Leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Salih Muslim.
Salih Muslim, head of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, says that clashes between his group and jihadi fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda have been on the rise, and appeals to the United States and Europe to understand that they are all facing a common enemy in the Syrian civil war. Muslim recently paid an important visit to Turkey, which has remained deeply suspicious of the PYD for its affiliation with Turkey’s own separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). He believes that visit may open doors with negotiations with Washington, which so far has remained silent over media reports of Kurdish massacres by jihadi extremists. Here is an edited transcript of his interview with Rudaw:
Rudaw: The American media have covered the fight between Syrian Kurds and the Islamist al-Nusrah front, but the US administration has remained silent. What do you think about this?
The jihadi groups do not target only Kurds, but also Assyrians, Armenians and other ethnic and religious minorities.
Salih Muslim: The jihadi groups do not target only Kurds, but also Assyrians, Armenians and other ethnic and religious minorities. But it is only Kurds that are fighting against these jihadist groups in Syria. We fight with them for ourselves and for protecting our people. These attacks are continuing since the beginning of this year, but have been expanding recently. We have so far defeated them and we are fighting to prevent them from controlling new regions. I want the American public and the entire world to know that we are trying to stop these jihadist groups, and we want them to stand with us. These people attack innocent civilians and kill children, women and old people simply because they are Kurds. They issue fatwas that raping Kurdish women and looting their properties is legitimate, after you kill their husbands. This is what happened in Tal Abyad recently. In the Tal Arn and Tal Hasel towns of Aleppo tens of innocent Kurds, most of them children, were massacred. Also, hundreds of other civilians are being kept as hostages by these groups, and their fate is still unknown. This horrible mentality and these heartless crimes should be seen and condemned by everybody. Unfortunately, the United States and Europe have not done anything yet! Russia has recently been very vocal about the vicious crimes against us, but the US and Europe have not even condemned atrocities against civilian Kurds! Why are they ignoring attacks of these al-Qaeda related jihadists? We have so many injured and wounded people who need medicine, but they do not even send us humanitarian aid! Everybody in Syria received international aid, but not us, the Kurds! On the contrary, we are under an embargo from all around and we are trying to live under dire circumstances. We call upon the international community to hear our voice and show their solidarity and support for Kurdish people.
Rudaw: Recently, CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell told the Wall Street Journal that al-Qaeda extremism and civil war in Syria pose the greatest threat to US national security. Even though you are fighting the same groups, why do you think the US remains silent?
Russia has recently been very vocal about the vicious crimes against us, but the US and Europe have not even condemned atrocities against civilian Kurds!
Salih Muslim: In my opinion there are some who do not want to see that it is in the interest of Americans to meet with Kurds and get to know them better. As the chairman of the PYD, I have applied twice for a visa to travel to the United States, but they did yet not respond to my request. I wanted to go there so that I can tell American officials about our views, and inform them about the situation in Kurdistan and the rest of Syria. It seems like some people are trying to keep Americans away from us for their own interest; unfortunately, some Rojava Kurds are among these people. Whether those people like it or not, it is we who are fighting against the Jabhat al- Nusrah and other jihadist groups, and trying to stop them. Honestly speaking, I do not know either why American officials are not willing to meet with us. This question needs to be directed to them and especially to those who are at the Syrian desk of the State Department, so that we all know what their problem with the PYD is.
Rudaw: Do you have any problems with or any animosity against the United States?
Salih Muslim: Not at all! Not now, not before! We have never had any animosity against America and the American people. Quite the opposite, we see our future in Western democracy, and we are trying to implement it in our own society. We are trying to apply Western values to our society and further develop our way of life.
Rudaw: After your visit to Turkey, are you expecting a positive shift from Washington? Some believed that the US did not want contact with you because of Turkey. Now that Turkey itself has hosted you, are you expecting an invitation from Washington?
We are trying to apply Western values to our society and further develop our way of life.
Salih Muslim: We also thought that because of Turkey’s reaction Americans were not willing to talk with us. After I went to Turkey I shared our views with Turkish officials and told them about our vision. Following our talks we have realized that we think similarly on many points. Some issues had been conveyed to them in a wrong way. In my opinion, those who did not want us to have any contact with Turkey are the same people who are trying to create animosity between the US and the PYD. Rather than hearing from others, it is best to directly talk to someone, because you will understand each other better and you will get the most accurate information. So, yes we are expecting an invitation from Washington to talk to them and tell them what we stand for and what we want.
Rudaw: What would you say to the American people?
Salih Muslim: The United States is the cradle of democracy and the American people support freedom for everyone. (US presidents) Franklin, Roosevelt and others are all known for their support for freedom. Today, we are struggling for our freedom, and we are not far from what American people stand for. When we think about freedom it is America that comes to our minds. There is no doubt that the interests of the American people are not contrary to ours. Those who attacked the American people are now invading our homes, and attacking Kurdish people. We want American people to stand with us in our fight against those who attacked them, and caused them deep grief.