QAMISHLO (ANF) – YPG (People’s Defense Units) General Command Spokesman Redur Xelil spoke to ANF about the situation on the ground and responded to the claims of the Turkish government.
Turkey has intervened Al-Raî after it entered Jarablus recently. What shape have the military balances in the region taken with these operations?
As has been established by many independent observers in the region, there took place a change of flags or a handover. ISIS retreated from the fighting and left these regions to the gang groups backed by Turkish Army. We do not know what share ISIS got from this handover bargain but what is clear is that this situation has helped ISIS take a relieved breath. It is still not clear up to which point ISIS will retreat and leave the areas under its control. What is more interesting is the fact that both ISIS and Turkish army-backed gang groups do target the Kurds and democratic forces in this territory. By looking at this example, the sides and power levels of the balance can be determined easily.
Turkish officials and the armed groups they support stated that they shall / should advance up to Manbij and Bab. What is your opinion in this regard?
We have long criticised the Turkish state’s foreign policy on Rojava and Syria. These steps which we can describe as an attempt to revive a collapsed empire will make primarily the peoples of Turkey lose. Now that they revise these attacks, which are launched on the pretext of “protecting our borders”, as “we will advance up to Bab”, they may say “we will take Aleppo, too” once they reach Bab. These aggressive policies are problematic with regards to international law and need to be dwelled on urgently.
What is YPG’s current position on the eastern and western sides of the Euphrates?
YPG is the defense force of Rojava Kurdistan and it undertakes a mission in all the areas where there is a need across the entire Northern Syria/Rojava Federation territory. YPG is in charge of fulfilling the mission entrusted to it.
What is the main reason of the tension between YPG and the Turkish government?
As YPG we have always made an effort to have good relations with Turkey, and we have expressed this intention of ours in all the statements we made and direct contacts we had. Still, majority of the ISIS militants, whom we fight, came from Turkey and gang groups attacked our areas from Turkish side numerous times. This was experienced many times during the Kobanê war, and it still continues.
All the border gates that were held open for trade with ISIS have been closed in the areas under our control. This has played a major role in the food, construction, health and medical material embargo imposed on Rojava, and worsened the life standards. Turkey has a major role in the troubles suffered by local people and refugees who took shelter in Rojava after fleeing the fierce fighting in Iraq and Syria.
Most recently, the Turkish government has openly accused us of being terrorist. They go on to label all the circles working with us as terrorist. This is a matter of not tension but one-sided and open enmity.
What position does the YPG have within the Syrian Democratic Forces?
YPG is a force that has gained remarkable experiences and established its own military system during the course of the fight it has waged since 2011, mainly against the ISIS terror. In this sense, YPG is the most effective military force in Syria and Rojava. This is a reality confirmed by all the forces we act with, as well as by our enemies. We therefore have a leading role within the Syrian Democratic Forces. We are using this experience mainly during this recent process, in training the newly formed military forces in Northern Syria and helping them gain fighting capability, practice and tactics. By acting as an operational force when necessary, and by providing training, support and logistics to the fighting forces when needs be, we are waging an active struggle against the terrorist organisations and regime forces targeting our people.
Does YPG commit ethnic cleansing in the areas it holds?
It is an embarrassment for us to be subject to such a question even. First of all, we are not after a goal of “domination”. On the other hand, we would like to state once again, to make it known, that 40 percent of our forces is currently made up of brave girls and boys from our Arab people. We are also a popular army where foreign volunteers coming from all around the world and various folks unite. It is not possible for this diversity to come together for a goal other than democracy. We are the only force proving the possibility of co-existence of all ethnic structures and social diversities.
What is your relationship to the US, Russia and the Coalition?
Our alliance with the US and the international coalition formed to fight ISIS started in fall 2014 and still continues. The successes achieved against ISIS openly show the level of our relationship. It is known that we have called on Russia before on several matters and asked they use their influence over the Baath regime to end their aggressive policies. We have a strong stance based on principles of democracy and freedom against ISIS terror and the regime’s policies of violence, and we intend to keep it.
Is there communication between Damascus and YPG?
As an organisation within the Rojava/Northern Syria Federation defense forces, our main focus is on fulfilling this duty with no misfire. In this sense, our relationships to forces we are against and we clash with can only be in the form of discussions of ceasefires etc., like in the Hesekê attack.
Have you ever met with Turkey, officially or unofficially?
Yes, there took place some meetings in the past in this framework.
When, and what kind of relationships?
We met directly with different organs of the Turkish state. When the time comes, if we deem necessary, we will announce who these are.
Has there ever been an attack towards the Turkey side from areas under YPG control?
Although there has never been an attack from Rojava, the Turkish army has carried out 17 attacks during the month of this August. One of our fighters was martyred in these attacks and two others were wounded. Also in Kobanê, two civilians were martyred and around 50 people were wounded. Two more civilians were martyred in different regions. There have been numerous border violations via helicopters, armored vehicles and jet fighters. The villagers’ trees were cut, fields were set on fire. This is just the summary of one month of violations and attacks.
Why does Turkey define you as “terrorist” and “threat to national security”?
What makes them speak of these concepts is their enmity towards Kurds and Kurdistan. The now-president Erdoğan had personally said “YPG is a more dangerous terrorist organisation than ISIS” after the historic Girê Spî victory, and stressed “We will not allow a Kurdish entity to our south, whatever the cost may be.” If they define us as such, even though we don’t have a single action against the Turkish state and their army forces, and actually are acting as a barrier between them and terrorist groups trying to control the border, this must be analyzed with the Turkish state’s aim program. We think they are calling us terrorists to undermine our legitimacy and hinder our fight against ISIS terror.
What will be your stance if Turkey doesn’t stop at Jarablus and Al Rai and heads towards regions under your control?
Both our command center and the political structures we are part of have declared clear positions against the Turkish state’s invasion move. These declarations are binding for us.
What is the situation in Hesekê, and does the tension with the regime continue? What kind of a consensus has been reached since the last clash?
The clauses of the ceasefire reached with the regime had been shared with the public. Some steps have been taken in their implementation as well. But we can’t say these clauses have been fully realized. Meetings continue in order for this agreement signed with guarantors to be implemented.