Turkish army tanks manoeuver as Turkish Kurds watch over the Syrian town of Kobani.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Syrian Kurd working for a European human rights NGO told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Turkey’s military intervention in Syria is aimed at the Kurds, not Islamic State.
Dr. Kamal Sido, who works at the Middle East desk for the German human rights NGO, Society for Threatened Peoples, described a visit to his hometown of Afrin in February, part of a Kurdish area in northwestern Syria just northwest of Aleppo. The Afrin region, which lies near the Turkish border is isolated – surrounded on the north and west by the Turkish border and on the south and east by Islamist groups such as al-Qaida’s Nusra Front and other groups. Islamic State is located about 15km to the east of Afrin, he said.
On a visit to Israel, Sido said that Israelis tend to support the Kurds, but that they cannot help directly. “We need Israeli support in the Israeli media, from the Jewish lobby in the US and the EU for the Kurds,” he added.
Sido is upset with the Obama administration and asks how it can be cooperating with the Turkish military intervention in Kurdish areas in northern Syria. “Turkey is killing Kurdish fighters that are fighting against Islamic State!” he exclaimed. “Why is [US President Barack] Obama allowing this?” he asks.
“The Turkish war in Syria is against the Kurds and a phony war against Islamic State,” continued Sido. “Turkey has supported Islamist groups in Syria since the fighting started in 2011.” He noted that Turkey is supporting them elsewhere in the region, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia.
In Istanbul in February, non-Kurdish Syrian refugees told him that the Turkish authorities are actively supporting radical groups.
“Israel must support minorities like the Kurds and Druse that are not anti-Semitic,” he said, adding that if they do criticize Israel it is out of fear.
“My appeal to Israel and the Obama administration: You must stop [Turkish President] Erdogan’s war against the Kurds.”
Sido described his dangerous trip from the Turkish border with a Turkish Kurd driver and no bodyguards through 10km of Islamist rebel-held territory before arriving at Afrin.
He asserted that he checked with Kurdish contacts in Afrin about the safety of the route as the situation is in flux, changing daily. Another worry was that the Turkish authorities, who he claims is in regular contact with Islamist groups, would pass on his information to Syrian rebel groups.
“Once we saw [the People’s Protection Units] YPG Kurdish soldiers, I said hello in Kurdish and everything was okay,” he said.
Asked about the status of residents in the Kurdish region, Sido said that people are afraid and in need of water, medical supplies, and fuel.
Regarding the Syrian rebels, Sido says that real moderate secular rebels almost do not exist and that the rebels are dominated by various Islamist groups that are constantly forming and changing coalitions with each other, he explained.
The Kurdish YPG is cooperating with a moderate faction of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) known as Burkan al-Furat. Unfortunately, claimed Sido, Turkey is not supporting the FSA or secular opposition groups, but only Islamists.
“The US and the West have to support the Kurds and all of these real moderate groups,” he said.
Sido went on to say that the real moderate groups in Syria are tolerant of minorities such as the Kurds and would recognize Israel.
Tilman Zulch, the general secretary and founder of the NGO, Society for Threatened Peoples, told the Post that his organization since its founding in 1968 has supported the Kurds.
The NGO began with support of Kurdish leader Mulla Mustafa Barzani (father of current president of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani) against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.
Throughout the Arab world, besides Lebanon, the Kurds are the only ones to really establish a progressive kind of society, he said.
“Turkey is more or less supporting Islamic State and the Kurds are protecting minorities against it,” asserted Zulch, adding that Turkey is taking advantage of the Syrian situation to fight against the Kurds.
The German government should threaten to end normal NATO cooperation with Turkey, he said, as what it is doing “is unbearable and creating unrest and disorder, enlarging the problems.”