The YPG has been the main protection force in Rojava. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Ilham Ahmed, a co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council (MSD), disagreed that groups in Syria embracing Abdullah Ocalan’s ideology equates to belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in an interview with the Washington Kurdish Institute.
“When the people embrace Ocalan’s ideology, this does not mean that PYD [Democratic Union Party] is part of the PKK,” Ilham said in an interview published this week. “They are two different organizations, and each party has its own administrations and the decision-making bodies.”
Ocalan founded the PKK in 1978, participated in the 1980 Turkish coup d’etat, then sought refuge in Syria until 1998, from where he was expelled, and ultimately captured by Turkish authorities in 1999 in Kenya. The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union.
“In the 1980s, the PKK had a presence in Syria. Throughout those years, the founder of the PKK, Mr. Abdullah Ocalan, stayed in Syria and had constant communication with the various peoples of Syria including Arabs, Syriacs, and Kurds,” Ahmed added.
The MSD, established in 2015, is the political arm of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a multi-ethnic force primarily comprised of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The US-led coalition to defeat ISIS has relied heavily on the effectiveness of SDF ground fighters, including supplying Arab elements of the force with armored vehicles last month; whereas, Turkey views the YPG and PKK as one in the same.
Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated that he would support his troops continuing to back the Free Syrian Army (FSA) after al-Bab, turning 140 kilometers southeast to Raqqa, where SDF forces, supported by the US, have imposed a crescent-like siege on the city.
“There will be no stop after al-Bab. There might be a problem of communication there. The capital of Daesh is not al-Bab, but Raqqa. The ultimate goal is to cleanse a 5,000-square-km area,” Hurriyet Daily News reported Erdogan as saying, adding that Daesh [ISIS], the YPG, and PYD needed to be removed “from the region.”
The PYD, Democratic Union Party, is the dominant political party in northern Syria.
An American weekly magazine, The Nation, published an article this week which referenced YPG and PYD’s attempts to “Kurdify” parts of northern Syria through forced conscription, ideological indoctrination and the eviction of Arabs.
“A six-month investigation shows that the militia, reportedly under the strong influence of Iran and the Assad regime, has evicted Arabs from their homes at gunpoint starting in 2013 and subsequently has blown up, torched, or bulldozed their homes and villages,” the article stated.
YPG’s spokesman Redur Xelil dismissed the accusations on Tuesday in a 10-point response on Twitter claiming the group has freed more than 30,000 square-kilometers from ISIS, provided protection for hundreds of thousands unarmed civilians, and provided security for opposition and pro rallies.
Rudaw has reported on the four-month detention of eight Kurdish National Council (ENKS) by PYD officials in the YPG-controlled city of Qamishli, who were released last week due to “unsubstantiated evidence” after they failed to align with PYD doctrine.
The ENKS condemned the arrest of its members and accused the security forces in Rojava, known as Asayesh, of torture and mistreatment of the prisoners. The Asayesh has denied the allegations.
“They tied my hands and legs and beat me for three days. My health deteriorated while in Takana Prison but they did not allow a doctor to see me,” ENKS member Ghays Ismail told Rudaw after he was released.