Kurdish Militias Help Out Syrian Rebels in Aleppo

13/08/2012 RUDAW –  By WLADIMIR van WILGENBURG – AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – According to the International Herald Tribune, rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) attacked Syrian security forces near the Kurdish neighborhood Ashrafiya in Aleppo last Tuesday. The neighborhood is controlled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and sources indicate that Syrian rebels were helped by Kurdish militias. The Kurdish neighborhoods of Ashrafiya and Sheikh Maqsud in Aleppo have been under the control of the PYD after the party ejected regime security forces from the districts. The PYD is considered to have ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

FSA rebels told Western media they had agreed with the PYD not to enter each other’s areas or fight each other. Until Tuesday, the FSA had stayed out of the Kurdish areas in Aleppo, but then there were reports of fighting and claims that MiG jets dropped bombs on the neighborhoods of Ashrafiya and Salah al-Din.

Hachem al-Haji, an activist in Aleppo, told the International Herald Tribune that rebels moved into the area because local Kurds supported the opposition. However, another activist said that rebels met fierce resistance from Kurdish militias, most likely members of PYD’s Popular Defence Committees. The fight ended when jets dropped bombs on the area, causing the rebels to flee. There were rumors that the FSA and PYD took over the neighborhood, but PYD spokesperson Alan Semo said his group had already “liberated” the area.

According to Semo, the regime started to shell FSA rebels after they attacked Syrian army positions, forcing them to hide in Ashrafiya.  “When the regime attacked them, the Kurds helped them to the Kurdish neighborhood and saved seven of them. There is no conflict at all between the Kurds and the Free Syrian Army. This is propaganda. They want to initiate problems between us,” he said.

Semo added that the FSA appreciated the help, but emphasized that the PYD prefers that the FSA “liberates” Arab areas since the Kurds do not want to become part of the conflict. “The regime wants to provoke a civil war between Arabs and Kurds,” Semo told Rudaw.

An activist from Aleppo, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, told Rudaw, “Al Jazeera wants to create media troubles. The FSA spokesperson told Al Jazeera that the PYD helped them evacuate some members of the FSA, but later Al Jazeera claimed that PYD worked as Shabiha [pro-government militias] and hit civilians.”

The source added that there is an agreement between the FSA and PYD, and some weapon shipments have even been delivered by the PYD. “This is a strange complicated relationship and AlJazeera is making propaganda against the PYD,” he added. The deputy commander of the FSA in Aleppo, Col. Abdullatif Abdullatif, told the Kurdish news website Xeber24 that “the Kurdish Protection Committees helped us, and provided us with cover and safe passage, especially in the past two days.”  He also denied that the PKK worked against the FSA. “This is far from true. On the contrary — they [Popular Protection Committees] have helped us and provided our women and children with food and shelter … It may not be inconceivable that there are some PKK members who cooperate with the regime though, since there are also some FSA members who are infiltrators working for the regime too … But Kurds are not traitors,” Abdullatif said.  According to a report published by AFP, rebel forces attacked the regime’s auxiliary popular army headquarters in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday. Army helicopters pounded the area and pushed out the rebels, who moved on to attack a nearby medical and legal institute. After the attack, the rebels retreated to Ashrafiya, controlled by Kurds.

“Kurdish fighters let the rebels into the district, but they did not allow them into residential areas, in order to ensure the regime would not bombard them,” AFP’s report read.

Hadji Rashid, a spokesperson of the Western Kurdistan Democratic Society Movement (TEV-DEM), which is close to the PYD, told Rudaw that they are not against the FSA, but think that they need to recognize the Kurds more and should not operate in Kurdish areas and put them at risk of being bombed.

“If Syria is going to bomb every [Kurdish] town and village, who we are going to turn to? To Turkey? We don’t want this,” Rashid said.  He added, “We are against the regime. We are not supporting it. If we supported the regime, we would have taken our guns and gone after the FSA.”