YPG Genel Komutanı Mahmud Berxwedan, başta sizin, bütün arkadaşlarınızın ve Kobanê’nin yeni yılını kutluyorum. Son birkaç gündür Kobanê’den dikkat çekici haberler geliyor, yaşanan son çatışmaların sonucu ne?
Mahmud Berxwedan: Biz de başta Hristiyan aleminin olmak üzere bütün dünyanın yeni yılını kutluyoruz. Bildiğiniz gibi yaklaşık 15 gün önce Kobanê’yi özgürleştirme hamlesini başlatmıştık. Doğu ve güney cephelerinde operasyonlar bu hamle çerçevesinde düzenlendi ve YPG ve YPJ savaşçıları büyük başarılar elde ettiler. En son da IŞİD çetelerinin yerleşip oradan saldırılar düzenlediği Kara Okul ve birkaç stratejik nokta daha önceki gece kontrolümüz altına geçti. Bu sırada birçok çete üyesi öldürüldü ve cephaneleri elimize geçti. Bunun için savaşçılarımızın moralleri çok yüksek ve kesinlikle zafere ulaşacaklarına inanıyorlar.
Kontrolünüz altına geçen Dibistana Reş yani Kara Okul ve diğer stratejik noktaların önemi ne peki?
Mahmud Berxwedan: Kara Okul ve çevresinde kontrolümüz altına geçen noktalarda Kobanê iki kısma ayrılıyor. Miştenur Tepesi’nden sınıra inen bir hat var, yine tepenin alt ve 48. Cadde’nin üst kısmına düşen tarafta bir havuz var, buralardan batı ve özellikle de doğu tarafına hakimiyet kurulabiliyor. Stratejik önemi büyük. IŞİD çeteleri burada oldukları süre zarfında şehrin her tarafını hem çıplak gözle hem de dürbünle görebiliyorlardı. Bu noktayı tamamen IŞİD çetelerinin elinden kurtardık diyebiliriz. Artık şehre bizim güçlerimiz hakim. Bunun için önceki gece düzenlenen operasyon bizim için çok önemliydi ve başarıyla sonuçlandı.
IŞİD doğu cephesinden şehre girdi ve daha çok bu cepheden saldırılar gerçekleştirdi. Alınan bu noktaların doğu cephesi üzerindeki etkisi ne olur?
Mahmud Berxwedan: Bahsettiğim bu noktalar üzerinden IŞİD ilerlemeler kaydetmişti, çünkü şehre hakimiyetin kurulacağı noktalar bu noktalar. Artık elimizde olan bu noktalarla IŞİD eskisi gibi rahat hareket edemeyecek, yardımların ulaştığı yollardan biri denetimimiz altına geçti. Bundan dolayı IŞİD şu an büyük bir paniğe kapılmış durumda. Korkudan birçok tanklarını, panzerlerini geri çektiler.
Peki, Kobanê’deki çatışmalar nereye doğru gidiyor, kısa bir sürede daha büyük ilerlemelerin kaydedileceğine ya da IŞİD’in Kobanê’den tamamen çıkarılabileceğine dair umudunuz var mı?
Mahmud Berxwedan: IŞİD’in kolay kolay Kobanê’den vazgeçmeyeceğini biliyoruz. Dün yaşanan çatışmalarda da Kobanê’den çıkmamak için çok direndiklerini bir kez daha gördük. Ellerinde olan bütün imkânları sonuna kadar kullanıyorlar, araçlarla, şahıslarla intihar saldırıları gerçekleştiriyorlar. Kobanê’den çıkmamak için en nitelikli ekiplerini buraya getirmişler. IŞİD çetelerinin kaçtıklarını söylemek doğru değil, her noktada IŞİD çeteleri YPG ve YPJ savaşçılarını zafere inanan cesaretiyle tamamen öldürülüyor ve adım adım özgürleştiriliyor orası. Gazeteciler gelip inceleyebilir, alınan her evde mutlaka onların cesetleri çıkıyor. Bunun için kolay bir şekilde zafere ulaşacağımızı söyleyemiyoruz fakat başlattığımız hamle karşısında da IŞİD çetelerinin direnebileceğini düşünmüyoruz.
Son zamanlarda artan intihar saldırılarını bu hamleye mi bağlıyorsunuz?
Mahmud Berxwedan: Evet öyle! Kobanê’de ilerlemek için IŞİD bütün yöntemleri uyguluyor. IŞİD’in asıl yönteminin intihar saldırıları olduğunu herkes biliyor. Önceki gece Kara Okul ve birkaç evde daha patlamalar yaşandı. Yani hem intihar saldırıları, hem diğer patlatma taktikleri uyguluyorlar. Bu şekilde bir korku salmak istiyorlar fakat bu taktik Kobanê’de işlerine pek yaramadı. Çünkü savaşçılarımız pürdikkat, profesyonel bir şekilde hareket ediyor.
Suriye ve Kürtler konusunda uzman birçok kişi Kobanê’nin bir iki hafta içinde düşeceğini düşünüyordu. Bu direnişin ne sırrı ne? IŞİD gibi bir güç karşısında YPG nasıl bu kadar uzun süre direnebildi ve şimdi zafere doğru yürüyor?
Mahmud Berxwedan: İyi bir şekilde araştırılırsa direniş sırrının her YPG savaşçısının teslimiyeti kabul etmeyen ruhunda saklı olduğu anlaşılır. Kahramanca savaşan bu savaşçılar Serzorî Destanı gibi destanlar yazdılar, her taraftan kuşatılmalarına rağmen son damlalarına kadar savaştılar ve ‘’Bijî Berxwedana Kobanê’’ diyerek şehit düştüler. Şehit Zozan ve Şehit Êrîş gibi savaşçılar tankların ancak cesetlerine basıp Kobanê’ye girebileceklerini söylediler ve öyle savaşıp şehit düştüler. İşte bu direnişin sırrı burada, Arîn ve Kendal gibi onlarcasının mücadelesidir bu sır. Toprağa ve onurlu bir yaşama bağlılıktır bu sır. IŞİD çeteleri yöneldikleri her yeri kısa bir sürede alabiliyorlar fakat dört ay kadar bir süredir burada büyük bir kayıp verdiler ve Kobanê’yi alamadılar. Hiçbir zaman da alamayacaklar. YPG ve YPJ savaşçılarındaki bu direniş ruhu dünyanın başka bir yerinde olmayan bir ruh, ki bu ruh 2015 yılında elde edilecek başarının da teminatı olan bir ruh.
Peki, yeni saldırılar için IŞİD’e Rakka gibi kontrolünde olan diğer şehirlerden hala takviye güçler geliyor mu?
Mahmud Berxwedan: Fırsat buldukça Minbic, Cerablus, Bab, Rakka, Tilabyad şehirlerinden takviye güçler getiriyorlar. Bir kırılmaya uğradılar, bu güçlerle durumu lehlerine çevirmek istiyorlar. Biz ilerliyoruz, önemli noktalar kontrolümüz altına geçti fakat onlar direnmeye devam ediyorlar. Tüm bu takviye güçlere rağmen Kobanê’yi çok da uzun olmayan bir süre sonra özgürleştireceğimizi düşünüyoruz.
Dün de çok sayıda hava saldırısı oldu. IŞİD’e takviye güçlerin ulaştığı yollar üzerinde koalisyon güçlerinin yeni bir stratejisi var mı?
Mahmud Berxwedan: Stratejide büyük bir değişiklik söz konusu değil, bu yollar değil de özellikle Tilabyad ve Cerablus taraflarında bazı önemli hava saldırıları olmuştu. Genel olarak savaş cephesinin ön tarafına hava saldırıları düzenliyorlar ve kısmen de cephenin arka tarafına.
Hava saldırılarının fazla ve etkili olmasının sizin üzerinizdeki etkisi ne?
Mahmud Berxwedan: Hava saldırıları son birkaç gündür artmış durumda. Bu bize bir destek ve koalisyonun hava saldırılarıyla IŞİD psikolojik olarak da bir yıkıma uğruyor.
Kobanê’ye dönen siviller var, onların dönüşü hakkında ne düşünüyorsunuz?
Mahmud Berxwedan: Sınırda bekleyen insanlarımız var, Kobanê’ye bir an önce dönmek istiyorlar. Yine, savaşa rağmen Kobanê’yi bırakmak istemeyen ve burada yaşayan insanlar var. Kobanê halkı başka bir yerde alışmış bir halk değil, tarihinde böyle bir şey yok. Birçok aile kendiliğinden Kobanê’ye dönüyor. Bu bir taraftan destek için iyi bir şey fakat bir taraftan da kötü. Çünkü çetin kış şartlarından dolayı bazı sıkıntılar yaşanıyor, başta ısınma problemi mesela. Henüz bir koridor açılmış değil ve doktorlar konusunda da eksiklikler yaşanıyor. Fakat gelen insanlar Kobanê’deki toprağı yemeye muhtaç da kalsalar burayı terk etmeyeceklerini belirtiyorlar.
Son olarak 2015 yılı için Kürtlere ve dünyaya mesajınız ne?
Mahmud Berxwedan: 2014 yılı Kürtlerin direniş yılı oldu ve Kürtler hiçbir zaman yenilmeyi kabul etmediklerini bütün dünyaya gösterdiler. Özgürlüğe odaklanan bu halk, sadece kendiler için, bütün Ortadoğu halkları, bütün dünya için IŞİD’e karşı mücadele etti. 2014 yılındaki oluşturulan mücadelenin 2015 yılında Kürt halkına özgürlük getirmesini umut ediyoruz. Başta direnen Kürt halkının olmak üzere bütün dünya halklarının yeni yılını kutluyoruz.
Mr. Hasan, we are informed that the clashes continue at the eastern front, shelling and mortar attacks at the western front. Can you update us about the recent situation?
As you also now, it has been 54 days that Kobane has demonstrated a historical resistance. ISIS is bombing our citizens waiting at the border in the western front and also at the Tilsahr Hill. The clashes have not stopped since the first day at the eastern front. They try to recruit forces from surrounding cities and continue attacking us. As long as Kobane is surrounded by attacks from all three fronts, it is always going to be dangerous for Kobane. Since the winter came, people at the front lines are having many difficulties.
You stated that ISIS attacks with bombs. The coalition was assuming that it destroyed most of the heavy weaponry of ISIS, is that not true? Do they continue to attack you and civilians comfortably because they still have a big amount of weaponry?
They have mortars such as the M57s, they have a tank in industrial zone and they are using it heavily. When airstrike starts, they hide those and when it stops, they take them out again and attack.
You mentioned about cold weather, what are the needs of people between Suruc and Kobane, and at the border, what can be done for those?
These civilians are under terrible conditions. There is no house or tent that they can stay in. They sleep outside. There are many women and children. We try to at least provide them with basic needs such as food, but it has become a huge challenge for us as the weather is getting colder. This is a very serious problem that needs urgent attention. Also, there are some civilians still in the city and they cannot go out because of continuous attacks and shelling.
Firstly, we want a safe corridor for these civilians. Secondly, today a group of young men and women wanted to come to Kobane to support us from the other side of the border. However, because of the attacks by Turkish soldiers, a young woman lost her life and a few got injured. We are going through a very though time. People who had crossed the border to Turkey are being shot when they want to come back to support their city. We want them to allow our people to cross the borders.
How do you interpret the attitude of Turkey in this regard?
Turkey has a faulty attitude towards us and we want it to change. We are not fighting against Turkey; we are fighting against the terrorist group ISIS that does not only target Kurds, but the whole world. If they attack us here today, they are going to attack Turkey tomorrow. They have organized crimes in many cities and killed many civilians. For instance, in Iraq, they killed about 400 people from a tribe. Turkey needs to reanalyze its politics and alter them. We are neighbor with Turkey and as Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and as Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ); we are fighting against a terrorist group, ISIS. Even if Turkey does not provide any support, it should stop to interfere and attack our people so we can carry out a more efficient resistance.
The world media is watching you closely and writing very positively about you. There were protests in all over the world a few days ago. What do you want to say about this?
This is very important for us. We want to thank all those who support us. We will never forget the airstrike support of America and international coalition. Turkey is out neighbor and they should have reacted accordingly, but what can we say. The support from people of different countries in the same date has increased our morale. Today, when YPG and YPJ fight against terrorism, they do not do this only to support Kobane or Kurdish people, but for the people of the world.
We are talking about a terrorist organization that has carried attacks in many European countries including Spain and France, and we still remember September 11 attack. They have one hand in Baghdad and one in Lebanon, one other in Raqqa and nobody dared to resist against this group, but us. ISIS took control of Mosul, which has a population of 4 million, within a few hours, the same is true for Raqqa and Manbij, however, even though they surrounded Kobane, they were not able to win and therefore, they are fighting us wholeheartedly. For this reason, we need the support of international community and we send our greetings to those who already did so.
You said that ISIS attacks with all its strength; can you say that new forces arrive in the last days?
According to information provided to us, additional forces are joining them from Talabyad, Raqqa, Manbij and Jarablus. As we understand from the radio, a lot of their members are coming from Afghanistan.
Some media sources claimed that YPG retook some villages from them. However, YPG sources disputed this, what is the issue here?
No, there is not any village that we retook now. Yesterday, 9 ISIS members were killed in the conflict that emerged in Ebruşk village. We just got Tilsahr back, but nowhere else. However, our forces go to the villages and attack ISIS. For instance, they attacked ISIS in Karamox, which is about 20 km from here, but they withdrew. It is true that we advanced a little bit in the city, but there is not any village that we saved yet.
What is the role of peshmergas, what are you going to tell about them?
It is a very positive thing. 150 people may not be a big as a support materially, but they are a big support morally. It is an honor for us that peshmergas came from the southern Kurdistan to here for us. Kurds are being slaughtered every few years. We want Kobane to be the last one. A national army should be established and Kurds need to defend themselves.
Are peshmergas fighting only at the western front or at all fronts?
Not only at the western front, but anywhere we need them most to work with heavy weaponry. They work with 57’s, mortars, Katyushas, whichever is needed in whichever front.
I want to ask about Abdul Jabbar Akidi’s group. Are they also fighting actively and supporting YPG? It is speculated that some left the group. Is that true?
Previously, some groups named “Euphrates Volcano” from Free Syrian Army (FSA) were with us. It has been 8-10 months we have been fighting together and they lost a lot of martyrs. Lastly, a group of 50 from Akidi came to Kobane, but we did not really want them. Instead, since ISIS are in many other areas in Jarablus, Azaz and many other Syrian cities, we wanted them to collaborate with Kurds from Afrin or other areas and do something in those areas. However, they refused it saying that they do not have the power to do so, but instead wanted to come to Kobane to fight. We want an egalitarian, democratic Syria where everybody has a say and for this reason we accepted them. While they throw mortars, they are not actively fighting yet. I do not know, but 9-10 of them went back. But as I said we have our doors open to everyone, who wants to support this mission.
You see YPG and YPJ fighters and peshmergas while you go through the war fronts. How is their morale in general?
YPG, YPJ, and peshmerge forces are fighting together. This is a very crucial thing for us morally and our morale is very high because of this. We are hopeful that we will achieve significant results in a short time.
We want to thank again to the United States, Europe and the coalition for their support. As long as they support us in our struggle, our resistance will prevail. They need to know that Kurdish people are brave. We will continue resisting and they should keep in mind that their support is very crucial for us and for our resistance against ISIS.
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YPG Kobanê Sözcüsü Şoreş Hesen ile savaş cephesindeki son durumu ve peşmergelerîn gelişi vb. konulari görüştük.
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Sayın Şoreş Hesen Kobanê’de özelikle doğu cephesinde şiddetli çatışmaların yaşandığı bilgisi geliyor, savaş cephesinden neler aktaracaksınız bize?
Şoreş Hesen: Doğru, son bir haftadır doğu ve güney cephelerinde tarihi bir direniş sergileniyor. IŞİD bomba yüklü araçlarla, ağır silahlar, tanklar, havan topu ve el yapımı bombalarla saldırıyor. Fakat bu saldırıların hepsi püskürtülüyor, her iki cephede de güçlü bir direnişimiz var.
Bir haftadır şiddetli çatışmalar yaşanmasına rağmen bu çatışmaların boyutu ne dünya basınına ne de Kürt basınına yansımadı, neye bağlıyorsunuz bunu? IŞİD’in son şiddetli saldırılarının asıl hedefi neydi?
Şoreş Hesen: Sanırım diğer birtakım konular medyanın dikkatini başka noktalara çekti ama savaş çok şiddetli şekilde sürüyor. Bizim buradaki direnişmiş sürdükçe dünya kamuoyunun YPG’ye ilgisi ve desteği artıyor. Bunun için de IŞİD daha şiddetli bir şekilde saldırarak şehir merkezini ve Türkiye’ye açılan sınır kapısını almak istedi. Stratejik bir nokta olan sınır kapısından geliş gidişi engelleyecek ve şehir merkezini de alarak Kobanê’yi tamamen ele geçirdiğini ilan edecekti sözde, fakat bu amacına ulaşamadı. Yani son şiddetli saldırıların hedefinde YPG’nin dünya kamuoyundan gördüğü desteği engellemek ve şehri tamamen kontrol altına almak vardı.
Peki, şehirde sizin kontrol oranınız ne? IŞİD kendi yayınlarında Kobanê’nin büyük çoğunluğunun kendi elinde olduğunu iddia ediyor?
Şoreş Hesen: Dünya basını ve herkesin bildiği gibi IŞİD’in ilerlemesi 20 gündür durmuş durumda. YPG onları şehir içinde durdurmayı başardı. Yani şehir içinde kontrol altındaki yerler medyanın 20 gün yazdığı gibi, değişen bir şey olmadı. Onların şehir içinden gözle görülür bir şekilde uzaklaştıramadığımız doğrudur fakat onlar da son 20 gündür bir karış ilerleyebilmiş değiller. Herhangi bir ilerleme ya da bir gerileme söz konusu değil derken bu herhangi bir çatışma yaşanmadığı anlamına gelmesin. Tam aksine çok şiddetli çatışmalar yaşandı. Çete grupları her gün ama her gün ilerlemeye çalışıyorlar, hem gündüz vakti hem de gece vakti 5-6 defa ilerleme girişimleri oluyor. Bu röportajdan beş dakika önce de bomba yüklü bir aracı patlattılar ve doğudaki mahalleye saldırdılar. Şimdiye kadar 20’ye yakın bomba yüklü araç patlattılar şehir içinde ilerlemek için fakat bu saldırılarda bir tek can kaybımız yaşanmadı.
Bomba yüklü araçların patlatılmasını nasıl değerlendiriyorsunuz? IŞİD bir kırılmaya uğradığı için mi bu tür eylemler yapıyor yoksa bu şekilde üzerinizde başka bir baskı mı oluşturmaya çalışıyor?
Şoreş Hesen: Kobanê’de IŞİD saldırıları 46. gününde. IŞİD, çatışmalar köy alanlarındayken Suriye ve Irak’ta ele geçirdiği tanklar, toplar ve her türlü ağır silahlarla saldırıp ilerliyordu. Bu alanlarda ilerlemek için bomba yüklü araçlar patlatmaya ihtiyaç duymadı. İlerleyip Kobanê’ye geldiler. Fakat biz daha önce Kobanê’yi düşman kuvvetlerine mezar yapacağımıza dair söz vermiştik. Biz sözümüzde durduk, Kobanê içinde ilerleyemedikleri için bomba yüklü araçları patlatma yoluna başvuruyorlar. Her saldırıya geçtiklerinde onlarca çete üyesi öldürülüyor çünkü artık saldırıp ilerleyebileceklerine dair bir umutları kalmadı. İşte bu yüzden, başka şekilde ilerleyemedikleri için yani, artık bu bomba yüklü araç saldırıları ile psikolojik bir baskı oluşturarak ilerlemek istiyorlar, bu kırılmaya uğradıklarının büyük bir ispatı.
Kimi kaynaklar IŞİD’in Kobanê’deki bazı komutanlarını değiştirdiğini bildiriyor, doğru mu bu?
Şoreş Hesen: Bir savaş hali var ve doğal olarak savaştaki her şeyi takip ediyoruz. Bazen tek bir saldırıda bile IŞİD kuvvetlerini üç defa değiştirmek zorunda kalıyor. Yani bir saldırıda arkadaşlarımız geceden sabaha kadar kendi mevzilerinde sabit kalıp, savaşırken, onlar kırılmaya uğradıkları için savaşan kuvvetlerini üç defa değiştirmek zorunda kalıyorlar. Askerlerini sürekli değiştirdiklerine eminim, komutanlarını da değiştirdiklerini düşünüyorum.
Arkadaşlarınızın geceden sabaha kadar savaştığını belirttiniz. Bunu biraz açar mısınız?
Şoreş Hesen: Haklı olduğunuz zaman hiçbir şeyden korkmazsınız. Bir şahıs için söyleyebileceğimiz bu şeyi, bir halk bir ülke için de söyleyebiliriz. Düşmanlarımız bugüne kadar bizi hep ezdi, bizi ortadan kaldırmaya çalıştı. Biz bugün irademiz, hakkımız, halkımız için savaşıyoruz. Kobanê Kürt halkının şehridir, Kürdistan’ın bir şehridir. Çete gruplarının elinin kutsal Kobanê topraklarına değmesi haramdır. Cephede savaşan kadınlarımız ve erkeklerimiz bu inançla savaşıyorlar, bu iradeye sahip oldukları için uykusuz da kalsalar savaşabiliyorlar. Çete üyeleri acıkıp, susadıklarında bile kuvvetlerini değiştirirken, özgürlük için, insan hakları için, kadın hakları için savaşan arkadaşlarımız soğuk sıcak demeden, aç susuzluk demeden direnmeye devam ediyorlar.
Peki, peşmergelerin gelişi hakkında kısaca neler diyeceksiniz?
Şoreş Hesen: Kobanê’yi korumak, ülkesini seven her Kürdün vazifesidir. Kobanê’ye korumak, peşmergelerin de dile getirdiği gibi, hem peşmergenin, hem de diğer parçalardaki Kürtlerin vazifesidir. Yine aynı şekilde Erbil’i, Diyarbakır’ı ve Mahabad’ı korumak da bütün Kürtlerin görevi. Bunlar adı Kürdistan olan bir ülkenin şehirleri, bu şehirlerin hepsini korumak Kürtlerin vazifesi olduğu gibi Kobanê’yi korumak da her tarafta yaşayan Kürtlerin görevi. Peşmergelerin Kobanê’ye gelişinden çok memnunuz, bu morallerimizi yüksek tutmaya yardımcı oldu.
Peki ya ÖSO grubunun gelişi?
Aslında bu konuda söylenecek pek bir şey yok. ÖSO’nun gelişi yeni bir şey değil fakat bazı kesimler yeni ÖSO grubunun gelişini özellikle gündemde ön planda tutmak istediler. Bunu açık bir şekilde ifade edeceğim, ÖSO’nun savaşın seyrini değiştirecek bir etkisi yok. Yani onların gelişi siyasi bir geliş, bunu göstermiş olduğu tavırlardan anlamak mümkün. Biz buradayız, takip ediyoruz ve her şeyin ne olduğunu çok iyi biliyoruz. Şehre yeni gelen ÖSO grubundan bahsettiğimi yinelemek istiyorum. 50 kişi geldi sadece. Önce 1300 gibi büyük rakamlar verildi ama doğru değil. Zaten onlarla görüştük, eğer gerçekten Kobanê’ye yardım etmek istiyorsanız, diğer cephelerde savaşıp Kobanê’nin yükünü hafifletebilirsiniz, dedik. Fakat bunu da açık bir şekilde belirteyim, kabul etmediler bunu. Kabul etmediler çünkü siyasi bir amaçları vardı, kabul etmediler çünkü arkalarında bazı başka kesimler var. Fakat hedefledikleri şeyi gerçekleştiremediler. Bahsettiğim bu kesimler ÖSO’nun Kobanê’ye girişini kabul etmeyeceğimizi düşünüyorlardı, yeni ÖSO grubunun Kobanê’ye girmesi için çok ısrar ettiler. Herkes biliyor, İdlib’te, Halep’te, Bab’da, Ezaz’da ÖSO zaten kendisi durumda. Buna rağmen Abdülcebbar Akidi’nin Kobanê’ye bir grup istemesinin sebebi elbette ki siyasiydi.
ÖSO’nun daha önce Kobanê’de bulunan grupları, Suvar Rakka, Şemsi Şimal ve Cephetul Ekrad ve birkaç grup daha, bunlar IŞİD’in ilk saldırılarından bugüne kadar Kobanê’de savaşıyorlar ve 30’dan fazla şehitleri var. Bu gerçekten özgür olduğuna inandığımız ÖSO, hak, adalet ve halkının özgürlüğü için savaşan ÖSO. Bunun da iyi görülmesini istiyoruz.
1 Kasım, Dünya Kobanê Dayanışma Günü olarak ilan edildi. Bütün dünyada Kobanê’ye destek eylemleri düzenlenecek. Kobanê artık bir sembol ve bütün dünya halkları Kobanê’yi yakından takip ediyor. Bu konuda neler söylemek istersiniz?
Şoreş Hesen: Gerçekten de Kobanê’de gösterilen görkemli direniş önünde saygıyla durulması gereken bir direniş. Bütün dünya, Türkiye’nin de içinde olduğu bir bütün dünya elbette, teröre ve zulme dur demeli artık. Herkes birlik olup teröre karşı savaşan YPG’ye destek çıkmalı ve yapılan eylemlerden sonra pratiğe dökülebilecek, gözle görülebilecek değişimler ortaya çıkmalı. Bu vesileyle bizleri destekleyen herkese teşekkürlerimi sunuyor, 1 Kasım’daki etkinliklerde de başarılar diliyorum.
In an exclusive interview with the daily Radikal, Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) Spokesperson Polat Can says they are officially working with the International Coalition against ISIS, and their representative is in the Joint Operation Command Center.
Mr. Polat Can, you have been leading a fierce struggle against ISIS in Kobane for almost month. The world is watching Kobane. What is the situation there?
In the morning, the Kobane resistance will be on its 30th day and a new, long-winded process will start. Everyone knows that the resistance that YPG put up against ISIS is unprecedented by the forces in the region, especially in comparison to the Iraqi army. Cities ten times the size of Kobane surrendered to ISIS in a few days and those cities were not even besieged with considerable force. However, when they started attacking Kobane, they gathered their forces from around the region, from places including Minbij, Raqqah, Jarabulus, and Tal Hamis. What I mean by considerable force is tanks, cannons, heavy artillery and thugs whose numbers were in the tens of thousands. They wanted to capture Kobane within a week, but they did not succeed. Then, they wanted to say their Eid prayers in Kobane, and they could not do that either.
Since last week, they seized some streets in East Kobane, and now they want to capture the whole city, but they can’t advance. As they try to make their way, they sustain considerable losses. Especially within the last few days, both YPG attacks and the air strikes against ISIS terror led by international coalition forces have increased. They sustained major losses, many of their bodies and weapons passed into the hands of the YPG.
So, can we say that Kobane is relatively safe from danger?
No, saying this would be major heedlessness. Because ISIS still controls a large portion of Kobane. In addition, all of the villages in Kobane are occupied by ISIS. The resistance we started both within and around Kobane is ongoing. ISIS continues to receive renewed assistance. This war is a matter of life and death for us in every way. Thus, it is not yet possible to say that there is no danger.
You are saying that ISIS consists of tens of thousands of people and constantly renewed support. Your numbers are very small in comparison. Do you receive any kind of support?
Kobane has been under an embargo for the last year and a half. None of the major forces from other cantons have been able to reach Kobane. Kobane is resisting with its own efforts. Some Kurdish youth have been able to reach Kobane from the north of Kurdistan, especially through Suruç. Some arrived Kobane in small groups from the cantons of Afrin and Jazira. In addition, some of the youth from Kobane who were living abroad came to Kobane to protect their city. Some of the small groups from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are here under the name of “The Volcano of Euphrates.” This is all of our power and support. Unfortunately, we did not receive any additional military support, neither from the South, nor from other places.
What can you tell us about the air strikes by the coalition led by the United States?
For the last few days, the air strikes have been numerous and effective. We can clearly state that, had these attacks started a couple weeks ago, ISIS would not have been able to enter Kobane at all. ISIS would have been defeated 10-15 kilometers away from the city, and the city would not have turned into a war zone.
Alright, why did effective air strikes start one week before, and not two? Or, to ask in another way; What happened over the course of the last week that the strikes intensified?
The YPG’s relationship with the coalition, then, had just started recently. I will be blunt; some regional powers, especially Turkey was a serious obstacle. They made every effort to prevent any help from reaching us and to prevent the air strikes. At first, coalition jets could get no closer than 10 kilometers to the Turkish border, because Turkey would not allow it. Of course, there were other problems as well such as logistics and distance. The coalition had not yet made a serious decision to help the YPG.
Moreover, everyone thought that Kobane would fall in a week or two and be forgotten easily, but that did not happen. Kurds all around the world and their friends have risen up, supported by calls by world-famous intellectuals, and the resultant public opinion. This situation has affected shift on some countries’ policies towards us and created pressure for more effective and intensified air strikes and assistance for the YPG.
What sort of help? There are calls to provide arms to the YPG, has any such assistance been provided?
Up until now, we really can’t speak of the provision of arms to Kobane. The YPG is trying to bring certain arms which we require to Kobane through certain means. Because we are in serious need of arms. Not only for Kobane, but also for Jazira and Afrin. It’s important that we have fighters that come and fight, but it’s equally important that there be arms for them to use. It’s very difficult to fight using light weaponry against ISIS, who possess heavy weaponry. In the current situation, under such circumstances, we are throwing ourselves heroically in a fight against a force utilizing the latest weapons technology.
You mentioned the coalition’s being late. What sort of relationship does the YPG have with the US and other countries in the coalition? Can you elaborate on this?
Long before the Kobane resistance, we had relations with many countries including the USA. When Kobane was attacked, our relationship became more substantial and our exchange of ideas was realized in practice. In a way, urgent situation on the ground expedited some things. True partnership comes to realization when the situation is difficult and parties support each other.
Can we say there is an official relation between the YPG and the coalition?
Yes, we are acting in concert with international coalition forces. We are in direct contact with them, in terms of intelligence, on a military level, and in terms of air strikes.
I guess the coordinates for the airstrikes are coming from you then?
Yes. One of our special units in Kobane gives us coordinates, and the YPG transmits these coordinates to coalition forces, and then air strikes are directly realized. I would also like to mention that we also benefitted from the assistance of certain Kurdish factions, and this assistance is ongoing.
Some media outlets reported that these airstrikes are carried out through peshmergas?
No. We have a direct relation with the coalition without any intermediaries. YPG representative is physically ready in the joint operation command center and transmits the coordinates. Indeed, no airstrikes would be possible militarily without YPG taking part in the process because the clashes are ongoing and the situation on the ground changes rapidly.
But, I would like to acknowledge efforts of some Kurdish parties and individuals in regard, and their assistance for the YPG is still onging.
For a while, news agencies from around the world have been discussing the fall of Kobane. In fact, last week, some of them announced that the city fell. However, now the American press has started to applaud the resistance by the YPG, comparing it to the famous Alamo resistance. What is your take on American and other peoples’ support for Kobane?
We have 5-6 American fighters in YPG. One of them was wounded during combat. The fact that they are fighting for us is making us proud. There are fighters from other peoples as well. We are thankful for all the people who have been appealing to their politicians on our behalf to get their attention, to help us.
Especially some European armies and their commanders are working vigorously towards providing help to the YPG. Yes, right now YPG is fighting against ISIS, but in reality this fight belongs to the whole world; the world should fight ISIS. The fighters of ISIS are from 81 different countries which will be responsible for the terror that ISIS will unleash on us. Therefore, everyone should take responsibility. If Kobane falls, a possibility we never consider, ISIS will attack many other territories motivated with the fervent of so-called conquest. Hence, the victory of Kobane resistance means a victory for Kurdistan, coalition forces, USA and for every human being with a conscience.
The global public was first introduced to the YPG during the Sinjar Massacres against Yezidi Kurds. Now, the whole world is talking about the outstanding resistance of the YPG in Kobane. Can we consider the YPG as one of the main actors in the war against ISIS?
Kurds are the strongest people fighting on earth today, be it YPG or the Peshmergas, it is the Kurds! There is of course a surprising element to this: a relatively small number of young people, equipped with light arms, stage an unprecedented resistance against heavy weaponry. I state this cut and dried; if there was any army of even 500 thousand soldiers in our place, they wouldn’t be able to resist, even for one week. We don’t possess one thousandth of the resources and arms that those who lost to ISIS in Mosul, Tikrit and Anbar had. But we have a will and we have faith, and we protect our lands. This is why the coalition forces must consider YPG as one of the main actors in this war. Many high ranking officials of the coalition forces have congratulated us and expressed their admiration for our struggle.
Finally, is there anything else you would like to say to the whole world which has been watching you with admiration?
We respectfully salute all the peoples of the world who support the YPG, Kobane and the Kurds. We promise to millions of Kurds and the friends of the Kurds who can’t sleep, whose hearts beat for us this: We will fight until the last person falls, until our last bullet, our last drop of blood, and we will win this fight. We will embellish this resistance worthy of the Kurdish people with victory and dedicate it to first to the proud Kurdish people and to all the peoples of the world. The resistance against Nazis in Stalingrd and in Alamo is what is repeating in Kobane. We invite everyone to support Kobane, the YPG and Kurdistan until the day of victory.
If you want my participation to a show, interview me or get a quote on Kobane and other Kurdish related issues, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview with Premier of Kobane Canton Anwar Moslem on the Situation in Kobane in 27th day of the resistance against fierce ISIS attacks
October 11, 2014 at 9:30 am local time
Fighting continued in East and South of the city. As a result of YPG ambush a large number of ISIS members were killed Friday night.
Although it has been 5 days that ISIS entered east part of the city, their attempts to advance failed. ISIS controls about 25-30% of the city in east part of Kobane, only Asayish [police] building and the courthouse are under their control. Asayish building was destroyed on Thursday as a result of US airstrikes and all ISIS members inside were killed. Other than that they don’t have any important locations. The morale of the people inside the city is high.
Coalition airstrikes also inflicted serious damage on ISIS yesterday and last night. On the ground YPG and FSA groups are fighting bravely shoulder to shoulder with very modest weapons. FSA groups also appealed to US and west for heavy weapons.
We need a humanitarian corridor under the supervision international community for thousands of civilians inside city. UN statement about the civilians inside Kobane is important and we are expecting urgent action from UN. But the real number if civilians is much higher than what Mr. Mistura announced. People here need water, food, medicine, milk and other basic needs.
Moslem strongly denied some reports that Iraqi Kurdistan Region sent them weapons recently.
“We have not received any weapons from Southern [Iraqi] Kurds, but I am appealing once more that we desperately need their help. I want to stress that we need effective weapons from US, Southern Kurdistan and the West so that we can fight ISIS better. We are confident that YPG and FSA groups can expel ISIS from Kobane if we have heavy weapons.”
If you want my participation to a show, interview me or get a quote on Kobane and other Kurdish related issues, please contact me at email@example.com
Kurdish city of Kobane in Northern Syria, also knows as Rojava, is under severe ISIS attacks since September 15.
Kurdish officials say ISIS militants have been waging an unprecedented attack on Kobane from east, south, and west with the American tanks, artilleries, and Humvees they had seized from Iraqi army in Mosul.
In a short interview Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) leader Salih Moslem appeals to the international community to support people of Kobane before it is too late.
Below is a detailed interview I conducted with the Premier of local Kobane Canton Anwar Moslem about the dire situation in the region:
Moslem: International Community Should Support Kobane Against ISIS
Mutlu Civiroglu https://twitter.com/mutludc
Mr Anwar Moslem, Premier of Kobane Canton in Rojava, over the recent days, the ISIS has been waging remarkably severe attacks on Kobane and its surrounding villages. First of all, please give us the latest about what has been going on in Kobane?
Anwar Moslem: Yes, that’s right. It is almost a year a devastating war has been waging on Kobane in order to seize it. But since two days ago, they have been waging an unprecedented attack on Kobane from east, south, and west with the tanks, artilleries, and Humvees they had seized in Mosul. They have been doing their very best to make Kobane give up. They have an intention of committing a massacre in Kobane like how they made people of Shengal flee, how they were massacred, how women were seized and enslaved, how kids were killed; the ISIS wants to inflict the same predicament upon Kobane. That’s why a remarkable resistance and bravery, led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), is being waged against those extremist forces. But unfortunately, their heavy weaponry have caused many problems for us. Our people’s resistance, however, has been noticeable until the moment we are having this conversation.
How long people of Kobane will be able to resist in front of those heavy weaponry shown on videos?
Anwar Moslem: Kobane’s resistance had been substantiated before, and it is going on again. They are using the very sophisticated and developed American weaponry e.g. tanks, Humvees, and long-range mortars they seized in Mosul. People of Kobane are saying, as they had frequently said before, “we will resist till the last one of us gets martyred.” Indeed, there has been a historic YPG resistance; it is not sufficient, though. They are in desperate need of an international support. Kobane Canton needs support of all Kurds living inside or outside Kurdistan. The situation is extremely dangerous. If something happens to Kobane, all those who claim they care about human rights and lives will be held accountable.
You pointed to an international support. A special meeting was held in Paris; The US president, Barack Obama, has released several speeches talking about a military operation against the ISIS. Have you ever received any assistance from these forces thus far? Or, have you had any meeting with them asking them to help you?
Anwar Moslem: I am afraid we have not received any assistance till this moment. Despite what had been agreed upon in Paris and the US president Obama’s emphasis upon the attack against the ISIS, nothing has been dispatched to us so far. We hope the international community and especially the USA, Russia, France, and the UK will get started with attacking the ISIS as soon as possible. The ISIS is growing so fast and if this trend does not stop, they will be too strong to be defeated by people; and, that’s when we will witness a huge, bloody massacre. We hope that those states will come to help us through attacking the ISIS as soon as possible.
There are some accusations spreading in Kurdish media based upon which Turkey has been helping the ISIS, and a train had been sent to the border carrying assistance to the ISIS. What do you have to say in this regard?
Anwar Moslem: Based on the intelligence we got two days before the breakout of the current war, trains full of forces and ammunition, which were passing by north of Kobane, had an-hour-and-ten-to-twenty-minute-long stops in these villages: Salib Qaran, Gire Sor, Moshrefat Ezzo. There are evidences, witnesses, and videos about this. What attracts one’s attention is why the ISIS is strong only in Kobane’s east? Why is it not strong neither in its south nor in west? Since these trains stopped in those villages located in east of Kobane, we guess they had brought ammunition and additional force for the ISIS.
Well, where are those videos? How can public opinion get access to them?
Anwar Moslem: Most of our witnesses are the ones forced to leave those villages. If news agencies come to the region, we will help them meet those IDPs. If members of international organizations come to visit Kobane, they will be able to meet all those who have seen the trains. To make trains stop in villages controlled by the ISIS persuades one that something wrong is going on.
There are many reports about a couple of villages seized by the ISIS. I want to know if there is a tactic to leave those villages or not. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the number of those villages is twenty. How many villages the YPG have lost so far, and what are the reasons for these losses?
Anwar Moslem: we know how barbaric the ISIS has attacked civilians in those villages. It has been shelling those villages in order to force residents leave their villages. According to the YPG, 15 villages have been left so far whereas the resistance is still going on. Those who have left their villages are afraid of the ISIS atrocious methods in treating civilians. That’s why, they have fled to Kobane. But a severe response will be waged soon.
How far the ISIS is from Kobane city?
Anwar Moslem: They are 25 to 30 kilometers far from Kobane.
You addressed the world community. What do you have to say to Kurds?
Anwar Moslem: Kobane is the manifestation of Kurds’ will. Kobane is a part of Rojava. Kobane is a part of Kurdistan. Kobane’s collapse is Kurdish people’s collapse. And, we do not want it to collapse. We are calling upon those from Kobane living outside to come back to Kobane, center of honor and bravery, in order to protect their own people. We are calling on all Kurdish people, especially those from Northern Kurdistan [Kurdistan of Turkey), to head towards Kobane and protect their own brothers and sisters again, like they had done it before.
We are calling upon Kurds of Eastern and Southern Kurdistan [Iranian and Iraqi Kurdistan] to come and participate in this resistance. Whoever of honor and conscience, based upon their opportunity, via demonstrations, via holding protests in front of embassies of those countries helping the ISIS, they can help Kobane. These activities will inspire our girls and boys in the battlefield.
Based upon some Kurdish news agencies, those from Kobane living outside and want to go back to Kobane are facing hardships in the border line by the Turkish authorities. Do you confirm these news?
Anwar Moslem: Yes, that’s right. It regularly happens. But our people from Northern Kurdistan will also join us despite the difficulties created by the Turkish authorities. Those who want to cross the border to Kobane, they can do it one way or another despite all those hardships. But Turkish authorities must realize that if the ISIS seizes Kobane, they will soon head to Turkey. Turkish officials must take this fact into account and help Kobane and let Kobane’s boys and girls cross the borders to their own city.
I want to know the number of casualties. How many YPG fighters have lost their lives? How many of the ISIS members have been killed? Yesterday, there were some news about the high number of the ISIS casualties in the Manbij Hospital. Give us some information in this regard, please.
Anwar Moslem: That’s right. YPG’s heroic resistance has inflicted a high number of casualties upon them, not only in Manbij but also in Tel Abyad as well. Today, some of their wounded members were crossed into Turkey in order to get cured. We have had 8 martyrs until this moment. But, tens of their members have been killed so far.
How can it be possible? I mean, despite all their heavy attacks, why the YPG’s casualties are not high?
Anwar Moslem: The ISIS wages attacks with high numbers upon a given place. And, the YPG members resist. Since they are in an offensive and we are in a defensive position, despite our light weaponry, we inflict high casualties upon them without having many martyrs. And, sometimes we do tactical withdrawals.
What about Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG’s) support. Have you ever received any assistance from the KRG?
Anwar Moslem: We hope to be heard by the KRG. We have not received any support up until now. But we are looking forward to receiving help from our brothers in Southern Kurdistan. They have already witnessed what happened to Ezidi Kurds in Shengal [Sinjar]. Let us not allow the same massacres to take place in Kobane. That’s why we hope people of Southern Kurdistan will join this campaign in defense of Kobane.
My last question is, as the president of Kobane Canton, you visit villages. I want to know about people’s spirit in Kobane and its surrounding villages.
Anwar Moslem: Despite the heavy war going on, people’s spirit is noticeably high. The vast majority of them say they will continue their resistance before they make these attacks fail. But unfortunately, there is a small number of people who are scared of ISIS atrocities. They want to leave Kobane but a whopping majority of people, including Arabs and Turkmens, have been resisting against the ISIS and their spirit is remarkably impressive.
Again, we are repeating our call upon international forces especially USA, UK and France and others to help Kobane against the ISIS whose only goal is to annihilate all dissident peoples and religions.
You can follow me on Twitter for updates from Kurds in Syria, Turkey and Iraq @mutludc
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Sipan Hemo is the commander-in-chief of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), perhaps the most organized fighting force in Syria. Based in predominantly Kurdish areas, which are known as Rojava, the YPG has fought Islamic groups for two years and is controlling security for the region.
In a wide-ranging interview, Hemo addressed the state of the current conflict in Syria and the rise of Islamic extremist militias in Iraq and Syria, which he claims is intertwined with global powers. Hemo also makes the case why YPG and the Kurds should receive US funding.
Rudaw: Mr. Hemo, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which you have fought for a long time, has received a lot of international attention since they took Mosul. What are your thoughts on ISIS as an organization and its attacks in Iraq?
Sipan Hemo: To understand the latest attacks by ISIS in Iraq, you have to understand the background as well. ISIS was shaped by some powers about a year and a half ago to carry out their plans in Syria. ISIS isn’t a random Al-Qaeda organization. We have intelligence on them. There are documents that we acquired. There are also the statements taken from members we captured. When we put all these pieces together, we reached to the conclusion that ISIS was directed under the command of some intelligence services and their agents to implement the policies of certain states in Syria. The most recent developments, as well as what occurred earlier, prove that our theory is correct.
A city like Mosul or some other cities in Iraq aren’t the types of places that a group can take overnight. It’s clear there have been preparations underway for a long time. There are various forces behind these preparations and behind those who launched these attacks. It’s impossible for a city like Mosul to fall under a group’s control without the intelligence apparatuses of international powers knowing it’s happening. Thousands of armed people get together, transfer their heavy artillery and move forward to attack a city like Mosul. It’s illogical that no one was aware of this. Mosul and Kirkuk constitute only one part of these attacks. These are attempts to divide the region in a different way. These are attempts to turn people, cultures, societies, beliefs and groups against each other. These are the attempts to drag the Middle East into a civil war — to have fighting and to create a quagmire. This will serve the interests of international powers, beginning with the arms trade.
To understand the latest attacks by ISIS in Iraq, you have to understand the background as well. ISIS was shaped by some powers about a year and a half ago to carry out their plans in Syria.
We, as YPG, fought in battles with Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) against ISIS gangs in the town of Rabia (on the Syrian-Iraqi border) and in some places near Shangal (Iraq). It doesn’t matter whether it’s Rojava, Mosul or Kirkuk: if required, we YPG, are prepared to use our experience and abilities with our people in the south to fight along the same front against these gangs — this so-called ISIS — to protect our land and victories.
Returning to the subject of ISIS, what seems clear from their actions on the ground is that this organization is at the service of several intelligence agencies and it acts in accordance with their interests. Specifically, there are some western countries — along with the Turkish state on one side and Iran, Iraq and Syria on the other — that have their own plans and calculations over ISIS. In a way, ISIS was merely turning itself into a stick made of fire and everybody was willing to use this stick against one another. They were taking steps in this direction. In other words, these intelligence services have attempted to use this cruel, terrorist structure — created by those who don’t know anything about humanity, leave alone civil law — against one another and against the people in the region.
Rudaw: Is it possible that the ISIS is also using some of the states that support them?
Sipan Hemo: Of course! By standing out with its shrewdness, ISIS has taken advantage of the intelligence services of these countries in a very cunning way in order to establish its own rule all around the region. For example, it’s been almost two years since ISIS began atrociously attacking the Kurds in Rojava. Why has ISIS been attacking or has been made to attack the Kurds? This is because ISIS knew very well that only when it was done attacking the Kurds it could have binding ties with the Turkish intelligence service. And indeed it happened this way because through our fight against them on the ground, we could uncover their true intentions. When they fought us, ISIS was using Turkey’s borders without the objecting of Turkish army and authorities; they were treating all of their wounded militants in Turkish hospitals. Some may say this is an allegation. However, we have official documents in our hands backing what I am saying. One of the ISIS commanders in our captivity said he was treated at Ceylanpinar Public Hospital for nine days.
In reality, if it weren’t for the YPG and the Kurdish people’s struggle against ISIS over the last two years, ISIS would have done the same in northern Syria as what it’s done in Iraq the past few (weeks). They’ve done what they’ve done in Iraq to pave the way for a deep sectarian conflict. ISIS’s success in Iraq certainly isn’t normal. I can sincerely say that there’s no other power in the world that knows as much about ISIS as we do, and ISIS alone — without the backing of other powers — doesn’t have the capacity to take Mosul and capture areas as far as Samara. Can you believe that in just an hour and a half every government official in Mosul surrendered and gave away Mosul?
In reality, if it weren’t for the YPG and the Kurdish people’s struggle against ISIS over the last two years, ISIS would have done the same in northern Syria as what it’s done in Iraq the past few (weeks).
I want to state my views without lending credence to conspiracy theories: Iran, Iraq and Syria are parts of this plan. On the other hand, Turkey and other powers that are working together were also aware of this plan; they even took part in it in one way or another. Iran believes that the more the Middle East is dragged into a quagmire and chaos, the better their chances of protecting their own interests. This is because the western nations’ plans for the Middle East make their job extremely difficult. At the same time, Iran has the dream of uniting and protecting the Shia. In other words, Iran is trying to build sovereignty over the crescent of Shia from Iran all the way through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This dream can only be possible via the deepening of a sectarian conflict.
Rudaw: Where does Turkey stand in this picture that you are describing?
Sipan Hemo: There’s no doubt that Turkey has several distinct calculations. In its effort to assimilate and suppress the Kurds, and its policies of denial, Turkey won’t stop at anything to sabotage Kurdish gains. Turkey itself has always stated that it hasn’t given up its dreams for Mosul and Kirkuk. For this reason, Turkey instructed its special fighting units in Mosul not to fight, but to negotiate. The same instructions were also given to the soldiers protecting the Suleiman Shah Tomb in Kobane. By working with ISIS, Turkey has, for a long time, been changing and renewing her forces at Suleiman Shah Tomb. Turkey hasn’t ever felt uncomfortable about this, nor has any global power.
Of course what I’m saying isn’t valid for the people of Turkey. Innocently, and without being aware of the policies that their government implemented, they’ve been dragged into a catastrophe. I am sure that the people of Turkey aren’t at all happy about this. Unfortunately, however, those powers in Turkey who adopted this unsuccessful policy made Turkey a partner in these dirty games as well. The fact that ISIS is still holding hostage the Turkish diplomatic staff (at the consulate in Mosul) and Turkey’s truck drivers is a plan of Turkish state. The Turkey that we know shouldn’t have acted so passively in this kind of a situation! What happened to the phrase, “A Turk is worth the world!” What has changed? Now so many people from Turkey are in the hands of the gangs but they’re acting so passively. This means that there are things that are organized behind “closed doors.”
If America and other western countries really want democracy and foster the development of democracy in the region then they should acknowledge Kurds.
Rudaw: There are serious discussions in Washington about arming a “moderate” Syrian opposition. What do you think of this? Who are the “moderate opposition?”
Sipan Hemo: Supporting the moderate opposition is among the policies discussed in the US. Isn’t it too late for this? Why has it taken so long? The conflict in Syria is in its fourth year. Firstly, the US should think about what its support for the Syrian opposition has accomplished so far.
Furthermore, whom has the US supported so far if it’s now deciding to support the moderate opposition? This is also a question that comes to mind. As far as we know, the US and western countries have supported certain groups in Syria since 2001. This is nothing new. Maybe they’ve just now realized that their policies over the last three years were wrong.
I have information that the US has promised to support some groups it has contacted via its intelligence chief in Jordan. If the US sees them as “moderate,” then we need to ask what “moderate” means. If the US is serious about this statement, then the Kurds and YPG deserve this support the most. As a matter of fact, I can state that the Kurds are ready in all respects to play a pioneering role for democracy in Syria.
Supporting the moderate opposition is among the policies discussed in the US. Isn’t it too late for this? Why has it taken so long?
We, the Kurds in Rojava, have faced all kinds of attacks over the last four years. We’ve been involved in a relentless war against (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad’s regime forces, against groups supported by outside powers, and against groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda, in areas stretching all the way from Afrin to the Jazira region. Al-Qaeda groups have taken control of all of northern Syria except the Kurdish areas. This is a huge victory not only for the Kurds but also for the western world.
We, as the official military forces of Rojava, have stated that we’re prepared to fight ISIS in Mosul. At this point, I’d like to state first to President Barak Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, and then to the people of America: If they don’t want the situation in the Middle East to descend further into chaos, then Washington absolutely needs to change its policy toward the Kurds. This is because the policies thus far haven’t done much to help anyone. Unfortunately, the US to this day hasn’t yet explained where the Kurds in Syria stand politically and what kind of role they play for democracy in Syria. I’d just like to say this: If the goal truly is for democracy to come to the Middle East, and if the moderate forces in Syria are going to be supported, the Kurds are prepared for this and are the ones who deserve it the most.
Rudaw: Your successes against ISIS and other radical Islamic groups have garnered a lot of global media coverage. What do you think of the world’s assessment of YPG? Do you have ties with global powers?
Sipan Hemo: Indeed, YPG’s founding pre-dates the revolution in Syria. Specifically, when the attacks against the Kurdish people in Qamishli (Syria) occurred in 2004, there was a secret decision to create defense apparatuses. Some work was done at that time. So these defense units were created before the revolution in Syria.
However, when the Arab Spring began in Syria, in order to set the Kurdish regions free and to protect the Kurdish victories, YPG started to take action and has been doing so since 2011.
First, on July 19, 2012, we led the effort to drive enemies out of the Kurdish regions, and then we continued to struggle to preserve this victory. Later, YPG declared that it would stand against any threat to the Kurds. YPG declared that it would respond to everyone, regardless of who they might be, if they don’t accept the existence of the Kurds; if they want to overshadow Kurdish victories; and if they plot against the Kurds or make other plans. We’ve been struggling against these kinds of threats to today. We wanted to stay away from politics, or, in a sense, we didn’t want to be involved in a political argument. We’ve been operating according to this principle.
YPG declared that it would respond to everyone, regardless of who they might be, if they don’t accept the existence of the Kurds.
With regard to your question, I’ll pose a question as well: have Kurdish politics been able to change our position to a diplomatic one? Unfortunately, no! Kurdish politics has fallen short in this regard. There are some different reasons behind this. For example, the global powers haven’t understood the politics in Rojava, nor have they decided yet how to deal with it. They also want to make it possible for the central government to do what they want. However, the politics harbored in Rojava aren’t in line with what the world powers want.
Rudaw: Has there been any change recently in the worldview about the YPG? I ask this because in some panels and conferences in Washington, the YPG is being mentioned frequently, especially your successes against ISIS and radical groups.
Sipan Hemo: If America and other western countries really want democracy and foster the development of democracy in the region then they should acknowledge Kurds. Today, in the Middle East, besides the Kurds, there is no other organized force to support democracy. The force that is both sophisticated and has the potential to bring everyone together is this force to which I refer.
If America and west really want democracy, they should build a close and firm relationship with the Kurds. Solving the Kurdish issue will put the global powers in a better and stronger position both in Rojava and anywhere else in the Middle East. This is because the Kurds aren’t imposing their own borders on anyone, and they aren’t isolating themselves from anyone. They talk about democracy. This means they talk about collectivity. The pro-democracy dialogue means they want to work with various groups.
There is a war here, and why is this war is being fought against us? This means we have views that don’t conform to those of radical Islamic groups. Regardless of their intentions, what’s happening in Rojava meshes with the west’s interests as well. One should consider whether they’d be better off if a regime like the (current) one survives in Syria or if there’s the kind of government that the Kurds want. The west’s interests weren’t being met until a cooperative system was formed in south Kurdistan, which shows that the Kurds are more in line with diversity and democracy.
In this Interview with Rudaw, Polat Can, Head of the Information Center of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), says that Islamist groups are attacking from many fronts in order to include the Kurdish areas in their proposed Islamic state.
However, says Can, the YPG has withstood the attacks and killed hundreds of fighters from these groups. According to Can, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is waging its war on Rojava with the support of the Syrian regime.
First of all, can you tell us of the latest situation of the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), especially around Kobane (Ain al-Arab) and other towns?
Polat Can: As you know there have been fierce clashes between the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) and ISIS gangs. Their purpose is to occupy the Kobane Canton and putting an end to the freedom Kurdish people are enjoying in Rojava. They wanted to include Kobane into their Islamic state. That is why they launched broad attacks against Kobane from the east, west and south. They attack us with the support of the Assad regime, and also Turkey is turning a blind eye. However, thanks to the heroic resistance of the YPG and people of Kobane, the intensive attacks of the ISIS were repelled and they were defeated.
During those attacks the ISIS suffered more than 400 causalities some of whom were senior leaders. In clashes around Girkendal, Ashme and Dilkino villages as well as the town of Sirrin, ISIS gangs suffered big losses, and could not reach their strategic goal which was separating the Kobane Canton from Jazira and Efrin Cantons. In order to isolate Kobane and prevent the YPG from receiving reinforcements from other regions, those gangs wanted to open another front in Jazira in Tirbespi (Qahtaniya), Derik (Malikiyah), Jaz’a and Sarekaniye (Ras al-Ain). In Jaz’a our forces killed number of senior ISIS commanders of the Hasakah region including Abu Maria, Abu Yousef, Abu Ma’az al-Ansari, Abu Faruq Omar al-Turki.
They attack us with the support of the Assad regime, and also Turkey is turning a blind eye.
Also, on the Sarekaniye front, they suffered severe casualties. They wanted to attack some villages—that the YPG had previously liberated—to open a new front there, and prevent the YPG from advancing towards Kobane. As a result, they launched a huge attack on Manajir and Tal Khanzir Xinzir regions. Not only did the YPG successfully repel their attacks, we also liberated some more villages. The ISIS’s intense attacks against Rojava were defeated by the YPG and I can clearly say that Kurdish people’s resistance has gained a strategic victory.
You said that over 400 ISIS members were killed by the YPG. Some say that this number is exaggerated. Did you really kill that many ISIS members?
Polat Can: It is our principle to avoiding exaggeration or misinformation. When a comrade gets martyred, we declare it publicly. We will openly announce the true number of our losses and publish their photos. We hold official public funerals for our martyrs. As for the mercenary groups we kill, we decided not to publish any pictures of their dead bodies. But, if any media wants to see those photos, we are willing to share the photos we have with press. Besides, the ISIS and others also announce the death of their members on their websites and via Facebook and Twitter. They also publish pictures of their own casualties through the Internet. There is certainly no exaggeration in our figures.
I want to remind you that these mercenary groups came to Kobane from other regions such as from Latakia, Idlib, Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, and Raqqah. They come from a wide range of countries including Chechnya, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Libya, Tunisia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. So, the figure of 440 is not an exaggeration. It is precise and certain.
What about YPG losses?
Polat Can: In these clashes 35 of our comrades got martyred. We declared them all with their names and pictures. Our martyrs are the children of the people of this region. Their deaths are publicly known and cannot in any way be hidden.
You mentioned that ISIS members come from other regions to fight the YPG with the help of the Assad regime. Some experts are not convinced that Assad is supporting the ISIS. Also, there is a common notion that Turkey is no longer actively supporting extremist groups as it used to. How do you comment on these two points?
They come from a wide range of countries including Chechnya, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Libya, Tunisia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
Polat Can: We should, first, look at who is benefiting from those attacks against Rojava? The answer is the ISIS and the Syrian regime. The Assad regime does not want the Kurds to make any advances. As you know, numerous units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were defeated by the ISIS. These days, many FSA fighters have taken refuge in the Kurdish regions. In many fronts the YPG and FSA forces are fighting side by side against extremists. It is not in the regime’s interests that Kurds are powerful and that Rojava remains safe. Furthermore, the regime wants to play Kurds and the FSA-related groups off against each other. We have some certain intelligence in this regard.
It has been several months since the ISIS forces have not fired a shot against the regime forces. Plus, regime warplanes have bombed so many civilians in Aleppo, Idlib, Homs and other places, yet not raided any of the ISIS military bases. The public should know that most of the ISIS fighters attacking us came from Deir ez-Zor, Shaddadeh, and Markadeh, passing through Kawkar Mountain in Hasakah. If the regime forces wanted, they could have easily shelled and exterminated them all. But, they did not.
As for Turkey, the leaked tapes of [Ahmet] Davutoglu and other Turkish officials revealed their plan to invade and occupy Rojava. What the ISIS is doing serves Turkey. Ankara thinks it is not in its interests that its neighboring Kurds establish their own government, make progresses, and run their own affairs. They continuously use a negative rhetoric against us. Besides, Turkish soldiers, sometimes, evacuate their border outposts to let ISIS pass through and attack Kurdish villages. We have proof in our hands about this.
Now, on the border between Rojava and Iraqi Kurdistan, some trenches are being dug and some demonstrations are being held against it. However, the Kurdistan Democrat Party (KDP) officials say that the trenches are to prevent terrorists from crossing into the Kurdistan Region. How do you comment on this statement? What do you think these are trenches for?
Polat Can: Those trenches are disgrace! After the Sykes–Picot Agreement was signed and Kurdistan was partitioned into four parts, no trenches were dug. Between the state of Syria and Turkey there were no trenches dug. They planted mines and fenced the borders. Similarly, even when the Baath regimes in Iraq and Syria were on worst terms, they did not dig any trenches; they had just raised the soil on the border.
Today in the Jazira Canton, there is a Kurdish administration. On the other side, there is another Kurdish administration. It is a pity that the KDP is building such a thing. KDP’s statements about these trenches are not convincing at all. On the Rojava side of the border, there are YPG forces, so the border is protected. Until now, no one has ever witnessed any terrorists crossing into Zakho from Derik! Such statements are baseless allegations. Terrorists they are talking about use Sunni Arab regions while crossing the border!
In the region where trenches are dug, poor Kurdish villagers cross the border in order to buy some basic needs such as food, medicine, gasoline and necessary stuff. Digging these trenches is a political decision which aims at deepening the existing embargo and further isolating Rojava.
My last question is about YPG’s call for support against the ISIS attacks, and reactions to this call. It was widely reported in the media that people have actively responded to your call, but what about the political parties, especially those who are in the Syrian Kurdish National Council (SKNC)?
Polat Can: First of all, I would like to mention that Murat Karayilan made an appeal in Newroz and asked the Kurdish youth from Northern Kurdistan (Bakur) to support Rojava. We want to thank him for that stance. Many Kurdish parties from Northern Kurdistan and other parts made statements in support of Rojava, but not much in terms of direct help. But, many youth from northern, southern, and eastern parts of Kurdistan arrived Rojava, and they are now active within the YPG ranks.
On the Rojava side of the border, there are YPG forces, so the border is protected.
From the North, especially from Urfa some youth joined YPG. People in Kobane and Urfa belong to same tribes and they are relatives. Also, the proximity makes it easier for the youth of Urfa to cross to Rojava. Some grab their guns and cross from their villages into Kobane villages and fight with us. Some others support us by bringing medicine and other things. The Kurdish people have shown their support for Rojava and responded positively to our call and stood with us.
What about political parties?
Polat Can: The stance of political parties in Kobane or their regional organizations in Kobane was brave and deserves appreciation. Many party members joined the resistance although their parties did not have central decisions on this. The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (PYDKS) which is a KNC member positively responded to our call for support. Party leader Mohieddine Sheik Ali’s call was very meaningful when he asked his party members to actively support the YPG and defend Kobane. Jamal Sheikh Baqi’s Kurdish Democratic Party also actively responded to our call. Their members are currently fighting with us. Some members of the KNC parties were disappointed that their party headquarters were insensitive to the attacks against Kobane. This was the case with the Al-Party whose members left the party and KNC and joined the resistance. Such decisions clearly showed that, not only we were disappointed about the stance of the KNC to the recent events, but that their own members were disappointed too.
We want everyone to know that the YPG is the protector of Rojava, and the success of Rojava is the success of all four parts of Kurdistan. With the help of our people we are sure that we will succeed.
A delegation from New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) visited Syria’s Kurdish regions, or Rojava, last week, where the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has declared a Kurdish autonomous government with the help of its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
In an important and detailed interview with Rudaw Fred Abrahams, a special advisor to HRW who was part of the delegation, spoke about whether the autonomous government declared by the PYD is truly inclusive as claimed, if local authorities are observing human rights, the status of women, the PYD’s legal reforms and its relations with the regime of Syria’s President Bashar Assad. Abrahams said that the greatest challenge for the PYD is transitioning “from a movement — an opposition group — into a governing body, or into creating authorities, systems and structures that would represent everyone.”
Q: What was the main purpose of your visit to Rojava?
Fred Abrahams: The main purpose was to acquaint ourselves with the situation because it was our first time in the area. We had never been to the Kurdish regions. Certainly, we needed to get up to speed on the conditions during this latest conflict. So this was an opportunity for us to see conditions on the ground and to engage with the local actors who, as you know, are now establishing local governing structures and an administration in Rojava. They are essentially, as you know, the de facto authority on the ground both militarily, meaning the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, and politically Democratic Union Party. The main message we have for them, the overarching message is that when you are the local authority, even de facto authority, then with that comes legal responsibilities.
As you know, there are international standards for human rights that you are obliged to respect. We wanted to, first of all, see how they are doing in that regard, talk to them about those obligations, document the conditions, and discuss with the local authorities ways to improve them.
Q: What did you find?
Fred Abrahams: There are some positives and some negatives. Good thing, first of all, is that the security situation in the far northeast is much, much better than in most parts of Syria. Now, this is not to say that the security situation is very good up there. It is not good. But, it is to say how horrible it is in other parts of Syria, which we know. Compared to other parts of the country, then, the security situation is relatively stable. Of course, there are still car bomb attacks and other violent incidences, and fighting, of course, on the periphery.
In terms of the human rights condition, we noticed a number of areas that are problematic. We talked about them very directly with the authorities. One of the first areas is what I would call political pluralism and respecting free expression and political activity. I think one of the overarching issues is for the PYD and Democratic Society Movement (TEV-DEM) transitioning from an opposition group — an armed resistance — into a governing structure that is representing all the citizens and all the residents in the area, and that means respecting different views, allowing political activity and allowing all different media. It means freedom of association.
There is, what I would say, still high intolerance for different political activities. There is some improvement of course. First of all, we were only in Jazira (Hasakah province), which is important to know. We could not go, for security reasons, to Kobani (Ain al-Arab) or Afrin. In Jazira we do not have now reports on political prisoners, so that is good. I think that is an improvement. There were some releases after the last agreement in Erbil. But we do have some indications that there may be still some in Afrin. It is very difficult to say — just because you are a political activist with the Kurdish Democratic Party of Syria (PDKS) or Kurdish Union Party in Syria (Yekiti) or another party does not mean that you are necessarily a political prisoner.
Q: Politicians and local officials in the region claim that when some people are arrested because of criminal activities, they try to use a “political activist” label to prevent prosecution. Did you come across this?
Fred Abrahams: Yes, I think that is right. Look, it is very easy to scream about a political attack and try to score a political point. So, that is why we have to investigate these cases and see — just because you are a member of an opposition party, it does not mean that you can violate the law.
The issue that we have is not if you are an opposition member, but did they respect the process of the law? That is the area that we saw a problem. For example, to be concrete with you, one of the problems we saw is that the local authorities are trying to change their laws. They are applying a combination of Syrian law, some other laws of some countries and what they are calling the social contract — basically the constitutional document they have implemented.
The problem is that there is a huge confusion among legal experts, among lawyers, among judges — and even and especially among prisoners — about what law is being applied. If it is not clear what laws are applied, it could open the door for abuse or arbitrary application of those laws. I think that is a big problem!
One of the things we suggested to them was, look, we know that the Syrian law has a lot of problems. There are many aspects of the Syrian law that violates international human rights standards, especially discrimination against Kurds — that is obvious. So you do not need to take the aspects of the law that are in violation of human rights. But most of the Syrian law, it is fine. I can say maybe 90 percent, 95 percent of it is fine, when you are talking about normal crimes — theft, even murder.
These are standard laws that, I believe, Syrian laws were taken from the French penal code. Now it is not the time to open the door of legal reform. The country is in a war, the political situation is not stable. The court system — they are revamping and changing the judicial system and now on the top of that you want to open a question of new laws! We think it is too soon. You can change laws in the future, but now it is not the time to open this question. Rather than making fast changes, this should be done step-by-step.
Q: How was the reaction of the authorities? Were they open to your suggestions? Fred Abrahams: It was mixed. Let me put it this way: There was some understanding of that, and there was also a strong defense of the project — an ideological defense. I think this approach comes from the tradition of the movement, and that is what I am talking about by shifting from a movement to a governing structure. Those are different characters. Some people would agree with that.
We visited two prisons, and I give them credit for opening the doors for those prisons — I want to acknowledge the cooperation we had to visit those prisons. The conditions of the prisons were basically good. I mean, you know, it is a prison in Syria — it is not a place you want to be. But we did not find an evidence of serious problems. Prisoners said they were treated well. They had enough food, they did not complain about physical violence and so on. But we did notice a problem because we interviewed a number of people who were arrested and released. There is definitely a problem of violence at the time of arrest. This is a tradition of the Syrian system, which relies on forced confessions and this is typical in the region! I understand that a part of the problem is that they do not have a professional police — it is not like they have Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) or forensic laboratory for a professional police investigation over there!
However, it is illegal! Beatings at the time of interrogationis against the social contract (regional constitution); it is even against Syrian law and it is against international standards. But it is happening! We talked about it with them. We said very directly that we think it is happening, and I will tell you that they did not deny it. They said, ‘Look, this is our transition. We have to do better, learn, improve,’ and so on. That is fine. I agree with that. But it is not an excuse. So we are going to press on that — they can do better.
The other issue we looked at is child soldiers. First of all, the regulations of both YPG and Asayish (Kurdish police forces) prohibit the use of children under the age of 18.
Q: Did they not sign the Geneva Convention a few months ago?
Fred Abrahams: No, but what happened was a couple of things. First of all, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey signed a public commitment not to use child soldiers with an organization called Geneva Call about a year ago. YPG is now in conversation with Geneva Call to do the same thing. Now, in addition to that, in December 2013, YPG released an order to all members that they cannot accept any person under the age of 18. All of that is very positive and welcome. But we have documented that the problem is continuing. I believe it is getting better. I believe they have stopped using younger children. For example, you do not see young kids at checkpoints. Before, there were even kids as young as 12 years old seen by others in previous trip to Rojava. But after the order, I do not think it is happening now. I think they have stopped that. But we have definitely documented cases still under the age of 18. We have gotten some 17 and maybe 16.
Q: How are they justifying the use of children under the age of 18?
Fred Abrahams:The way they are justifying is that, ‘These people are volunteers. These kids want to contribute to the cause and they won’t go home.’ It is actually true — we spoke with the mother of one kid. She said that they pulled the kid out, and the kid ran back. Because he is 17 and wants to fight or he wants to be a part of the movement. That is fine, but the idea is that a commander should not have accepted the kid. It is the order that if you are not 18, the kid can do a political, media or humanitarian work. But you are not supposed to be a part of hostilities until the age of 18. So this is still a problem. We think that, frankly, they can do better. It is not that difficult since they are well organized. If they want to stop it, they can stop. We think they should do it.
Q: Did you observe any other problems?
Fred Abrahams:There are two other things we have looked at: One is the attacks by terrorist groups, Islamist groups — there was a car bomb attack on a local official, Abdulkerim Omar. We met with Omar and he was not hurt, but another man was killed. We met with his family — he was a father of five kids and he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. So obviously, these are serious human rights violations committed by different Islamist groups or terrorist groups.
The other issue is the borders. I learned that the local government agreed with the Iraqi government to open the Tel Kocer (Yarubiya) border. This is an excellent news! I am not sure how much can get through Yarubiya because of the security situation on the Iraqi side, but it is certainly a positive step. I do not know what impact it would have on humanitarian conditions. As you know Turkey basically kept the borders closed. We found out that Turkey opens the (Senyurt) border with Dirbesiye once a month, and the last time was February 5. Kurds in Turkey collect aid and then just deliver it into Rojava once a month through this gate. But, you know, once a month is completely inadequate!
Q: As Human Rights Watch, have you requested the Turkish government to open the borders more frequently?
Fred Abrahams: Absolutely, we already have. We understand the politics of this, but the problem is that the politics are making people suffer. We believe the borders should be opened for the aid and aid is certainly needed in the region. People are not starving but there is a real shortage of essential foods and essential medicines. For example, baby milk is in short supply. If you have any chronic diseases, diabetes, then you are really in trouble. It is very difficult to get these basic medicines, and it is Turkey to blame for keeping some of these medicines out.
Q: I was in Rojava in October and witnessed the same things that you are describing. So, unfortunately people are going through similar situation?
Fred Abrahams: Yes, no question! There is a very tricky issue of the border at Fishkabor. Frankly, I think that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) can do more to help the flow of the aid coming in. I also know that all of this is a result of the messy politics. It is a real shame that people are not able to get what they urgently require! I noticed that there was a bridge, a pontoon bridge, across the river that is now dismantled and is not functioning. We believe the KRG can do more. They can do more to let aid in. Some is getting in — it is not completely closed — but it is not enough.
Q: Similarly, have you also contacted the KRG to do more about the situation?
Fred Abrahams: Yes, absolutely. We have already said that and I have said it in some interviews. We think that both Turkey and the KRG should put the politics aside and help people in need. Closing the borders is making the situation worse.
Q: What did you observe about the situation of women in general?
Fred Abrahams:The most obvious answer to this question is the women fighters in YPG and Asayesh the stated commitment to gender equality in the TEV-DEM project. Frankly, as a concept it is incredibly welcome and very refreshing, which is so different from other countries and other areas in the region. However, I think it is not as deep rooted as it is presented to be. In other words, there is as you know a man and a woman in the head of all institutions. They set a 40 percent quota for women in different institutions. But the leading authorities are still tending to be men. So it is an improvement, but I would not say the equality they claim it to be.
In terms of other women’s rights, I am afraid that we did not have time to investigate questions of, for example, domestic violence or sexual violence. We were only there for five days.
Q: How is the situation of minorities such as Christians?
Fred Abrahams:It is a very good question, and it is also a topic for our next trip. We simply did not have time to visit any of the Syriac communities or others, and we have to do that. Look, I have to tell you one thing: All the authorities in Rojava are making a strong statement by including other groups and other parties. Frankly speaking, I think that is true and that is welcome. But, in my opinion, PYD is clearly the dominant political force. I want to come back to an overarching issue which is the PYD’s ability to transition or to evolve from a movement — an opposition group — into a governing body, or into creating authorities, systems, and structures that would represent everyone. That is going to be a process.
Q: Is there any organization that offers trainings and workshops for the authorities in Rojava for this transitional process? Are the authorities open to such trainings?
Fred Abrahams: I only know of one group that is doing something. It is a legal group called “Kurdish Center for Studies & Legal Consultancy” also known as YASA. It is an organization with Kurdish lawyers based in Europe, and they have gone to provide some legal training. So my understanding is that they, the Kurdish authorities in Rojava, are open to it. I mean, they do want to improve. The question and challenge is going to be whether the PYD and the YPG is going to create an atmosphere of openness, tolerance, and cooperation among parties, and will it allow a space for other political groups and ideas. I think the sustainability of their projects depends on that. That sounds like a political statement, but it is not! I am talking from a human rights perspective that needs cultivating an atmosphere of inclusion and consultation, tolerating different views and different activities.
Q: I heard you were also investigating the Amuda incidents. Is that true?
Fred Abrahams:Yes, that is true. We also visited Amuda, and we are still in the process of examining all the evidence. We do have concerns about possible excessive use of force, but we have to examine the specifics to determine whether there was any force used against the fighters. YPG claimed that one of their fighters died. The counterclaim is that this guy died in the fighting at Hasakah and did not die at all in the protest. We have to examine materials given to us. We have not yet reached our conclusions. But we will look at it and hopefully have something to say on that.
Q: Your trip to region came after the announcement of the local autonomy in the region. What do you want to say about that?
Fred Abrahams:I think PYD is playing a very strong role in the autonomy. I do not think anybody would deny that. In my view, they play more of a role than they think they would admit — that is not as pluralistic as the administration claims. But it is also true that it is not only PYD. And there are other parties as well. So again, I come back to my main point: Will it really become an administration that is for governing and not for ruling — those are two different things. I would say the PYD is the strongest force on the ground — that is quite clear. And their influence is the strongest within the governing structure.
Q: Finally, what about the Assad regime’s presence in Rojava. I know in Qamishli there is a certain regime presence. What was your take on Assad’s power in Kurdish towns?
Fred Abrahams: The Assad forces and the government is basically present in three places in Qamishli: One is in the center so they call it kind of ‘security square,’ you know, the center of town. I think that also includes some Arab neighborhoods. The second is on the Turkish border at the border crossing. The third is at the airport. The airport is important — the UN World Food Program, they airlifted in some humanitarian aid a few weeks ago through this airport. Kurdish authorities told us that they did not see any, any ounce of that — no grain or rice! So, all of the aid was distributed elsewhere. I assume to the government controlled areas, but I do not know for sure. But it definitely did not go to the Kurdish areas! So the regime is there, but as you know, there is an agreement or accommodation so the Asayish forces and the government forces are sometimes passing each other in the street, and they tolerate each other, or there is an agreement, obviously, in an accommodation to allow each other’s presence. But that is a current agreement that they have.
Q: What would be the reason for such an agreement?
Fred Abrahams:To me, it is quite clear that, at this moment, they have no interest in clashing with each other except their common enemy, namely the Islamist forces. So there is a mutual understanding of an agreement to tolerate one another rather than clash. But, how long that would last is unpredictable. I think it would hold so long as their common enemy.
Q: Finally, have you been told about human rights violations and atrocities committed by jihadist militants?
Fred Abrahams: Yes, the first thing is attacks because they are indiscriminate and many times it causes civilian deaths. But then, of course, kidnapping of civilians, which are still occasionally happening — in the past it happened a lot. And finally the maltreatment of fighters who were captured. I saw reports — horrible killings and the beheading of four YPG fighters recently, I think, it was in Afrin. That is an extreme violation of war crime. You know, you have to treat prisoners of war humanely. The last thing I would say is that we did not visit Ras al-Ain or Serekaniye, but I know in that town they complain about looting of a hospital. When the Islamist forces were in the town, they stole all medical equipment from a hospital. That is, of course, a serious violation. It was a civilian hospital and they are still suffering from that, having to buy, import equipment.