Archiv für Februar 2018

Breaking News: Saleh Muslim released

Former PYD Co-chair Saleh Muslim who was detained in Prague Saturday night has been released after appearing at court today.

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TEV-DEM foreign relations official and former PYD leader Saleh Moslem was detained in Prague, capital city of Czech Republic, at Turkey’s request Saturday night. In a statement on Sunday, Police of Czech Republic announced that he had been arrested in Prague at the request of the Turkish Interpol.

Moslem’s lawyer Tomas Pelikan stated that he had been detained in connection with a case Turkey opened against him in 2017.

Kurds and their allies held demonstrations around the world demanding the release of the Kurdish politician.

Several European politicians also condemned the arrest of Muslim and demanded his immediate release.

ANF

Women Are Free, and Armed, in Kurdish-Controlled Northern Syria

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Women marching this month on the outskirts of Kobani, Syria, during a protest against a Turkish military offensive in the country. Many are waving the Rojava flag of Kurdish-controlled northern Syria. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

MANBIJ, Syria — Radwan, a 30-year-old Arab man, came with four male witnesses and a grievance with an ex-wife to a place called the Women’s House here in Manbij, in northern Syria.

He had recently divorced his second wife, Amira, 17, and he wanted back the gold he had given her as a bride price, some three or four ounces at most — worth more than few goats but less than a car.

The five men sat down with Amira and her mother, Isra, in a circle of plastic chairs around a stove to discuss the matter, with the mediation of several officials from the Women’s House.

The conversation grew heated as Amira and her mother, who asked that the families’ last names be withheld to avoid a tribal backlash against them, refused to return the gold. When the Women’s House officials said that not only was Amira right to keep it, but that she was also entitled to a houseful of furniture in compensation for the divorce, Radwan began shouting.

Chairs were knocked over and voices raised, but the women officials escorted the men out of the building politely but firmly, warning that the police would be summoned if they didn’t go quietly.

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Ibrahim al-Wardy, talks to his wife, Zahida al-Jassim, in the office of Widat Hayat, center, at the Women’s House in Manbij, Syria, where they came to settle a property dispute between Mr. Jassim’s wife and another man. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Shilan Shermooz, the administrator of the Women’s House, said the matter was not yet over. Once Radwan made the reparations, she said, they would send his case to court and see him prosecuted for beating and abusing Amira for the two weeks they were married. Radwan was also guilty of fraud, she said, because Amira agreed to the wedding not knowing he already had a wife and children.
Continue reading the main story

“The patriarchy really is over,” Ms. Shermooz said, sharing a laugh with two colleagues.

In the Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria, a push for gender equality has given women like Ms. Shermooz significant power to enforce women’s rights. The authority wielded by women here — in the police, the courts and the militias — is patterned on the gender egalitarian philosophy of the Kurds’ ideological leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

The founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., Mr. Ocalan is serving a life sentence in Turkey on terrorism charges, and his organization is a designated terrorist organization according to the United States and the European Union. But his philosophy is widely popular among Kurds, particularly in northern Syria and eastern Turkey.

Six years of control of most of northern Syria have given the Kurds a chance to put into practice their gender reforms to an unprecedented degree, unhampered by interference from the Turkish government, which has cracked down on many of the women’s institutions in Kurdish-majority areas of Turkey.

By law, every government institution in Kurdish-controlled Syria has a co-president or co-chairman of each sex, and most government boards and committees have to be equally mixed by gender as well — except for women’s institutions, which are led by only women.

The Kurdish militias have separate Women’s Protection Units, or Y.P.J., which have been important partners with men’s units on the battlefield. When the Syrian Democratic Forces, an American-backed coalition, captured Raqqa from the Islamic State in October, the overall commander was a Y.P.J. woman, Rojda Felat.

“There are always men thinking that women are slaves, but when women are an armed force, men are scared of them,” said Arzu Demir, the Turkish author of a book on the Y.P.J. militias.

The Kurdish effort to enact gender equality has really been put to the test in places like Manbij, which is overwhelmingly Arab, and also conservative and tribal. The Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces took control here about 18 months ago, in a campaign supported by American Special Operations forces and air power. While the Manbij Military Council, which is now in charge, is a majority Arab force, the new government is organized on Mr. Ocalan’s revolutionary principles.

Women were immediately given the right to divorce, previously a right reserved to men; to inherit property on an equal basis with men; and to keep their children and their homes in a marital breakup. Gone were long-observed Shariah law provisions that gave a woman’s testimony in court only half the weight of a man’s.

Those changes were not without pushback. The Kurdish majority area of Kobani in Syria, for instance, outlawed the practice of men taking more than one wife. But when officials tried to apply that restriction to Manbij, anger from tribal leaders led to the granting of an exception here.

Still, the Women’s House in Manbij right away began aggressively counseling wives whose husbands married a second time that they could divorce, and walk away with the children, the house and half of any property. The result has been some 200 divorces in the past year, mostly in cases of polygamy and underage marriage, said Widat Hayat an Arab woman and a sociologist who heads the research department at the Women’s House. It is an unprecedented number.

Many local men have found it difficult to reconcile the prosperity and stability the new government has brought with their own traditions.

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A group of men in Amuda, in northern Syria. Many local men have found it difficult to reconcile the prosperity and stability the new government has brought with their own traditions. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Abdul Aziz al-Hassin, 45, an Arab shopkeeper who has 14 children, agrees that “a woman has the same rights as a man, she’s not a slave or a servant.” But he still intends to take a second wife, he said, because his current one, also 45, can no longer bear children. How will she react to that? “I won’t tell her,” he said. “It’s none of her business.”

Attitudes like that die hard.

“When we opened the Women’s House, even we didn’t believe this was going to work here,” said Jihan Mustafa, one of the counselors who coach women on their rights, and help them through divorce, spousal abuse prosecutions and legal actions to force their husbands to better provide for their children. “Now as you see, it is always busy here.”

At the Women’s House in Manbij, halls, waiting rooms and consultation rooms were crowded with men and women — with many of the men visibly angry.

Ms. Mustafa is a Kurd, as were the first women’s activists here, but now other members of the Women’s House are Arabs, and most of their clients are as well. Manbij is heavily Arab, with minorities of Kurds and others. “There is real acceptance for it, just 18 months after the liberation of Manbij,” she said.

Acceptance is hardly universal, however, and many of those who are critical are also afraid to speak out publicly.

“To understand the current situation, think of ISIS, but at the other end of the spectrum,” said Abdul, 37, a teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions from Kurdish officials. “They never stop trying to impose codes and teachings that contradict our cultural norms and conservative views,” he said. “And they insist on having a female presence in everything, which has made them hire unqualified females in posts they don’t know how to handle.”

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Children play in a heavily bombed area in Kobani, in northern Syria. After Kurds took control of the area, women were immediately given the right to divorce, previously a right reserved to men; to inherit property on an equal basis with men; and to keep their children and their homes in a marital breakup. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Kurdish leaders are aware of the discontent, but say the changes they are bringing are long overdue and are gaining acceptance, especially among younger Arab women.

“Most men don’t accept it, but we speak to women and try to make society understand why it is not good, for instance, to have more than one wife,” said Isam Abdul Qader, an Arab member of the Manbij Women’s Council, another organization that advocates women’s equality. It also sends teams of women door to door in neighborhoods and villages, where they ask to come in and explain to the women their new rights.

“Many men don’t let us in at first,” said Hana Sharif, a Kurdish council member. “We just go back two or three times. Little by little, it is working.”

Maja al-Ali, 25, is an Arab woman member of the council who said the new local government has changed her life. “Before I just stayed in the house and I couldn’t even wake up in the morning,” she said. “Now I have character and a role in society. Now I get up in the morning, I have meetings and do things, and I love life now.”

At the request of local women, the council has started a driving school for them. Recently, some women in Manbij have asked the women’s council to set up firearms courses to teach civilian women how to defend themselves.

“It is about time,” Ms. Sharif said, “that we have all of our rights.”

The New York Times

Türkei missachtet UN-Resolution / Kampf gegen Kurden in Syrien

Die Türkei hat die UN-Resolution für eine Feuerpause in Syrien begrüßt. Fühlt sich aber offenbar nicht daran gebunden.

Trotz der UN-Resolution für eine Waffenruhe in Syrien gehen auch die Kämpfe zwischen dem türkischen Militär und der Kurdenmiliz YPG in der nordwestsyrischen Region Afrin weiter. Das türkische Militär und verbündete Rebellen seien unterstützt von Luftangriffen weiter vorgerückt, teilte die Syrische Beobachtungsstelle für Menschenrechte mit.

Ankara hatte die UN-Resolution zum Waffenstillstand zwar begrüßt, aber zugleich angekündigt, weiter gegen „terroristische Organisationen“ zu kämpfen.

ZDF

Sehid Michael Israel Brigade

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Antifascist Forces in Afrin (AFFA) is a military group of leftist revolutionaries defending Afrin and its people from the invasion of the Turkish state and its Salafist proxies.

Alongside non-affiliated individuals and members of Turkish and Kurdish communist revolutionary parties, Şehîd Michael Israel Brigade is the main component of AFFA.

Our fight against ISIS over the last 18+ months has steeled our comradeship. Having known, fought and lived with Michael Israel we decided it was fitting to name our unit after him given the context of his martyrdom: Michael was killed by Turkish airstrikes as he was fighting ISIS.

Antifascist Forces in Afrin was founded as an emergency response to Turkish president Erdogan’s heinous attempt to crush the Rojava revolution and its peoples in their most peaceful region.

Many of us are former commanders and fighters from the International Freedom Battalion and various YPG units.

After the hard-won battle to liberate Rakka from ISIS many of us had moved onto work in the civil and social side of the revolution while others went on to train newly arrived international fighters.

In that relatively peaceful period between the Rakka operation and the Battle for Afrin our faith in the Rojava revolution was compounded by the remarkable progress we witnessed in the lives of the people here.

We have now come together once again in this most crucial and decisive battle against fascist attack.

We fight mainly as our own unit in the Şehîd Michael Israel Brigade as well as in mixed assault teams with our comrades from YPG, YPJ, TIKKO, BÖG, MLSPB, TKEP-L and MKP.

We are now all fully engaged in the defence of Afrin as active units. Having already taken some wounded amongst our ranks, and due to the general logistical pressures of war, our ability to conduct and release public communications may be sporadic in the future as the battle hardens. So please be patient and share our communiques widely. While you wait on our messages please share all other pro-Afrin media.

Until now we have been disappointed at the lack of international support for Afrin. But now with protests and solidarity actions in full swing across the world it is your duty to partake in the fight for Afrin just as many leftists before us did so for Vietnam. Whilst the enemy has an armed presence in Afrin its soft underbelly is exposed to you: its international reputation, its economic ties and its political institutions. Civil and popular actions worldwide against the Turkish state can in many ways be more effective than any number of bullets we fire. This is a political fight as much it is a military battle.

Defend Afrin.
Death to Fascism.
No Pasaran.

Şehîd Michael Israel Brigade

Antifascist Forces in Afrin – AFFA.
15th February 2018

Turkish Army Hit Village in Syria’s Afrin With Suspected Gas: Kurdish YPG, Observatory

Syrian Kurdish forces and a monitoring group said the Turkish military carried out a suspected gas attack that wounded six people in Syria’s Afrin region on Friday.

There was no immediate comment from the Turkish military, which has previously denied accusations of hitting civilians in its Afrin operation.

Birusk Hasaka, a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin, told Reuters that Turkish bombardment hit a village in the northwest of the region, near the Turkish border. He said it caused six people to suffer breathing problems and other symptoms indicative of a gas attack.

Turkey launched an air and ground offensive last month on the Afrin region, opening a new front in the multi-sided Syrian war to target Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters that Turkish forces and their Syrian insurgent allies hit the village on Friday with shells. The Britain-based war monitoring group said medical sources in Afrin reported that six people in the attack suffered breathing difficulties and dilated pupils, indicating a suspected gas attack.

Syrian state news agency SANA, citing a doctor in a Afrin hospital, said Turkish shelling of the village caused choking in six people.

On Feb. 6, the United Nations called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Syria.

Since the onset of the conflict in 2011, the YPG and its allies have set up three autonomous cantons in the north, including Afrin. Their sphere of influence expanded as they seized territory from Islamic State with U.S. help, though Washington opposes their autonomy plans as does the Syrian government.

U.S. support for Kurdish-led forces in Syria has infuriated Ankara, which views them as a security threat along its frontier. Turkey sees the YPG as terrorists and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged a three-decade insurgency on Turkish soil.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis in Beirut and Rodi Said in northern Syria; Additional reporting by Daren Butler in Istanbul; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

The New York Times

VIDEO

Rheinmetall treibt Türkei-Deal voran

Rheinmetall bringt trotz ausstehender Genehmigung die Aufrüstung türkischer „Leopard 2″-Panzer auf den Weg: Laut BR und „Stern“ soll es bereits einen Deal mit der türkischen Firma BMC geben.

Als die türkische Armee Ende Januar „Leopard 2″-Panzer gegen die Kurdenmiliz YPG einsetzte, war die Empörung groß: Panzer aus deutscher Produktion in einem völkerrechtswidrigen Krieg. Panzer, für die Außenminister Sigmar Gabriel bei einem Treffen mit seinem türkischen Amtskollegen in Aussicht gestellt hatte, die Bundesregierung werde eine Nachrüstung genehmigen.

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Ein Panzer „Leopard 2″ nahe der syrischen Grenze. Die Türkei hat in den 1990er-Jahren mehr als 300 dieser Panzer aus Beständen der Bundeswehr erhalten.

Diese sieht vor, dass Rheinmetall den „Leopard 2″ mit einer besseren Panzerung gegen Raketenbeschuss und Sprengfallen ausstattet. Doch nach Beginn der türkischen Offensive ruderte der Außenminister zurück. „Mit der Beratung von kritischen Vorhaben“ werde man bis zur Bildung einer neuen Regierung warten.

Vereinbarung drei Tage nach Außenminister-Treffen

Jetzt aber stellt sich heraus: Bereits am 9. Januar, drei Tage nach dem Treffen der beiden Außenminister, reiste offenbar eine Delegation des türkischen Unternehmens BMC nach Düsseldorf und unterzeichnete bei Rheinmetall eine Vereinbarung über die Nachrüstung. Das haben das ARD-Politikmagazin report München und der „Stern“ aus Firmenquellen erfahren. Offenbar ging man bei Rheinmetall bereits davon aus, dass die Genehmigung kommt.

Der Grünen-Wirtschaftsexperte Dieter Janecek bezeichnet den Vorgang als „skandalös“. Einerseits erzähle die Bundesregierung, man trete für die Menschenrechte und die Befreiung des inhaftierten „Welt“-Korrespondenten Deniz Yücel ein, andererseits sei man „mittendrin in diesem Geschäft“, kritisierte der Bundestagsabgeordnete. Janecek befürchtet, dass die Genehmigung erteilt wird, sobald der öffentliche Druck nachlasse und sich „ein Zeitfenster“ auftue.

Rheinmetall plant Joint-Venture mit der Türkei

Rheinmetalls Türkei-Pläne gehen aber noch viel weiter: Präsident Erdogan möchte bald vor Ort Panzer bauen lassen. Rheinmetall will mit dabei sein und hat in der Türkei ein Tochterunternehmen gegründet. Es heißt RBSS und hat seinen Sitz in Ankara – ein Joint-Venture unter anderem mit dem türkischen Konzern BMC, das einem Erdogan-Vertrauten gehört. Interne Rheinmetall-Mails, die report München und dem „Stern“ vorliegen, zeigen: BMC soll dem deutschen Konzern als Türöffner dienen.

BMC solle „endlich mal beweisen“, dass es „Einfluss auf Bedarfsentscheidungen und Beschaffungsprogramme“ in der Türkei habe, schreibt ein Rheinmetall-Mitarbeiter. Ein anderer Manager fordert: „Wir brauchen jetzt unbedingt das TOP Meeting mit Erdogan.“ Man solle ein solches Treffen „mit Nachdruck“ über BMC einfordern. Wenig später empfing der türkische Präsident tatsächlich mehrere Rheinmetall-Manager.

Keine offizielle Bestätigung

Rheinmetall und BMC ließen Anfragen von report München und „Stern“ unbeantwortet. Das Bundesaußenministerium teilte mit, zu Einzelfallanfragen bei Rüstungsexporten erteile man aus rechtlichen Gründen keine Auskunft.

ARD-aktuell / tagesschau.de

Statement from Antifascist Forces in Afrin

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On the 20th January 2018, Turkish army and Islamist terrorists supported and sponsored by the Turkish state launched an invasion against Afrin, a Kurdish majority enclave situated in the northwest of Syria – ironically named “Operation Olive Branch”.

Afrin is one of the cantons of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria – commonly known as Rojava. In 2011, the people of Afrin, Kobani and Cizre region rose up in arms and declared themselves autonomous in the midst of a brutal civil war and sectarian conflicts. In the next six years, from elevating the role of women in politics and society, dismantling patriarchal and feudal cultural practices, building a political system that emphasises direct democracy, municipalism and pluralism, to creating an economic system that is based on needs, equality and sustainability, the revolutionary people of Rojava were able to initiate widespread social reforms.

One of the most despicable outcomes of the Syrian civil war was the ascension of the Islamic State (ISIS). This barbaric gang took advantage of the chaotic geopolitical situations, they were able to take over large swathes of territory. Tens of thousands of civilians lived under a regime of terror installed by the Islamist terrorist group. ISIS was seemingly unstoppable, until the battle of Kobani, where the terrorist group experienced their first major defeat at the hands of the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), Women’s Protection Unit (YPJ) and allies. From Kobani, Manbij, Raqqa, to Deir ez-Zor, the revolutionary forces of Rojava played an essential role in the defeat of ISIS.

From the beginning, the Turkish state had sought every opportunity to blackmail, blockade, sabotage and destroy the Rojava revolution. This stemmed from a long history of systemic oppression and discrimination of the Kurdish people. But it also demonstrated the resurgence of the tendencies towards fascism of the Turkish polity. Under the leadership of Erdoğan and his AK party, the Turkish state engaged in a series of mass arrests, brutal crackdowns on opposition and harsh censorship of free press under the pretence of anti-terrorism. Thousands of innocent people including democratically elected opposition representatives were thrown into jail without fair trials. Enforcement of conservative religious values and practices, including discrimination against LGBTQ communities, as well as an increasingly expansionist and neo-colonial foreign policy signal the rise of a fascist regime in Turkey.

Today in Afrin, we are witnessing another attempt by the fascistic Turkish state to attack the
revolutionary aspirations of the autonomous people of Rojava. Erdoğan has even openly called for the “Arabisation” of the overwhelmingly Kurdish region of Afrin. Facing a genocidal enemy with absolute military superiority, but with will and determination, the people of Afrin have already unflinchingly resisted the imperialist invasion for more than twenty days while the world’s governments have so far turned a blind eye.

We are a group of communists, socialists, anarchists and antifascists, hailing from different parts of the world. Despite coming from different ideological and cultural backgrounds, we are united in Rojava by the principles of solidarity, internationalism and antifascism. From Manbij to Raqqa, we have fought alongside YPG, YPJ, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and a number of Turkish revolutionary forces against the barbaric ISIS. Now in Afrin, we have once again come together to fight alongside our comrades against fascism, imperialism and terrorism.

Internationalists have shed blood for this struggle against fascism. From Şehid Ivanna Hoffman who was one of the first international women martyrs in Rojava, Şehid Michael Israel who was murdered by a Turkish airstrike in Manbij to Şehid Jac Holmes who fell in Raqqa as the capital of ISIS was liberated by the antifascist forces, we honor the martyrs by continuing their struggle.

The resistance of Afrin is one of the most critical moments in the struggle against fascism of our
time. The time to act is now.
We call for international solidarity with the struggle of Afrin.
We call on determined international revolutionaries to join our struggle.
We also call upon widespread civil actions against the Turkish state around the world.
In unity, we will be triumphant. In solidarity, we will defeat our enemies.

Şehid namirin! Bijî berxwedana Efrînê!
Death to Fascism! Death to colonialism!
Long live international solidarity!
Antifascist Forces in Afrin (AFFA)
Şehid Michael Israel Brigade
13th February 2018

Michael Israel Brigade

Erdogan droht USA mit „osmanischer Ohrfeige“

Die USA unterstützen die Kurdenmiliz YPG in Syrien, die Türkei bekämpft sie. Nun hat Präsident Erdogan eine deutliche Warnung an den Nato-Partner geschickt.

Die Beziehungen zwischen den USA und der Türkei sind seit Monaten angespannt. Die beiden Nato-Partner streiten unter anderem über die Kurdenmiliz YPG. Washington unterstützt die Gruppe im syrischen Bürgerkrieg, Ankara hält sie für Terroristen und führt eine Militäroffensive gegen ihre Enklaven im Norden des Bürgerkriegslandes.

Vor einem Besuch von US-Außenminister Rex Tillerson in der Türkei hat der türkische Staatspräsident Recep Tayyip Erdogan nun eine deutliche Drohung ausgesprochen. Er warnte die US-Truppen in der Kurdenenklave Manbidsch davor, einem möglichen türkischen Angriff auf die YPG in der nordsyrischen Stadt im Wege zu stehen.

In einer Ansprache vor der Fraktion seiner Partei AKP in Ankara drohte er der Nachrichtenagentur dpa zufolge den amerikanischen Soldaten für diesen Fall mit einer „osmanischen Ohrfeige“.

„Natürlich werden wir nicht absichtlich auf sie zielen“, sagte Erdogan unter Applaus. „Aber wir verkünden jetzt schon, dass wir jeden Terroristen, den wir sehen, vernichten und ausmerzen werden – angefangen mit denen, die direkt neben ihnen stehen. Eben dann werden sie einsehen, dass es für sie besser wäre, wenn sie sich nicht neben den Terroristen aufhielten, denen sie auf die Schulter klopfen.“

Erdogan fügte hinzu: „Es ist ganz klar, dass diejenigen, die sagen ‚Wir reagieren hart, wenn sie uns angreifen‘, in ihrem Leben noch keine osmanische Ohrfeige verpasst bekommen haben.“

„Wenn ihr uns angreift, werden wir hart reagieren“

Die „New York Times“ hatte vergangene Woche einen US-General bei einem Besuch in Manbidsch zitiert, der nach Angaben der Zeitung mit Blick auf die Türkei gesagt hatte: „Wenn ihr uns angreift, werden wir hart reagieren. Wir werden uns verteidigen.“

Die türkische Armee hat am 20. Januar eine Offensive gegen die YPG in der nordsyrischen Region Afrin begonnen. Erdogan hat mehrfach damit gedroht, danach die YPG in Manbidsch anzugreifen. 2016 hatte eine von der YPG geführte und von den USA unterstützte Koalition Manbidsch von der Terrormiliz „Islamischer Staat“ (IS) befreit.

Der Spiegel

VIDEO

#NoFlyZone4Rojava

Turkey accused of recruiting ex-Isis fighters in their thousands to attack Kurds in Syria

Exclusive: Former Isis fighter tells The Independent that Turkey is using the name of the now defunct, Western-backed Free Syrian Army to conceal its use of jihadi mercenaries

Turkey is recruiting and retraining Isis fighters to lead its invasion of the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria, according to an ex-Isis source.

“Most of those who are fighting in Afrin against the YPG [People’s Protection Units] are Isis, though Turkey has trained them to change their assault tactics,” said Faraj, a former Isis fighter from north-east Syria who remains in close touch with the jihadi movement.

In a phone interview with The Independent, he added: “Turkey at the beginning of its operation tried to delude people by saying that it is fighting Isis, but actually they are training Isis members and sending them to Afrin.”

An estimated 6,000 Turkish troops and 10,000 Free Syrian Army (FSA) militia crossed into Syria on 20 January, pledging to drive the YPG out of Afrin.

The attack was led by the FSA, which is a largely defunct umbrella grouping of non-Jihadi Syrian rebels once backed by the West. Now, most of its fighters taking part in Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” were, until recently, members of Isis.

Some of the FSA troops advancing into Afrin are surprisingly open about their allegiance to al-Qaeda and its offshoots. A video posted online shows three uniformed jihadis singing a song in praise of their past battles and “how we were steadfast in Grozny (Chechnya) and Dagestan (north Caucasus). And we took Tora Bora (the former headquarters of Osama bin Laden). And now Afrin is calling to us“.

Isis suffered heavy defeats last year, losing Mosul in Iraq after a siege of nine months and Raqqa in Syria after a four-month siege. The caliphate, declared by its leader Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi in 2014, was destroyed, and most of its experienced commanders and fighters were killed or dispersed.

But it has shown signs of trying to revive itself in Syria and Iraq over the last two months, assassinating local opponents and launching guerrilla attacks in out-of-the-way and poorly defended places.

Isis fighters are joining the FSA and Turkish-army invasion force because they are put under pressure by the Turkish authorities. From the point of view of Turkey, the recruitment of former Isis combatants means that it can draw on a large pool of professional and experienced soldiers. Another advantage is that they are not Turks, so if they suffer serious casualties this will do no damage to the Turkish government.

Isis and Turkey are seeking to use each other for their own purposes. Faraj, 32, an Arab from the mixed Kurdish-Arab province of Hasakah in north-east Syria, says that he does not like the YPG, but he is suspicious of Turkey and believes that it is trying manipulate Isis. “Turkey treats Isis like toilet tissues,” he says. “After use they will be thrown away.”

Turkey is evidently aware that using Isis fighters as the spearhead for the assault on Afrin, even if they relabelled as FSA, is likely to attract international criticism.

Faraj says that Turkish commanders have discouraged Isis from using their traditional tactics of extensive use of suicide bombers and car bombs at Afrin because this would make the Isis-Turkish cooperation too blatant.

He says that the FSA men are “professional in planning car-bomb attacks as they have experience before with Isis in Raqqa and Mosul”.

But he cites Turkish officers as discouraging such identifiable tactics, quoting one as telling an FSA group in training that “we leave the suicide attacks for the YPG and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party which carries on guerrilla warfare in Turkey), so that the world will be convinced that they are terrorists”.

Turkey has had an ambivalent relationship with jihadi groups since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. At first, it allowed foreign jihadi fighters and military supplies to cross into Syria, though this tolerance ebbed after the fall of Mosul in June 2014.

Nevertheless, Ankara made clear by its actions during the siege of the Kurdish city of Kobani that it would have preferred victory to go to Isis rather than the YPG.

As the YPG advanced after Kobani with the support of US air power, Turkey’s priority became to reverse the creation of a de facto Kurdish state in Syria under US military protection.

The US is in a particularly difficult position. It was the YPG who provided the ground troops who, backed by US air strikes, have defeated Isis in many battles.

Without them there would have been no victory over Isis as was claimed by President Trump in his State of the Union message. But the YPG is now facing some of the same Isis fighters in Afrin with whom it fought over the past four years. It will not look good if the US abandons its proven Kurdish allies because it does not want a confrontation with Turkey.

Such a confrontation could be just around the corner. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened at the weekend to expand the Turkish invasion to include the Arab town of Manbij, captured from Isis by the YPG in 2016 after a long siege. He said that the Americans “tell us, ‘Don’t come to Manbij.’ We will come to Manbij to handover these territories to their rightful owners.”

The fighting between Turks and Kurds and the growing confrontation between the US and Turkey are all in the interests of Isis. It does not have the strength to recover from its crushing defeats last year, but the opponents it faced then are now fighting other battles.

Eliminating the last pockets of Isis resistance is no longer their first priority. The YPG has been transferring units that were facing Isis in the far east of Syria to the west where they will face the Turks.

Turkey is not in a very strong position militarily almost three weeks after its invasion of Afrin. It can only win by bombing round the clock, and for this it will need Russian permission, which it probably will not get. If it is going to expand its attacks, it will need more combat soldiers and this will provide an opportunity for Isis to join in a new war.

The Turkish embassy in the UK has been approached for comment but had not responded by the time of publication.

The Independent




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