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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid