Category Archives: ISIL

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?

yjs

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

Kobane_Announcement
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.

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

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

YPG_FSA_Kobane

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

US Consul Espinoza: “Biji Obama” Chants by Kurds Are Important For US

John L. Espinoza US Consoul to Adana, Turkey (Photo: http://adana.usconsulate.gov/consul_general.html
John L. Espinoza, US Consul to Adana, Turkey

Commenting on the “Biji Obama [Long Live Obama]” chants by Kurds after the U.S. bombarded ISIS targets in Syria’s Kobane, U.S. Consul John L. Espinoza said it was important for them to see the support people gave to their fight.

“I cannot speak directly for the White House, but the fight against ISIS is very important for the U.S. We see defeating ISIS as being linked to us. Of course, it is very important for us that people who see our fight support us,” said Espinoza, who is the U.S. consul in Turkey’s Adana province.

Espinoza said their fight against ISIS would continue and they were discussing ways in which they could better continue the fight against the ISIS threat together with the coalition forces.

“As this threat constantly changes, we don’t know how to fight against it tomorrow. Therefore, we need to assess the threat very well and struggle with it accordingly,” said Espinoza, adding that in meetings they conducted, they learned the reconstruction of Kobane was very important and they were working on the topic together with the coalition forces and Turkey.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

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Please Click the Player Below for the Video

Video by DHA 

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

YPG Spokesman in Kobane: We Are Continuing Our Victory Operation

Kobaneeee

Mutlu Civiroglu https://twitter.com/mutludc

Fighting in Kobane which has left four months behind has become harder with the onset of the winter. What has been witnessed on the battlefield in the past three, four days?

Within the last four months left behind, we have mounted unprecedented resistance against the dark terrorist powers of the Middle East. Gaining strength from this resistance, we have in recent days repelled the ISIS attacks in Mekteba Reş (Black School) area and Mishtenur Neighborhood also. We have reseized many streets and avenues under ISIS control as part of the operation to liberate Kobane which we are continuing for nearly one month now. The ISIS couldn’t tolerate losing these areas of course. They launched quite severe attacks to take back what they have lost. We however proved with our resistance that even a single inch of the areas taken by YPG will not fall into the hands of the ISIS anymore. They carried out suicide car attacks that resulted in the demolition of dozens of houses around the scenes, while dozens of theirs committed suicide attacks too. Yet they haven’t been able to advance. This is how the ISIS is being forced out of Kobane and how we are continuing our victory operation to liberate Kobane . I can say that Kobane is taking one more step on the path to victory every day.

Şoreş Hesen (Foto: Hawar News)
Şoreş Hesen (Foto: Hawar News)

Are the areas you have mentioned, which include the Water Reservoir, Mekteba Reş and Mishtenur Neighborhood, currently under your control?

Right, these areas are under our control now and being protected against fresh attacks by the ISIS. Besides remaining in defensive position, we are also continuing our work to liberate the city. We are repelling all the heavy attacks and making further advances. We have established the criteria of this move, which is based on not retreating.

Public opinion widely convinced by now that Kobane will not fall and the YPG will not be defeated. Many believe, however, the process of liberating Kobane is progressing slowly. How do you comment on that?

As we stated several times previously, street fighting is a difficult one which has no rules. All the houses and streets currently under ISIS control are connected to each other, forming completeness. It is therefore not possible to draw the ISIS back from all these houses and streets within a short time. The ISIS is an organization that recognizes neither humanity nor rules. We are making a slow progress because we secure the areas we seize, making sure to give them no opportunity to infiltrate into these areas again.

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For the last several days, it has been reported that the ISIS is bringing in reinforcements from Sarrin, Tal Abyad and surrounding cities. Is that true?

Yes, those reports are absolutely true. ISIS brings up reinforcements every day and owing to the winter conditions, exhaustion and other reasons they are rotating out different groups every 5-6 days. None of their fighters has the will to stay and fight in Kobane for more than a month. Therefore they are continuously changing groups of fighters. Those who get tired go back to the surrounding villages and cities and new ones come to take their place. We see how whenever we destroy a unit another comes to take its place. Up until now more than 10 Chechen units have been destroyed. 6-7 Turkish have been destroyed, and in addition many other groups from countries such as Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan and others have also been destroyed. We see every group we kill being replaced by a new one.  The ISIS thugs fighting us in Kobane consist of fighters from 27 various countries. These remarks of ours are grounded on evidences and documents.

Apart from that, a large number of ISIS members that are coming to fight against the Kurds in Rojava are crossing through Turkish borders. Whether or not the [Turkish] state is aware of this we are saying this as a criticism. Turkey must stop and think about this matter seriously. Up until now hundreds of people from Turkey have been killed here, and if you want to proof then we are happy to share these documents with the press in a suitable manner.

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You are making an interesting claim, and it would be possible for you to share these documents with the public. Because people seem to be talking about a small number but you are talking about hundreds.

Yes, we could share these documents with you and it would not be difficult. Turkey should look into its control of the border. If Turkey is not cooperating with ISIS they must prove to the world that they have no connections with the people that cross through their own territory. Moreover they should stop ISIS from organizing everywhere from Ankara to the Kurdish cities [of Turkey]. The large number of Turkish ISIS members who have been killed in Kobane has raised our suspicions. Everyone knows that all of these gang members – those from Chechnya, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, the Arab countries, but also the United States, France and Germany – are crossing from Turkey to Rojava.

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I want to ask about the support for ISIS coming from Tal Abyad, Sirrin and some of the other from surrounding cities. Some question why the coalition does not target the roads on which they are bringing up their support. If they continue to be able to bring up support in this manner the battle will go on much longer. What can you tell us on this?

Up until now 95% of the airstrikes in Kobane have been successful. They have gotten the expected results, and under the rubble of the collapsed houses we have recovered many ISIS corpses. I cannot say with any certainty why the coalition is not targeting areas outside of Kobane. We have no authority over them.

However as a suggestion we can propose that they use more warplanes. This is to say that if there is a plane patrolling over Kobane another plane should be patrolling outside of Kobane. We think such a possibility exists, and that in the place of one plane the coalition could send seven. We know that the coalition is operating heavily around Shengal [Sinjar], Til Hamis, Rakka and even Baghdad but we believe that the coalition can send another plane. We are of the opinion that even if it is just one more plane that the logistics and weapons support could be cut. A short time ago the coalition targeted ISIS 7km to the east in the village of Şêran and destroyed a 10 person squad. This is something new that is an airstrike outside of Kobane is taking place! Right now there is a plane above Kobane ready to carry out airstrikes and searching for targets. Of course if there had been two planes then one could be over Kobane and the other patrolling outside and we would get better results.

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Last week  there were two attacks in France and 17 people were killed. As the YPG how do you assess these attacks?

ISIS is an inhumane organization. We consider it important that different people and democratic countries are coming together and working together against such groups. It might even have been a little overdue. We have been fighting against ISIS for a year and a half in Syria. Everyone saw this but remained silent about it. We criticized this silence. We look at the many different world leaders who took part in the march in France as a response to our criticism. We now know that the whole world will support us in the battle we are waging against the enemies of humanity.

We want to emphasize once more that as much as we are protecting ourselves, we are also protecting humanity from a brutal organization that is a threat for the entire world. For this reason, we believe more support needs to be given to the YPG, which has fought ISIS on the frontlines and has been paying the heaviest price. All countries including France and other coalition members and even countries not in the coalition should support us. With this support we can be rid of ISIS which is the enemy of humanity, even more quickly.

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In some news reports recently it has been reported that France has provided the YPG with armed support. Are these claims true?

No, such aid has not yet been discussed. Other than the weapons provided by Southern Kurdistan [KRG] and airdropped by American planes and those brought by the peshmergas themselves, no other weapons have reached us. I want to underline this. However of course we need weapons and ammunition to win this battle. We are certainly expecting aid from France and other countries.

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For French translation of the interview: https://civiroglu.net/2015/01/16/ypg-a-kobane/

For German translation of the interview: https://civiroglu.net/2015/01/16/ypg-kobane-2/

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For my participation to a show, interview me or get a quote on Kobane and other Kurdish related issues, please contact me at mciviroglu@gmail.com

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Thanks for https://twitter.com/bzgncl and https://twitter.com/TheRojavaReport for translating this interview into English