Kurds in the Rojava town of Jawadiyah march in support of Afrin on Thursday. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurds of Turkey will not accept a military intervention in Afrin, said veteran Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk in a recent interview, warning that the Kurdish population in Turkey and throughout the Middle East cannot be ignored.
“If Turkey enters Afrin, the problems will not be solved,” Ahmet Turk said in an interview with Germany’s DW media published on Wednesday.
“When you look at the Middle East, you will see that there are over 40 million Kurds. So who can eliminate Kurds with threats?” he asked.
Turkey has built up its forces around Rojava’s Afrin canton and threatened a full scale military operation if the Kurdish forces do not withdraw. Ankara maintains that the Kurdish groups in northern Syria, the political party PYD and the armed force YPG, are extensions of the PKK, a named terrorist organization.
Turkey’s leaders have repeatedly said they will not allow a “terror corridor” along its borders where Kurds have established a self-autonomous enclave in northern of Syria.
Ahmet Turk said that while Turkey may have had some legitimate grounds for military operations against the PKK, an attack on Afrin is not justified.
“In the past, Kurds accepted intervention of the state because PKK was leading an armed struggle, but now how will the Kurds accept intervention in Afrin? How can the people in Afrin harm Turkey? Will not civilians die when you attack Afrin with tanks?” he asked.
Turk pointed out that Turkey is home to some 25 million Kurds and said that an intervention in Afrin will cause a problem that will last for hundreds of years.
Turk, 75, has over 40 years of experience in politics and has been detained in Turkey for his activities. He told DW that it is not right for Turkey to cross a border and interfere in another country just because there are Kurds there.
Turkish officials argue that a military operation in Afrin would be an act of self-defence.
“Turkey is subject to attacks every day from Afrin. It is our right to self-defence in line with international law to take measures against a terror group surrounding us on three sides,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN Turk on Thursday.
He insisted that they would target the PYD, while taking precautions to avoid harming civilians and would provide humanitarian aid along with the military operation.
Turkey’s presidential spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalin, stressed the same line when speaking to reporters on Thursday.
Turkey is “protecting its own national security” and this is “definitely not a move against Syrian Kurds,” he said.
The United States called on all parties to remain focused on the war against ISIS. Asked about Turkey’s threats about an operation in Afrin, US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Thursday, “We would call on the Turks to not take any actions of that sort.”
The YPG reported that in the past week, one fighter was killed and a 10-year-old child was injured in attacks by Turkish forces. They also state that homes and farmer’s fields were damaged in shelling.
The Kurdish armed force reports that Turkish forces shell villages in Afrin on a daily basis. YPG forces have returned fire.
An image published by the YPG on Thursday of damage done by Turkish shelling in Afrin. Photo: YPG press office