QAMISHLO (Kurdistan 24) – A top Syrian Kurdish official has revealed several clues to explain the recent Turkish attacks on Syria’s northern region which the Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold.
In an exclusive interview with Kurdistan 24 on Saturday, Aldar Xelil, the Diplomatic Relations spokesperson for the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), the main council governing Syria’s predominantly Kurdish area (Rojava), spoke about the attitude of world powers, the reasons for Turkey’s attacks, the US stance, post-Islamic State (IS) fears, and talks with the Syrian regime.
ATTACKS ON EAST EUPHRATES
Xelil stressed that Turkey’s attitude and attacks on Rojava and its victories and recently on north Syria is nothing new.
“Since 2011, Turkey has established its policy and attitudes clearly toward Rojava, saying they should prevent the experience of Bashur [the Kurdistan Region], or what they call North Iraq, to be repeated in north Syria,” he said.
“Turkish leaders then said when Kurds in north Iraq started establishing their experience, it was Turkey’s big fault because it did not intervene, and today there is a Kurdish region.”
Xelil said Turkish officials fear if they do not interfere in northern Syria, another Kurdish entity may be established.
“Since then , Turkey is attacking us constantly, starting from the media and ending with the military attacks, especially during the Kobani battle when it reached its climax where IS was sent and supported by Turkey,” he said.
“The resistance in Kobani was to the contrary of Erdogan’s expectations, as IS at that time gained [ground] in Mosul and Shingal and later in the south of Hassakah, Kazwan mountain, Raqqa, and Ain Issa,” the spokesperson added.
Xelil explained that when the resistance in Kobani defeated IS, Erdogan’s plans and expectations failed. “Since then, Erdogan has not forgotten the loss and is working to resume his plans by implementing the plans of IS which failed,” he said.
“To implement their plans, Turkey attacked Jarabulus and al-Bab, and then attacked Afrin.”
After taking Afrin, Erdogan plans to put pressure to take Manbij and attack the east of Euphrates region, Xelil continued.
“For Manbij, his plans also failed. Thus, he is threatening the areas around Kobani, Tal Abyad, and the other areas in the northeast,” he said.
Erdogan’s mentality is not far from the policy he follows in ruling Turkey, Xelil noted.
The TEV-DEM spokesperson said all of Erdogan’s threats come during the IS fight in Deir al-Zor where the extremist group remains in a tiny pocket. Xelil reassured that IS does not have any way out and will face a military defeat.
“As Erdogan is watching and, of course, rejects eliminating IS, he wants IS to be there all the time so he can disturb the stability of Syria through it,” he said.
Moreover, on the anniversary of Kobani World Day on Nov. 1, Xelil said Erdogan wanted to deliver A message to the world that he would turn that day into a day to attack the victories made, especially since Kobani has become a symbol of resistance, not only in Rojava but in the other parts of Kurdistan (Bashur, Bakur, Rojhilat) and all over the world.
WORLD POWERS’ GREEN LIGHT
The recent Turkish attacks on Kobani followed a meeting between the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Germany, and France. According to Xelil, there is no positive attitude expected from superpowers.
“There is a fact that we should remember and realize all the time: our revolution will carry on through our hands, not through others, and if we wait for others, we will not achieve any victory,” he said.
The world and regional powers do not care about the revolution in north Syria if it does not serve their interests, Xelil explained.
“We cannot build our expectations on what happened in their secret meetings, but we should keep putting this reality forward before we think; it is that they care and plan only for their interests,” he said.
“If they think of the democratic nation and the right of people one percent, they think of their interests 99 percent,” the spokesperson added.
“If those powers had taken any positive stance and signed any agreements with Turkey to find a solution, Turkey would not dare to wage its recent attacks.”
Xelil said Turkey had gained some support or green light from the meeting with Russia, France, and Germany, or maybe that Turkey found the attitude of those powers is weak in that all points on the agenda were linked to their interests only.
“If there were any element in their agenda in favor of finding a solution in Syria, Turkey would not dare to launch the attacks,” he said.
“We are exerting efforts for rapprochement between the interests by increasing the level of our interests and not ignoring their interests at the same time.”
RESPONSE TO WHAT EXTENT?
If Turkish attacks continue, Xelil said, the solution would not be to use military force only. Instead, he said all nations who are involved in the resistance would take part to find a solution, including in diplomatic, political, financial, and even cultural aspects.
“When we say the [People’s Protection Units] YPG will resist, we are talking about the military aspect only, and this is not balanced at all because the other side has much more military force,” he said.
Xelil noted that the gap should be filled, meaning that people in north Syria should prepare for resistance, especially regarding the media and raising the region’s voice to influence the world public opinion.
“We have never attacked anybody, but we should be ready for any attack against us,” he said.
“We should realize the fact that defending ourselves is a right for anybody, but if our people just watch and wait for others to protect them and build a home for them, nothing will happen.”
Xelil also commented on people’s morale who say if the enemy is strong fighting it is useless. “The question then is why do they say they are having a revolution?” he asked.
WOULD AFRIN EXPERIENCE BE REPEATED?
Xelil commented on the possibility of the Afrin experience being repeated in the east Euphrates. If Turkey sees that the morale of our people is down and that most are afraid, silent, and there is no resistance, of course, Turks will not stop, he explained.
“More precisely, if people in all parts of Kurdistan [Bashur, Bakur, and Rojhilat] and Kurds all over the world are involved in media activities and make their voice clear to the world, then there will be pressure on any force against them,” he added.
“But if everybody just watches and remains silent, of course, Erdogan will find it easy and ready to attack and implement his plans.”
However, Xelil said the conditions of Afrin and the east Euphrates are different in many aspects, primarily military and political.
On the other hand, he further explained that Turkey’s economy has deteriorated and Erdogan suffers from internal conflicts, especially with his ally, the MHP party, and he is afraid of the upcoming elections.
“This is why Erdogan is trying to achieve something and implement some plans to gain some popularity and regain some balance inside Turkey,” he said.
“So, Erdogan is creating external problems to cover the internal ones and make the Turkish public opinion busy with external issues and distract them from the internal problems.”
According to Xelil, the United States has said many times that they reject such attacks by Turkey and that they do not accept the Turkish approach.
“They are saying this, but we cannot depend on these words and sit, and rely on it,” he added. “They should pressure them [Turkey]; the US just saying to Turkey it’s not acceptable will not work.”
“We have to make our own preparations and make our own decision to resist,” he said.
Xelil added that influencing the public opinion can pressure the US to make a decision.
“There might not be any serious decision in Washington, but if we make efforts and raise our issue to the world public opinion, then the Americans will be obliged to make a decision and take action.”
US & POLITICAL SOLUTION
Xelil said the US presence in Syria has been in two phases: one to defeat IS, and the other post-IS. He urged the US administration to make their plan and policy clear on whether they are staying in Syria or leaving it for Russia and Iran.
“To the best of our knowledge, the US administration is trying to include the post-IS political solution in their agenda,” Xelil said. “Thus, when the US political project is involved in their agenda, they know well that the political solution is impossible without us.”
Xelil noted that the Syrian opposition which was once popular and which most Syrians had high hopes for no longer exists.
“Who is left in Syria? It’s us, the regime, and the forces controlling Idlib,” he said. “It is expected that the forces controlling Idlib will be eliminated as well, so again who is left? It’s us and the regime.”
“So, if we are not there, with whom shall the Syrian regime seek a solution?”
Xelil explained that if the Americans seek a solution, they should include all forces on the ground in any political process and dialogue, including the constitution. If not, they will again exclude the forces in north Syria because they know well that the process will be fruitless, he said.
“Actually, the Americans are trying to include us in any process or dialogue, but we do not know whether they will fulfill their promises or not,” the spokesperson continued.
“However, the reality and fact are that if the representatives of north Syria, including Rojava, are excluded, then no agreement or solution is going to be made.”
Xelil explained that the war against IS is ongoing even with temporary stops. He insisted that it should be clear and recognized that the extremist group would be eliminated.
“After eliminating IS, the political solution should be on the agenda,” he said. “So, when the political process starts, then we should be involved because without us there will be no political solution.”
“If the force that has a democratic project and an organized administration, and adopts the unity of Syrian territories and people, and which is a moderate secular, and that preserves freedoms and safeguards the freedom and dignity of women, is not taken into consideration, then who will be there?” he affirmed.
“With whom shall the dialogue be made then? With Nusra and alike groups?”
Xelil pointed out that if terrorist groups are considered for dialogue, then Syria will never be democratic; rather, it will be extremist like Afghanistan, and thus be a base for terrorism.
“Unfortunately, the superpowers are prolonging the life of the crisis to find some forces a little bit more moderate than Nusra or groups like it, but no matter how long they prolong it, they are left with the administration in north Syria,” he said.
TALKS WITH SYRIAN REGIME
Xelil said talks with the Syrian regime have currently stopped, with no sign of resuming.
“The Syrian regime has expected us to agree what they impose on us, such as some articles in the old constitution or confine the matter to some cultural rights,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Syrian regime’s attitude toward the Kurds has not changed, and it’s still the same as it was before the crisis.”
“Their discourse toward us is still the old one, like saying we are all Syrian citizens and they can offer us an hour of Kurdish lesson per week in their universities, without discussing any matters related to the political system or the constitution,” Xelil explained.
The TEV-DEM spokesperson underlined that the Syrian regime still considers the Kurdish language not a mother tongue and less necessary than any foreign language by allocating only one lesson per week, while other foreign languages like English and French are taught every day in the regime’s schools.
“The regime never discussed the fundamental matters, like why the country has been destroyed and why there has been a war for over seven years, and what’s wrong with the current system,” he said.
“But, anyway, we should not stop our attempts for dialogue as we are always ready and we should work to seek a solution with the regime.”
Responding to a question on any potential role the US played in the talks with the regime, Xelil said it was an internal issue, and nobody had interfered.
“Negotiation with the regime is a Syrian-Syrian talk, but for the talks with the Americans, they were only on the defeat of IS,” he said.
“We have been in talks with the Americans in the military domain only, and recently, the political process and constitution drafting have been discussed if they play a role and we were involved. But this does not mean that we will work according to their plans.”
TURKISH THREATS SERVE SYRIAN REGIME
Xelil said that since the Syrian regime is not considering the Kurds’ demands to find a solution to end the war, Turkey’s threats only serve the regime.
“Here I can say that there is some kind of agreement between the Turks and the Syrian regime, but through a catalyst, which is Russia, which is directing Turkey to our region,” he said. “Russia asks Turkey to hit us, so we will be pushed toward the Syrian regime and resort to it.”
Xelil then supported his argument with an example from Afrin. He said when Turkey attacked Afrin, it was reported in the media that Moscow and Ankara had agreed that the latter would relieve the burden on the Syrian regime and prepare the ground for potential dialogue in the future.
Moreover, he said the regime’s evacuation of people from Ghouta to Afrin also helped the regime relieve its burden, as Damascus then was at risk because the opposition groups surrounded it.
“Turkey helped the Syrian regime by preparing Afrin to receive people from Ghouta,” Xelil said.
“Now, negotiations for Idlib will be in favor of the regime as well, and it seems that even the Adana Treaty between the Syrian regime and Turkey in 1998 is still working,” he concluded.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Saleh conducted the interview in Qamishlo, Rojava, Syria)