WEST KURDISTAN (SYRIA) : “Who was responsible for the events in Ashrafiyeh?”

Tension Between Syrian Groups Threatens Factional War

09/11/2012 RUDAW- By HEMIN KHOSHNAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region–Clashes between the Salahaddin Ayubi brigade of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and armed units of People’s Defense Units (YPG) in Aleppo last week signaled the threat of a possible Kurdish-Arab war.Tensions also flared when the YPG – an arm of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — raided bases in the Kurdish city of Kobane. Kurdish parties say the PYD violated the Erbil Agreement by removing Syrian revolution flags in Kobane.

Muhammad Salih Muslim, co-leader of the PYD, said that these Kurdish parties “did not react” to last week’s events in Aleppo and that reports of the incidents in Kobane were “distorted.” Meanwhile, the leader of the Salahaddin Ayubi brigade criticized the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), saying that they are “carrying out the agenda of the Syrian regime” — referring to the YPG and PYD, affiliates of the PKK.

Eid in Syria was bloody and violent. On the first day of Eid, in the Kurdish neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsud in Aleppo, there were clashes between the FSA and YPG for the first time. More than 30 people died on both sides.

Malik Kurdi, a Kurdish leader in the FSA, made a statement to Kurdinews a day after the clashes in Aleppo. He said that some Kurdish groups and the Salahuddin Ayubi brigade — known as the Kurdish wing of the FSA — encouraged the FSA to enter the Kurdish neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh in Aleppo.

This caused concern for Kurdish parties, especially the Kurdistan Freedom Party (Azadi), led by Mustafa Juma, and the PYD. Mahmoud Arabo, a representative of the Azadi Party in the Kurdistan Region, dismissed the statements of Kurdi and described what happened as part of a plan to create conflict among Kurds. “The Kurds who are caught in the battle zones between the FSA and the Syrian regime cannot remain neutral forever,” Arabo said. “Therefore, they have formed some battalions like the Salahaddin Ayubi, Yusuf Azmi and Azadi in order to defend themselves and aid the FSA.”

Regarding relations of these Kurdish battalions with Kurdish political parties, Arabo said, “They have no relations with Kurdish parties, but members of Kurdish parties exist in these battalions. The Kurdish parties have decided not to arm themselves. They prefer to represent peace in the Kurdish National Council (KNC).”

Political observers believe that clashes between the FSA and the Kurds in Aleppo were inevitable because the FSA is supported by Turkey, while YPG is an affiliate of the PKK, who has been fighting Turkey for decades.

Arabo said that the recent clashes are hiding “some dangerous agendas” for the Kurds. “There is an attempt to start a war among Kurds and between Kurds and Arabs, especially with the Salafis inside the Syrian opposition,” he said. “Turkey is also behind this agenda. Turkey would not allow the PKK and PYD to control Kurdish cities in Syria. Like Iran, Turkey is trying to fight its wars through Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen,” Arabo added. Arabo dismissed PYD claims that other Kurdish parties were aiding the FSA to target the PYD. “This rumor is completely false,” he said. “Kurdish movements will never oppose the PYD. If we want to stand against them, we will do so openly like we did in Kobane last week.”

Muslim looked at the events in Ashrafiyeh from another perspective. “It was an attempt to drag the Kurds into war, because from the start we considered ourselves part of the Syrian revolution but did not accept the violence,” he said.

He added, “Some groups, especially the FSA which is very close to Turkey, cannot accept the fact that Kurds are not part of the war.”Muslim described the events in Ashrafiyeh. On Oct. 25, some FSA soldiers were fighting the Syrian regime and entered Ashrafiyeh from the east. This led the Syrian regime to bomb the neighborhood and kill 15 civilians.

A day later, another FSA group entered Ashrafiyeh from the west and declared that they were liberating Ashrafiyeh, which made people organize protests against them, Muslim said. The FSA soldiers opened fire on the protestors and killed six of them. “In order to protect the people, the YPG fought against the FSA,” Muslim said. “Among the killed FSA soldiers, seven were Kurds and members of the Azadi Party and the Kurdish Unity Party. Also, among the seven prisoners of FSA, two are Kurds; one is a member of the Azadi Party and the other is from the Unity Party.”

Bewar Abdulrahman, a Kurd from Efrin and leader of the Salahaddin Ayubi brigade of the FSA, told Rudaw that they are being especially careful to avoid a civil war, which they see as the agenda of the Syrian regime.

“The statements of Malik Kurdi have no relation to the truth,” Abdulrahman said. “Kurdi has no relation to the FSA. The PKK is solely responsible for the events in Ashrafiyeh as they opened fire the first time. Some individuals inside the PKK are carrying out the agenda of the Syrian regime by engaging with the FSA in order to ease pressure on the embattled Syrian regime.”

The Kurdish officer added that his battalion’s duty is only to chase the Shabiha (militias) of the Syrian regime. “They are pointing accusing fingers at me, but in order to prevent clashes I am mediating between the PKK and FSA,” he said.

One day after the clashes in Ashrafiyeh, armed PYD members removed Syrian revolution flags from the bases of other Kurdish political parties. This caused a strong reaction from the KNC.

After armed members of the PYD removed the Syrian revolution flag from his party base, Hamid Haji Darwesh, leader of the Kurdish Progressive Party, told Gali Kurdistan TV, “A civil war among Kurds is possible after this unwise move by the PYD.” Arabo described the forceful removal of Syria revolution flag from political bases as “a black day in Kurdish history.” “We are Syrian Kurds and that flag is the flag of Syrian independence and was formerly raised for the first time by a member of the Kurdish Baravi family,” he said. “This flag is for all and it is national. How can the leader of the PYD accept sitting under the flag of the Baathist regime, but not accept the flag of Syrian independence being raised on the bases of Kurdish political parties?”

Arabo believes that the flag issue conceals a greater agenda. “This is an attempt to restrict Kurdish parties and enslave them. The PYD wants to repeat in Syria what the PKK did in the Kurdish regions of Turkey by monopolizing everything and sending the signal that Erbil Agreement will not be implemented.”

The leader of PYD said that removing the flags was not planned. “The day the clashes took place in Ashrafiyeh, people got very angry,” Muslim said. “The FSA entered Ashrafiyeh with their independence flag and killed Kurds. In order to prevent an assault on the bases of Kurdish parties by the people, our comrades demanded that these flags be removed for one day.” 

“But a follower of Darwesh opened fire and complicated things,” he added. “A security force was returning from Tal al-Gazal and heard the gunshots. They came to the site and opened fire in the air to disperse people. Now the flags have been raised again on the bases and no one is opposing them.”

On Oct. 30, there was a wide protest against the PYD action of removing the Syrian independence flag.

Regarding these demonstrations, Muslim said, “Those who took part in these protests were all the growers of hashish. They are protesting because we do not allow them to grow hashish. This means their financial interests were harmed. The protests were also organized by people who have long been saying, ‘What is the supreme council? We do not accept it!’” “Yezidi Kurds were killed by FSA soldiers and the Ammar Dadikhi battalion, a former Syrian intelligence member, and no other Kurdish parties reacted to this,” Muslim added. “Kurds were also killed in Ashrafiyeh and they did not react to this either. But a small mistake by some of our members in Kobane, which was done with good intentions, has been turned into a huge problem.”