Iraqi Kurds train their Syrian brethren
By Jane Arraf - Al Jazeera
July 23, 2012
The president of Iraq's autonomous region of
Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani. Photo: AFP
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SALAHADIN, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — The
Kurdistan Regional Government KRG in the north of
Iraq is training Kurdish-Syrian fighters who will be
sent back to defend Kurdish territory at home, says
Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani.
In an interview with Al Jazeera at the presidential
palace near Erbil on Sunday, Massoud Barzani, the
president of Kurdistan region confirmed for the
first time the presence of a training camp in the
semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
The training puts yet another twist on complicated
Kurdish relations and highlights major differences
between the policy of the KRG and Iraq’s central
government towards neighbouring Syria.
“A good number of the young Kurds who fled have been
trained. We do not want to interfere directly in the
situation but they have been trained,” Barzani told
Al Jazeera in his first interview in months. He said
they have not yet been sent into Syria but are
intended to be deployed there to fill any "security
vacuum" as Syrian security forces retreat.
Barzani said the fighting force, made up largely of
Syrian Kurds who deserted the army and made their
way across the border, would take its orders from a
new high committee formed two weeks ago when two
major Kurdish opposition groups put aside their
“They have not been sent to Syria. They are still
here - if this high committee requires them to go
they still could - if not they will wait for the
situation to be sorted out because these people are
from these areas and they will go back eventually,”
he said. “This was aimed at filling the vacuum that
will be created.”
'Unified' Kurdish position
Barzani, the most prominent regional Kurdish leader,
oversaw an agreement in Erbil between the Syrian
armed opposition and the mainstream Kurdish National
“The best and the biggest support that we could
provide is to have a united position and in this we
were successful,” he said.
He said Syrian forces withdrew from several towns in
the largely Kurdish al-Hasekah region [Syrian
Kurdistan] which are now controlled by Kurdish
At Syria’s border crossing with northern Iraq, Iraqi
officials said Syrian security forces on Sunday
morning retook the border post from gunmen who had
The Iraqi and Syrian sides of the border post are
just metres away. One Iraqi border official told us
he had spoken with a lieutenant colonel of the Free
Syrian Army who took control of the post along with
Kurdish and Arab fighters.
They melted away though when Syrian security forces
sent in helicopters to retake the Yarabiya crossing
early Monday morning.
Iraq’s Shia-led central government has been treading
a very careful line on Syria, warning of the dangers
of arming the opposition and saying the Syrian
people must decide on their own future.
With violence worsening though and attacks on Iraqis
in Syria increasing, the government has called on
Iraqis to return home, seen by some as an implicit
recognition that they do not expect the Syrian
government to last. While thousands have returned to
hundreds of Sunni Iraqis who fled sectarian violence
say they plan to remain in the safer Kurdish region.
Iraq has closed the gates to Syrian refugees, saying
it does not have the resources to take care of them
at its remote desert crossings. Humanitarian
officials from one of the borders reported that
Iraqi authorities on the weekend had handed a Syrian
family seeking asylum back to Syrian authorities.
One official said it was likely because the family
included military-age men.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
and aid organisations have appealed for Iraq to open
the borders to Syrian civilians trying to escape the
Some corrections made by Ekurd.net
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