Category Archives: Kurds

Another wall in the Middle East

The Turkish-Syrian border: another wall in the Middle East

Erdoğan’s visit to Moscow has clarified the status of Russo-Turkish relations. Russia does not want to open up a “front” with the US in Syria, by opposing the new Syria Kurdish US-sponsored government (PYD) . Therefore, despite the Turkish president’s pleas, the PYD office in Moscow will remain open, and cooperation between Russia and the Syrian Kurds continue. This cooperation came to light when evidence was uncovered that the YPG, the armed militia of the PYD, was using Russian satellite imagery to plan its military campaigns.

Turkish-Russian relations, on the other, have actually blossomed, and have reached the point that Erdoğan is even considering buying S-400 systems for Turkish air defence. The core of the two countries’ fast growing commercial relations centers on the building of the Turkstream pipeline through Turkey to Europe for Gazprom to avoid using Ukraine to transit its gas. However, when the Turkish army set about organising to assert its claim over the town of Manbij, where the YPG is ensconced, thus broadening its ‘safe’ region in Syria , Russia forestalled the move. It quickly brokered an agreement between the Syrian régime and the PYD to install régime forces in the path of Turkey forces, across the villages on Manbij’s western front.

It thus becomes clear that the region now dominated by Turkey and its rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), from A’zaz to el-Bab and across to Jarablus, is considered by Russia to be a sufficient concession to Turkish demands to secure its borders with Syria. Russia, on the other hand, seems to be happy with Turkey’s relationship with the Ukrainian government in Kiev, recently consolidated by a visa-free travel agreement between the two Black Sea neighbours, despite Russia’s problems with Kiev.

Meanwhile, Turkey is building a massive wall along its southeastern border to separate it from the new Syrian Kurdish cantons. Turkey is nevertheless allied with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) led by Mahmoud Barzani and the Rojava Peshmerga forces, which are the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish National Council (ENKS). The ENKS is the umbrella group for Kurdish political parties in north Syria, excepting for the PKK terrorist organization’s Syrian political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD). Despite the visit of  an ENKS delegation to Washington, which aimed at highlighting the PYD administration’s oppression of other Kurdish political groups in northern Syria, the Pentagon seems to be firmly wedded to the PYD for its Northern Syrian strategy.

The left’s love affair with the Kurds

Byron in Albanian dress

Byron in Albanian dress

Ali Murat Yel writes

Individuals nowadays tend to think that current nation-states have existed since antiquity. For example, modern Greece as a state is less than 200 years old, since its independence in 1832. People only read in history books that Greece was a vassal territory of the Ottoman Empire and it took almost a decade to gain its sovereignty in the 19th century.

Again, many also tend to ignore the fact that it was not the Greeks themselves but an Englishman who helped start, or rather triggered the fire of independence among the Greek subjects of the empire.

Lord Byron, a famous personality in Britain at the time, galvanised support for the Greek cause among a group of authors, artists, scholars and travellers who were called Philhellenes (admirers of Greek) in Europe to restore or rather to regenerate the spirit of Ancient Greece. The motive of these individuals was understandable as they were educated on the “virtues of Greeks” living in ancient times such as democracy, state formation, art for the sake of art, and history.

Notwithstanding their view of modern Greeks as degenerate slaves, they still hoped upon gaining freedom they could revive the classical heritage as their roots. They were influential in rising sympathy for the Greek cause.

The emergence of Daesh was another source of sympathy, this time, for the Kurdish militiamen who are allegedly fighting against this terrorist organisation. Having failed in previous attempts in the Gulf wars, the United States and European powers are relatively reluctant to be engaged in the wars that erupted in the region.

Instead of sending land troops, they preferred to support the Kurdish militants by providing them with air cover, arms and other materials. Having become the new ally of the West, the Kurdish militias became the “new Greeks of the Middle East”.

We witnessed a similar trend in the international support for Iraq’s Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, who have also been fighting Daesh. This has led to general international sympathy toward Kurdish militants, regardless of the abuses they commit against fellow Kurds, or civilians of other ethnicities such as Arabs or Turkmens.

These Kurdish militiamen have their own agendas and the temporary fight against Daesh is not their main long-term objective. The West does not even care that these militiamen do not really represent the Kurds or that many Kurdish civilians are themselves afraid of or have fallen victim to such warlords.

In the 1930s, hundreds of European leftists joined “voluntary brigades” to fight for the republicans in the Spanish civil war. Today, however, the self-proclaimed anti-war left did not indulge in such a military campaign. Instead, some individual volunteers joined the “good guys” to defeat the “bad guys” in the war zone. It is estimated that some 100 westerners (European, Australian, and American) have joined the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

These Western foreign fighters may have different motivations than that of Lord Byron in Greece, or George Orwell in the Spanish civil war. Yet some of them, especially those coming from Britain, have changed their Facebook profile to pictures of Lord Byron wearing Albanian dress. They could be considered simply as adventurers but nonetheless they are trying to push their governments to be further involved in a war. Ironically, many in the self-described pro-peace left have unleashed themselves as war advocates if it is the right (i.e. Kurdish) war.

Similarly, Lord Byron and his Philhellene friends had eventually managed to attract the attention of European powers in support of the Greek independence revolution.

Today’s Western fighters are indifferent to the plight of the marginalised Muslim youth in their host societies, whose reality is more complex than the comprehension of the ideological warriors.

During the Spanish civil war, the foreign fighters who initially came to Spain to fight Fascist Franco ended up slaughtering each other instead and further destroying the country that they were meant to save. Today, by siding with Kurdish militias, they are helping in the terrorising of innocent civilians in the region – which includes Turkey.

Western help to Syrian Kurdish militias will end up shedding Turkish blood at the hands of militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the southeast of Turkey – a country which is already fighting and being attacked by Daesh terror.

World public opinion may differentiate between Kurdish militias and Daesh militants but to the victims of both in the region terror is terror. Western distinctions would not make their lives any better.

These newly emerging “Philkurds” will continue to support any Kurdish militia as their governments embark on new attempts to refashion the Sykes-Picot carve-up of the region. But they all seem to forget that this is a small world: sooner or later the mess you make in the Middle East will rebound to haunt you at home.

Those who are used by the West don’t always do better: just ask the Greeks following their financial crisis.

Yel is Professor of Anthropology at Mamara University

published on

Russia working hard to undermine the Turkish position in Kurdistan

The close relationship between the Iraqi Kurdistani (KRG) and the Turkish government over the past 10 years has been the plank upon which Iraqi Kurdistan has grown, whereas the rest of Iraq’s economy has shrunk through mismanagement and corruption. The importance of the relationship was underscored by Turkey giving Barzani a head of state welcome in Ankara this week.

Accusations of untoward Turkish involvement on Iraqi territory, because of the presence of 400 Turkish troops which are providing services to Kurdistani Pershmerga forces, have been stoked by Russia. This is part of a policy of retaliation for the downing of its fighter jet, although the forces have been there all along with the agreement of, not only the KRG regional government, but of the leaders of the Sunni tribes who are trying to retake Mosul from DAESH/IS. The Baghdad government had given its assent, but not it writing. So its it withdrawing it under Russian-Iranian pressure.

Nouri al-Maliki has meanwhile called on the Popular Mobilisation Force militias to “be prepared and vigilant for the confrontation of enemy’s plans”. He also urged the Iraqi people to “stage protests on Saturday to reject the Turkish presence in Iraq as a response to all those trying to violate the land and sovereignty of Iraq,” which is another way of inviting the Shia militias that have so far divided Iraq to attack Turkish positions. It is worth noting that it was under al-Maliki that DAESH grew considerably, and that many fighters escaped from the prisons around Baghdad to form its leadership. It has never been clear whether Iran and, as a result, the Shia government of Baghdad has not encouraged the growth of DAESH/IS in order to consolidate plans for a greater Iran. This tactric was used during the 2003 Gulf War when Qasim Suleimani trained al-Qaeda fighters to fight against the US.

The US State Department press room was recently the scene of some interesting polemics over the question of the Turkish presence between an RT reporter and the State Dept spokesman.


So What about the PKK and the YPG in the current situation?

The PKK established the PYD in 2003, and since then, the Syrian group has been deferential to the leadership and ideology of its Turkish parent. Turkey understandably considers the PYD to be a terrorist movement like the PKK.

If Moscow has reportedly encouraged the YPG to unite the Kobane/Jazira and Afrin cantons to create a continuous belt of Kurdish controlled territory on Turkey’s border, then the PKK by extension will be considered a Russian client and peace within Turkey will be exceptionally difficult.


Furthermore, consider the PKK’s actions within Turkey over the past two years:

March 21, 2013: Abdullah Öcalan made his first call for the disarmament of the PKK.

May 7, 2013: Murat Karayılan declared that the PKK would withdraw all of its forces from Turkey.

July 2, 2013: the PKK attacked police stations in Lice, Diyarbakır.

Sept. 9, 2013: Cemil Bayık was elected as the head of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK). In his first statement, he hinted at the restart of terrorist attacks.

Sept. 30, 2013: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a comprehensive democratization package. The PKK responded by announcing the formation of a new urban youth militia called the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H).

March 21, 2014: Öcalan made another call on the PKK to disarm. His message was read in both Turkish and Kurdish in Diyarbakır.

June 1, 2014: a Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) delegation went to meet Öcalan. The month of June saw numerous terrorist attacks by the PKK, killing soldiers and civilians.

Oct. 8, 2014: HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş called for street protests on the pretext of Kobani despite the fact Turkey allowed the Iraqi peshmerga to enter the city and accepted over 190,000 residents to the country. Demirtaş’s call led to the death of 50 people and polarized the society again. The opposition parties attacked the government for being too soft on the PKK.

Dec. 20, 2014: Cemil Bayık said “disarmament means death” for the PKK.

Feb. 28, 2015: Öcalan made another call on the KCK/PKK to disarm. In April and May of 2015, the PKK attacked security forces in eastern and southeastern cities, terrorized people before the June 7 elections, blocked roads, collected money by force, burned vehicles, attacked dams and threatened anyone who did not follow their orders. After the terrorist attack in Suruç on July 20, which left 33 people dead, the PKK intensified its terrorist attacks and declared open war. In September and October of this year, the PKK carried out tens of attacks on security officers and civilians across the country.