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

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid