SDF has maintained its unity even in the face of Turkish occupation – US Middle East Analyst

Syrian Democratic Forces (North Press)

(North Press) – The Kurdish National Congress of North America (KNCNA), a nonprofit organization founded in 1988 focused on Kurdish rights and the attainment of an independent Kurdistan, held an online seminar on North and East Syria titled “Where’s Rojava Today?” on Saturday. The seminar’s panelists included Syrian Democratic Council Representative to the US Sinam Muhammad, Middle East Scholar Dr. Amy Austin Holmes, Rojava Activist and KNCNA Member Dr. Ihsan Efrini, and Kurdish Journalist and Analyst Mutlu Civiroglu.
The organization has been organizing conferences since 1988, and wanted to organize a conference in Washington, but “because of [coronavirus], we couldn’t go ahead, therefore we thought about a webinar,” Ihsan Efrini, a native of Afrin currently residing in Canada, told North Press. “In 2019, Rojava was trending, but it seems like people have forgotten the region. There is still a lot happening in the region that needs to be talked about,” he added about the need for such a conference to take place.
Sinam Muhammad opened the discussion by talking about the dissolution of the Syrian opposition and the invasion and occupation of her native Afrin. “Afrin was a painful moment not only for Afrinis, but for all people in Syria, and also Arabs. They felt that they were also under attack and worried about Turkish intervention in Syria, and this is what Turkey did [in Sere Kaniye and Tel Abyad].” Muhammad went on to discuss the completion of the first stage of the intra-Kurdish dialogue, stating, “It was so good that we reached an agreement together with the help of the United States, and I would like to thank Mr. William Roebuck this effort.” She added, “it is good for Kurdish parties to have unity…in order to have a stronger administration and stronger political solution to present to the future constitutional committee of Syria.”
Dr. Amy Holmes discussed several subjects, chief among them the unity of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as one of its key characteristics from which it draws its strength. “The SDF is a multi-ethnic force…and a multi-religious force, with Muslims, Christians, and Yezidis,” said Dr. Holmes, who previously completed a thorough and comprehensive study on the SDF in all regions of northeastern Syria.
“When Turkey invaded in October 2019…many people thought that the SDF would disintegrate, or that, for example, the Arabs in the SDF would defect – that they would go back to the regime with Assad, or that they would join Turkey…but really, nothing like that happened. There [were] no major defections within the SDF as the result of the Turkish intervention,” Holmes explained, later telling a personal anecdote about an Arab individual from Sere Kaniye who joined the SDF in 2015, as well as mentioning Kurds who joined the SDF to liberate Arab-majority areas such as Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. “The SDF has maintained its unity even in the face of this Turkish aggression,” she continued.
Mutlu Civiroglu further commented on the talks, saying that “the initiative has brought a very optimistic atmosphere to the region…[it] has caused happiness among the people: activists, local people, military people, and politicians.” Civiroglu also mentioned local concern about the Caesar Act, saying “the other major topic in the region was the Caesar Act, and its impacts on the region under the Syrian Democratic Council or Syrian Democratic Forces’ control – how will the region be protected?”
The seminar lasted around an hour and a half, with each panelist sharing their views and answering viewer’s questions in the end. Many topics, including the intra-Kurdish negotiations, entry of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq-based Rojava Peshmerga into Rojava, the Turkish occupations of Afrin, Serekaniye, and Tel Abyad, and the efforts and unity of the Syrian Democratic Forces, were discussed during the meeting.

 

Reporting by Lucas Chapman

https://npasyria.com/en/blog.php?id_blog=2860&sub_blog=12&name_blog=SDF%20has%20maintained%20its%20unity%20even%20in%20the%20face%20of%20Turkish%20occupation%20-%20US%20Middle%20East%20Analyst

CNN International: Mazlum Kobani ABD’ye gidiyor

CNN International’da yer alan habere göre, Suriye Demokratik Güçleri (DSG) Genel Komutanı Mazlum Kobani son gelişmeleri tartışmak üzere ABD’ye gidiyor.

CNN International: Mazlum Kobani ABD'ye gidiyor

Suriye Demokratik Güçleri (DSG) Genel Komutanı Mazlum Kobani’nin son gelişmeleri tartışmak üzere kısa süre içerisinde Washington’a geçebileceği bildirildi.

Mazlum Kobani birkaç gün önce ABD Başkanı Donald Trump ile de telefonla görüşmüştü.

Sözkonusu habere ilişkin ABD’de bulunan gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu ve gazeteci Aylina Kılıç kişisel sosyal medya hesabı Twitter’den paylaşımda bulundular.

 

Nerina Azad

Son dakika – SDG ile anlaşan Suriye ordusu Menbiç’e girdi, sırada Kobani var

Türkiye’nin Suriye’nin kuzeyine yönelik askerî harekâtının beşinci gününde Suriye ordusunun ana omurgasını YPG’nin oluşturduğu Suriye Demokratik Güçleri (SDG) ile anlaştığı öğrenildi. Bu anlaşma kapsamında Suriye ordusunun Menbiç’e girdiği duyuruldu. Suriye ordusunun bu gece de Kobani’ye gireceği belirtiliyor.

Menbiç yerel kaynakları Suriye ordusunun çeşitli bölgelerden kente doğru ilerlemeye başladığını aktarıyor.

Menbiç’e giren Suriye ordusundan ilk görüntüler geldi.

Fırat Bölgesi Savunma Komitesi Eşbaşkanı İsmet Şêx Hesen de Kuzey ve Doğu Suriye Özerk Yönetimi’nin Suriye rejimi ile anlaştığını açıkladı. Hesen “Rusya ve Suriye rejimiyle anlaştık. Bugün akşama kadar gelmeleri gerekiyor” dedi.

Mezopotamya Ajansı‘nın haberine göre Hesen “Elimizden geleni yapıyoruz. Bütün devletlere çağrıda bulunduk; ancak bir şey yapmadılar. Kendi derdimize derman olacağız. Yaralarımızı kendimiz saracağız” diye konuştu.

Gazeteci Mutlu Çiviroğlu da Kuzey ve Doğu Suriye Özerk Yönetimi’nin Şam yönetimi ile SDG’nin Suriye sınırını birlikte koruması konusunda anlaşmaya vardığını yazdı. Çiviroğlu, anlaşmanın Afrin de dahil tüm bölgelerin özgürlüğüne kavuşturulmasını da içerdiğini belirtti.

North Press Agency’nin haberine göre Suriye rejiminin Fırat Bölgesi Başkan Yardımcısı Mohammed Shaheen, SDG ile anlaşan Suriye ordusunun bugün Kobani bölgesine girmeye hazırlandığını duyurdu.

Kobani’deki SDG yetkilisi, Suriye hükümetiyle birkaç saat içinde Kobani’ye girmek için bir anlaşma yaptıklarını söyledi.

Gazeteci Aylina Kılıç da bölgedeki bazı yerel kaynakların SDG ile anlaştığını ve Suriye ordusunun Kobani’ye gireceğini bildirdiğini yazdı. Kılıç, “Aynı zamanda Minbiç için de bu yönde bir anlaşma olduğu belirtiliyor. Dün akşam ABD ile Rusya’nın Minbiç’te görüştüğü iddia edilmişti” dedi.

Kılıç anlaşamaya Rusya’nın dahil olduğuna dair haberlerin bulunduğunu belirtti.

https://ahvalnews.com/tr/firatin-dogusu/son-dakika-sdg-ile-anlasan-suriye-ordusu-menbice-girdi-sirada-kobani-var

Turkey military operation much larger than anticipated: Analysts

Tactic is to advance into Arab-majority areas and drive a wedge between YPG-controlled territory, observers say.

Arab and Kurdish civilians flee following Turkish bombardment in Syria's northeastern town of Ras al-Ain [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

Arab and Kurdish civilians flee following Turkish bombardment in Syria’s northeastern town of Ras al-Ain [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

 

The long-awaited operation launched by Turkey into northeastern Syria extended far beyond what was initially expected by military observers who predicted Ankara would likely embark on limited action.

In the first hours of Operation Peace Spring, Turkish air raids across the border reached as far as Qamishli in the east and further west of Kobane.

Mutlu Civiroglu, a Washington-based Middle East analyst, told Al Jazeera the scale of the attack surprised many analysts.

“They’ve already hit 300km length and 50km depth, almost all major cities are hit,” Civiroglu said.

Soner Cagaptay, Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s research programme director, told Al Jazeera Turkey’s assault at this point was focused on Arab-majority towns.

“I think that’s quite a smart choice for Ankara because of the fact that Turkish troops will be more welcome in Arab-majority areas, given how friendly Turkey has been towards the Arab population,” Cagaptay said.

He said Turkey will continue to drive a wedge between Kurdish-controlled territory as a strategy to undermine the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and weaken the political authority that controls the border region with Turkey.

The SDF is spearheaded by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers to be linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has operated inside Turkey for decades. The PKK has been branded a “terrorist” organisation by Turkey and several other countries.

Wednesday’s cross-border operation was not the first. Last year, Turkey launched a similar offensive dubbed Operation Olive Branch into Syria’s Afrin town to “clear the area of terrorists”.

The SDF, while not wanting to comment on specifics, told Al Jazeera it was reviewing Turkish military strategy during Olive Branch to map out a response to the current operation.

According to local activists on the ground, the number one target for Turkey is the Arab-majority town of Tal Abyad, where Ankara hopes to quickly establish a ground presence.

Turkish security analyst and former special forces soldier Necdet Ozcelik told Al Jazeera he expects the first phase of Turkey’s operation will only last about 10 days, or a couple of weeks maximum, with the goal to take control of the area between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain.

The offensive will also involve thousands of Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels providing ground support for Turkish commandos and its regular soldiers.

‘Under pressure’

Civiroglu said two scenarios were likely to unfold: Turkey intensifying ground operations, or the operation being halted because of condemnation from the international community.

“Trump is under pressure, the Turkish government is under pressure, the UN Security Council will meet today … The world is not buying arguments of the Turkish government,” he said.

“The SDF always wanted good relations [with Turkey] … Kurdish sympathy is very strong, that’s why there’s strong diplomatic efforts to put an end to this.”

The possibility remains that Syrian government forces of President Bashar al-Assad may try to capture the main city of Manbij, if the United States decides to withdraw its troops from there without giving early warning to the Turks.

“In this case, the Syrian army may try to capture Manbij before the Turkish forces or the FSA,” Ozcelik said.

“We might be seeing some sort of tension, or maybe limited confrontation, between the FSA elements and the Assad regime forces in Manbij area, but not in the eastern part.”

‘Turkish aggression’

The SDF responded to Turkey’s military action with artillery attacks and rockets fired into Turkish territory.

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said on Twitter the Kurdish fighters would not allow Turkish troops to advance further. “We will use all our possibilities against Turkish aggression,” he said.

Heavy fighting was taking place in Syrian border villages between advancing Turkish forces and SDF soldiers on Thursday.

Ozcelik said the Kurds were no match for the advancing Turkish-led forces.

“The YPG elements are composed of a lot of PKK ideology people, and they forcibly recruited many people who did not have serious military experience,” he said. “I’m expecting a lot of defections from the YPG side, so the Turkish military is going to take advantage of that.”

Robert Wesley of the Terrorism Research Initiative told Al Jazeera that Turkey will also suffer setbacks considering how vast the area is that it wants to control.

“It will require huge amounts of direct military engagement from the Turkish side,” Wesley said.

“The use of the FSA, that will also be limited [because] these groups are not really well-trained. They don’t have a strong track record with more sophisticated defences.”

Turkey may not have the appetite for sustaining significant casualties, Wesley said, which a serious military encounter with the SDF would necessitate.

“I don’t think either side is particularly well prepared for the engagement,” he said.

The biggest challenge for the SDF is not having a weapon system that can counter Turkish air attacks, Civiroglu said.

“[Even so] they have said they will defend themselves until the end,” he noted.

Russian reaction

Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned Ankara after the Turkish operation began to stress that Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected.

The Kremlin said it would not interfere further in Syria after years of supporting Assad’s forces against rebel groups, but cautioned Turkey not to take any steps that would destabilise the region.

Cagaptay said Moscow has no choice but to back Turkey’s move. “The most Russia will do is to voice support behind closed doors, even though they may publicly criticise the operation,” he said.

He said the Kremlin may even be welcoming Ankara’s military action. 

“The [Syrian] regime and Russia consider Turkey a threat, so by provoking Turkey to attack Kurds really Russia is hitting two birds with one,” Cagaptay said. “Hitting Kurds, trying to make Kurds dependent on Russia, at the same time allow Turkey to suppress the Kurds, not allow them to make gains.”

Even if Turkey is successful in securing its so-called “safe-zone” to return about two million Syrian refugees, there will be major challenges ahead, observers said.

The complex issue of containing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) fighters who are still active in the region must be addressed by Turkey.

As seen by the suicide attack claimed by the armed group in Raqqa on an SDF intelligence base, killing 13 people, ISIL may be defeated militarily but sleeper cells are still prevalent.

“It’s unfamiliar territory for Turkey,” Civiroglu said. “It’s Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Christians, and Yazidis of the region [who] fought these people.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/turkey-military-operation-larger-anticipated-analysts-191010054605380.html

‘A bloody conflict’: Trump’s actions in Syria will have long-term consequences

Kurds call it a stab in the back: chaos to come will have many participants

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

Citing an escalation of violence by Islamic State-affiliated women, supervisors at the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria are calling on the international community to find a solution for thousands of such women and children who are being held at the overcrowded refugee camp. VOA’s Mutlu Civiroglu reports from the al-Hol camp.

https://www.voanews.com/episode/local-officials-women-syrias-al-hol-camp-pose-security-risk-4047491

IS Foreign Women Smuggled Out in Northeastern Syria Camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Incidents

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Time Bomb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nisan Ahmado, Mutlu Civiroglu

https://www.voanews.com/extremism-watch/foreign-women-smuggled-out-northeastern-syria-camp