Kurdish War: Syrian Rebels and Kurd Militia Clash


November 1, 2012: Syrian Sunni Arab rebels have fought several battles with a Syrian Kurd militia in the village of Yazi Bah (Yazi Bagh), Aleppo (Halab) province. Yazi Bah is a Kurdish village north of the city of Aleppo, near the Syria-Turkey, just south of the Turkish city of Kilis. It is also due north of the Syrian rebel-controlled town of, Aazaz (A’zaz). The rebels have used Aazaz as a base. What initiated the fighting? Stories conflict. A human rights organization claimed that a rebel group tortured and killed a Syrian Kurd the rebels captured near another village. Why the rebels thought it necessary to arrest the Kurd is not known, but Arab Sunni rebel fighters in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have claimed for several months that several Syrian Kurdish militias are pro-Assad dictatorship and that in the last few weeks some of the Kurd militias have taken steps to prevent rebel groups from moving through their territory. Check the map. Yazi Bah is perfectly sited to interdict supplies moving south from Turkey to Aazaz. For months the FSA has said that it has evidence that Kurdish militias have made a deal with the Assad government. Turkey considers these pro-Assad Kurd militias to be aligned with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).  The pro-PKK Kurdish group in Syria is the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).  The PYD is allegedly supporting what are called Syrian Kurdish YPG militias (YPG an acronym for "unit for the protection of the people” or popular protection unit). YPGs are found in several Syrian Kurdish villages and towns. There are around two million Syrian Kurds, constituting around 15 percent of the population of Syria, but they are the dominant ethnic group in Syria’s north-eastern triangle. The triangle (basically Hasaka province) borders Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish region and northern Iraq, which is also predominantly Kurdish. Ethnic Kurds also live in areas between Aleppo and the Turkish border (in villages like Yazi Bah). The border firefights between Syrian Kurd militias and Arab rebel fighters in the region north of Aleppo follow several violent clashes between FSA rebels and Kurds in the Syrian town of Aleppo. (Some sources identify the Kurdish militia in Aleppo as a YPG.) Syrian sources claimed that three-dozen people were killed in a battle between FSA rebels and a PYD militia in Aleppo on October 26. (Austin Bay)

October 30, 2012: Demonstrations by Kurdish activists continued in cities and towns throughout southeastern Turkey. In Diyabakir protestors clashed with riot police. The protestors are demonstrating in support of 650 Kurdish prisoners who are conducting a hunger strike. The hunger strikers are demanding the right to use the Kurdish language in Turkey’s legal system. They also want Kurdish used in public education. They also want PKK senior commander Abdullah “Apo” Ocalan set free. Ocalan founded the PKK in 1978. As its name indicates, it was founded as a Cold War-era Marxist party. The PKK began large scale attacks in Turkey in August 1984. Turkish security personnel arrested Ocalan in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1999. He was tried and sentenced to death. The death sentence was commuted to life in prison. The PKK contends that Ocalan is the only person that can represent the organization in any peace negotiations with the Turkish government.

October 28, 2012: PKK rebels attacked five positions held by Turkish security forces in Sirnak province. The attacks were near simultaneous. One Turkish policeman was killed and eight PKK rebels were killed in the attacks. In the Beytussebap district Turkish security forces attacked a PKK position and killed eight rebels.

October 27, 2012: Syrian rebels in the FSA fought with Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) militia in the city of Aleppo. The fighting largely took place in the Kurdish quarter of Ashrafiyeh. 30 people died in the urban battles.  A Syrian human rights group said that the Ashrafiyah area is now under PYD control.

October 23, 2012: The Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James Winnefeld, met with Turkish security officials to discuss Turkey’s war with the PKK. The meeting addressed intelligence-sharing issues and the situation in Syria.

 October 17, 2012:  The senior deputy commander of the PKK, Murat Karayilan, said that the PKK will launch retaliatory attacks in Turkey if Turkey attacks Syrian Kurds. Karayilan said the attacks would be violent reprisals.

Three Turkish soldiers and three PKK rebels died in a firefight after a PKK unit attacked a Turkish Army post near the town of Cukurca (Hakkari province, southeastern Turkey). One Turkish soldier was also wounded.

October 14, 2012: Since Spring 2011, the number of violent clashes between Turkish security forces and the PKK have increased. No one can quite pinpoint the date, the Arab Spring revolts erupted in Spring 2011 and Syria’s Arab Spring rebellion began in March 2011. So far 2012, has been a very tough year in the Kurdish War, particularly since mid-Summer 2012. The Turkish Army reported that it has conducted nearly 1,000 counter-insurgency operations (of various sizes) in the last six months. Several international rights and conflict monitoring groups estimate that 700 to 800 people have died in violence related to the Kurdish War in the last 12 to 14 months. The Turkish government thinks it knows why. It contends that the violence has increased because of the Syrian civil war and claims that the PKK has forged an alliance with the Assad dictatorship in Syria. PKK attacks have intensified along the Iraq-Turkey border, where the PKK has launched what it calls revolutionary operations to seize control of small towns and villages, hold them, and call them liberated zones. Turkey ties these operations to Syria, arguing that the PKK is mimicking Syrian rebel action. Turkish security analysts argue that the PKK alliance gives Assad a way to regionalize the war. Should outside forces intervene in Syria (like Turkish forces or NATO forces with Turkey as the lead nation), as massive PKK-led revolt in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq would certainly hinder the intervening forces.  Note that Iran is missing from the regional mix. Iran’s PJAK (Kurdistan Free Life Party) is the PKK in Iran but the PJAK’s war against the Iranian government has conveniently lapsed. Iran is, of course, the Assad regime’s most reliable ally. Turkey also contends that the PKK is receiving newer and more sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons. The likely suppliers of these weapons? Iran and Syria. However, the key piece of the Assad-PKK puzzle is Syria’s Kurdish triangle (basically Hasaka province), in the Iraq-Turkey-Syria border area. PKK-controlled or PKK-influenced Syrian Kurd militias in this area would not cooperate should international forces try to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria. They might even launch guerrilla attacks on the peacekeeping forces, turning the buffer zone into a war zone. Both the PKK and the Assad regime deny that they are cooperating but the evidence on the ground suggests they are. (Austin Bay)

October 12, 2012: The Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the radical Kurdish political coalition tied to the PKK, said that the Kurdish people had the right to retaliate against France for the arrest of PKK leader Adem Uzun.

October 7, 2012: 12 Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter-bombers struck four PKK base camps in northern Iraq’s Qandil Mountains area.  The aircraft also attacked anti-aircraft emplacements in the Qandil Mountains and Zap area.

October 6, 2012: French police in Paris arrested Adem Uzun and another man associated with Uzun. Uzun is regarded as the PKK’s European leader. Uzun was arrested in what French authorities described as an on-going investigation into financing terrorist organizations. The investigation began in July 2012.

October 5, 2012: Turkish security forces claimed they killed six PKK rebels in several small operations conducted in Elazig and Siirt provinces (eastern Turkey).

October 2, 2012: A human rights monitoring group reported that Turkish security forces fired across the Turkey-Syria border and killed three members of a Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. The alleged incident took place in the Syrian province of Hasaka (Derbassiyeh area).  Hasaka province (or governate) is located in Syria’s north-eastern border triangle area (Iraq-Turkey-Syria border region). Hasaka has a population of around 1.5 million people, most of them ethnic Kurds. It borders on Turkey’s Sirnak, Mardin, and Sanilurfa provinces. If the report is accurate, this would be the first known clash between Turkish security forces and a Syrian Kurd militia. The Turkish government has accused several Syrian Kurd militia groups in the area of being PKK units or at least allies of the PKK.

September 30, 2012: The Syrian government reported that a suicide car bomb detonated in the predominantly Kurdish city of Qamishli, Syria, and killed four people. A Syrian human rights organization contended that the blast killed eight Syrian government security personnel and wounded 15 more. The suicide terrorist detonated the car bomb outside of a headquarters building.

September 26, 2012:  A senior member of Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) claimed that the PKK is working closely with the Syrian government of Bashir al-Assad. The Syrian government denied the accusation. Other Turkish sources confirmed that pro-PKK Syrian militias now control several villages in northern Syria. A pro-PKK Syrian Kurd militia is believed to be in control of the Syrian town of Afrin (also spelled Efrin, west of the Syrian city of Aleppo).

September 22, 2012: A clash between Turkish security forces and PKK rebels was reported in the Beytussebap area of Sirnak province.

September 17, 2012: Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced that Turkish security forces have killed around 500 PKK rebels in operations conducted during the last month. Erdogan referred to the PKK fighters as terrorists. 123 PKK rebels were killed between September 6 and September 16, in an operation in and around the city of Hakkari (Turkey-Iraq border area). Approximately 5,000 Turkish Army troops were involved in the Hakkari operation.

September 16, 2012: A land mine authorities claimed was planted by the PKK killed eight Turkish policemen and wounded nine. The incident occurred on a road in the Karliova district (Bingol province).

September 14, 2012: The provincial government of Hakkari province reported that seven Turkish Army battalions were engaged in an operation in Hakkari province’s Semdinli district. 


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