Feuding Syrian Kurdish political blocs dance around rapprochement

As French and US initiatives for intra-Kurdish rapprochement in Syria stall, it seems that piecemeal defections from the Kurdish National Council to the Kurdish autonomous administration in the north of the country are the rule of the day.

al-monitor An officer of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) stands guard near the Syrian-Iraq border, Oct. 31, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani.

 

France and the United States are encouraging a rapprochement between Syria’s two feuding Kurdish political blocs, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish National Council, which is an official part of the Syrian opposition in exile known as the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces.

A Kurdish detente could serve as an early step toward incorporating parts of the opposition into the PYD-led autonomous administration of northeast Syria. In turn, wider opposition participation could help the autonomous administration gain a seat at negotiations to end the civil war, as well as win local and international recognition now that the main reason for the autonomous administration’s foreign support — the territorial fight against the Islamic State (IS) — has ended.

But the prospect of Kurdish rapprochement in Syria faces an uphill battle. Turkey wields influence over the Kurdish National Council and opposes the move; meanwhile, both Kurdish factions have unrealistic demands for a deal. Rather than an agreement at the organizational level, the most likely path forward for Syrian Kurdish cooperation involves disaffected council groups breaking off piecemeal to join the PYD-led autonomous administration, as they have done in the past.

The PYD and the council are at odds over the PYD’s nonconfrontational stance toward Damascus, the council’s proximity to the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition and each faction’s connection to rival Kurdish regional powers. Negotiations between the two sides to unite failed early in the civil war over power-sharing disputes. Since then, the council’s parties have refused to apply for licenses to participate in the autonomous administration, a fact the PYD has used to repress the council’s political activity.

Turkey opposes a Syrian Kurdish detente, as well as any step that might legitimize the presence of the PYD in northeast Syria. Ankara considers the PYD to be a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency against Turkey. Turkey’s peace process with the PKK collapsed in 2015, and despite hopeful indications this spring, it will likely remain that way as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks to divert attention from recent political setbacks. In July, Turkey launched a new phase of its military campaign against the PKK in Iraq and once again threatened to invade PYD-led northeast Syria.

Mutlu Civiroglu, a journalist who specializes in Kurdish affairs in Syria and Turkey, told Al-Monitor that following the blow Erdogan received in local elections this year, “he needs something to consolidate, to bring back his support, the morale of his base.” Civiroglu added, “National security is beyond sacred for many Turkish politicians. When the issue is national security, they all keep silent, they all support the government.”

Turkish opposition is not the only hurdle to Syrian Kurdish rapprochement. While both Kurdish parties endorsed the detente proposal, their key demands seem to preclude a deal. Top PYD officials have stipulated that for talks to move forward, the Kurdish National Council must leave the Syrian National Coalition, which would strip the council of its political relevance as the only internationally recognized Syrian Kurdish opposition group, as well as disrupt the lives of council members living in Turkey.

“There’s no talk within this [detente] initiative, nor any direction within this initiative, toward withdrawing from the Syrian National Coalition or dealing negatively with it,” Hawwas Khalil Saadun, a council representative and member of the Syrian National Council, told Al-Monitor.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish National Council has called on the Rojava Peshmerga, its military wing based in Iraqi Kurdistan, to enter northern Syria to ensure the terms of an agreement with the PYD are implemented. The PYD will “never” accept this, Mohammed Abdulsattar Ibrahim, a Syrian Kurdish journalist with Syria Direct, told Al-Monitor. PYD officials maintain that “if there are two Kurdish forces on the ground, they will fight with each other, as happened between [Massoud] Barzani and [Jalal] Talabani from 1994-1998 [in Iraq]. That’s very possible,” Ibrahim said.

While the Kurdish National Council and the PYD are unlikely to strike a deal, wider Kurdish participation in the autonomous administration is possible — via council parties breaking off piecemeal and joining the administration.

Some council members have long disagreed with their organization’s closeness to the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition. One sticking point was Turkey’s resistance to the 2017 Kurdish independence referendum championed by Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Iraq; he helped found the council and enjoys good relations with Ankara. Then came the rebel invasion of the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin in January 2018. Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups committed widespread human rights violations against Kurds, and resettled Arabs evacuated from the suburbs of Damascus — who survived years of strangling siege imposed by the Syrian government — in houses abandoned by Kurdish residents. The council condemned the assault on Afrin when it occurred, but ultimately remained within the Syrian opposition.

“What happened in Afrin horrified people, including [Kurdish National Council] people in Kobani, Jazeera and other parts. They are very much afraid the ongoing atrocities in Afrin will recur in other Kurdish regions,” said Civiroglu.

Internal tensions caused by the council’s closeness to the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition, in addition to routine conflicts over power and positions, have resulted in several defections over to the autonomous administration. Certain council politicians imply that the defectors are PYD plants.

In 2016, three parties previously expelled from the council formed the Kurdish National Alliance, which went on to participate in formal autonomous administration elections. Two years later, prompted by Turkey’s assault on Afrin, the president of the Kurdish Future Movement in Syria split from the council and established a new party that now works alongside the PYD. Thirty more colleagues from the Kurdish Future Movement followed suit soon after.

The specter of future defections looms large as long as the PYD is the dominant Kurdish power in Syria. Ibrahim said that when the council “used to call for a protest or demonstration, thousands of people came. Now, a few people attend.” He added, “When the [council] parties defect, it’s for their own interests — they want to have a role.”

In June 2019, one of the council’s oldest factions, known as the Yekiti Party in Syria, expelled three leaders primarily because of a power dispute, said Ivan Hassib, a local Kurdish journalist who covers internal council dynamics. These leaders, who went on to form a new party, have not expressed a desire to work under the autonomous administration, as their “popular base is Barzani’s people. … Today, if the party that defected directly joined the PYD, that’s like suicide,” Hassib told Al-Monitor.

Nevertheless, he added that two of the three ousted politicians were accused by former colleagues of connections to the PYD. They might remain independent, or join the autonomous administration sometime in the future.

For its part, the PYD encourages Kurdish (and Arab) opposition parties to participate in the autonomous administration system that it leads, if they register, and provides a degree of freedom to criticize policy while maintaining control over the most important decisions. The more opposition parties join the administration, the more they dilute the presence of leaders connected to the PKK, and the closer the administration appears to its ideological premise as a decentralized, democratic system. Movement in this direction reduces the chance of a Turkish invasion and increases the chance of continued Western support.

“The entire [autonomous] administration wants to unify the Syrian opposition,” said Khabat Shakir, a PYD representative in Germany.

Pending a major shift in northeast Syria — such as US President Donald Trump pulling out US troops in advance of the 2020 presidential elections, and/or a Turkish invasion — piecemeal defections from the Kurdish National Council to the autonomous administration are the most likely form of Kurdish rapprochement currently available.

Dan Wilkofsky

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/08/syria-kurdish-national-council-defections-rapprochement.ac.html

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.”

https://ahvalnews.com/syrian-war/why-turkey-building-wall-around-syrias-afrin

Svjedok propasti ISIL-a: Na njihovim licima nisam vidio kajanje

 

Novinar Mutlu Civiroglu je tri sedmice svjedočio borbama za posljednje uporište ISIL-a u Siriji. Pogledajte intervju u kojem govori o Bosancima koje je tamo sreo, ali i o trenutku kada su pucali na njega – što se vidi i na snimcima koje objavljujemo.

https://ba.voanews.com/a/svjedok-propasti-isil-a-na-njihovim-licima-nisam-vidio-kajanje/4889063.html

 

ANALİST MUTLU CİVİROĞLU “IŞİD Coğrafi Olarak Bitti, Ama Bir de Uyuyan Hücre Gerçekliği Var”

*Fotoğraflar: Mutlu Civiroğlu/ Suriye

SDG’nin Bağuz operasyonu sonrası “IŞİD’in yenildiği” yönündeki açıklamasının ardından, gelişmelerle ilgili Suriye’de izleyen analist Mutlu Civiroğlu, bianet’e konuştu.

Suriye Demokratik Güçleri (SDG), Cumartesi günü Suriye’de Irak Şam İslam Devleti’nin (IŞİD) yerleşik olarak bulunduğu son yerleşim yeri Bağuz’un da ele geçirildiğini açıkladı.

SDG, IŞİD’in kesin olarak yenildiğini ilan etti. Gelişmeleri yerinde izleyen gazeteci/analist Mutlu Civiroğlu, bianet’e konuştu.

“IŞİD’in kendini hilafet olarak adlandırdığı yapı bitti”

SDG’nin Bağuz’daki başarısını nasıl değerlendiriyorsunuz? Suriye için IŞİD’den yüzde 100 özgürleştirildi demek doğru bir ifade mi?

SDG’nin Bağuz’daki başarısı tabii ki çok önemli. Uzunca yıllar Irak’ta ve Suriye’de etkili olan bir örgütün Bağuz’daki bulunduğu son bölgede sona erdirilmiş oldu.

Bu IŞİD’in kendini hilafet olarak adlandırdığı yapının bitmesi anlamına geliyor. Oldukça önemli bir başarı. Hem SDG için, hem uluslararası koalisyon için önemli bir başarı.

Saklanan bir grup IŞİD üyesi en son yakalandı ve kalanı teslim oldu. Şu anda coğrafi olarak alan kalmadı. YPG’nin başını çektiği SDG bütün bu alanları özgürleştirmiş oldu.

Yüzde 100 özgürleştirildi denilebilir mi? Bu operasyonla IŞİD’in elinde tuttuğu alan kalmadı. Ama IŞİD’in yüzde 100 bittiği anlamına gelmiyor bu. Çünkü IŞİD’in ideolojisi halen mevcut. IŞİD’i doğuran siyasi, sosyolojik, ekonomik, tarihsel nedenler özellikle Suriye bağlamında konuştuğumuz için söylüyorum, yerinde duruyor.

Uluslararası koalisyonun artık bu saatten sonraki gündemi bu özgürleştirilen yerlerde istikrarın sağlanması olacak. Özellikle uyuyan hücreler konusu ciddi bir konu. Hem Deyr-ez Zor bölgesinde hem Haseke’de, hem Halep, Menbiç, Rakka bölgelerinde bir uyuyan hücre gerçekliği var.

IŞİD’e yardım yataklık yapmış bölgelerin özgürleştirilmesi için operasyona başlanacak. Coğrafi olarak IŞİD yüzde 100 bitirildi ama siyasi, askeri ve toplumsal bir sorun olarak duruyor. Bunun hem SDG hem de uluslararası koalisyon farkında.

Onlardan gelen açıklamalardan da görüyoruz ki, zaten sahadaki görüşmelerimizde de artık Bağoz’dan sonra gündemin bu olacağını görüyoruz. Şu anda coğrafi olarak IŞİD bitirildiği için, aslında olay çok daha kapsamlı ve çok daha zor.

Düşman belli bir coğrafyadayken, siz de ona göre mücadelenizi şekillendiriyorsunuz. Ama şu anda bahsettiğimiz mücadele çok daha yorucu ve zahmetli bir süreç. Böyle bir aşama olmadan da IŞİD’in hilafetinin sona ermesi bir şey ifade etmeyecek.

“SDG tarafından verilen bedel çok ağır”

IŞİD’in bölgede yenilmesinin ardından AFP ajansına verdiğiniz demeçte de “Kürtleri iki taraftan da (Suriye-Türkiye) zorlu bir süreç beklediğini” söylüyorsunuz. Bölge Kürtleri açısından önümüzdeki dönemde en büyük problemler ne olabilir?

Suriye Kürtleri, SDG Genel Komutanı Mazlum Kobani’nin deyimiyle 11 bin kayıp verdiler. IŞİD ve diğer örgütlerle mücadelelerde 20 bin yaralı var. Verilen bedel çok ağır. Ama dünya da bu başarıyı gördü. Özellikle Suriye’de Kürtlerin oynadığı asli rol görüldü.

Uluslararası koalisyonun yükünü çeken SDG’ydi. Bu yüzden bedel ödediler ve Suriye içerisinde kendi yarattıklarını korumak istiyorlar.

Suriye’de dışarıdan bir formülün tutmadığı da görüldü. Kürtlerin, Arapların, Ezidilerin, Kürt Alevilerin beraber oluşturduğu bu yapılanma hem kendi halkları için hem de Suriye’nin geneli için bir model teşkil ediyor.

Kürtler, bu kazanımlarını siyasi alanda geliştirme çabasında olacaklar. Kürtlerin özellikle Cenevre görüşmelerinde var olma isteği var. IŞİD’in coğrafi olarak bitirilmesinden sonra Kürtlerin bu taraflarının daha çok başarı görebileceği düşünülebilir.

Bedel ödediler, sahada projeleri var. Yerelden güçlenen ve her etnik yapının kendi özgürlüğü içinde yaşayabilecekleri bir süreç istiyorlar. O sebeple siyasi açıdan Kürtlerin öncelikleri bu olacak.

Üç hafta önce ben oradaydım. Oradaki siyasi, askeri yetkililerle yaptığımız görüşmelerde Türkiye’nin bölgeye yönelik açıklamaları çok kaygı verici boyutlarda, ciddi tehdit olarak algılanmakta, onu gördük.

Önümüzdeki günlerde Türkiye’nin olası bir saldırgan tutumu ya da olası bir operasyon onların gündeminde ilk sırada. Sadece Kürtler değil bunu Araplar da, Süryaniler de görüyor.

Özellikle Afrin’de Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri ve Türkiye destekli grupların Afrin’i ele geçirdiği dönemden sonra yaşananlar, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International gibi kurumların da dile getirdiği gibi Suriye’nin Kürt bölgelerinde ve SDG’nin kontrol ettiği bölgelerde büyük bir rahatsızlık yaratmış durumda. Aynı pratiklerin tekrarlanma ihtimali kaygı yaratıyor.

“Etnik kimliklerin anayasal güvence altına alınması bekleniyor”

O sebeple Kürtlerin, Arapların, Süryanilerin, Ezidilerin en büyük kaygısı Türkiye’nin kendi bölgelerine bir saldırı düzenlemeleri, buna karşı hazırlıkları da var zaten.

Öte yandan Suriye rejiminin halen, bunca yıldır devam eden iç savaştaki tutumunda bir değişiklik olmadığı da görülüyor. Halen Suriye’yi tek bir ulustan oluşan, tek bir ideolojinin yönetebileceği düşünülüyor. Kürtlerin kontrol ettiği toprakların seve seve ya da zorla alınacağı yönünde açıklamalar yapılıyor.

Ülkenin en büyük azınlığı olarak kendi yaşama taleplerine saygı gösterilmesi, Suriye’nin demir yumrukla yönetilemeyeceğinin anlaşılması, Suriye’nin etnik farklılıklarına uygun yeni bir anayasa oluşturulması, Kürt dilinin tanınması, Kürtçe eğitimin önünün açılması, Kürt ve diğer kimliklerin anayasal güvence altına alınması bekleniyor.

İstihbarat raporu: Ağları hala çok geniş

*Büyütmek için tıklayın. 

ABD İstihbarat yetkilileri Şubat ayının ilk günlerinde kongreye sundukları “Küresel Risk Değerlendirme” raporunda “IŞİD’in kayda değer derecede liderlik ve bölge kaybına rağmen hala Irak ve Suriye’deki binlerce savaşçıya komuta ettiğini, bu savaşçıların sekiz ayrı dala (örgüte) ayrıldığını ve dünya çapında binlerce destekçisi olduğunu” kaydetmişti.

İstihbarat raporunda ayrıca IŞİD’in Suriye ve Irak’taki “normalleşme çabalarını sarsmak için saldırı hazırlıklarında olduğu, mezhep çatışmasını artırma hedefinde olduğu” ifadeleri kullanıldı.

TIKLAYIN – ABD istihbaratının kongreye sunduğu Küresel Risk Değerlendirme raporu

(PT) Pınar Tarcan

https://m.bianet.org/bianet/militarizm/206781-isid-cografi-olarak-bitti-ama-bir-de-uyuyan-hucre-gercekligi-var

Last days of the caliphate: Mutlu Civiroglu on Islamic State’s final stand in Syria

Mutlu Civiroglu is a Kurdish analyst and journalist based in Washington, D.C. In March 2019 he traveled to northeastern Syria to cover the Syrian Democratic Forces’ final battle against Islamic State in northeast Syria. Speaking to The Defense Post via WhatsApp, Civiroglu detailed his experience with the SDF in the last days of ISIS’s self-declared caliphate.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

TDP: How long have you been in Baghuz and how close are you to the front lines?

MC: I’ve been in the Baghuz area for three weeks. From time to time I travel to different cities, like Kobani and Raqqa. I’ve been inside of the Baghuz, almost 100 meters from the ISIS front line, in the range of snipers.

snipers.

Mutlu Civiroglu

@mutludc

ISIS tent city in

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Mutlu Civiroglu

@mutludc

There were lots of tenches dug in the village for the civilians. This maybe one of the reasons that many people could fit in a small village.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter
TDP: How has the fighting changed while you have been there?

MC: The fighting in recent days has been the SDF attacking at night, and ISIS trying to hunt down and prevent SDF’s advance.

Coalition jets and artillery are supporting the SDF, and the clashes mainly took places at night to prevent ISIS from having an advantage in targeting SDF forces. The fear of ISIS holding civilians captive (Yezidis, other kidnapped people) and using these people and their own as human shields made the operation very difficult from an SDF perspective.

So in the daytime there is fire exchange – mortar exchange – but at night more heavy fighting has been observed. The night also gives an advantage to airplanes using thermal cameras to eliminate ISIS fighters.

Mutlu Civiroglu
Mutlu Civiroglu

TDP: What kind of resistance is ISIS putting up?

MC: ISIS have put up heavy resistance. The final phase of the operation has been continuing since January, so because of that there have been thousands of people in this tiny town, so multiple times the operation had to be paused because each time a certain number of people were released by ISIS.

This has been an obstacle for the SDF because just when they start fighting they have to stop again. Evacuating these people, screening them, searching them – it’s a very time-consuming operation. Aside from the combat operation it’s these kinds of operations that cause difficulty for the SDF and the Coalition.

But from the impact of fighting we could see that ISIS have put up very strong resistance because most of their fighters are battle-hardened, hardcore jihadis who came from different parts of the world, especially the Russian-origin – Chechen and Dagestan, from those areas – and other jihadists from North Africa and elsewhere. They were jihadists; they were strong believers in their ideology, so they put up a tough fight on the ground.

Because they have been in Baghuz for a long time they are familiar with the geography, while for the SDF – mainly Kurdish SDF – it’s very unfamiliar territory, because their cities and towns are 200 to 300 km away from here, or even longer. They have been fighting in unfamiliar territory; this causes a disadvantage for the SDF.

Moreover, because of the civilians that have been used as human shields by ISIS, it has made the job of the SDF and the Coalition very, very hard. Even at the moment we see in the last one or two days propaganda spreading that SDF and the Coalition have been targeting civilians, but all international media observed very clearly that human life, protection of civilians – even surrendered ISIS fighters or suspected ISIS fighters were given humane treatment. They were treated respectfully. So many journalists witnessed firsthand how the SDF valued human life and tried to protect them.

Coming back to the fighting, they put up a tough resistance by using heavy weaponry, by using trenches, by using suicide bombers – men and women – and in some cases motorcycle suicide attacks.

Women and children from ISIS-held areas

YPJ fighters screen women and children from ISIS-held camps in Baghuz, Syria. Image: Mutlu Civiroglu

One other thing I heard from SDF sources is that there was a dispute between ISIS fighters, local ISIS members and international jihadis. International, especially Russian-origin ISIS members and other international members, seemed to be willing to fight until the end whereas Syrian or more regional ISIS members were willing to surrender.

I want to share this because not all of them stayed to fight until the end. Of course this might be a tactic of the organization, to space out some of its fighters for the future, hoping that they might have some opportunities, maybe escaping from prison like what happened in Syria and Iraq before.

Whatever the reason might be, a large number of fighters chose to surrender. I believe this was a deliberate tactic of to slow down the SDF, cause exhaustion and distraction, and use so-called surrendered people in future.

TDP: Are you seeing ISIS using women or children in the fighting?

MC: I haven’t seen with my own eyes but talking with the commanders I heard that they have been using women and there are some videos from the last few days clearly showing that there are female ISIS fighters and also children are used, children carrying weapons. That has been told to us by the SDF, but there are videos and photographs proving this. Women carried out suicide attacks this week and previously as well.

Polat Can and Mutlu Civiroglu in SyriaSDF senior leader Polat Can (left) and Mutlu Civiroglu in Syria. Image: Mutlu Civiroglu

Even among the women who surrendered in previous days we have seen very fanatical women. Most of them are hardcore: they don’t show any remorse, they don’t feel regret for anything, and they promise to continue ISIS’s ideology and ISIS’s fight. I saw women who still justify the treatment of the Yazidi people and enslavement of Yazidi women. So there can certainly be some women who were forced, but there’s also a large number of women who chose to be in ISIS and chose to fight for it until the end.

I believe these women may cause serious problems for their respective countries or whoever will handle them. Therefore the SDF and the Coalition should immediately come up with a joint program to decide how to handle them.

TDP: Why is it taking so long to clear this small pocket?

MC: Because there have been thousands of people. Nobody, neither SDF nor the Coalition, could predict such a high number of people could be living in such a tiny place. There were tens of thousands of people evacuated from Baghuz in recent weeks. This number is huge. Each time the operation was intensified, ISIS released some number of people, so that slowed down the operation very drastically, and the focus on saving civilian lives and possible captives’ lives pushed the SDF and Coalition to be more careful, to slow down, and at some points at the expense of frustrating and tiring their own fighters.

Having such a large number of people in a tiny place is the main reason that this operation has been very, very slow and because this is the last pocket of ISIS and it borders Iraq, it is still a mystery what kind of place it is, and what kind of preparation ISIS had. We’ve seen many trenches where people have been living, so probably surveillance planes could not catch them, and also tunnels underground. It’s like a closed box for SDF ground forces: they don’t know what to expect. That’s one of the reasons they had to be extra cautious while advancing.

Mutlu Civiroglu

@mutludc

Earlier today ,last stronghold of ISIS in Syria

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TDP: Can you describe the camps ISIS fighters have been living in?

MC: Camp conditions have been very dire, very bad. The town is very small and the number of people is extremely high, so probably there was a problem with food, water, and sanitation. There is a bad smell. People were living in those trenches under poor circumstances, so I think the situation would have been very hard for them because they were surrounded.

The Coalition gave them the opportunity but not all of them agreed to surrender, so based on what we have seen the situation has been difficult because such a small place is not suitable for such a large number of people.

Yazidi children freed from ISIS captivityYazidi children freed from ISIS captivity in Baghuz, Syria. Image: Mutlu Civiroglu

TDP: What’s the mood and morale like among SDF fighters? Do they seem frustrated?

MC: The mood and morale among the SDF fighters is very high. They are sure of a victory and confident they’ll bring to an end the so-called ISIS caliphate, but at the same time they are aware that ISIS is not finished with the end of the caliphate.

In a way they are getting ready for stage two of the fight against ISIS, which is going after sleeper cells, stabilization of the liberated areas, and to make sure the circumstances that allowed ISIS ideology to flourish are removed, and this requires a long, lasting and enduring struggle. They are aware of that and they are getting ready for that. Taking Baghuz will only end the territorial existence of ISIS, but its ideological existence, its ideological threat to the world, is there and they are aware of that.

The Kurdish, Arabic and Syriac ethnic groups are all very happy and the women – YPJ and other women components of SDF – are especially happy and proud that they are playing a major role in defeating an ideology that took pride in enslaving women, and treating women as worthless. Each time Yazidi women were liberated I’ve seen the happiness among the Kurdish women, YPJ fighters. It’s extra special for them, for sure.

Mutlu Civiroglu

@mutludc

Another ISIS video from inside Women also fight against SDF https://twitter.com/mutludc/status/1106757728863703041?s=21 

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Mutlu Civiroglu

@mutludc

In this footage allegedly shared by ISIS, chaos inside #Baghouz is seen. Non-stop gunfire and smoke rises. Some women also appear carry weapon and actively fight #TwitterKurds

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Frustration is there, honestly, because the operation has been taking too long and the advance is too slow. And remember this is a territory that most of them are not familiar with, they are in this territory for the first time in their lives.

There are logistics problems, water, food, sanitization, hot weather, sometimes dust storms – it makes it very hard to fight. Remember one-and-a-half months ago when there was a dust storm ISIS launched a huge attack and caused serious problems for SDF fighters. Desert conditions have their own difficulties and most SDF fighters are very unfamiliar with these circumstances, and fighting in this geography is not something they are experts in. It causes some frustration, and to me it’s totally natural. But ISIS is almost on the verge of ending.

SDF continue ISIS clearing operations inside Baghuz, SyriaSDF continue ISIS clearing operations inside Baghuz, Syria on March 20, 2019. Image: Mutlu Civiroglu

TDP: Do you think the SDF will declare victory for Nowruz?

MC: Although the public is pushing, the SDF is not going to declare any territorial victory until they are fully sure that Baghuz is 100 percent cleared of ISIS members, explosives, landmines, booby traps, any other danger.

They’ll make sure everything is cleared, there is no one left, there is no harm to their fighters, there is no harm to Coalition partners, there is no harm to journalists. Only then will they announce, but it’s possible that the announcement might come on Friday or Saturday. But again if there are some people remaining inside they will make sure everything is taken care of. They are not rushing; they have been fighting for months now. This operation has already taken too long, so they will not mind waiting for a few more days until everything is taken care of.

 JOANNE STOCKER

 

Özgürlüğe yakışıklı girmek istedim

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

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

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

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

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

Ednan annesine kavuşuyor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Şık bir şekilde radyo muhabirleriyle görüşmesi, dikkat çekmiş.

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

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

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

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

Walid de kurtarıldı

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

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

DÊRAZOR/PARİS


Baxoz’da 6’sı çocuk 8 Êzîdî kurtarıldı

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

ANF/BAXOZ

 

Özgürlüğe yakışıklı girmek istedim

The distant dream of a secure safe zone in northern Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Iddon

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

Mutlu Çiviroğlu, Menbiç’te yaşanan saldırıyı İznews’e değerlendirdi

Menbiç’te yaşanan patlamayı ilişkin İznews’e değerlendirmede bulunan gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu saldırının amacının Amerika’nın çekilmesini hızlandırmak olduğunu vurguladı.

Menbiç’te yaşanan saldırı sonrası Amerika’da yaşayan gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu, konu ile ilgili, “Saldırının zamanlaması manidar ve düşündürücü. Trump’ın Suriye’den hızlı bir şekilde çekileceğini açıkladıktan sonra, 4’üncü haftada böyle bir olay meydana geliyor. Öte yandan saldırıyı kimin yaptığı belli değil. Ama IŞİD’e yakın haber ajansı haber geçti. Her ne kadar üstlendik demese de saldırı hakkında bilgi veriyor. Böyle kısa bir süre içinde bu duyuruyu geçmesi adresin IŞİD olabileceğini güçlendiriyor. Bu geçilen haber üzerinden IŞİD’in yaptığı düşünülürse zaten İŞİD’in Kürtleri hedef aldığı, Kürtlerin seküler, cinsel eşitlikçi, azınlıkları tolere eden bakış açısından rahatsızlık duyduğu biliniyor. Öte yandan güvenilir kaynaklarla yaptığım görüşmeler sonrasında IŞİD’in Amerikan askerlerini hedef alındığı söyleniyor. Muhtemelen ölü ve yaralı olduğu şüphesi var.  Amerikan askerleri ve diğer koalisyon gücü askerlerinin bulunduğu gruba hem de Menbiç’in işlek bir alanında bu yapılıyor. Bu hem Kürtlere hem Demokratik Suriye Güçleri’ne hem de Amerika’ya yapılan bir saldırı. Eğer saldırıyı düzenleyen IŞİD ise bunun sebebi ortada İŞİD zaten bu güçlere karşı savaşıyor. Bu güçler, IŞİD’i yenmek için uzun süredir çalışıyorlar. Saldırının amacı ise Amerika’nın çekilmesini güçlendirmek. Amerikan Başkanı Trump’ın hemen hemen IŞİD bitmek üzere yorumlarını yaptığı, YPG’nin başını çektiği Demokratik Suriye Güçleri’nin IŞİD’e karşı ilerlemeler kaydettiği bir dönemde bu grubun kendi gücünün bitmediğini göstermesi olarak okunabilir. Hem de Amerika’nın çıkışını hızlandırmak olabilir. Tabi IŞİD’in yaptığını varsayarak şunu da belirtmek lazım Menbiç’te son dönemlerde operasyonlar yapılmıştı. Menbiçli kaynaklara göre Türkiye’ye yakın grupların uyuyan hücreleri yakalamıştı. Menbiç askeri ve sivil yöneticilere yönelik önemli suikastlarda yapılmıştı. Bu nedenle böyle bir olasılık var ama şu anda görülen daha çok IŞİD’in yaptığı. Tam olarak Arapça mesajda üstlenmek yok daha çok bilgilendirme var ama IŞİD genelde yaptığı şeyleri sahipleniyor. Böyle kısa bir süre içinde kendi ajansından bunu duyurması biz Suriye analistler tarafından öyle okunuyor. Ama resmi olarak biz yaptık kavramı kullanılmamış. Ne kadar üste alınma olmasa da kendi ajansından bu bilgileri veriyor. IŞİD yaptı demek çokta gerçek dışı olmaz” değerlendirmesinde bulundu.  | iznews – Ceren Bozkurt

Mutlu Çiviroğlu, Menbiç’te yaşanan saldırıyı İznews’e değerlendirdi

 

Erdogan, Trump agree to avoid power vacuum in Syria

Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed Sunday to prevent a power vacuum in Syria after U.S. ground forces withdraw, in a phone conversation days after the U.S. president shocked global partners by announcing Americans would leave the war-scarred country.
Turkey was a rare ally that lauded Trump’s momentous decision to pull the 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria, where they have been helping assisting in a multinational fight against ISIL.
“The two leaders agreed to ensure coordination between their countries’ military, diplomatic and other officials to avoid a power vacuum which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase in Syria,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.
Hours earlier Trump had tweeted that he and Erdogan “discussed ISIL, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area.” Erdogan tweeted shortly thereafter, saying the two leaders “agreed to increase coordination on many issues including trade relations and the developments in Syria,” dubbing the call “productive.”
U.S. troops will leave under the auspices of a new Pentagon chief set to start next month, after Jim Mattis resigned from the post citing key differences, including on Syria, with the often-impulsive Trump.
An American exit would allow Turkish troops to move against Kurdish fighters in Syria who have played a key role in the war against ISIL but are deemed terrorists by Ankara. Many U.S. politicians and international allies fear the withdrawal is premature and would further destabilize the already devastated region.
A U.S. withdrawal, said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Kurdish affairs analyst, will open the way “for Turkey to start its operations against the Kurds, and a bloody war will begin.”
French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said he “deeply regretted” Trump’s decision, and that “an ally must be reliable.” Several U.S. politicians from both parties rejected Trump’s claim that ISIL had been defeated, and many in the US military expressed alarm and dismay at the thought of suddenly abandoning Washington’s Kurdish partners.
And Trump’s sudden decision sparked turmoil within his administration, prompting the resignation of Mattis as well as of Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the anti-ISIL coalition.
Plans for the troop withdrawal will now be overseen by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who Trump on Sunday said would replace Mattis starting January 1.
Source(s): AFP