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YPG Commander Sipan Hemo: ‘Give Us Real Support’

A Kurdish fighter from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) fires towards Syrian government forces inside a building in the majority-Kurdish Sheikh Maqsud district of Aleppo, on April 21, 2013. Photo: AFP
A Kurdish fighter from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) fires towards Syrian government forces inside a building in the majority-Kurdish Sheikh Maqsud district of Aleppo, on April 21, 2013. Photo: AFP


Sipan Hemo, commander of the Kurdish Peoples Defence Units (YPG) in Syria, says that attacks by extremist Islamist groups against the Kurdish areas of Syria have not ceased in the past two months, but that his forces have repelled the attacks and defeated the jihadists. He said in an interview with Rudaw that, despite the exodus of refugees from Syrian Kurdistan, “80 percent of the people have not gone anywhere and are supporting the YPG.” Hemo said that Kurds in Turkey should dramatically increase their political support for Syrian Kurds in their struggle for self-rule. “Showing affection or pity for us does not work,” he said. Hemo added that leaders in the Kurdistan Region should also – once and for all – declare how they feel about “the Kurdish revolution in Rojava.” Here is an edited transcript of the interview:

Rudaw: You last spoke to our newspaper in July, what has been happening since then in the Kurdish areas?

Sipan Hemo: The Islamist groups plan to attack the Kurdish region in new ways, such as suicide attacks. They have threatened the Kurds with suicide attacks and they have attempted 18 suicide attacks but failed. The YPG has checkpoints and has tried to prevent such attacks. War has never been a priority for Kurds, yet the attacks forced us to take up arms. These radical groups are the affiliates of foreign forces, and they cannot tolerate Kurds gaining power. These attacks are targeting the Kurdish gains. 

  These radical groups are the affiliates of foreign forces, and they cannot tolerate Kurds gaining power. These attacks are targeting the Kurdish gains.   


Rudaw: Despite your efforts to confront these groups, how long do you think these attacks will continue?

Sipan Hemo: Some of them are trying to end the fighting in some areas. But groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) insist on staging attacks. We will never let them into the Kurdish region, no matter how insistent they may be. But if they insist on continuing their attacks, it is they who will suffer, not us! The source of our power is the support of the people, and we trust ourselves, too. With that support and confidence we can counter anything. We have paid a high price and we have had martyrs for the last 64 days, but we did not let anyone cross our region. On the contrary, we have expanded our defence field in Derik and Serekaniye. They tried to defeat us in Aleppo, but did not succeed. They even keep away from our forces. In short, we are better off both in tactical and military skills. 

Rudaw: Some argue that people do not support you as they did before, and that most people are said to be fleeing to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Sipan Hemo: As you all know, the war in Syria and the struggle for revolution took longer than expected and people suffered a lot. There is an economic crisis, health problems, people cannot get treatment. For all of these reasons people tried to survive and find new ways. Migration is one of these ways. Some people migrated to north (Turkish) Kurdistan, and some to south (Iraqi) Kurdistan. We cannot tell these people not to leave. For instance, children need immunization and here we are out of vaccines. When a person comes and says that his child will have a stroke without vaccines and you cannot provide vaccines, there is not much left to say. We cannot oppose migration related to these kinds of problems. There are also some who migrate for business reasons. Yet, 80 percent of the people have not gone anywhere and are supporting the YPG. If people weren’t left here we would not exist. YPG is the people itself.

Rudaw: In our last interview you said that Turkey was not an enemy and that you wanted to improve relations with Ankara. Have you seen any change in Turkey's attitude? Do you think Ankara continues to support radical groups?

  These radical jihadists come from Turkey. Even if they come from other countries, they enter Syria through Turkey.   


Sipan Hemo: Unfortunately, the attitude of Turkish officials on that matter is very negative. They might think their current stance will benefit them in the future, but their stance will have huge negative results. These radical jihadists come from Turkey. Even if they come from other countries, they enter Syria through Turkey. They have direct connection with them, and they operate together. We know that during the clashes in Kobane these forces brought ammunition from Turkey. These groups have even met with the Turkish Intelligence Agency (MIT) several times.  It is with Turkey’s support that these forces fight with us, and that reflects the position of the Turkish state very clearly. The Turkish people should not accept this and should react.

Rudaw: Turkey does not accept your allegations. Also, why do you think it supports such groups, for what purpose?

Sipan Hemo: A war between Kurds and Islamists would be in Turkey's interest. Turkey has relations with the EU and US. For that reason it cannot accept these allegations. If Turkey accepts them, this would harm its international interests. But if the USA wants it can send experts and ascertain these allegations. These radical groups cross the Middle East through Turkey. Who could think that these radical groups cross Syria without the information of the MIT and the Turkish military? Everyone knows that without the knowledge of these two, even a bird cannot fly over the border. We have seen these radical groups get treated in Turkish hospitals. If they really want to know this, they can go to Ceylanpinar and see with their own eyes. Most of the radical Islamists are treated in this city. If this is not a proof of support, what other proof could I put forward to prove these facts? Maybe the whole world sees that Turkey helps these radical groups, but they all keep quiet.

Rudaw: Does Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) get any support from Kurds in Turkey?

Sipan Hemo: Kurds in Turkey tried to provide humanitarian aid such as food, vaccine, medicine. But I really think that north Kurdistan should approach Rojava in a revolutionary sense. Furthermore, the attacks in Rojava were staged from north Kurdistan by these radical Islamist forces. For instance, these groups had meetings in Gaziantep where they planned to attack Afrin. Could they not find just four people to go and protest in front of the hotel where they had these meetings? We find the reactions and approaches of north Kurdistan to Rojava inadequate. The support they provided does not go beyond humanitarian aid. They have been inadequate in demonstrating a revolutionary and political support. You can provide humanitarian aid to any people, but the support that you give to brothers and sisters in Rojava should have been different and from heart. They can support us in every field, and they should increase their political support. Showing affection or pity for us does not work.

 I really think that north Kurdistan should approach Rojava in a revolutionary sense. 


Rudaw: What would you say about the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)?

Sipan Hemo: I would like to thank our people in south Kurdistan. From the very beginning they have pursued a positive approach towards our revolution. Yet, Kurdistan officials have also pursued politics in their interest, similar to Turkish officials. I said that before -- when clashes took place in Afrin – the Kurdistan Regional Government closed the border crossing. We could not even pass a wounded child through the gate. The Turks kept all border gates open for the (Jabhat)  al-Nusra front and such radical groups. The Kurdistan government's attitude was very wrong and inflicted harm. Unfortunately, this attitude still continues. We would like to know this: What do Kurdish officials really think about the Kurdish revolution in Rojava? I have never heard any clear statement. Sometimes, we hear some positive statements, but only on a personal level which has no effect. I really ask them, what do Kurdish officials think politically of Rojava? There are times that they act very negatively towards our military units. 

Rudaw: Recently, there has been more news in the American press about the presence of al-Qaeda in Syria. And retired former CIA deputy director Mike Morell has said that the biggest threat against America’s national security is al-Qaeda in Syria. What do you think about this?

Sipan Hemo: In our view, the United States has responsibilities towards us and the region. America has been fighting al-Qaeda for many years now. Yet, what we have achieved against al-Qaeda is much more than the United States has done. Of course, we do not fight with these groups for America. We fight against these people for the sake of humanity and ourselves, as we see these groups being a threat to humanity and enlightenment. America has responsibilities on that matter and should fulfill these responsibilities. The American people face the same threats that we face at the hands of these radical Islamist groups. American people should be concerned about Kurds in Syria. Just in the way that these radical Islamist jihadists attacked America on 9/11, they tried a similar attempt to attack us. I cannot see a difference between the attack on the Twin Towers and an attack on Serekaniye. It is the same violence.



Simko | 24/9/2013
Sipan is right in all what he says.It is the truth coming from the mouth of a hero defending his people and his land. America is tolerating and approving Alcaida in Syria on behalf of its Saudi and Turkish clients. The US stance was never dictated by any morale,but by abomimnable connivance with dictators,teocrats,autocrats enemies of peace loving peoples like the Kurds.The same US supprted and armed dictator Sadam in his infamous genocide campaigne in the decade of 1980 with massive use of chemical weapons against defenceless Kurds.Perhaps this is why the Ameircan leaders do not mention this crime at all when they speak now about the CW use in Syria.They avoid any mention to Halabja or to the Kurds altogether as taboo.They bear responsabilty for what happens to the Kurds and they think that they can afford this because the Kurds are voiceless.Of course they do have good knowledge that Turkey supports and helps actively Alcaida against the Kurds.The heroical performance of our Kurdish fighters is by now attaining epical dimensions ,and it is indeed too strange and rare to the Amereican leaders mindset and low standerds in this respect to appreciate. Dear Sipan and all Kurdish héroes: United we will defeat all our enemies. Our strengh is our unity.My message for the Kurdish government in the South is to assume its sacred obligations towards Rojaava; it is there where the Kurdish true Independence will be achieved and Kurdistán will reach the Mediteranean sea. From the Kurdish government we expect all the necessary help and president Barzany must now honour his promise of some months ago. Dear Mr.President: you are now called on to meet your historical obligations towards your nation .God bless the Kurds.
Herdem Kurdman | 24/9/2013
One leader of our northern kurds has a dream to rebuild the big Ottoman empire with turks once again.Additionally a great quantity of kurdish Population in northern Kurdistan and in Turkey collaborate with turks.And turks and Turkey,you know give their all Support to al nusra terrorists.They arms them,supply with recruits,train and medicate them.Whole the world sees that,including the kurds in the North. But I have still said.Our Northern leaders and their Military Forces have a dream to rebuild the new Ottoman empire! And an american proverb says;Truth is stranger than fiction. If Sipan Hemo and PYD-YPG approaches to KRG,I´think their struggle gets Support, All kurdish side in western Kurdistan must be constructive to each other,and they must absolutely avoid to be elements of a Proxy war. Other wise they will have got a dream as Ocalan has it now.
Karda | 25/9/2013
Sipan Hemo accuses KRG of not being clear about Syrian Kurdistan. Yet we know that president Barzani put forward a clear vision of federalism for post-Assad Syria, which PYD countered with their own "local administration", and he went out of his ways in uniting the Kurdish forces in the Hawler Agreement, which PYD did not honour. So, the problem has been PYD's double-play and insincere policies - not to mention their hostility towards other Kurdish forces to the degree of murder. Of course, all these are a result of PYD's relationship with the Assad regime, which PYD cunningly promoted as the "third way". We all know that PYD has been a part of an unholy alliance and serves the goals of that alliance that go contrary to the interests of Kurdish nation. What PYD needs to do, (if it is it's own master, which is doubtful) is to break upp with past partners and join the Kurdish alliance and together with them push for a federal Syria, in which Syrian Kurdistan is secured. Sipan Hemo complains about the Kurds of northern Kurdistan (Turkey) but also there there's their brother-party BDP, who makes the exact same treacherous "mistakes" as them in not clearly defining Kurdish self-rule and in attempting to suppress Kurdish sentiments and political forces. Even in northern Kurdistan the federalist politics needs to be developed and adopted and that requires that the PKK, the mother of both PYD and BDP, needs to get rid of the none-Kurdish and anti-Kurdistani elements of it's discourse and politics.
idris gurkan bakur | 25/10/2013
kurd have no right to fight with each other. all kurds needs to support each other. i dont understand that why president close borders for PYDs leader Salih Muslim. we cant do same wrongs
Yana | 2/11/2013
That is right,Kurdistan won't expel the remaining Jews but we have to know there is no setuciry for them,the Jihadist groups are working actively and secretly in Kurdistan.The most important point the remaining Jews can not claim their Jewishness because the former Iraqi regime ordered to collect and burn the entire Jewish documents and ID (yellow identity cards) of the Kurds so that no kurdish Jews can go to Israel or claim their Jewishness.Even though this the reality of the case,where is the Jewish Agency to help the remaining Jews in Kurdistan?.I think it is better they travel to Israel,here in Kurdistan they can not claim any thing from the Kurdish government.they(Jews) can not publicly talk or do anything.I suggest the israeli government will take them back so that they will be safe.Dr.Shvan is right,there was a TV program on Channel 10 and Sara Hatan has found her family in Erbil while they have not seen each other for more than 50 years.
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