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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
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 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 Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
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.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid