News / Middle East

Clashes Between Syrian Kurds, Rebels Worry Turkey

Members of the Free Syrian Army set up a fire to obscure the Kurdish militants' vision, while standing alert during a truce on  top of a hilly mountain in the Kurdish area of al-Qaftal, overlooking the town of Azaz, October 31, 2012.
Members of the Free Syrian Army set up a fire to obscure the Kurdish militants' vision, while standing alert during a truce on top of a hilly mountain in the Kurdish area of al-Qaftal, overlooking the town of Azaz, October 31, 2012.
Dorian Jones
Clashes between Syrian Kurdish forces and Syrian rebels have been on the rise the past few weeks. Concentrating control in their own areas of northwestern Syria, Kurdish leaders have been slow to join the broader rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, prefering to seek greater regional autonomy. This is a big concern for neighboring Turkey.

When Syrian rebels seized the border post at Ras al-Ain on November 8, they celebrated the victory and went on to "liberate" the town, a place where both Arabs and Kurds live on Syria's northeastern border with Turkey.

But the Kurdish inhabitants quickly saw the perils of the move. Within days, dozens of people were dead in clashes between Kurdish militias and the rebels.

Turkish soldiers take up position near the border with Syria, in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 26, 2012.Turkish soldiers take up position near the border with Syria, in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 26, 2012.
x
Turkish soldiers take up position near the border with Syria, in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 26, 2012.
Turkish soldiers take up position near the border with Syria, in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 26, 2012.
Ankara is worried about the clashes in the region, fearing that Syria's Kurdish Party, the PYD, is supporting Kurdish insurgents in Turkey, known as the PKK, with encouragement from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Diplomatic correspondent Semih Idiz of the Hurriyet daily said, "If there is an overt PKK connection with the PYD, and there is a Turkey-friendly outfit that seems to be combating this, I can see how there are people in Turkey who might see this as being to Turkey's advantage. But I don't know that there is a direct Turkish involvement in this."

The PKK has been fighting for greater autonomy against Turkish security forces since the 1980s. The Syrian crisis has reopened the question of regional Kurdish autonomy, rekindling hope among some Kurds that their 30-million-strong flock - divided between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran - could emerge with their own state.

Ankara fears an autonomous Syrian Kurdish region on its border would further strengthen the PKK insurgency.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month warned that Turkey would never allow it.
 
International relations analyst Cengiz Aktar of Bahcesehir University said Ankara's increasingly tough language convinces him that Turkey could be involved in fueling the clashes.

"According to reports, the clashes are not between the Syrian opposition and the Kurds but between the Kurds and al-Qaida-like militia directly and indirectly supported by the Turkish authorities. If that is true, it means Turkey is implementing its policy towards the Kurdish-populated areas of Syria where, as the prime minister has indicated, it won't tolerate any sort of autonomy," Aktar said.

Gultan Kisanak is the leader of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party, the Peace and Democracy Party. She also accuses Turkish security forces of being behind the clashes. Similar claims were made in a press release Tuesday by the Kurdistan National Congress, a coalition of Kurdish groups across Europe.

But Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal dismissed the notion. He said, "We don't have any kind of place in such an internal clash. It's not in the interest of anybody to continue clashes while [they] are fighting an oppressive regime," he said.

According to Turkish media reports, the leader of the Iraqi Kurdish regional government, Masoud Barzani, is seeking to mediate between the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian opposition.

In recent years, Ankara has developed good economic and political relations with the neighboring Iraqi Kurds after a decade of mistrust.

International relations analyst Aktar said Turkey needs to develop similar relations with Syrian Kurds, but may need help.

"When a semi-autonomous region appeared in the north of Iraq, Turkey did not like it. But it was convinced by the Americans," said Aktar. "So Turkey needs again the good office of the U.S. to create the same type of working relationship with the Syrian Kurds."

Aktar warned the alternative will be increasing tensions between Ankara and Syrian Kurds. He said that would result in further clashes and confrontations.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid