YPG spokesperson says Turkey wants to destabilize Syria’s northeast

Nouri Mahmoud, a spokesperson for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), has accused Turkey of sending sleeper cells to areas held by the Syrian Democratic Forces.
author_image Wladimir van Wilgenburg

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Nouri Mahmoud, a spokesperson for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), has accused Turkey of sending sleeper cells to areas held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

In an interview with Kurdistan 24 last week, Mahmoud said Turkey directly supports all “jihadi groups.”  

The spokesperson was referring to when the so-called Islamic State (IS) controlled Jarabulus and Tal Abyad, “when the borders were open and oil deals ongoing.”

However, after the SDF controlled areas from IS in Tal Abyad, Manbij, Raqqa, and now also Deir al-Zor, Turkey, “through its intelligence, started to send infiltrators to Syria,” he added.

“When we talk about some small groups or cells that are active in Raqqa or Deir al-Zor, they are taking their instruction from Turkish MIT [intelligence] and AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party] leaders,” Mahmoud said.

“Turkey, with its capacity, wants to support these groups and even support the area of Hajin against us.”

SDF forces are currently battling extremists in the last IS-held pocket in Hajin.

“Some of these groups were captured in many areas like Kobani, and there are a lot of them around,” Mahmoud noted.

In July, security forces arrested four alleged members of the Turkish-backed Qiyam Movement. And in September, alleged Turkish-backed sleeper cells were arrested in Kobani’s southwestern town of Sheikhlar.

“Sunnis and Kurds all have [an] agreement to coexist, and that is why Erdogan sends these groups to create conflict,” the YPG spokesperson stated. “Up to now, we have never seen any foreign IS fighter captured without a Turkish stamp [on their passport].”

Turkish-backed rebel forces and the Turkish army, meanwhile, have taken over vast tracts of territory in northern Syria since August 2016 when it launched Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Aleppo. There has been a Turkish military presence in Idlib since October 2017,and in March, Turkey took over Afrin.

According to Mahmoud, Turkey wants to reclaim “Ottoman lands” by controlling territory in northern Syria where its army is directly involved.

The Turkish government has denied that it supports jihadi groups and claims they only back a united Syria.

“We have curtailed the movement of Foreign Terrorist Fighters and put our troops in harm’s way,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told Newsweek in January, adding that they support the US-led coalition against IS.

However, the Syrian Kurds say that Turkey wants to occupy Syria’s northeast and that Ankara backs extremist groups to prevent Kurdish advances.

“In order to gain what they want, they have to destroy the democratic system of northern Syria among all the components,” Mahmoud said, adding Afrin’s occupation was one step toward that goal.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany