içinde de IŞİD ön cephesinden neredeyse 100 metre mesafede keskin nişancıların menzilinde bulundum.

Siz oradayken çatışmaların seyri nasıl değişti?

Son günlerde geceleri çatışma oluyordu ve IŞİD SDG’nin ilerlemesini engellemeye çalışıyordu. Koalisyon jetleri ve ağır silahlar SDG’yi desteklemekteydi ve çatışmalar, IŞİD’in SDG güçlerini hedeflemesini engellemek için çoğunlukla gece meydana geliyordu. IŞİD’in sivilleri rehin aldığı (Ezidiler, diğer kaçırılan insanlar) ve bu insanları canlı kalkan olarak kullanabileceği endişesi, operasyonları SDG açısından zorlaştırdı. Bu yüzden gündüzleri havan saldırıları olurken geceleri daha şiddetli çatışmalar yaşanıyordu. Gece operasyonları ayrıca IŞİD savaşçılarını etkisiz kılmak için termal kamera kullanan uçaklara da bir avantaj sağlıyordu.

Video oynatıcı

IŞİD ne tür bir direniş gösterdi?

IŞİD, büyük bir direnç gösterdi. Operasyonun son aşaması Ocak ayından bu yana devam ediyor. Bu küçük kasabada binlerce insan olduğu için operasyonun birçok kez durdurulması gerekiyordu, çünkü her seferinde belirli sayıda insan IŞİD tarafından serbest bırakılıyordu. Bu, SDG için bir engel teşkil etti, çünkü tam savaşmaya başladıklarında tekrar durmaları gerekiyordu. Bu insanları tahliye etmek, taramadan geçirmek çok zaman alan bir işlemdi. Operasyonunun yanı sıra, SDG ve Koalisyon Güçleri için bu tarz zorluklar vardı.

Ancak IŞİD’in çok kuvvetli bir şekilde karşı koyduğunu görebiliyoruz. Çünkü savaşçılarının çoğu dünyanın çeşitli yerlerinden, ama özellikle de Çeçen ve Dağıstan’dan gelen ya da Kuzey Afrikalı, savaşta tecrübeli cihatçılar. İdeolojilerine inanan kişilerdi, bu yüzden karada sert bir mücadele verdiler.

Uzun zamandır Bağhuz’da bulundukları için coğrafyaya aşina olmuşlardı. Çoğunluğu Kürtlerden oluşan Suriye Demokratik Güçleri’nin geldikleri şehir ve kasabalar ise buradan 200 ila 300 km uzakta, hatta daha da uzak mesafede. Tanımadıkları bir alanda savaşıyorlardı. Bu, SDG için bir dezavantaja neden oluyordu.

Ayrıca IŞİD tarafından canlı kalkan olarak kullanılan siviller, SDG ve Koalisyonun işini çok daha fazla zorlaştırmıştı. Son birkaç günde, SDG ve Koalisyonun sivilleri hedef aldığını söyleyen propagandalar yapılıyor. Ancak tüm uluslararası medya, insan yaşamının, sivillerin korunduğunu – hatta teslim olmuş ya da şüpheli IŞİD savaşçılarına bile insanca muamele edildiğini –  gözlemledi. Saygılı davrandılar. Pek çok gazeteci, SDG’nin insan yaşamına nasıl değer verdiğine ve onları korumaya çalıştığına ilk elden tanık oldu.

Mücadeleye geri dönersek, ağır silahlar, hendekler, intihar eylemcileri (erkekler ve kadınlar) kullanıldı ve bazı durumlarda motosikletli intihar saldırılarını da devreye koydular.

SDG üyeleri, Bağhuz’daki IŞİD kamplarında kadın ve çocukları kontrol ediyor

SDG kaynaklarından aldığım bir diğer bilgi de, IŞİD savaşçılarında yerel IŞİD üyeleri ve uluslararası cihatçılar arasında bir anlaşmazlık olduğu yönünde. Suriyeli ve bölgesel IŞİD üyeleri teslim olmaya eğilim gösterirken, uluslararası IŞİD üyeleri, özellikle Rus kökenli ve diğerleri, sonuna kadar savaşmaya istekli görünüyordu.

Bunu paylaşmak istiyorum, çünkü hepsi sonuna kadar savaşmaya devam etmedi. Elbette bu, örgütün bir taktiği olabilir; belki de daha önce Suriye ve Irak’ta olduğu gibi, hapishaneden kaçma fırsatları olacağını umarak savaşçılarından bir kesimini uzaklaştırıp ileriye yönelik kullanma planı olabilir.

Sebep ne olursa olsun, çok sayıda savaşçı teslim olmayı seçti. Bunun, SDG’yi oyalamaya ve yavaşlatmaya yönelik bilinçli bir taktik olabileceğini  ve sözde teslim olmuş insanları gelecekte kullanma amaçlı yapıldığına inanıyorum.

IŞİD’in çatışmada kadınları veya çocukları kullandığını gördünüz mü?

Kendi gözlerimle görmedim, ancak komutanlarla konuşurken, kadınları kullandıklarını duydum. Son birkaç günde ise kadın ve çocukların IŞİD savaşçıları olarak kullanıldığını, çocukların silah taşıdığını kanıtlayan bazı videolar ortaya çıktı. Yine kadınlar bu hafta ve daha önce de intihar saldırıları düzenlediler.

Geçtiğimiz günlerde teslim olan kadınlar arasında bile çok fanatik olanları gördük. Çoğu çok sert, hiç vicdan azabı duymuyorlar, hiç pişman değiller ve IŞİD’in ideolojisine ve savaşına devam edeceğine söz veriyorlar. Hala Ezidi halkına yönelik kötü davranışları ve Ezidi kadınların köleliğini haklı çıkaran kadınları gördüm.

Bu yüzden kesinlikle zorla savaştırılan bazı kadınlar olabilir, ancak IŞİD’de olmayı ve sonuna kadar savaşmayı tercih eden çok sayıda kadın da mevcut. Bu kadınların kendi ülkeleri veya gittikleri yer için ciddi sorunlara neden olabileceğine inanıyorum.

Video oynatıcı

Bu küçük bölgeyi temizlemek neden bu kadar uzun sürüyor?

Çünkü binlerce insan vardı. Hiç kimse, ne SDG ne de Koalisyon Güçleri, bu kadar çok insanın böyle küçük bir yerde yaşayabileceğini tahmin edemezdi. Geçtiğimiz haftalarda Bağhuz’dan on binlerce insan tahliye edildi. Bu büyük bir sayı. Operasyon her yoğunlaştırıldığında, IŞİD çok sayıda kişiyi serbest bıraktı. Bu da operasyonu radikal bir şekilde yavaşlattı. Sivil hayatın ve olası tutsakların hayatlarının korunmasına odaklanmak, SDG ve Koalisyonu kendi savaşçılarını yormak pahasına da olsa, daha dikkatli olmaya ve operasyonu yavaşlatmaya itti.

Bu kadar çok sayıda insanın küçük bir yerde olması, bu operasyonun çok yavaş ilerlemesinin temel nedenidir. Bu yüzden ve IŞİD’in Irak-Suriye sınır hattındaki son nokta olması, hala ne tür bir yer olduğu ve IŞİD’in nasıl bir hazırlığı olduğu hakkında bir gizem oluşturuyor.

İnsanların yaşadığı birçok hendekler ve yeraltı tünelleri gördük, bu nedenle muhtemelen gözlem uçakları onları yakalayamadı. Bu, SDG kara kuvvetleri için kapalı bir kutu gibiydi. Ne geleceğini bilmiyorlardı. İlerlerken ekstra temkinli olmalarının sebeplerinden biri de buydu.

IŞİD savaşçılarının yaşadığı kampları tarif edebilir misiniz?
Kamp koşulları çok korkunç. Kasaba çok küçük ve insan sayısı son derece yüksek. Bu yüzden muhtemelen yiyecek, su ve sıhhi tesisatla ilgili sorunlar var. Kötü bir koku var. İnsanlar kötü koşullar altında bu yerlerde yaşıyorlardı.

Koalisyon onlara fırsat verdi, ancak hepsi teslim olmayı kabul etmedi. Gördüklerimize dayanarak, durumun zor olduğunu söylüyorum, çünkü böyle küçük bir yer bu kadar çok insanı barındırmak için uygun değildi.

Video oynatıcı

SDG savaşçılarının morali nasıl? Hayal kırıklığına uğramış gibi görünüyorlar mı?

SDG savaşçılarının morali çok iyi. Bir zafer kazandıklarından ve IŞİD’in halifeliğini sona erdireceklerinden eminler, ancak aynı zamanda IŞİD’in bununla bitmediğini de biliyorlar.

Bir şekilde – uyuyan hücrelerin peşinden gitme, kurtarılan alanların istikrara kavuşturulması ve IŞİD ideolojisinin gelişmesine izin veren koşulların ortadan kaldırıldığından emin olmak için –  IŞİD ile mücadelenin ikinci aşamasına hazırlanıyorlar. Yani uzun soluklu ve kalıcı bir mücadele. Bunun bilincindeler. Bağhuz’u almak ancak IŞİD’in toprak varlığına sona erdirecek, fakat ideolojik varlığı ve bunun tüm dünyadaki tehdidi hala mevcut ve onlar bunun farkındalar.

Kürt, Arap ve Süryani etnik gruplarının hepsi çok mutlu ve kadınlar özellikle kadınları köleleştiren ve değersizleştiren bir ideolojiye karşı kazanılan zaferde önemli bir rol üstlendikleri için mutlu ve gururlular. Ezidi kadınlar her kurtarıldığında, Kürt kadınları arasındaki mutluluğu gördüm. Bu onlar için kesinlikle çok özel.

Lojistik problemleri – su, yiyecek, temizlik, sıcak hava, bazen de toz fırtınaları var –  savaşmayı çok zorlaştırıyor. Bir buçuk ay önce bir toz fırtınası yaşanmıştı; IŞİD büyük bir saldırı başlattı ve bu durum SDG savaşçıları için ciddi sorunlara yol açtı. Çöl koşullarının kendi zorlukları vardır ve çoğu SDG savaşçısı bu şartlara alışkın değildir. Biraz hayal kırıklığına neden olması bana göre tamamen doğaldı.

SDG Bağhuz’da operasyonlarını sürdürürken (20 Mart 2019)

SDG’nin Newroz’a zafer ilan edeceğini düşünüyor musunuz?*

Halk baskı yapıyor olsa da, SDG, Bağhuz’un yüzde 100’ünün IŞİD üyelerinden, patlayıcılardan, kara mayınlarından, bubi tuzaklarından ve diğer tehlikelerden arındırıldığından tamamen emin olana kadar herhangi bir bölgesel zafer ilan etmeyecektir. Ancak o zaman duyururlar, ancak duyurunun Cuma veya Cumartesi gününe gelmesi mümkündür. Yine de içinde kalan bazı insanlar varsa, her şeyin halledildiğinden emin olurlar. Acele etmiyorlar; şimdi aylardır savaşıyorlar. Bu operasyon çok uzun zaman aldı, bu yüzden her şey tamam olana kadar birkaç gün daha beklemenin sakıncası olmayacaktır.

*Redaksiyon: 21 Mart’ta bölgenin IŞİD’ten temizlendiğini ancak arama-tarama faaliyetlerinin devam ettiğini duyuran SDG, 23 mart Cumartesi düzenlenen bir törenle zaferin işareti olarak Bağhuz’da bayrağını dikti.

Gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu: IŞİD’in Bağhuz’daki son günlerini anlattı

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

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.


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

C-SPAN. C-SPAN3. Turkey’s Response to Islamic Militants

Turkey’s Response to Islamic Militants

hosted a discussion on Turkey’s response to ISIL* militants in the Middle East region and ongoing U.S. strikes against targets in Syria.

“Turkey: ISIS and the Middle East” was a program of Georgetown University’s Institute of Turkish Studies, co-sponsored by the Middle East Institute.

*The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a militant group that has called itself the Islamic State.

YPG And FSA Forms Joint Operations Command Against ISIS


Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) has formed a Joint Operations Command with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other armed Syrian opposition groups in the Euphrates region in an effort to combat the growing threat of ISIS.

The formation of the Joint Operations Command, composed of opposition groups fighting in the region, was proclaimed at a military ceremony attended by representatives of the all parties.

An FSA commander read out a statement during the ceremony in which it was declared that the goal of the Joint Command was to save the Euphrates region – or the area around Karakozak, Sarrin, Jarablus, Minbij and Rakkah – from the ISIS threat.


Previously top YPG and FSA met  on August 22, 2014 in city of Afrin north of Aleppo. Both parties have agreed to create a common front to fight against ISIS which is preparing for new offensive in north of Aleppo to seize the border crossing with Turkey.


From the Kurdish side, YPG General Commander Sipah Hamo, Head of Afrin Canton Defense Affairs Abdo Chilo and from the FSA ,Colonel Abdul Jabbar al-Aqidi and some other commanders participated this important meeting.