Bassam Saker serves as a US Representative of the Syrian Democratic Council in Washington DC. He is an Alaawite Syrian from Latakia, Syria.

With regards to Syria, the most urgent and powerful question currently is: How did the so-called liberated north become a safe haven for terrorism and extremism?

Since the beginning of the Syrian Revolutionary Movement, the Turkish occupation state has been keen to support Islamist groups in an effort to Islamicize Syrian society, under the command of the Muslim Brotherhood. They have come from all parts of the world to Syria under the slogan of overthrowing the regime and supporting the Syrian people. With its policies, Turkey has turned Syria into a quagmire for terrorists from across the globe. On the other hand, it has also turned Syrians into mercenaries and exported them abroad to implement its agenda, now reaching a point when the word “Syrian” has turned into a fear in many societies that were subjected to violations at their hands. In addition, Europe has developed a phobia of Syrian refugees due to Turkey seeking to impose its agendas through blackmail by opening its borders to refugees and sending them to Europe. We will not go into the details of its systematic policies since the beginning of the crisis aimed at displacing the Syrians here. 

In its foreign and expansionist policies, the Turkish occupation state has always relied on extremist Islamic organizations. It constantly seeks to obstruct the operations of eliminating these organizations by resorting to various methods and means to preserve them, including turning the so-called liberated north into areas controlled by Al-Qaeda and Jabhat Al-Nusra. Indeed, she was liberated from her people who advocated freedom, social justice, and a life of dignity.

After the tireless efforts and great sacrifices made by the Syrian Democratic Forces, with the support and backing of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, the Government of Justice and Development harnessed all its means to keep the terrorist organizations alive and active after the elimination of the so-called Caliphate State in the Levant and Iraq on the ground and geographically in its last strongholds in the town of Al-Baghouz, Deir ez-Zor. The vast majority of the top, first-generation leaders of the organization fled to the occupied areas and continued directly to Turkey, or to remain in the areas held by its allies from the Syrian Interim Government according to many reports that are no longer hidden from anyone. Most of these ISIS leaders are now heads of factions with new names under the “Syrian National Army.”

The recent events in al-Hasakah prison removed the veil on this organic relationship between the Justice and Development Party’s government and ISIS, by conducting an effort to free the organization’s prisoners with the support of elements working under its command and the geography it occupies after the its failure to persuade the international community to take over the tasks of receiving the organization’s elements and trying them on its lands. This was done in an effort to hide the facts that prove Turkey’s involvement in terrorism and evade any legal issue in the future, not to mention its efforts to maintain the organization’s elements and exploit them for its projects, whether in Syria or other countries.

After the failure of the organization’s elements to control the prison, the government of Justice and Development deliberately intensified its attacks on the areas of North and East Syria through drones and artillery, in retaliation for the defense of the prison, and to undermine the security and stability of the region. 

The so-called liberated north, where the Turkish military has established outposts and bases, and also has a presence of Turkish-backed mercenaries, has turned into an incubator for terrorism and extremism. It is an area from which terrorist operations are masterminded and terrorist organizations are managed. The killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the town of “Barisha” is evidence of that, as well as al-Qurayshi’s administration “to attack the industrial prison in al-Hasakah and kill him in the town of Atma and the arrival of the suicide bombers from Serêkaniyê (Ras al-Ain) and Girê Spî (Tal Abyad).” Under Turkey’s control, it keeps terrorism active and alive. Continuous attacks by Turkey impede efforts to eradicate terrorism and extremism.

The so-called liberated north, which is controlled by Turkey, is nothing but an area for Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda and ISIS to thrive. It is an area from which ISIS sets out to announce its second caliphate.

Any real intention of the international community to eliminate terrorism begins with the true liberation of the so-called liberated north, primarily from the Turkish occupation, and Turkey’s expulsion from Syria. Then it can be said that first steps have been taken in the right direction.