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

 

Chris                                                    Marsha

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

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

Salih_Moslem

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

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Full text of the letter:

The Honorable John F. Kerry

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

Dear Secretary Kerry:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We appreciate your urgent consideration of this matter.

Sincerely,

Chris Van Hollen
Co-Chair
Kurdistan American Caucus

Marsha Blackburn
Co-Chair
Kurdistan American Caucus

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

Trenches Between KRG and Rojava

ImageThe issue of trenches on the border between Iraqi Kurdistan Region and Rojava has been one of the most important issues for the Kurds in last several weeks.

Barzani led Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) says these trenches are intended for preventing ISIS and other extremist groups from crossing the border. Yet, this notion has not convinced many.

Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG), who has successfully been fighting against ISIS and other radical groups, is strongly rejecting the idea that Islamic extremists ever use the region where trenches are dug. Democratic Union Party (PYD) also believes the trenches are dug by KDP to further deepen the ongoing embargo on Rojava, and punish the people for supporting the PYD.

In Iraqi Kurdistan Region there is generally a consensus among political parties against these trenches with the exception of KDP. Indeed, in regards to Rojava generally, Goran, PUK, Islamic parties and other smaller parties have a different view than KDP; they are more supportive of PYD and Cantons declared in three regions of Rojava. Since the KDP is the strongest party in Iraqi Kurdistan, and control much of the government, none of these parties really have power to stand against KDP’s policies.

Something certain about these trenches is that they have caused deep wounds in the conscious of many Kurds. Regardless of what political parties say, people commonly view these trenches as something further dividing them and legitimizing the borders which they never accepted. That is the reason for the strong reaction coming from Kurds living in different parts of the world against these ditches.

Finally, it should be noted that people in both sides of the trenches are close relatives that were divided by those borders. Despite those borders they continued visiting each other facing many difficulties. Now they fear that these trenches will separate them forever…