Saturday 6 October 2012
The Kurdish Youth Movement (TCK): ”We respect the Syrian revolution and we are engaged in it (peacefully), that’s of a great honor for us doing it”.
A call to all honorable Syrian Kurds… Let us make Qamishlo stay far from destruction and sabotage under the name of lebiration.. it doesn’t need your liberty, you opposition . People of Qamishlo are only the ones who decide to do it, and you have to return (where the regime falls) .. this will not bring the regime down when draging the Kurds into the midst of fatal war. Go taking your bombs to the tyrant there; we are far from the destructive culture of revenge .. We believe in a culture of tolerance without surrender. When Saddam, the glorified man by you, annihilated the Kurds, we had never done an explosive act under the name of religion in Baghdad or any of Saddam cities . We respect the Syrian revolution and we are engaged in it (peacefully), that’s of a great honor for us doing it. We will not accept humiliation any more . We will show our pure culture and spirit filled with peace and safety. We will get victory through this culture as we did in Iraq. We respect every single drop of the Syrian blood. Will the regime fall if we carry the weapon? Is it not enough that we embraced our brothers from Deir-ezzor, Homs, amd other Syrian cities? Do you want to displace and destroy the rest of the cities? Let me remind you???who push to engage the Kurdish areas in the war??? of (Mahatma Gandhi), we never forget Mahatma Gandhi, the spiritual leader of India, and the spiritual leader of the peaceful revolution that led to India’s independence from Britain. Just go to where the regime falls (we brought down both the regime and the opposition for a long time ago ).
Kurdish autonomy in Syria troubling for rebels, Turkey: With the Syrian rebellion has come a rise in Kurdish autonomy. The rebels have tense relations with the Kurds, and Turkey fears northern Syria may become a haven for the Kurdish militia the PKK. By Los Angeles Times October 5, 2012.
AFRIN, Syria —This tranquil town in northwest Syria is a haven from the warfare convulsing much of the country, but the calm points to profound challenges facing the country — and the entire region — when the fighting ends.
The laid-back guards at the checkpoints are Kurdish militiamen. The mustachioed man whose image greets visitors is Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence in a Turkish prison for his leadership role in the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a group deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Here, the PKK is widely lauded as the vanguard of Kurdish nationalism, a movement that has unsettled countries in the area for decades. In recent months, the de facto “liberation” of Syrian Kurdish communities like Afrin has ranked among the most unanticipated and broadly significant outcomes of the Syrian rebellion.
Newly established Kurdish control here presents a quandary for Syria’s Sunni Arab-led rebel movement, which has a tense relationship with the Kurds, and for whatever government emerges should Syrian President Bashar Assad fall. It also has troubled Turkey, which this week fired artillery into Syria after apparently errant cross-border shelling killed Turkish villagers. Turkey, a regional power and NATOmember, appears to have few good options.
The cross-border shelling illustrated how Turkey’s relationship with Assad, who had kept Syria’s Kurds in check, has crumbled. But Assad’s weakness and possible fall from power present Turkey with an even more dismaying prospect: a swath of northern Syria firmly under control of the PKK.
Turkey has waged a long and bloody war against the Kurdish group on its own territory, and has suffered a recent surge in PKK attacks. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to attack Kurdish areas of Syria if they become a haven for the PKK, one-third of whose fighters, according to a recent study, are of Syrian origin.
For now, conflict seems far away from Kurdish towns like this agricultural hub, known for its olives and pomegranates and dotted with craggy hills featuring the toppled remnants of Roman temples, early Christian basilicas and medieval citadels.
While battles rage in Aleppo, just 40 miles to the southeast, markets here are lively and, in the evenings, men at animated eateries sip arak, the clear, anise-flavored liquor that turns cloudy when mixed with ice and water.
Assad’s stretched forces gradually withdrew, culminating in a near-total pullout in July that occurred with barely a shot being fired, Kurdish leaders say.
“We didn’t suffer a drop of blood,” boasts Atouf Abdo, a coordinator here with the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, a close ally of the PKK and the dominant Kurdish faction here.
Nearby, rebel-held Arab cities like Azzaz and Al Bab have become doleful and depopulated battlegrounds, rubble-strewn ghost towns where remaining residents dart for cover when fighter jets buzz overhead. But the main evidence here of the war raging nearby are thousands of Arab refugees, most of them women and children. Kurdish leaders say that noncombatants have been welcomed, but that they have kept out armed rebels.
Kurdish aspirations for more autonomy, or outright independence, have long perturbed Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Officially, Syria has more than 2 million Kurds, about 10% of the national population. Kurdish activists claim the real number approaches 20%.
At least 4,000 Syrian Kurds have been killed while fighting for the PKK, according to Kurdish activists here.
Many Turkish officials view the PYD as nothing more than a front for their archenemy, the PKK. Some Turkish officials call the Syrian government’s withdrawal a deliberate strategy by Assad to embolden PKK sympathizers here to strike back at Turkey to retaliate for Ankara’s support of the rebellion. Kurdish leaders here reject suggestions that they collaborated with Assad.
Kurdish representatives said they seek a measure of self-rule within Syria, not independence. The dispersed nature of Syria’s Kurds — the densest population lives nearly 300 miles east of Afrin — makes a separate Kurdish Syrian state unlikely. One aim of Kurdish leadership is to begin formal Kurdish-language instruction in schools.
“We’re looking for a democratic, pluralistic state and to isolate the state from religion,” said Mustafa Hussein, an activist here with the Kurdish National Council, an umbrella group.
Mutual mistrust characterizes relations between the Kurds and Syria’s Sunni Arab majority. Kurds say they also have faced discrimination during much of the 40-plus-year reign of the Assad family, who are members of the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Once Syria’s rebellion erupted in March 2011, Assad’s administration generally sought to placate the Kurds, part of a broader effort to present the government as a defender of minorities. Still, many Kurds blamed the government for the assassination last year of a celebrated Kurdish pro-democracy activist, Mashaal Tammo.
Kurdish officials say they sympathize with efforts to overthrow Assad. But wariness abounds about Arab nationalism in general, and what many here view as the increasingly Islamist face of the Syrian rebellion. Kurds, like most Syrians, are predominantly Sunni Muslims, but Kurdish activists here say their region has a strong secular tradition.
“As the revolution has continued over a long period, it has opened the door to more extreme ideology,” said Hussein of the Kurdish National Council.
Many Kurds see the rebel Free Syrian Army and its supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood, the pan-Arab political movement, as hostile to their aspirations.
Checkpoints manned by Kurdish militiamen line the roads and deny access to rebel forces. Kurdish “self defense” units have been receiving basic military training in Iraq’s quasi-autonomous Kurdistan.
PYD forces provide police and other services and appear in control of the infrastructure, somewhat to the chagrin to other Kurdish groups. The PYD, the most militarized Kurdish faction, has faced charges of using strong-arm tactics to put down rival Kurdish factions, allegations it generally denies.
Asked about the rebel fight to oust Assad, Mohammad Jarnas, 42, a teacher here affiliated with the PYD, responded, “Their struggle is a legitimate one, but it is a bit chaotic. It is not our fight now.”
Kurdish leaders view Assad’s fall as a matter of time, and they are preparing for what they view as an inevitable violent scramble for power among various Sunni Arab factions, all hostile to Kurdish self-governing aspirations.
“We will not hesitate to defend the rights of the Kurdish people,” says Abdo, the PYD coordinator here. “The arming of the Kurdish people is a fact, in every Kurdish village. We will defend ourselves.”
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Final death toll for Saturday 6/10/2012: Approximately 170 Syrians were killed.
The dead: 65 unarmed civilians, 42 rebel fighters, 2 defected soldiers, 62 regular troops.
[local time] 21:45 Forty soldiers were killed as Syrian rebels took control of a town, activists reported on Saturday.
21:28 Mokhtar Lamani, the head of UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s office in Syria, met members of the armed opposition on Saturday.
21:20 Syrian forces clashed with Free Syrian Army members in Al-Qaboun and the Palestinian refugee camp of Al-Yarmouk in Damascus, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
21:05 An explosion rocked the neighborhood of Baraza in Damascus, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
18:27 Saturday’s death toll has increased to 70, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
15:47 Saturday’s death toll has increased to 52, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
15:02 Rebels seized a Syrian village near the Turkish border after hours of fierce fighting on Saturday in which 25 troops and three insurgents were killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
14:46 The death toll in Syria has increased to 41 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
14:26 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Saturday shows a Syrian Presidential Guard who had been captured by rebels in the Damascus district.
14:24 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Saturday shows a captured loyalist Iraqi national being questioned by Syrian rebels. The Shiite Iraqi national admitted to taking part in killings targeting civilians in Daraya.
14:17 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Saturday shows a missile belonging to Syrian regime forces seized by rebels.
14:13 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Saturday shows residents in Al-Houla in Homs as they prepare to remove the bodies of victims of Syrian regime forces’ shelling of the town. <
14:13 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Saturday shows rebels in a captured Syrian regime forces’ air defense base in Eastern Al-Ghouta . The footage also shows a rebel leader announcing the military takeover of the base while air defense weapons could be seen on display. Captured regime forces could also be seen in the video.
13:54 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Damascus on Saturday to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Middle East war, as his troops faced mounting losses at the hands of a domestic uprising.
13:21 Syrian rebels overtook the regime forces’ outpost of Berj al-Deymous in Jabal al-Turkman in the Latakia district, Al-Jazeera quoted rebels as saying.
12:44 Around 1500 Hezbollah members were operating inside Syria to provide “extensive support” for the Syrian regime, The Times reported on Saturday.
11:14 Regime forces killed 22 people across Syria on Saturday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
11:04 The Syrian regime reached a deal with Turkey to allow for the establishment of a demilitarized 10-kilometer zone along the Turkish border, British daily The Guardian reported on Saturday.
9:52 The Turkish army early Saturday returned fire after fresh shelling from Syria hit the border province of Hatay, local officials said.
9:05 Syrian regime’s military units raided Al-Karak al-Sharqi in the Daraa district following a campaign of shelling, Al-Jazeera reported.
ISTANBUL – Turkey returned fire after Syrian mortar bombs landed in a field in southern Turkey on Saturday, the day after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned Damascus that Turkey would not shy away from war if provoked. | Video
It was the fourth day of Turkish retaliation for firing by Syrian forces that killed five Turkish civilians on Wednesday.
The exchanges are the most serious cross-border violence in Syria’s conflict, which began as a democracy uprising but has evolved into a civil war with sectarian overtones. They highlight how the crisis could destabilize the region.
NATO member Turkey was once an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but turned against him after his violent response to an uprising in which, according to the United Nations, more than 30,000 people have died.
Turkey has nearly 100,000 Syrian refugees in camps on its territory, has allowed rebel leaders sanctuary and has led calls for Assad to quit. Its armed forces are far larger than Syria’s.
Erdogan said on Friday his country did not want war but warned Syria not to make a “fatal mistake” by testing its resolve. Damascus has said its fire hit Turkey accidentally.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Saturday that parliament’s authorization of possible cross-border military action was designed as a deterrent.
“From now on, if there is an attack on Turkey it will be silenced,” he said in an interview with state broadcaster TRT.
Western powers have backed fellow NATO member Turkey over Syria but have shown little appetite for the kind of intervention that helped topple Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Turkish calls for a safe zone in Syria would require a no-fly zone that NATO states are unwilling to police.
Davutoglu said international mediator on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi would come to Turkey before Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Ankara within the next 10 days.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby in a newspaper interview called Brahimi’s Syria mission “virtually impossible.” Asked about the efforts of the Egypt-Saudi-Turkey-Iran quartet to solve the crisis, Elaraby said: “The solution must comprise Iran. The important thing is that matters get moving.”
The 18-month-old Syrian revolt increasingly pits a Sunni Muslim opposition against Assad’s Alawite minority, an offshoot of the Shi’ite Islam that dominates in Iran, whose government backs Assad’s government.
Rebels in the Syrian city of Aleppo said government troops tried to storm the Sakhour district on Saturday but were pushed back after heavy clashes. Activists across Syria said there was fighting in several cities and towns including the central city of Homs and in Damascus countryside.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 60 people, including 36 government soldiers, were killed in clashes across the country on Saturday.
Syrian rebel forces are riven by divisions but Syrian government forces appear to lack the numbers to land a knockout blow and permanently hold rebellious areas.
U.S. President Barack Obama on September 25 accused Iran of helping keep Assad in power but has refused to arm Syria’s rebels, partly for fear some of those fighting Assad’s rule are Islamist radicals equally hostile to the West.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed renewed worry on Saturday that the hostilities in Syria could spread.
“Whether or not that conflict begins to extend into the neighboring countries such as Turkey remains to be seen. But obviously the fact that there are now exchanges fired between these two countries raises additional concerns that this conflict could broaden,” Panetta told a news conference in Lima with Peru’s defense minister.
Iran on Saturday called for the immediate release of Iranians held captive by Syrian rebels and said it would hold the rebels and their supporters responsible for their lives.
Syrian rebels seized a busload of 48 Iranians in early August on suspicion of being military personnel. Tehran says they were pilgrims visiting a Shi’ite shrine in Damascus.
MORTARS LAND IN TURKEY
At least three rounds fired from Syria landed inside Turkey’s Yayladagi district on Saturday, the office of the governor of the Turkish province of Hatay said.
It said the fire appeared to have been aimed by Syrian forces at rebels along the border. There were no casualties. Turkish border troops fired back mortars in response.
There were two similar incidents in Hatay on Friday, when Erdogan issued his warning.
“Those who attempt to test Turkey’s deterrence, its decisiveness, its capacity, I say here they are making a fatal mistake,” he said in a bellicose speech to a crowd in Istanbul.
“We are not interested in war, but we’re not far from war either. This nation has come to where it is today having gone through intercontinental wars,” he said.
Turkish artillery bombarded Syrian military targets on Wednesday and Thursday, killing several Syrian soldiers after Syria’s initial fatal bombardment. The U.N. Security Council condemned the original Syrian attack.
Russia, a staunch ally of Syria, said it received assurances from Damascus the strike on Turkey was an accident but Erdogan dismissed them, saying Syrian fire had repeatedly hit Turkey.
Wednesday’s Syrian strike on the town of Akcakale was of a different magnitude to previous incidents, a Turkish official told Reuters.
“Wednesday was different. There were five or six rounds into the same place. That’s why we responded a couple of times, to warn and deter. To tell the (Syrian) military to leave. We think they’ve got the message and have pulled back from the area.”
Syria has since ordered its warplanes and helicopters not to go within 10 km (six miles) of the Turkish border and artillery units not to fire shells close to the border, according to Turkish broadcaster NTV. Syria has not confirmed this.
Turkey’s state-run Anatolian news agency said a large number of Turkish troops had been sent to the Oncupinar border area of Kilis province.
(Additional reporting by Shaimaa Fayed in Cairo, Mariam Karouny in Beirut, and David Alexander in Lima; editing by Andrew Roche and Will Dunham)