ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Although Turkey’s Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin on Sunday claimed it is “irrational to say that Turkey targets Kurds,” Syrian Kurds say Ankara’s campaign in Afrin is proof that Turkey does, in fact, target the Kurds.
Turkey’s aim in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian branches is “to rescue Kurds from the tyranny and oppression of this terror group and to ensure their safety of life and property,” Turkish government-affiliated Anadolu Agency quoted Kalin as saying.
Meanwhile, Kurds from the Afrin region, which Turkey and Turkish-backed groups took over in March, disagree with the claim that Turkey is safeguarding the life and property of Syrian Kurds.
Azad, 28, a Kurd from Afrin who lives in Europe, said Turkish-backed groups plundered the formerly Kurdish-held area.
“Afrin is the living example of the protection that Turkey can offer Kurds: the Kurdish language and identity are completely forbidden now,” Azad said, using a pseudonym to protect his relatives still living in Afrin.
“My parents and other Kurds in Afrin were forced to give 40 percent of their olive harvest to the jihadi groups that operate freely in Afrin,” he added, noting they had never experienced such oppression under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or under the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
In November, the Turkish government admitted it had seized 600 tons of olives from Afrin.
“Moreover, our house was looted. What could not be taken away was destroyed,” Azad added.
“We are fed up with this discourse that [Turkey is] not against the Kurds, and only against ‘terrorists’ or ‘separatists.’ Saddam [Hussein] also said that but murdered over 200,000 Kurds” in the Kurdistan Region.
Sinam Mohamed, the representative of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) in Washington, who is originally from Afrin, said that “Turkey aims to target the Kurds in Syria and the Democratic Administration they built together with the Arabs and Syriac [Christians].”
“It’s Turkey’s excuse to accuse the Kurds [of being] a terrorist group,” she said. “Turkey carried out ethnic cleansing and [demographic] change in Afrin. Are the Kurds in Afrin terrorists? Everybody saw what happened in Afrin, and this is still going on.”
Polat Can, a Kurdish commander in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), questioned why Turkey imposed the raising of its flags, its language, and changed street names in Afrin from Kurdish to Turkish in March if Turkey claims it is not against the Kurds.
“Why do you change the Kurdish names to Turkish in Afrin? Why did you destroy (Kawa) statue the national symbol of all Kurds?” Can wrote on Twitter.
Kalin’s remarks came in response to White House National Security Adviser John Bolton who on Sunday said the United States would not withdraw troops from Syria unless Ankara guarantees it would not attack Syria’s Kurds.
Can, a 30-year-old Syrian Kurd from Derbisiye, says locals are now less afraid of a Turkish attack following the statements by senior US officials that America would protect the Kurds.
“There is no fear now. Everyone says the US will not withdraw unless there is a guarantee to protect the Kurds.”
Initially, many Kurds were afraid of a possible Turkish attack after US President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw troops last month.
All eyes are now on Bolton’s visit to Turkey on Monday. Amb. James Jeffrey, Special Envoy for Syria Engagement, and Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will join Bolton to meet with Turkish officials.
“We [will] wait and see. Our concern is to protect our region from a Turkish attack and to secure our people and build stability,” SDC official Mohamed said.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany