Turkey wants to annex Syria’s Afrin, says Salih Muslim

Turkey wants to repeat the 1939 annexation of Hatay in present-day Afrin, Syrian Kurdish politician and former leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim told news website Artı Gerçek on Friday.

“There is a policy of invasion and annexation in Afrin. (Turkey) wants to do there what they did in Hatay,” Muslim said. “They brought in people from all over to settle there. They build houses. The 90 percent Kurdish population of Afrin has declined to some 10 percent.”

Ankara has established Turkish-language schools and public services in the area, Muslim said, as part of its demographic engineering project.

“The whole world knows Turkey’s true policies,” the politician continued, adding that the 30-km safe zone Ankara demands. “Nobody in the region is threatening Turkey, its security is already guaranteed. Not a single bullet has been fired against it.”

Turkey took control in Afrin in northern Syria after its Operation Olive Branch in 2018, and has been accused of commiting and enabling war crimes in the city in a 2020 U.N. Commission report, together with its Syrian proxies.

Turkish officials also frequently speak of taking over Iraqi territory, Muslim said. As World War I drew to a close, the last Ottoman parliament agreed on the Misak-ı Milli, the “National Pact”, which includes a significant portion of current day Syria and Iraq as part of the Turkish state. Iraq’s Mosul and Kirkuk in particular have been a focus of Turkish nationalist circles as legitimately belonging to Turkey.

“Turkey wants everybody to be enemies to Kurds, to fight the Kurds. They even recruit some Kurdish groups to fight alongside them,” Muslim said. “They order Sweden to fight Kurds. They tell Finland Kurds are terrorists.”

However, PYD-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) were the main boots on the ground during the international efforts to defeat the Islamic State, and thus, the U.S.-led International Coalition is familiar with the organisations, Muslim said. The politician continued:

“There are coalitions with the United States and Russia. We have been working together for seven years, they know who they fight with and who they fight against. Turkey wants them to be hostile to us, but these people have seen the reality, they know we are not terrorists. And, on top of that, we defeeated the very terrorists that Turkey nurtured. Everybody can see this but Turkey insists that everybody should abandon all and fight Kurds.”

“Anybody who does not fight Kurds is a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a terrorist in Turkey’s eyes. They dare say a Swedish deputy is a PKK member,” Muslim said.

Top Turkish government officials have called Iran-born Swedish-Kurdish deputy Amineh Kakabaveh a terrorist and listed her among the 30 so-called terrorists to be extradited to Turkey in return for allowing Sweden to join NATO. The PKK is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, but Ankara is alone in considering Syrian groups including the PYD, YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to be terrorists.

In Turkish-occupied Afrin, Azaz and Qamishlo, civilian casualties have become normal, Muslim said.

The looming threat of a new Turkish operation into Syria no longer fazes the Syrian Kurdish people, Muslim said. “They are used to it by now. They are no longer afraid. That makes us stronger. We do not want war, not in Turkey, not anywhere. The people are tired of war. It has continued for 12 years, and swallows all our resources.”

Kurds demand basic cultural and political rights, and wish to engage in dialogue rather than conflict, Muslim said. “But if somebody comes to our door and demands it, we have no choice but to defend ourselves. So that is what we do.”

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