“The goal of the Turkish state is to occupy and remain in our land, just the same as Jabhet al-Nusra and ISIS, which are listed as terrorists and are attacking the region with the Turkish occupation under the name of the ‘Syrian National Army.’”
-General Mazlum Abdi Kobani
The world was outraged when the Turkish military began its attacks on the people of North and East Syria, when the US military ominously pulled soldiers away from the border on October 6, 2019, when the first Turkish bombs fell in Syrian border towns on October 9, 2019, when Turkey marched its soldiers into Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî, joined by Turkish-backed militias, when columns of new refugees appeared on the roads fleeing Turkish violence, when the bodies of dead Syrian children appeared in news around the world. Global leaders condemned these Turkish acts of aggression. Economic sanctions were imposed by EU countries and the US. Senior US officials condemned the US government’s actions, and General James Mattis resigned in protest as Secretary of Defense.
Now, a year has passed. Turkey has clung to its occupied territories with a death grip. It has also clung to the occupied territory of Afrin, Syria, which it invaded in early 2018. Human rights violations and war crimes are committed every passing week, including murder, sexual violence, illegal deportation, kidnappings, property theft, and more. The gaze of the international community turned to the global pandemic and to other crises.
One year after Turkey’s illegal war and military occupation, General Mazlum Abdi Kobane speaks of the violence of the Turkish occupation, the hardships for the people of North and East Syria, and the challenges to the Syrian Democratic Forces.
SDF Commander Mazlum Abdi Kobani gave the following interview to ANHA News.
ANHA News: These days, a year is passing on the Turkish state and its mercenaries occupation of Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî. How do you evaluate the events that this year has witnessed?
General Mazlum: During the year that has passed since the Turkish state’s occupation of our regions, it clarifies that the main goal of the Turkish state is to occupy the region, not the pretexts that the Turkish state claimed, in addition to implementing Turkification policies in the region, and the truth of these attacks carried out by the remnants of ISIS and Jabhet al-Nusra which are classified under the list of terrorism. They are trying to occupy more areas through the occupation of those areas, and it has sent mercenaries to Libya as well to participate in the war there, and for the same goal it sent mercenaries to Azerbaijan too. In short, the Turkish state’s policies during the past year showed the hidden goals of the Turkish state.
ANHA: Before the start of the occupational attacks, there were agreements with the international powers. Why were those agreements violated? Why did America choose this attitude?
GM: If we look at this issue in this way, it will be better. At that time, there were efforts to prevent these attacks, and we our efforts were in the same context. For our people not to be a victim of the occupational attacks, we had international efforts, and those efforts were based on an agreement, and America was within this agreement. There was some progress in the agreement, and this was to prevent war. We did everything we could to avoid war, and there were practical steps. We did what we had to do, but the Turkish state, in front of the whole world, started threatening at the beginning, then launched the attack.
America which was the guarantor country and was the mediator to implement the agreement did not act according to its responsibilities, as it had some endeavors at the beginning, and agreed with Turkey on some matters, but the Turkish state violated all its promises and began to launch attacks. Accordingly, there had to be a serious stance for America and the international coalition against these attacks. At least, they should have adopted their endeavors, but they did not do this. As a result, they took their interests as a basis for themselves, and the attacks did not stop. On the contrary, instead of doing what ensued, it withdrew its forces from the region.
America had to be firm about its decision, it had to block the way to these attacks, there should have been a serious decision on this issue. As I said, they preferred the interests of their regimes, and they did not block the way to the attacks. At that stage, we made a statement and indicated that those decisions are wrong, and we said that we struggle alongside each other against terrorism on this earth. This decision was a blow to struggle against terrorism, and the year passed confirmed to everyone how right we were in what we were saying.
ANHA: After the occupation of several regions in northern and eastern Syria, there were several agreements and meetings, and despite this, the Turkish state’s attacks did not stop, and they are constantly escalating, especially in the past days. How does one view this matter?
GM: We discuss this issue constantly with the international powers. There are agreements between the guarantor countries and the Turkish state, and we were not present in these agreements. There is an agreement between America and Turkey that was concluded in Istanbul on October 17. On October 23, an agreement was concluded between Russia and Turkey is in Sochi, and the two countries had to move according to their agreements. According to the agreements, the demographics of the region should not have been tampered with, and the people of the region should not have been prejudiced, and that the people should not have been exposed to danger. They had to cease the crimes, but unfortunately the crimes committed by the mercenaries of the Turkish occupation have become permissible. The Turkish state had to deter the crimes against the people, but it is the one that is giving way to these crimes and organizing them. If it had no hand and did not organize these crimes by itself, its mercenaries could not do anything. That is why we refer to these crimes at every opportunity, and everywhere. We say that Turkey does not implement the terms of the agreement that it signed.
In the past period, crimes were not limited to the occupied areas only, but the border areas are also subject to attacks, as they arrest civilians, torture them and kill them. Certainly, this is a result of a general policy being hatched against the region, and it is a serious problem, and according to that, the guarantor countries must have a position and stop these attacks.
ANHA: Does it mean that the aforementioned states’ stances cleared the way for Turkey to launch its attacks?
GM: This is the truth. America and Russia have not fulfilled their responsibilities regarding the Sochi and Istanbul agreements, and we always say this. We criticize these positions, the Turkish state does not always implement its promises and the terms of the agreements. The positions of the two countries remain only within the scope of the proposals, but in fact those countries have to show strong and serious positions, and that these positions culminate into actions because the Turkish state targets civilians and politicians in the region, and the international institutions have documented these practices. Because there are no serious stances against the Turkish state, it and its mercenaries continue their attacks, and an example is that the Turkish state and its mercenaries cut off water from the city of al-Hasakah which houses a million people in light of the outbreak of the Corona virus, and yet the international community’s attitude about the Turkish state’s practices remained within the scope of proposals only. There should have been a serious and cruel attitude, the Turkish state should be intimidated in order not to carry out such crimes again.
ANHA: The Turkish state targets the gains of the Kurdish people
Is there a possibility of new occupational attacks on the region? In a situation like this, what will the scales be like in the region, and for what it will open the way?
GM: Now there are two situations, and we must distinguish them from each other. There is always a goal for the Turkish state to launch major attacks on the region, and this goal is not as the Turkish state claims that there are its enemies in the region, this is a big lie, as the main concern of the Turkish state is the Kurds. they are trying by various means to achieve gains here, and the Turkish state cannot afford that the Kurdish people have a right. It always says “We made a big mistake when we allowed the Kurds to have legitimacy in Başûr Kurdistan, and we will not repeat our mistake in the region again.” Since 2011, they have been saying this publicly, and the Turkish state will not give up its goal of occupying the region in any way, but in the event that it occupies this region, it will not only block the way to the legitimacy of the Kurds, but will also exploit it in its foreign policies, as the mercenaries it is sending to Libya, Azerbaijan are being sent from here. It occupies, recruits people and uses them for its own interests. That is why we must be aware of this matter, and take our measures in this context.
But we must know this as well, the Turkish state does not have a power that can do what it wants. It is possible that they are trying to show it this way, but the truth is not so, as it suffers from major problems at home, and launching these attacks today does not mean that it is strong, on the contrary, it is the result of its weakness, as the Turkish state cannot do what it likes in this region because the scales of the region do not allow this on the one hand, and on the other hand our diplomatic, military and political preparations do not allow it to do so. If a question is raised about will the Turkish state launch new attacks on the region? It will try to launch attacks if it has the opportunity, but not that easy.
After a year of the occupation of Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî, the Turkish state is now much weaker than that time, as it is weak in its foreign policies, and the Syrian people do not accept it as it was in the past because everyone sought the disasters that occur in the region with each attack launched by the Turkish state, and they have become fully aware of the damages that are caused to them with each attack launched by the Turkish state. Accordingly, the offensive strength of the Turkish state has weakened, and it is not the same as before, surely the Turkish state will want to launch a new attack on the region, but this will not be easy.
ANHA: SDF and AA are stronger than before
GM: Before the occupation of Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî, there were no international agreements, but now there are agreements. Therefore, the international coalition forces as well as the Russian forces in the region have responsibilities by virtue of these agreements. They have to fulfill these responsibilities. Without a doubt, from the military point of view and a an autonomous administration, we have become stronger than before. The support that the peoples of the world and international powers give us today is much greater than before. The people of the world, the international powers, as well as our friends with whom we have relations know more than ever that our cause is right and just. They also saw that attacks will bring with them disasters, so we are stronger and they are weaker, and this reduces the chances of attacks.
More importantly, we, as the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Autonomous Administration, and the peoples of northern and eastern Syria, if we better carry out our responsibilities and organize ourselves, then the Turkish state’s attacks on us will not be so simple.
ANHA: We will protect the unity of the Kurds and Arabs
We know that they are always trying to create strife in the region. There were assassinations. How to look at these attacks and the position of the peoples of the region on them?
GM: Not only the Turkish state, but all countries and parties that do not want us to be owners of administration. They are trying to create strife among the peoples of the region, especially the Kurds and Arabs. Frankly; The Syrian regime is inciting the Arab people against the Kurds, and the Turkish state has been doing that from the day one in Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Al-Hasakah.
The Syrian regime and the Turkish state, whose hopes of occupying the region were destroyed militarily, began to create strife. Without a doubt, the Arab people stood against these seditions before the Kurds, and they will stand as well. Because the Arab people as well as other people’s saw their future within the ranks of the SDF and the Autonomous Administration. They saw this fact during the liberation of their areas, as well as in the political and military activities in their areas. In order to liberate this region, Kurdish and Arab blood was mixed.
ANHA: Our blood shed together to liberate our land
During the previous stage, about 4 thousand fighters of the SDF from the Arab people were martyred, so a blood bond was established. No one can forget this, and therefore the strife attempts were in vain. We, as the Syrian Democratic Forces and security forces deterred those who committed crimes against the people and killed civilians were arrested and confessed to their crimes. And the peoples of the region see those who stand behind the assassinations and those who are behind the creation of strife.
The people of Girê Spî, Serêkaniyê and Afrin never accept occupation. They are in Raqqa now to liberate these areas from occupation, so that they return to what they were before the occupation.
ANHA: One source of mercenaries
GM: Everyone should know; He who occupies the region today and has the mentality of ISIS are one. Because everyone came out from the same source. Those who were initially the “Free Army” became “Jabhat al-Nusra” and then turned to ISIS. After ISIS was eliminated, they returned again to the Free Army. The common denominator between them is that they are paramilitary forces. They have no choice if they are here, in Azerbaijan or Libya. Because they work for money. Their mentality is occupation, and anything goes for them. The crimes they commit today in the occupied territories are taking place under the supervision and organization of the Turkish state. This cannot be accepted.
Solving this situation takes place in two ways. Either the international forces assume their responsibilities and return the occupied areas to the Syrian geography, return the displaced to their areas, and solve the region’s problems politically. Or that this region has to be liberated by its own people from these two ways one of them will happen.
And we, as the SDF, continue our work in both ways. We are trying, with the international forces to find a way to expel the occupier from the occupied areas and return the displaced people to their homes.
ANHA: There is no difference between ISIS mercenaries and mercenaries in Serêkaniyê
The Turkish state and mercenaries mainly target women and children in the areas they occupy. These actions took place when ISIS was in Al-Raqqa and other areas, how should one evaluate this?
GM: There is no difference between ISIS mercenaries and the mercenaries in Serêkaniyê and Girê Sp. The mentality of these mercenaries who came from different countries and the mentality of ISIS is the same. Many of them were formerly ISIS. ISIS mercenaries turned into the Free Army and now they work under other names. When ISIS became weak in the area, these mercenaries again used the name of the Free Army. Because their mentality is the same, so it makes no difference to them if they change their names. They work for money here, in Azerbaijan and Libya.
We must not be mistaken, what ISIS did previously, these mercenaries are doing now. But these crimes can never be tolerated. Within this framework, there are two paths ahead: Either the international forces should intervene to solve the Syrian crisis politically and define the occupied areas as part of the Syrian territories or they must be liberated by those who protect them.
We, as the Syrian Democratic Forces, continue our work on both sides. In this context, we are continuing our meetings with the international powers that we are working with, in order to find a political solution to these areas. Our goal is for the safe return of our people to their land. In order to liberate these areas, as the Syrian Democratic Forces, we will continue our preparations for the long term. The international powers are now effective in this region. In order to liberate the occupied territories, political balances must be achieved, and when political balances become a help, we will liberate these areas and return them to their owners.
ANHA: The UN report is positive but incomplete
During the occupation, the United Nations kept silent about the war crimes, later it issued a documented report in which it referred to those violations in order to prevent the recurrence of these crimes, what role could the United Nations play?
GM: I also read the report of the UN. It reveals only part of the truth. However, we evaluate this report in the affirmative. The crimes of the Turkish state and mercenaries have been documented, this is a good step, but incomplete on its own.
The crimes perpetrators must be held accountable. The position must be clear, at least as far as the United Nations, the countries involved in the crisis should have a political position. Here one can say that there is a development compared to the previous period. There are voices critical of Turkish policy. The UN report indicates a development in this context. But in order for Turkey to be held accountable, we and our friends must put more pressure on these forces to do so.
ANHA: We in the Syrian Democratic Forces are committed to our previous positions on the border with Başur
There are new military bases to be built in the border areas. What is the point of that?
GM: There are military bases that are being built in some areas. According to the agreements that this must not happen. This military build-up means something else. It is basically an occupied part. Create boundaries within boundaries. They want to change the demography of the region and establish a system outside Syria. this is unacceptable.
ANHA: What is your assessment of the military build-ups on the borders of Başur of Kurdistan?
GM: There is absolutely no need for military bases between NE Syria and Başur of Kurdistan. We are in the SDF, have never seen any necessity to build-up on the border. Measures can sometimes be taken against smugglers. The borders between the northern and eastern regions of Syria and Başur Kurdistan must be normal.
ANHA: The results of the meetings can clarify the fate of the occupied territories
How will the achievement of national unity in Rojava affect Kurdistan in general, and Rojava in particular, occupation attacks and the liberation of the occupied territories?
GM: We, as the Syrian Democratic Forces, are guarantors of the meetings between the two parties are in contact with Americans as well in this regard. The meetings that have taken place between the Kurdish National Unity Party and the Kurdish National Council to date continue positively, and the two parties have agreed in political terms. This shows that the situation is positive, and they stressed that they do not accept the attacks of the Turkish state in Afrin, Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî.
The two parties also confirmed that the areas occupied by the Turkish state are occupied areas, and agreed to liberate those areas. We are sure that these meetings will succeed and effect for the liberation of the occupied areas. For the Kurds to have a unified position on this issue, and it will have a great impact on the international powers as well.
ANHA: There are historical and important steps that are taking place within the meetings of national unity
Your Excellency have an important role in the Kurdish national unity meetings. Can these meetings culminate in a permanent agreement? What should the parties do at this stage?
GM: There is a great historical importance to achieve Kurdish national unity in Rojava at this stage, and we, as the Syrian Democratic Forces, sought the need for this unity, and we held meetings with the two parties.
In this context, we and America see ourselves as guarantors of this issue, the stage is positive, but it is going slowly, some points are discussed at length during the meetings, because the two parties affirm the need for the terms of the agreement that will be reached on the ground to be implemented. Something clear, and in fact this is also a positive thing. We can say that some basic issues have been agreed upon, and we are confident that these meetings will culminate in historical results on long-term and firmly established on the ground. They will have a positive impact on Rojava, NE Syria, Syria as a whole, the Kurds, our friends and the international forces, and our people who these meetings, must have a positive attitude, and they must support this stage more so that its results are better.
ANHA: The Turkish state takes revenge on Kobane through the HDP
The Turkish state issued arrest warrants for 82 officials and parliamentarians in the HDP. Why were these attacks called the “Kobane Campaign?
GM: The Turkish state is fully aware that the solution to the Kurdish issue in the four parts of Kurdistan is linked to each other. That is why the HDP grew in Bakûr of Kurdistan, “North Kurdistan”, it is support for the wealth of Rojava. In the Kobane war the greatest support was coming from Bakûr of Kurdistan, whose political pillar is the HDP. For this we, as freedom fighters in Rojava, thank the people in Bakûr of Kurdistan, and their political representatives, for they played a great role for the liberation of Kobane, and they provided martyrs for that.
The government of the AKP retaliates against the HDP for its stances towards Kobane, as it did not want Kobane to win, and for this it is now taking revenge. The AKP was seeking to thwart the Kobane resistance, and it was referring to this in many of their statements. People of the four parts of Kurdistan especially in Bakur Kurdistan, sacrificed a lot to make the Kobane resistance win. Turkey wants to avenge this. The Peoples’ Democratic Party has so far failed many of the policies of denial and extermination pursued by the Turkish state, and we are sure that with their resistance and struggle they will fail this time as well, and their power will be strengthened further.
ANHA: Our enemy is weak to launch attacks
The eyes of the whole world await NE Syria, and you, as the general command of the Syrian Democratic Forces, do you have a message to address to the people of NE Syria, and the world?
GM: First of all, we would like to say to our people, we have gone through many difficult and sensitive stages, and presented more than 12 thousand martyrs, in addition to more than 25 wounded. We have defended ourselves against the chauvinist and fascist policies of the Syrian regime, and mercenaries of the Turkish state, and we have fought in a great way against ISIS mercenaries with the the Global Coalition forces, and we are now continuing to resist and struggle against the occupation attacks.
In the coming stage, we may face great difficulties, but we are now stronger than before, and our enemy is weaker and the enemies’ attacks that continue now also do not stem from their strength.
At this stage, the forces that participated in the Syrian war are trying to consolidate their gains through campaigns, and we, as the people of northern and eastern Syria, have entered a new phase. The months and years ahead are historical for us. We reap the product of our struggle for the past 9 years, and for the Kurdish people it is the product of a struggle that continues for 40 years, the time has come to reap the fruits of our struggle, and for this we must have great hope, escalate our struggle and work at this stage, so that we can reach our goals, we are with the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, our military forces, and the people in this geography are the owners of an important project. We also have our political and military projects. We must consolidate these projects, and when we achieve these projects and consolidate them, then we will prevail.
ANHA: We must capitalize on our gains and consolidate them with victory
GM: We have important projects and plans regarding the meetings that take place in Rojava for the sake of national unity, and our struggle is to strengthen the bonds of relations and coexistence among the people in this region, and the most important is Kurdish-Arab unity and the development of our administration and our economy, we must develop in all fields, The Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, and Assyrians must support and support our project more, and our people must protect and defend its gains, and these gains must be crowned with victory.
The forces that we fight together against terrorism can increase their support for us from now, we can support and develop our agreement, we must know that terrorism has not ended yet, and our struggle against it continues, and our friends must continue to support us in this struggle to strengthen our strength against terrorism, Our political and military work on this land continues, and if we achieve victory, it will benefit them as well, but in the event of their retreat, great damage will be inflicted on them, and for this they must provide greater support and assistance to the region’s struggle.