Turkey worries about Kurds in Syrian
July 26, 2012
Kurdish rebel Ubed Muse speaks to a reporter during
an interview at a safe house in Antakya on July 24,
2012.'I wish we could get some armed support from
Turkey,' said Ubed Muse, Kurd leader of 45 rebels
fighting in the rural parts of Aleppo, during a
stopover before heading back to Syria to join his
fellow fighters. Photo: Getty Images. •
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ANTAKYA,— Holed up in a Turkish
safe-house, a Kurdish commander of a Syrian rebel
unit makes a novel pitch for more weapons to help
his men fight the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
"I wish we could get some armed support from
Turkey," said Ubed Muse, speaking to AFP during a
break from the bloody battles in which he has led a
band of 45 rebels near Aleppo, Syria's second city.
If his fighters could get help from Turkey, he said,
they would return the favour by hitting the Kurdish
militant group that has long been the arch-nemesis
of Ankara, the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK.
"If we -- Kurds and Arabs -- join ranks, and are
able to get military support from Turkey, we can
fight not only the regime but also the PKK," said
Muse, sitting in the secret flat in Turkey's central
Around him, pictures of fighters killed or wounded
in the conflict hang on the walls along with
cartoons mocking Assad and a rebel Free Syrian Army
slogan that proclaims: "We will never stop till
"We are in need of weapons," Muse said, repeating a
common concern of the insurgents, thousands of whom
have been based in Turkey.
"With armed support from Turkey, we can hit PKK
bases inside Syria because we all know about their
whereabouts and which regions they control."
The question of Kurdish ambitions in Syria has been
a top concern of late for Turkey, which has long
battled the PKK and its campaign for a Kurdistan
homeland that would span parts of Turkey, Iraq and
The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by
Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the
blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which
overturned a decision
to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its
political wing on the European Union's terror list.
In Iraq's Kurdistan region, Kurds have carved out a
semi-autonomous region since the US invasion of
2003, and fears are on the rise in Turkey that the
same could happen on their doorstep in northern
Turkish newspapers have published with alarm
pictures of Kurdish flags fluttering from buildings
in Syrian Kurdistan in Syria's north and reported
that parts of the region had fallen into the hands
of the PKK or its Syrian branch,www.ekurd.net
the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
The head of the opposition Syrian National Council
said this week that Syrian forces had "entrusted"
the northern region to the PKK or the PYD and then
Turkey's top security, military and political
officials held talks Wednesday about the activities
of Kurdish rebels in Syria.
"The latest developments in Syria, the activities of
the terrorist separatist group in our country and in
neighbouring countries, were discussed at the
meeting," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's
Turkish officials have frequently accused Syria of
aiding the PKK, saying recent attacks targeting
Turkish security forces were carried out by rebels
infiltrating from Syria.
When Turkey recently massed troops along the Syrian
border after the Damascus regime shot down one of
its fighter-jets, some Turkish media speculated that
this also meant to send a signal to Kurdish rebels.
The Kurdish question has long played a role in
tricky relations between Turkey and Syria, where
Kurds make up less than 10 percent of the population
and have long complained of discrimination and
The neighbours came to the brink of a war in the
1990s over Syria harbouring the PKK's leader
Abdullah Ocalan at the time.
Relations warmed after Erdogan's moderate Islamist
Justice and Development Party took power in Turkey
But ties have plummeted again since the start of
Syria's uprising in March last year, which Assad's
increasingly isolated regime has sought to crush
with massive military force.
Many Kurds joined the anti-regime protests in Syria;
others have reportedly fought alongside regime
In the Turkish safe-house, a defected Syrian army
colonel joined the conversation after completing his
He dismissed fears that Syrian Kurds are motivated
by the desire for an independent state, arguing that
people from different ethnic groups are united in
their desire to get rid of Assad.
"There is a political game going on outside, as if
Kurds, Alewites and Turkmens each want separate
entities," said the defector, who wished to remain
"This is not true. 95 percent of Syrians want a
united flag and a united state."
The PKK has several times proposed peaceful solutions regarding Kurdish problem,
Turkey has always refused saying that it will not negotiate with “terrorists”.
Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state,
which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish
state in the south east of the country.
But now its aim is the creation an autonomous region and more cultural rights
for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more
than 20 million.
A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK
The PKK wants constitutional recognition for the Kurds, regional
self-governance and Kurdish-language education in schools.
PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in
Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey,
reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action
against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.
Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population
as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural
rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish
language and private Kurdish language courses with
the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish
politicians say the measures fall short of their
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