Category Archives: IS

YPJ Commander Engizek Khalil: In Raqqa We are Fighting for the Honor of all Women

YPJ Commander Engizek Khalil
YPJ Commander Engizek Khalil

Along with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the female fighters of the Women’s Protection Units have joined the Raqqa operation and are fighting on the front-line in order to rescue the women taken by ISIS. Pointing out that ISIS are still selling women like goods on the market, Engizek Khalil, one of the Women’s Protection Units’ commanders, said,

‘It’s not only Kurdish and Ezidi women they are fighting for, but for the honour of all the women of the world.’

Responding to claims that civilians have been wounded in the operation, Khalil replied,

‘We are not going into Raqqa to hurt civilians. We are there to save them from persecution’

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Mutlu Civiroglu @mutludc

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First of all I want to say thanks to you, Khalil, for making time for us in the middle of the battle in Raqqa. The operation inside the city of Raqqa has been going on for about a month now – what’s the situation on the front right now?

Engizek Khalil: The People’s Protection Units (YPG), Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and some groups of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have been engaged in the joint Raqqa operation for a month now. The liberation of Raqqa has a very special meaning for women, because it’s in this city, which ISIS have declared as their capital, that they are trading women and selling them like goods. I can say that at the moment almost half of Raqqa has been liberated as a result of our operation. Our morale is really high, despite the fact that our progress has been equalled by difficulties.

What kind of difficulties?

Engizek Khalil: One of the difficulties is that ISIS have left bombs with drones. Inside the city, there are a lot of vehicles packed with bombs and ready to be exploded. The streets are full of tunnels so that they can come up from behind and attack. As well as that, mines have been laid at nearly every house in Raqqa. It takes times to deal with these things and advance. Whenever ISIS are forced to leave a city, they decimate it. That’s pretty much the situation here.

Human rights groups say that large numbers of civilians are being killed during the operations. General Stephan Townsend, one of the commanders of the coalition against ISIS, said that every care is being taken to protect civilians during the operations. How do you try to protect civilians?

Engizek Khalil: In a war environment, unfortunately there is a possibility that civilians will be killed. But we do everything we can to protect them. When we reach civilians inside Raqqa, we immediately remove them to safe areas. ISIS are using civilians as a human shield in order to prevent our advance. A lot of our colleagues have been wounded when trying to protect civilians. If you can’t protect civilians, there’s no point in going into the city. We are not going into Raqqa to hurt civilians. We are going to save them from persecution. It’s not true that large numbers of civilians have been killed during the operations. The coalition is making a huge effort to protect civilians from harm.

You said that the liberation of Raqqa has a special meaning for women. The women fighting in Raqqa are much talked about around the world. As a female commander, how do you feel to be fighting against ISIS in a city where women have been subjected to such horrific abuse?

Engizek Khalil: The women taken from Shingal as slaves were sold in Raqqa like goods. During the operations, we’ve rescued a lot of Ezidi women from ISIS and reunited them with their families. This gives a very special feeling of vengeance. This vengeance is for all the women of the world, not just Kurdish and Ezidi women; because all over the world women are victims of slavery. In the Women’s Protection Units, we are women from different ethnicities, including Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians, and we want to show that women can fight for freedom everywhere and in every way. When we’re fighting against ISIS, we always advance to the sound of our ululations and it terrifies the ISIS fighters.

According to the media, a group of Ezidi women came to Raqqa from Shingal [Sinjar] to fight against ISIS. Can you say something about them?

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Engizek Khalil: The support of our female comrades from Shingal has been a great morale booster. These women have taken up positions in the front-line against ISIS. They say they will stay fighting in Raqqa until they have achieved retribution for all the Ezidi women. As members of the Women’s Protection Units, we all stand together in the fight against ISIS.

When ISIS surrounded Kobane, it terrified the whole world. But they were defeated in Kobane and from then on they lost their momentum. Now you are advancing right in the heart of ISIS and have rescued half the city. So what will bring the end of ISIS and what shape will the struggle of the YPJ take after this?

Engizek Khalil: Along with some of the countries that are working with them, ISIS surrounded Kobane with the aim of finishing off the Kurds. It’s not wrong to say that Kobane had a braking effect on ISIS. There were only two streets in Kobane that didn’t fall. Through the struggle of our comrades like Arin Mirxan, who we will never forget, a brake was put on ISIS. We’ll fight against ISIS anywhere in the world we need to, not just in Kobane. Two years ago, the Women’s Protection Units were fighting against ISIS in Kobane and today we are fighting in Raqqa. The wave of fear that ISIS spread has been halted and now everyone can see that.

 

*Translated into English by Paula Darwish http://countryandeastern.net/

 

 

Berxwedan of YPG: Turkey Will Be Plunged into a Swamp if Tries to Occupy Afrin

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YPG Commander Mahmud Berxwedan, Canton PM Anwar Moslem, Photo (Mislim Nebo)

Mutlu Civirglu @Mutludc

YPG General Commander in Afrin region Mahmud Berxwedan responds to our questions regarding latest developments in Afrin region and reports about the Turkish media on a possible Turkish operation against Afrin.

Mr. Berxwedan, in the past several days there have been many reports published by Turkish media saying that the Turkish army and their supported militants are preparing a large-scale operation against Afrin, as a commander of the YPG, how do you see these reports? What is the current situation in Afrin?

Firstly, I extend my greetings to the listeners of the VOA Kurdish, anyone who hears our voice we greet them from Afrin. It is critical for us to share the realities in Afrin with the world outside. The Turkish govt controlled media have been spreading misinformation in the form of military psychological warfare for a long time, especially Erdogan supporting channels, spreading many groundless news regarding Afrin to undermine the reality in the region.

First thing for us to know is that Turkey is an occupying state, it has occupied parts of Syrian soil. From Jarabulus to Al-Bab, and towards Azaz, it has occupied Syrian territory in an action like the occupation of Liwa Iskandaroun. Turkey at the same time supports radical Islamist terrorist groups in Syria, and everyone knows this now. All of the terrorist groups came into Syria through Turkey. Conversely, all radical groups went to Europe through Turkey. The world knows about all this very well.

Now Turkey is making safe havens for the Ikhwans [Muslim Brotherhood groups], groups that most of their commanders were earlier working with Daesh [Islamic State] – their training bases are in Turkey, again openly, in defiance of world opinion. But now Turkey tries to fabricate these realities, while Turkey itself trained and backed these terrorist groups they now attempt to portray the revolutionary people of Afrin, those who are only defending their lands, as terrorists – this is formally deceiving the public opinion.

Is there a threat from Turkey towards YPG in Afrin?

From our side in six years there has not been one problem on our Afrin borders with Turkey. We have fired not one single bullet towards Turkey. The Turkish state however, is always violating the borders, occupying parts of Afrin soil, built walls along the border and repetitively shelled Afrin villages; causing many deaths and injuries.

But Turkey always claims that you [YPG] are attacking, and they are responding – most recently two days ago in a report by the Reuters, they said the YPG attacked and they repelled.

This is completely false. The reality is unlike how they falsely claim, as I said the Turkish state fabricates the facts on the ground using their special psychological warfare. People see on the ground that Turkey carries out attacks and shells the region – all Afrin villages from Qastal to Hizwan areas as well as Shahba villages are being targeted by Turkey.

The excuse Turkey gives for its occupation was to support radical groups against another terrorist group, for example the ones in Tal Rifat [east Afrin], which was liberated later on. Local people want to return back to their homes but Turkish shelling does not allow them to do so, however where Turkish shelling is comparatively mild, there are many who have been inhabited, for example Kafir Nayem, Kafir Nasih, and also Til Rifat despite Turkish shelling. People who are defending those areas are local to the areas, including Arab components from Jaish Al-Thuwar [Army of the Revolutionaries].

And regarding Afrin, for the past six years, it has been the most secure and peaceful place in all Syria, having a self-administration with local defense forces. With all this being said, Turkey tries to distort and portray a purposefully fabricated picture, claiming that ‘there is PKK there,’ ‘there are terrorists who have occupied the region’ – but in reality, the Turkish state has brazenly occupied parts of Syria, itself is an occupying force yet it tries to show the world a fabricated image. The people in defense positions are all native to Afrin, protecting their lands.

I would like to know about the two main forces in Syria, the US and Russia – if we start with Russia, what is their approach towards Turkish preparations, and speaking about the US, although there are collaboration with the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – and you yourself were the chief YPG commander during Kobane Resistance – does the US works differently with the YPG in Kobane and Jazira with the YPG in Afrin?

That is right, I was a part of YPG command in Kobane, and now I am in Afrin, the two are the parts of the same YPG.

Both the US and Russia know about the reality of Turkish activities; they also know what Turkey want to create, but Syria now has turned into an area of different competing interests. Despite that, our objective is to clear Syria from terrorist groups, be it in Jazira region or in Afrin region, and since the initiative of our forces, we have fought terrorism, Daesh or other groups; many lives have been sacrificed for this purpose. In our fight against terrorism, whoever stands along us, we will also remain true to them, the US or Russia – and we have the two countries support in both sides of the Euphrates, we would welcome their support in the future.

My last question is, if there was an attack on Afrin, what would be your response? What are your preparations? And how would a situation like that affect the ongoing Raqqa operation?

Turkey is preparing a plot for the region in general, without knowing that it would put everyone in danger, it would impact everything specifically the Raqqa campaign – Shahba and Afrin regions are strategically important for us. Such an attack by Turkey will influence forces that are present in the region, the Russians, for instance.

On the ground, Shahba and Afrin have a different situation than other areas, they are not like Jarabulus that Turkey can easily occupy. Turkey will be plunged into a swamp, politically and militarily – there will be an historical resistance against Turkish occupation in Afrin and Shahba regions. The people of Afrin along their military forces will defend themselves against such attempts.

I would also like to call on the people of Azaz who have long lived alongside the people of Afrin, and the people of Mare who in difficult times, Afrin and Shahba have supported them, to not allow occupying Turkey plans to sow hostility among peoples of the region – everyone must learn of these plans of the Turkish state.

 

*Translated into English by www.YPGRojava.com/en

Readout of the President and Vice President’s Meeting with Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani

Photo: The White House
Photo: The White House

President Obama participated in a meeting at the White House with Vice President Biden and Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. They discussed a range of issues, including the campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL and the status of ongoing political initiatives to address the needs of the Iraqi people and foster cooperation across all communities.

President Obama and Vice President Biden reaffirmed the United States’ strong and continued support to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the Kurdish people.

They also reaffirmed the United States’ enduring commitment under the Strategic Framework Agreement to a united, federal, and democratic Iraq, as defined in the Iraqi constitution.

President Obama and Vice President Biden each commended the bravery of the Kurdish Peshmerga and expressed condolences to the victims of ISIL throughout Iraq.

President Barzani thanked President Obama and Vice President Biden for the significant military support that the United States has provided to Kurdish Peshmerga in coordination with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Security Forces, including the military action taken to protect Erbil and other parts of Iraqi Kurdistan following the fall of Mosul.

Both sides agreed on the importance of strengthening relations between Baghdad and Erbil and underscored their continued shared commitment to provide support to the millions of civilians displaced by the violence in the region.

YPG Spokesman Redur Xelil: Liberation of Tal Hamis is a Very Strategic Gain

Hêzên YPG li nêzîkî bajarokê Til Hemîs
Hêzên YPG li nêzîkî bajarokê Til Hemîs

Mr. Redur Xelil, Tal Hamis has drawn all attention on itself now. What is the current situation, has Tal Hamis come under full control of the YPG forces?

As YPG and YPJ forces, we made significant advances within a short time of five-six days as a result of the operations we launched on 21 February. At around 11 this morning [February 27], our forces managed to enter Tal Hamis which was taken under full control by our forces several hours ago.

Over a hundred villages and hamlets in three sides of Tal Hamis have also come under our control. Besides, an operation to clear the city of mines and other traps laid by ISIS has just been started.

For our readers not very acquainted with the geography of the region, could you explain the strategic importance of Tal Hamis?

The town of Tal Hamis to the south of Qamishlo was one of the main headquarters of ISIS and constituted a great danger for Shengal [Sinjar]. ISIS were continuously providing back front support from Tal Hamis which was therefore a constant problem for the south of Kurdistan and at the same time for Qamishlo and other Kurdish-inhabited towns. This is why ISIS needed to be driven out of here, which YPG have accomplished with a significant victory today.

The operation you carried out last year didn’t succeed and Arabs in the region opposed you. What attitude was displayed by the local Arab population this time?

All the minorities in the Jazira Canton participated in this operation. I may not mention all of them one by one but a number of tribes such as Shamar, Jawala, Sharabi, Benitaba and Rashid all took part in the operation. In addition to units affiliated to the Syriac Military Council and the tribe of Shamar. It was a successful operation. That is to say, the attitude of the local Arabs wasn’t like last year’s. This is because everyone knows by now that ISIS is a dark force. The methods of torture ISIS perpetrated on people also caused great reaction from the local people.

Redo
Spokesperson of the YPG Redur Xelil

 

Are ISIS planning further attacks in the coming days against places of strategic importance such as Al-Houl?

Our fight against ISIS will continue as long as the threat on the Canton of Jazira remains, we know no bounds in this regard.

It is being reported that the same kind of the solidarity between the U.S.-led coalition and YPG forces is taking place in Jazira at the moment. What would you as the YPG Spokesman say about the role of the coalition strikes?

Coalition forces too have actively participated in this operation and provided a major support to us, thus enabling the operation to accomplish.

You’ve said you had acted together with Syriac forces. Many Christian civilians have been kidnapped. What is the current situation in Tal Tamir?

ISIS attempted attacks in Tal Tamir especially after their defeat in Kobanê and our advance in Tal Hamis. Three Syriac villages were unfortunately taken by ISIS in these attacks. According to the information we have, more than a hundred civilians including children, women and elders have been kidnapped by ISIS. No information is yet available regarding their fate but they are guessed to have been taken to the Abdulaziz Mountain which is also held by the ISIS. Very fierce clashes are currently taking place between YPG and ISIS in order for the retaking of these Assyrian villages.

Bashar Assad was being asserted to be protecting the Christian community in Syria and the villages you’ve mentioned are said to be close to the Syrian regime which however remained silent at the siege and abduction of Christians. How do you assess this attitude of the regime?

Allegations on the Assad regime being the protector of minorities should be approached with suspicion. The regime made no intervention, despite having opportunities, while ISIS attacked these villages. The fact that YPG’s manner of protecting minorities is not just a politics or propaganda is known very well by everyone now. YPG is struggling to protect all minorities in practice too. I suppose minorities also know this very well now. Everyone aware of this truth backs YPG which is thus growing more and more every day. In all the areas controlled by YPG, everyone can continue their life in peace and tranquility.

What about Tal Abyad. The cantons of Jazira and Kobanê have parted from each other now. Are attacks being planned on Tal Abyad in the coming days to ensure the merging of the two cantons?

As I’ve just said, our fight will continue as long as the ISIS threat remains. We know no bounds in this struggle which, in other words, will not be concluded with the liberation of Kobanê and Tal Hamis alone.

What would you as the YPG Spokesman like to say regarding your Australian fighter Johnson who lost his life few days ago?

Ashley Johnson’s joining the YPG ranks, which happened despite the Australian and Kurdistan territories being kilometers away from each other, honored us. Inspired by the resistance we mounted, Ashley joined the anti-terror fight we are waging for humanity, and played an active role in it. He was fighting on the front lines. He was martyred in the village of Xesan in Tal Hamis.

Ashley is a martyr of the Kurdish people and humanity. We offer our condolences to both his family and the Australian people. We believe the solidarity between peoples and the spirit of struggle will grow stronger with his memory.

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Translated into English by Berna Özgencil  https://twitter.com/bzgncl

Oberbefehlshaber der YPG von Kobane Berxwedan: Wo auch immer der IS ist, da werden auch wir sein

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Mutlu Civiroglu       https://twitter.com/mutludc

Herr Mahmud Berxwedan, seit einigen Wochen wird der Kampf gegen den in den Dörfern ausgetragen, nachdem der IS aus der Stadt Kobane vertrieben wurde. Wie sieht die aktuelle Situation an den drei Fronten aus?

Mahmud Berxwedan: Nach der Befreiung von Kobane am 26. Januar haben wir mit der zweiten Phase begonnen, welche die Befreiung aller Kobane zugehörigen Dörfer beinhaltet. Seitdem sind 21 Tage vergangen, diese Phase ist bisher sehr erfolgreich verlaufen, täglich werden an allen Fronten neue Gebiete befreit. Die Westfront befindet sich jetzt dort, wo dder IS den Krieg am 15. September begonnen hatte: Wir befinden uns in der Nähe von Şêxler und sind nur 3 bis 4 km vom Euphrat entfernt. An dieser Front gibt es nur noch wenige Dörfer, die zu befreien sind, gerade eben wurde das Dorf Keçelo befreit, in weiteren Dörfer wie Cibilferac, Sêvalo und Derbazin wird zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt  gekämpft.

Mahmud Berxwedan
Mahmud Berxwedan

Wird der Kampf gegen den IS auf der anderen Seite des Euphrats, in Dscharabulus, fortgesetzt?

Mahmud Berxwedan: Unser primäres Ziel ist es, alle Ortschaften des Kantons Kobane zu befreien. Danach fängt unser eigentliche Kampf gegen den IS an, bisher hatte der IS unser Land besetzt. Nach der Befreiung des Kantons werden wir die Gebiete des IS angreifen. Am 15. September hatten der IS damit begonnen, uns anzugreifen, dieses Mal werden wir den IS angreifen und ihn aus allen Gebieten verdrängen. Wo auch immer der IS ist, da werden auch wir sein.  Für uns gibt es keine Grenzen, unser Angriffsziel ist der IS, wir werden sowohl das arabische als auch das kurdische Volk, aber auch alle anderen Völker, die von der IS unterdrückt werden, befreien.

Herr Berxwedan, Sie sind Oberbefehlshaber der YPG und klingen sehr überzeugt und hoch motiviert. Worauf basiert Ihr Vertrauen? 

Mahmud Berxwedan: Wir glauben an uns und unsere Kraft. Wir glauben an unsere Kämpferinnen der YPJ und an unsere Kämpfer der YPG. Wir glauben an unsere Kalaschnikows und Bomben. Alles andere ist für uns eine zusätzliche Unterstützung. Wir glauben daran, dass wir es schaffen werden, in Syrien die Niederlage des IS einzuleiten. Angefangen bei den Ortschaften von Kobane, werden wir den IS in allen Gebieten, die er besetzt, bekämpfen.

Wenn ich Ihre Antwort richtig deute, dann werden auch Dscharabulus (Westen), Manbij (Südwesten), Sarrin (Süden) und  Girê Sipî (arabisch: Tall Abyad, Osten) Angriffsziele [der Kurden]?

Mahmud Berxwedan: Alle Orte, an denen sich der IS aufhält, sind unser Ziel. Das darf nicht missverstanden werden: Wir wollen den IS bekämpfen, nicht das arabische Volk. Wir möchten nichts, was den Arabern oder anderen Völkern gehört, besitzen oder beschlagnahmen. Unser Ziel ist die Zerschlagung der IS. Wo auch immer der IS ist, werden wir uns für dessen gegenwärtige und vergangene Taten rächen.

Uns erreichen Meldungen, dass sich arabische Menschen, die sich in den von der IS besetzten Gebieten aufhalten, an Sie gewendet und um Unterstützung bei der Befreiung dieser Orte gebeten haben. Können Sie diese Meldungen bestätigen?

Mahmud Berxwedan: Ja, sie stimmen. Viele Kämpfer aus Manbij und Dscharabulus sind zu uns gekommen und haben unsere Verteidigungseinheiten (YPG, YPJ) um Hilfe bei der Zurückeroberung ihrer Städte gebeten. Wir haben diesen Kämpfern unsere Unterstützung im Kampf gegen den IS versprochen. Wir sind bereit, allen Menschen, die von der IS bedroht werden, unsere Hand zu reichen und sie im Kampf zu unterstützen.

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Können Sie uns noch kurz über die Lage an der Ost- und Südfront ins Bild setzen?

Mahmud Berxwedan: Im Süden haben wir die strategisch bedeutsamen Hügel Şehit Xabor und Sêvê zurückerobert, von dort aus haben wir die Brücke Qereqozak, die Stadt Sarrin und vielen weitere Orte im Blick. Seit über einem Jahr war der Hügel Sêvê umkämpft, dieser war mal unter der Kontrolle der IS und mal unter unserer Kontrolle. Nach einem sehr intensiven Kampf konnte der Hügel  zurückerobert werden und heute weht auf diesem Hügel die Fahne der YPG.

Ist es wahr, dass ein Teil der Straße, die von Heleb (arabisch: Aleppo ) nach Hesiçe (arabisch: Al-Hasaka) führt, unter kurdischer Kontrolle ist?

Mahmud Berxwedan: Südöstlich von Kobane sind 25 km dieser Straße unter unserer Kontrolle: Die Straße nach Rotko steht unter der Kontrolle der YPG, einige Dörfer wie Qilheydê und Girêk, die sich an dieser Straße befinden, wurden befreit. Im Osten haben wir die Dörfer Bexdik, Idani und viele weitere Dörfer um Idani zurückerobert.

Sie sagten, dass [die Kurden] dem arabischen Volk, das sich in den von der IS besetzten Städten befindet, zu Hilfe eilen würden. Erhalten [die Kurden] denn Unterstützung von anderen Nationen? Immerhin hatte letzte Woche eine Kommandantin der YPJ den französischen Staatspräsidenten Hollande besucht. Erhalten oder erwarten Sie internationale Unterstützung, da Sie sagen, sie würden den IS auch in anderen Städten bekämpfen?

Mahmud Berxwedan: Alle wissen, dass der IS eine Plage für die ganze Welt ist. Wir möchten, dass alle, die den IS bekämpfen möchten, uns unterstützen, damit wir den IS schneller besiegen können. Jeder, der den IS wirklich als Feind betrachtet, muss uns unterstützen und die bisherige Unterstützung fortsetzen und intensivieren. Bis heute kämpfen wir mit den wenigen Mitteln, die uns zur Verfügung stehen. In einem früheren Interview mit Ihnen hatte ich gesagt, dass wir nur mit leichten Waffen Widerstand leisten. Glauben Sie mir, bis heute kämpfen wir mit ebendiesen Waffen. Es stimmt, wir werden durch Luftschläge unterstützt, aber wirklich wirkungsvolle Waffen für unsere Einheiten auf dem Boden, wie Panzer und schweres Geschütz, haben wir bisher von niemandem erhalten. Die Welt muss sich als eine Einheit gegen den IS stellen. Der IS ist eine Bedrohung für alle, in der Zerschlagung des IS sehen wir eine menschliche Aufgabe, es geht uns nicht nur um Kobane. Das haben wir auch zu anderen Zeitpunkten gesagt, wir führen den Kampf für die Menschheit. Deswegen muss die Weltgemeinschaft uns in diesem Kampf unterstützen. Kobane braucht aber auch eine andere Art von Unterstützung, Kobane braucht einen Hilfskorridor, Hilfe beim Wiederaufbau. Der gesamte Besitz der Menschen ist geplündert worden, in den Dörfern gibt es nichts mehr. Der IS hat alles gestohlen und in vielen Häusern Minen verlegt. Wir  brauchen internationale Untersützung bei der Entschärfung  der Minen. Es sind so viele Menschen nach Kobane zurückgekehrt, dabei gibt es in der Stadt keinen einzigen Laden, in dem sie sich etwas kaufen könnten. Die Bevölkerung von Kobane braucht viel humanitäre Unterstützung.

Herr Berxwedan, lassen Sie uns ein wenig über die Rolle der Freien Syrischen Armee und der Peschmerga sprechen, ein paar Gruppen stehen seit Beginn des Kampfes auf der Seite der Kurden. Einige Quellen melden, dass in den überwiegend arabisch besiedelten Gebieten die FSA den Kampf anführen würde. Welche Rolle spielt die Peshmerga?

Mahmud Berxwedan: Es gibt in den Reihen der FSA einige Gruppen, die uns seit Beginn der Kämpfe unterstützen, wie zum Beispiel die Siwar Rakka, Şemsi Şimal und Cephetul Ekrad. Auch jetzt kämpfen sie mit uns an der vordersten Front. In den arabischen Regionen führen sie den Kampf an und wir unterstützen sie. Auch diese Gruppen brauchen militärische Unterstützung, auch sie haben bisher keine Unterstützung bekommen. Mit den wenigen Mitteln, die uns zur Verfügung stehen, helfen wir diesen Gruppen. Auch die Peschmerga unterstützt uns sehr tatkräftig, diese sind im Besitz von Artillerie und unterstützen uns auf diese Weise.

Abschließend möchte ich Sie fragen, wieviel Prozent der Dörfer des Kantons Kobane zurückerobert wurden. Zudem hat die Aussicht auf die Befreiung von Girê Sipî (arabisch: Tall Abyad) große Wellen in den kurdischen und internationalen Medien geschlagen. Was möchten Sie dazu sagen?

Mahmud Berxwedan: 80 Prozent der Dörfer des Kantons Kobane wurden befreit. Um die die restlichen 20 Prozent wird noch gekämpft, wir möchten  diese Dörfer so schnell wie möglich befreien. Wir möchten auch das Umland von Girê Sipî und Girê Sipî selbst von der IS säubern, so wie wir den IS auch an allen anderen Orten bekämpfen werden.

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Mutlu Civiroglu ist Analyst der Kurdischen Frage mit Schwerpunkt Syrien und Türkei. Er verfolgt insbesondere den Kampf der YPG gegen den IS und andere dschihadistische Gruppen.

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Vom Kurdischen ins Deutsche übersetzt von N. Ozdemir

Kurdish-Arab Rebel Alliance May be Key to Obama’s Syrian Strategy

*Kurdish-Arab Rebel Alliance May be Key to Obama’s Syrian Strategy

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By Mutlu Civiroglu and Wladimir Van Wilgenburg

Now that the anti-ISIS coalition has struck Raqqa in Syria, it must seriously consider the Kurds as its most effective on the ground partners. The Obama administration needs local partners in Iraq and Syria to fight against the jihadist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, ISIL, or the Islamic State) if it hopes to maintain any gains resulting from its attacks on ISIS positions.

A spokesperson of the main Kurdish armed group in Syria highlighted the importance of Kurdish assets. “Whoever wants to destroy ISIS should take YPG into consideration. Let me say clearly that any strategy in Syria without YPG is doomed to fail,” the People’s Protection Units (YPG) spokesperson Polat Can said in our interview with him. Given the Kurds’ extensive experience and professionalism, they represent the best the best chance to revitalize a beleaguered Syrian resistance and help President Obama achieve his objectives.

In his September 10 speech, President Obama ruled out the Assad regime as a partner in fighting ISIS and emphasized strengthening the Syrian opposition. “We must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all,” he said. While admirable that the president choose not to work with a man whose preferred strategy involves bombing his own civilian population, it leaves a dearth of effective partners on the ground. However, in Syria—just as in Iraq—cooperation between Kurds and Arabs could play a key role in eliminating ISIS. US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey recognized the fact that Kurds constitute an important part of Obama’s new strategy to fight ISIS.

Although Iraq has witnessed firsthand the effects of ISIS-induced instability, neighboring Syria has suffered far more with the advances and atrocities of the extremist group. ISIS has succeeded in wiping out many Syrian nationalist armed groups that comprise the bulk of moderate anti-Assad opposition. Both the moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Kurds have faced attacks by ISIS, leading to incredibly large refugee flows into Turkey.

Nonetheless, the Kurdish YPG forces have successfully fought ISIS and won most of its battles in both Iraq and Syria. Not only was the YPG an asset in the rescue operation for thousands of Yezidis fleeing from Iraq’s Sinjar, it also secured a wide area in northern Syria from the Kurdish city of Afrin to Yarubiya, a town border to Iraq, despite the extremist push against Kurdish villages. These regions maintain relative stability compared to other parts of Syria, allowing Kurds, Arabs, and Christians to live peacefully together, thanks in large part to the ability of the YPG to keep a modicum of security.

Western diplomats have traditionally been reluctant to meet the PYD for their ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), viewed as a terrorist group in the United States and Turkey. After successful operations against ISIS extremists, however, both countries have begun reevaluating their positions towards it. The Wall Street Journal reported that US officials recognize the fact that Kurdish fighters in Syria may play a critical role in the campaign against ISIS, and have conducted talks with Syrian Kurds. The success of the YPG also prompted Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman to write about how the fight against ISIS has given the YPG and the PKK more legitimacy.

For their part, the Syrian Kurds have not only expressed interest and enthusiasm in pursuing Obama strategy against ISIS, they have already laid the groundwork for cooperation with Syrian nationalists. In an interview with Voice of America (VOA), YPG Spokesman Polat Can said, “We are the most experienced military force fighting against IS, and we are willing to actively participate in the international coalition. We are currently meeting many countries on this issue including with those who are decision makers.”

As the YPG continue its fight against ISIS on several fronts, it hosted a former rival on August 22. FSA Colonel Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi sought to mend fences with the Kurds by meeting YPG commander with General Commander of YPG Sipan Hemo in the Kurdish city of Afrin, north of Aleppo. Al-Oqaidi, the former head of the FSA’s military council in Aleppo, initially angered the Kurds by fighting jointly with Islamist groups against the Kurds in Aleppo. The FSA said it attacked the YPG for supporting Assad. Kurds allege this led to the killing of nineteen Kurdish civilians and the kidnapping of at least 400 others by the various rebel groups.

But in January last year, alliances started to change, when the Free Syrian Army clashed with ISIS, and lost huge swaths of territory in Syria, including Raqqa and the oil fields in Deir Ezzor. This led new cooperation between rebel groups and the Kurds, resulting in an agreement between the YPG and the Ahl as-Sham operation room in April last year to fight ISIS in Aleppo, and to cooperate against Assad. On August 22, al-Akidi and an FSA-delegation apologized for the FSA’s past mistakes, saying that Kurds, Christians, and Arabs, should work for the overthrow of the Syrian regime. “We want to work with the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and the FSA if they accept the rights of Kurdish people and correct past mistakes,” Hemo said in a video.

In an exclusive interview, the Defense Minister of local Afrin Canton government Abdo Chilo, who took part in the meeting between the YPG and the FSA in Afrin, also told the Atlantic Council that the FSA wants to open a new page with the Kurds. “We told him we accepted his apology and we valued his visit. He realizes the power of YPG and wants closer relations with us, something we have long desired as well.”

The Kurds appear ready to fight alongside any secular group that will work for a pluralistic and democratic Syria against ISIS and the Assad regime. “We value Akidi’s visit and his request of help from YPG. It shows his willingness to work and create something good. We are ready to form a joint front with FSA and work against IS thugs and the brutal Assad regime,” Chilo added.

YPG spokesman Polat Can told Turkey’s daily Radikal that they are ready to work with anyone who is willing to fight against ISIS. “It has been over two years that we have been fighting against ISIS and like-minded extremist groups. We are keen on collaborating with moderate that respect to democracy, human rights and accept our national rights as Kurds.”

This historic meeting signifies a major starting point for effective cooperation against ISIS as well as the Assad regime. The meeting led to the formation of a new joint FSA-YPG operations room named “Euphrates Volcano” on September 10 in Kobane, which will carry out operations in areas surrounding Kobane, including the ISIS-stronghold of Raqqah. One day after its formation, the joint operation room carried out its first attack against ISIS in Qara Qawzak.

Abdurrahman Saleh, a spokesperson for ISIS, confirmed in our interview with him an alliance between Syrian anti-Assad rebels and Kurds, but suggested it to be a local alliance rather than a cohesive policy. “Some battalions of al-Tawheed brigade in Aleppo cooperate with the YPG against ISIS, but I do not know if this is a general decision, or a specific case. It may be a local agreement, rather than an overall strategy,” he said.

The new rebel alliance between the Kurds and the FSA could provide a determining factor to stop the expansion of the ISIS caliphate. If the FSA and the YPG can maintain a joint front, it will likely have a major impact on the success of fight both the militant group and the Assad regime in the longer run. The YPG, with its experienced and skilled fighters and strong popular support can provide a morale boost for the secular and moderate Syrian opposition and be a determining factor in preventing ISIS expansion in Syria. For Obama and the anti-ISIS coalition, keeping the Kurds incentivized to be their boots on the ground will be the key to fighting this war.

Mutlu Civiroglu is a Kurdish affairs analyst focusing on Syria and Turkey. He has been closely monitoring YPG’s fight against IS and other jihadist groups. You can follow him on Twitter @mutludc

Wladimir van Wilgenburg is an analyst of Kurdish politics for the Jamestown Foundation and a contributing writer for Al-Monitor

* This article was originally published on Atlantic Council Website on September 23,  2014

Psaki: We’ll Continue to Support the Brave Defenders of Kobani

Jen Psaki, Spokesperson of the US State Department
Jen Psaki, Spokesperson of the US State Department

Jen Psaki, Spokesperson of the State Department comments on Kobane on Daily Press Briefing of January 27, 2015:

QUESTION:  The biggest challenge in Kobani seems to be over. The Kurdish officials from Iraq and from Kobani have declared victory there.  But as you know, there are many more challenges that faces the rebels protecting the city.  Of course, they have said it officially that they don’t have ammunition – enough ammunition and stuff.  Also the civilians who want to go back to the city, when they want to rebuild the city – I’m wondering whether the United States is going to be a major player in terms of providing humanitarian and military assistance for the people and the rebels there to help alleviate the challenge that remain.

PSAKI:  Well, we have been, continue to be, have consistently been the largest provider of humanitarian assistance as it relates to the Syria conflict in the world, and that won’t change.  And certainly, as there are humanitarian needs, whether it’s in Kobani and other places, I expect that we will contribute – continue to be major contributors.

I know you’re looking ahead, but obviously the point we’re at now, so let me just reiterate this.  As CENTCOM announced yesterday, anti-ISIL forces now control approximately 90 percent of the city of Kobani, and we congratulate its brave defenders.  We’ll continue to support them as we look to the coming weeks ahead.  This is an important step in the first phase of a long-term campaign to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, because of the strategic value ISIL places on Kobani.

I think, broadly speaking, the fight against ISIL is far from over, but we do feel that their failure in Kobani has denied them one of their strategic objectives.  And over time, we’ve seen that they’ve not only used Kobani as a base for driving their own narrative of inevitability, but also they’ve put a lot of resources and people into Kobani as well.

QUESTION:  There is no doubt that without the United States military support, the rebels would not have been able, probably, to do what they have done.  But as you know, the United States has helped transfer weapons to those rebels.  But should we expect that they would receive more ammunition?  Because probably the United States is the only partner they can look up to now.  Turkey is not going to do that; Syrian Government is not going to do that.  Should we expect the United States to do that?  Because ISIS could, at any moment, when the airstrikes are gone, come back and recapture the town and attack the town.

PSAKI:  As I mentioned, we will continue to support the effort.  In terms of more specifics, I’d certainly point you to my colleagues at the Department of Defense.

Source: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2015/01/236800.htm#SYRIA

 

Chief YPG Commander Berxwedan: Our Victory is the Beginning of the End for ISIS

YPG Commander Mahmud Berxwedan, Canton PM Anwar Moslem, Defense Chied Ismet Hasan and other officoals Photo (Mislim Nebo)
YPG Commander Mahmud Berxwedan, Canton PM Anwar Moslem other officials Photo (Mislim Nebo)

Mahmud Berxwedan, the chief commander of the YPG in Kobane delivered a speech at the special ceremony held about the liberation of Kobane City.

“ISIS thugs should know that just as the houses of Kobane became a graveyard for them, our villages will also be a graveyard for them. Our victory is the beginning of the end for ISIS worldwide.”

Berxwedan recalled that victory had come a day before the anniversary of the declaration of the founding of the Kobane canton, adding: “We will continue to resist until not one square meter of our land is under occupation. We would like to thank everyone who supported us, in particular those maintaining the vigil on the border.”

YPG commander also thanked the coalition forces led by the USA that supported the Kobane resistance from the air, the FSA forces that fought alongside the YPG/YPJ and peshmerga forces that provided support with heavy weaponry.

“Our struggle has not ended yet. Our villages are under occupation and the threat to Kobane has not gone away. I call on the youth of Rojava and Kobane to join the operation to liberate the villages. If we cannot liberate our land we will have to live a 100 years under ISIS barbarism.”

Source: http://en.firatajans.com/gallery/our-victory-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-isis/our-victory-the-beginning-of-the-end-for-isis-1422360472

Interview with Dutch YPG Fighter Richard Jansen

Richardjns
Richard Jansen (Photo by Roel Geeraedts)

Richard Jansen is one of the Westerners who has joined Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to fight against ISIS.

In this interview Richard explains why he decided to go to Rojava and join Kurds, and his experience since he arrived there.

Richard Jansen and Australian YPG Fighter Benjamin

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Van Hollen, Blackburn Urge State Department to Grant Travel Visa to Co-Chairman of the PYD

 

Chris                                                    Marsha

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Co-Chairs of the Kurdish American Caucus, released a letter on January 14 to Secretary of State Kerry urging him to grant the travel visa request of Salih Muslim Mohammed, Co-Chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of Syria.

“As the U.S. continues its campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), we believe that the PYD is one of the most effective partners the U.S. has on the ground in Syria,” they wrote.

Salih_Moslem

“We urge you to permit Salih Muslim to come to Washington in January to meet with non-governmental members of the American foreign policy community and others to discuss directly what we can do together to defeat ISIL and advance the cause of a secular, democratic Syria.”

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Full text of the letter:

The Honorable John F. Kerry

Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC  20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

As Co-Chairs of the Kurdish American Congressional Caucus we are writing to request that you grant the visa request of Salih Muslim Mohammed, Co-Chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of Syria, to travel to the United States to attend a conference in Washington DC in January 2015.

As the U.S. continues its campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), we believe that the PYD is one of the most effective partners the U.S. has on the ground in Syria.

Earlier this year PYD fighters helped to end the ISIL siege around Mount Sinjar thus allowing thousands of Iraqi Yazidis to escape death at the hands of ISIL. Since then they have also been fighting valiantly to prevent the expansion of ISIL in northern Syria, most prominently in the border town of Kobani.

While we welcome the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIL targets and the dropping of arms supplies which have helped the PYD forces defending Kobani, we think it is important to expand our contacts with this critical Syrian partner in the war against the IS and other salafist jihadists active in the country.

As we understand it, the reluctance to issue a visa to Salih Muslim is partly due to Turkey’s concerns about the PYD and its links with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). However, the Turkish government has itself been negotiating directly with the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan. It has also engaged on a number of occasions in conversations with Salih Muslim in Ankara, including at the level of the Under Secretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The PYD has made it clear that they seek good relations with the Government of Turkey.

Last but not least, the PYD unlike the PKK, is not on the United States Foreign Terrorist Organizations List.  In fact, the PYD is a distinct organization with distinct goals and objectives to protect the Kurdish minority in Syria from the on-going violence in that war-torn country and to participate in an eventual national reconciliation agreement that will provide guarantees and protection for Syria’s many minority groups, including the Kurds.

We urge you to permit Salih Muslim to come to Washington in January to meet with non-governmental members of the American foreign policy community and others to discuss directly what we can do together to defeat ISIL and advance the cause of a secular, democratic Syria.

We appreciate your urgent consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

Chris Van Hollen
Co-Chair
Kurdistan American Caucus

Marsha Blackburn
Co-Chair
Kurdistan American Caucus

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Source: http://vanhollen.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/van-hollen-blackburn-urge-state-department-to-grant-travel-visa-to-co