Turkish-backed opposition angered by criticism from Kurdish opposition ally

The Turkish-backed opposition “receives their orders from [the] Turkish command and carry out looting and stealing from any area they enter.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Turkish-backed Syrian opposition condemned the Kurdish National Council (KNC) for speaking out against human rights violations by Turkish-backed groups.

Fuad Aliko, a senior KNC leader, criticized the Syrian National Army in a Facebook video last week. Aliko said the Turkish-backed opposition “receives their orders from [the] Turkish command and carry out looting and stealing from any area they enter.”

“We openly say that these [factions] are mercenaries,” he added. “They are hired; there is no such thing as the [Syrian] National Army.”

Turkish-backed factions have been accused of severe human rights violations since Turkey launched its offensive in northeastern Syria on Oct. 9.

Amnesty International said in an earlier report that the Turkish-backed factions “have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life, carrying out serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks.”

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The KNC is a member of the Turkish-backed National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, also known as Etilaf. It is also part of the new Syrian Constitutional Committee formed in late September.

The KNC was founded in Qamishlo on Oct. 26, 2011, with support from the former president of the Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani. 

Tensions between the KNC and Democratic Union Party (PYD) have increased since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, with the latter playing a significant role in the establishment of a self-administration that now rules northeastern Syria.

Despite the PYD-KNC differences, the KNC has spoken out against the Turkish offensive on Afrin and also against the Turkish unilateral operation in early October.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also met with a high-level delegation from the KNC last week to discuss the need for unity in the face of the Turkish military incursion into northern Syria. 

In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 6, the KNC said the Turkish incursion by the Turkish-backed National Army militia under the excuse of fighting “PYD militants” has worsened the situation for civilians.

Mustafa Sejari, a National Army commander, tweeted on Tuesday that the KNC “is trying to undermine [the National Army’s] sacrifices, tarnish its reputation, and commercialize the fabrications of media groups.”

He called on the Syrian opposition to make a statement.

The Etilaf also condemned the KNC and called on the group to “apologize to the Syrian National Army for inappropriate expressions and descriptions.”

Aliko told Kurdistan 24 that the KNC would hold a meeting and officially respond to the Etilaf.

“But we will not apologize,” he said. “We will send an official response [statement] to the Etilaf, and the Etilaf and KNC will meet after the statement to discuss the issues between us.”

Aron Lund, a fellow with the Century Foundation, told Kurdistan 24 that the National Coalition has completely endorsed the Turkish-led operations in Syria and serves as a political wing of the rebels “fighting under Turkish command.”

“The National Coalition’s strong stand in favor of Turkish policy apparently caused a rift with its Kurdish membership,” he said.

“The Kurdish National Council has issued several sharply-worded statements on the Turkish-led offensive and called on it to be stopped.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany