News / Middle East

Kurds Could Help Shift Course of War in Syria

Kurdish fighters from the Popular Protection Units (YPG)  walk along a street in Aleppo, June 7, 2013, where they have joined the Free Syrian Army to fight against forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
Kurdish fighters from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) walk along a street in Aleppo, June 7, 2013, where they have joined the Free Syrian Army to fight against forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
Reuters
— The head of Turkey's main Kurdish party has welcomed contacts between the Ankara government and Syria's Kurds, saying it could step up pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and help change the course of the civil war,
 
Turkish intelligence officers met in Istanbul last week with Saleh Muslim, head of Syria's Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdish group whose militias have been fighting for control of parts of Syria's north near the Turkish border.
 
The meeting followed Muslim's declaration that Kurdish groups would set up an independent council to run Kurdish areas of Syria until the war ends. Ankara fears that kind of autonomy could rekindle separatist sentiment among its own, much larger Kurdish population as it seeks to end a 30-year-old insurgency.
 
“Saleh Muslim's visit to Istanbul is a concrete sign that Turkey is moving towards changing a policy that sees Kurds as a menace,” Selahattin Demirtas, head of parliament's Peace and Democracy Party [BDP], told Reuters in an interview.
 
“It won't just affect Turkish-Kurdish relations but also the course of events in Syria by creating pressure on the regime,” he said.
 
“Kurds can be effective in Syria, and we need to increase support for them. Western countries, including the United States, should establish proper ties with Syria's Kurds.”
 
Turkey is one of the strongest backers of the rebels seeking to topple Assad in a war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives since March, 2011.
 
Syria's ethnic Kurdish minority has been alternately battling Assad's forces and the Islamist-dominated rebels for control of parts of the north.
 
Turkey wants assurances from the PYD that it will not threaten border security or seek an autonomous region in Syria through violence, and that it will maintain a stance of firm opposition to Assad, officials said.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Friday warned the group against any “wrong and dangerous” moves that could hurt Turkish security.
 
Peace at home
 
Demirtas is a main player in Turkey's efforts to resolve a conflict on its own soil with Kurdish militants in which more than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been killed since 1984.
 
The 40-year-old party leader has shuttled to the island prison that has held Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), since his conviction for treason in 1999 and has delivered the rebel leader's messages to his armed followers in northern Iraq.
 
The PKK - considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union - announced a ceasefire in March to encourage talks with Ocalan, seen as the best chance yet to end one of the world's longest-running guerrilla wars.
 
“He is like a good chess player. He makes his move by predicting the next eight or 10 moves in advance,” said Demirtas, who met Ocalan for the first time on Imrali this year.
 
Running red worry beads through his hands, he described Ocalan as a master of Middle Eastern politics and connoisseur of literature, philosophy, art and history.
 
In recent weeks the rebels have warned that Erdogan's government must show greater commitment if the ceasefire is to hold, and address Kurdish grievances by expanding political and cultural rights.
 
The BDP expects legislative action by October, when parliament reconvenes after a summer recess, on demands for the release of thousands of party members in detention on terrorism charges, stronger local rule and Kurdish-language education.
 
Turkey banned the use of Kurdish, a distinct language related to Farsi, outright until 1991 and has only recently allowed it to be used in radio and television broadcasts.
 
Authorities strictly control access to Ocalan, limiting him to infrequent meetings with family, his lawyers and BDP members involved in the peace process. Supporters would like to see him moved out of his small cell to meet with civic groups and the media, as well as for a hospital to open on Imrali.
 
Conditions for the 64-year-old Ocalan must be improved or his frail health could imperil the peace process, Demirtas warned, saying eventually he should be freed.
 
“If there is going to be peace in Turkey, if the enmity is to end, if we're going to have forgiveness, then this should happen,” he said. “When this peace process is fulfilled and things normalize, no one is going to keep him there.”

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid