ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The town of Kobani in Syrian Kurdistan is not Kurdish, and thus should not be under the control of groups which Ankara calls “terrorists,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday told Chatham House, a British think-tank.
Kobani, a center of some 40,000 pre-war population, came to worldwide prominence when Kurdish forces there resisted a months-long Islamic State (IS) siege that resulted in their victory with the help of the US-led Coalition, handing the self-declared Caliphate its first major defeat in early 2015.
“The area called Ayn al-Arab or Kobani is under the control of PYD-YPG terrorists. As the name suggests, Ayn al-Arab is not a Kurdish region. In fact, Ayn al-Arab is ‘the eye of the Arab,’ that is, the Arabs are actually owners of this settlement,” Erdogan declared in front of an audience in London.
Kobani is the name Kurds use, whereas Ayn al-Arab, the official name the Syrian Arab Republic designates for it, refers among the locals to a water spring east of the town and it means "spring of Arabs."
During its campaign to fully capture Kobani, IS made up in their online media publications the name “Ayn al-Islam,” meaning “spring of Islam.”
“Kobani is on the verge of falling,” Erdogan had said in front of thousands of Syrian Arab refugees at a camp in southern Turkey in late 2014 at the height of the IS assault.
YPG or the People’s Protection Units is the armed wing of the PYD (Democratic Union Party), the ruling faction of the de facto Kurdish-led autonomy, militarily backed by Washington in the war on IS.
Turkey claims they do not represent the Kurds while at the same time Erdogan frequently draws ethnic lines when it comes to areas Syrian Kurds liberated from IS.
The Turkish President similarly denounced Kurdish rule in Afrin, a region west of Kobani, alleging that it belonged to Arabs as his army earlier this year launched an invasion with intense air and land assaults.
“We shall give Afrin back to its rightful owners,” he repeated on various occasions about the region Ottomans used to call “Mount of the Kurds.”
Kurdish officials in Turkey and Syria say Erdogan is engaging in ethnic cleansing against the Kurds, to change the demographics of the area.
Since its capture of Afrin, Turkey has been actively facilitating a settlement policy of Sunni Arab civilians displaced from Damascus and armed Islamist groups in the center of Afrin and its agriculturally rich countryside.
The US says Turkey and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxies do not allow some 140,000 local people to return to their homes and villages there.
“We have an unprecedented level of good relations with our Kurdish citizens and those in Syria,” Erdogan told BBC’s Hard Talk before embarking on his UK trip.
Ankara has also threatened to push the YPG, the US, and French forces out of Manbij, another flashpoint between Kobani and Afrin, on the grounds its majority is Arabs and should be ruled by FSA.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany