Turkey establishes huge tent city in Syria’s Afrin

Turkey has established a tent city in Syria’s Afrin district for Syrians who fled from the Eastern Qalamoun region near the capital Damascus, Turkish General Staff announced on April 25.

Tent cityThe tent city was set up by the Turkish Prime Ministry’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), according to photos and posts shared on the social media accounts of the Turkish General Staff.

“AFAD has established it and Mehmetçik [Turkish soldiers] have been protecting it. The families from Eastern Qalamoun are being provided shelter in the tent city established in Mahmoudiya, Afrin,” a post read.

The Turkish military has been protecting the area surrounding the tent city, photos showed.

The Turkish military and the allied Free Syrian Army (FSA) took the northwestern district of Afrin under full control on March 18 after an offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Rebels fighting against the Syrian regime in the enclave of East Qalamoun recently agreed to lay down arms and to be transferred by buses to territories controlled by opposition forces.

Hürriyet Daily News

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Syrian refugees in Germany returning to Turkey

A growing number of Syrian refugees in Germany are seeking to return to Turkey as a new German legislation has introduced new barriers to family reunification, local media reported on April 12.

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The milk of German kindness

The German government recently imposed stricter measures to curb family reunification for Syrian refugees, many of whom were granted “subsidiary protection.”

German broadcaster ARD reported that its correspondents documented the journey of several Syrian refugees who sought to return to Turkey by paying hundreds of euros to human smugglers.

The refugees wanted to return to Turkey because they could not receive permission from German authorities to bring their family members who had fled to Turkey after the Syrian civil war broke out, the report said.

The EU’s largest economy has accepted more than 700,000 Syrian refugees since 2015, but amid domestic political pressure, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government introduced barriers to family reunification. A cap of 1,000 people per month was imposed on who could come to Germany for family reunification.

Family reunification was a hot issue in last year’s elections after media reported that around 390,000 refugees could apply for this right and bring their spouses and minor children to Germany.

The far-right Islamophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD) alleged that family reunification was an “incalculable risk” for the country and called for severe restrictions.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

Meanwhile, several hundred thousand Syrian refugees have been able to return to their homes since the Turkish military started operations in Afrin, the Syrian region bordering Turkey. There are, however, still around three million displaced Syrians in Turkey.

Is the USA working with terrorists?

TCA Statement on the PKK-YPG Connection

The Turkish Coalition of America is concerned about the recent disagreement between the United States and Turkey regarding apparent U.S. plans to help a PKK-linked Syrian Kurdish militia set up a 30,000 person “Syrian Border Security Force.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the move nothing short of establishing a terror army along Turkey’s border and warned of the “unintended consequences” as Turkey vows to “suffocate” the terrorists.[i] The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs also issued a statement condemning the US for not consulting with Turkey as a member of the anti-ISIL coalition and for its continued cooperation with the PKK-linked People’s Protection Units (YPG).[ii] 

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Screenshot depicting YPG guerillas after they dedicated the fall of Raqqa to PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and unfurled an imposing flag with his image. Ocalan is serving a life sentence in prison in Turkey.

Turkey has vociferously opposed the U.S.-led coalition’s close cooperation with the YPG since the Obama administration. In May 2017, the Trump Administration began to directly arm the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF.) The primary component of the SDF receiving U.S. military assistance has been the YPG Kurdish militia, which is the armed wing of the Syrian People’s Democratic Party (PYD), which is a subdivision of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK.) The PKK is an armed terrorist organization, listed as such by the United States under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Turkey perceives the creation of a PKK-affiliated Border Security Force as a national security threat along its southern border. While the Trump administration still views the YPG as the most effective fighting force against ISIL, it apparently fails to acknowledge Turkey’s decades-long fight against PKK terrorism. The US also has provided no guarantees that the equipment being provided to the YPG will not work its way into the hands of PKK terrorists inside Turkey. Further, the US has provided no timetable for the eventual disbanding and disarming of this force

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Turkey securing its border – USA supporting terrorists

jacinda's baby

Wanna see my baby bump?

I returned to Istanbul on Sunday after a 17-day trip to the idyllic South Sea Islands, where media attention was focused on the pregnancy of the recently elected Prime Minister, and whether she would have a boy, a girl, or some more politically correct, post-modern variation of one or the other. And what did I find back here? Turkey on the brink of war with the United States of America!

Of course, you will be aware that the Turkish military has begun conducting air and land strikes across its border into Syria, targeting Kurdish irregular forces holed up in the Afrin region. I don’t know what picture of this your local media have been presenting. What little coverage I saw downunder was portraying Turkey as the aggressor, ruthlessly bombing innocent Kurdish civilians in its ongoing suppression of those people’s righteous struggle for a national homeland.

Afrin map

Make sense of that, if you can – and put yourself in Turkey’s shoes for a moment

Well, I’m not going into a lengthy analysis of the Kurdish situation in the Middle East. Millions of Kurdish people live in Turkey, and I suspect the vast majority of them are mostly interested in working to make a better life for themselves and their children. Given the option, few of them would relocate to a mountainous landlocked state in the Middle East, however oil-rich it might be. Despite the nay-sayers, the lives of most Kurdish people have improved enormously under the present government of Turkey, in terms of recognising their ethnic identity, supporting Kurdish language TV channels and encouraging economic development in eastern Turkey.

Undoubtedly, not all Kurds are happy campers. Just as in New Zealand, where elements among the native Maori population will not be satisfied until white NZers have gone back to Scotland, or wherever our ancestors came from, there are militant nationalist Kurdish elements ready and willing to employ violent tactics to achieve – whatever it is they want to achieve.

Rose Gottermoeller, Deputy General Secretary of NATO, speaking in Ankara the other day, acknowledged that:

Turkey is among the NATO members “most affected by terror attacks” and NATO fully recognizes the threat posed to it . . .

“Turkey has really suffered from terrorism in recent years and has a very serious problem. It is among the NATO allies that suffer the most attacks in recent years and we do recognize that fully,” [she said].

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Syrian children attending school in Turkey

She could have gone on to add that, since civil war broke out in Syria in March 2011, the people of Turkey have been obliged to host and care for nearly four million refugees fleeing the violence – with precious little aid from their wealthy NATO allies.

Those refugees have been flooding across an 822 km land border between the two countries – a border than runs through some pretty mountainous and inhospitable geography, near impossible to police. Needless to say, among the hopeless, helpless and harmless multitudes, there are a few malcontents taking advantage of the situation to enter Turkey with a view to causing mayhem. There are also young men passing the other way, fired up by ideology or boredom, seeking to join one side or the other in the Syrian conflict – a relatively minor aspect that Western media have chosen to focus on.

Security forces in Turkey are quite proficient at maintaining order – given the geo-political turbulence in the region, they need to be. Their task is made more difficult, however, by support provided to local terrorists by interested groups across the border in Iraq and Syria.

Turkey has long complained about American support for Syrian Kurdish militias, which it says have emboldened the Kurdish separatist movement that Ankara considers a threat to its territorial sovereignty and is prepared to go to great lengths to counteract. Turkish officials say that this has allowed weapons and support to reach the outlawed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Europe and has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.”

Those militias have been strengthened for many years by the United States government supplying arms, training and financial support. As far back as 1991, George Bush the Father was conducting Operation Provide Comfort, supporting Kurds in Northern Iraq. A few years later, George the Son was enlisting the aid of Iraqi Kurds in his crusading mission to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his non-existent weapons of mass destruction. What did George Dubya and his cronies promise Masoud Barzani in return? An independent Kurdistan? And why would they do that? Anything to do with having a grateful, oil rich puppet state in the middle of the Middle East, I wonder? Draw your own conclusions.

They-lied-about-Iraq-Afghan-Libya-Syria-IranAnd more recently, Big Donald, the Holy Ghost, has been succouring Kurdish militants in north-west Syria. A senior American commander, according to the New York Times, “praised the partnership with the Kurds, whose help was critical in a major American airstrike on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, over the weekend.”

“Senior Pentagon officials and American commanders,” the article continued, “say that the Syrian Kurds will most likely serve as the backbone of the allied forces on the ground in Syria for months to come.”

“Echoing earlier comments by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the commander of the United States Central Command, General Joseph L. Votel, said in an interview last month that American forces would remain in eastern Syria, alongside their Syrian Kurdish and Arab allies, as long as needed to defeat the Islamic State.”

On the other hand, the same article referred to a White House message “aimed at mollifying Turkey’s president on Tuesday, suggesting that the United States was easing off its support for the Syrian Kurds.”

“. . . the White House disavowed a plan by the American military to create a Kurdish-led force in northeastern Syria, which Turkey has vehemently opposed. Turkey, which considers the Kurdish militia a terrorist organization, fears the plan would cement a Kurdish enclave along its southern frontier.

“That plan, a senior administration official said Tuesday, originated with midlevel military planners in the field, and was never seriously debated, or even formally introduced, at senior levels in the White House or the National Security Council.

“The official, who spoke to reporters on condition that he not be identified, also said that the United States had no connection to the Kurds in the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin, where the Turkish military has launched an invasion in recent days.

“And he drew a distinction between allies — a term he said had legal connotations — and partners in a combat mission, like the Kurds. America’s actions on the ground in Syria, he said, would be driven by a calculation of its interests.”

Meaning the United States’ interests, of course. And if US interests conflict with those of its loyal NATO allies, the allies can go hang. Nevertheless, countries like Turkey do have their own national interests, especially since they are somewhat closer to ground zero in Syria than most Americans. Our English language Turkish daily, Hurriyet Daily News has this to say about the US’s “combat partners”:

The YPG is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and is the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK has been fighting Turkey for decades and is designated a terrorist by numerous countries, including the U.S. Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter even admitted during a congressional hearing in April 2016 that the YPG and the PKK were “organically linked.”

This is why U.S. Special Forces Commander General Raymond Thomas asked YPG personnel to rename themselves, in order to circumvent NATO ally Turkey in the anti-ISIL alliance. “With about a day’s notice they declared they were the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF],” Thomas said at the July 2017 Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

He continued mockingly, amid laughter from the audience. “I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put ‘democracy’ in there somewhere,” he said. “But it gave them a little bit of credibility. I was lucky to have a great partner like Brett McGurk with me, because they were asking for things that I couldn’t give them. They wanted a seat at the table, whether it’s Geneva, or Astana, or wherever the talks are happening about the future of Syria. But because they have been branded as the PKK they could never get to the table. So we paired them militarily and McGurk was able to keep them in the conversation.”

What’s in a name? Rename a Kurdish terrorist as a loyal US partner fighting for democracy in Syria against an evil dictator, and all will be well.

Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, however, as he often does, is calling out the United States government for its hypocrisy.

“The U.S. is urging that [Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch] should not last too long and should be conducted within a certain time frame. I ask the U.S.: Does your operation in Afghanistan, which you launched more than 10 years ago, have a certain time frame? When will it be completed? You are also still in Iraq, aren’t you? Do these kinds of operations have a certain time frame?” Erdoğan added.

So where does that leave us, we helpless observers of the great global imperialist game?

“Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots,” Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavuşoğlu, said the other day. “If the United States doesn’t stop this, we will stop it.

A Turkish assault on Manbij could bring its forces into direct conflict with the Americans, with unpredictable results.

The NY Times correspondents wrote, “Robert S. Ford, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and a former Ambassador to Syria, wrote in an analytical column that Turkey’s military operations in Syria demonstrated the difficulties of the American position. Turkey’s brushoff of American concerns made the United States look weak, Mr. Ford wrote, adding that some Kurdish observers were accusing America of being an unreliable ally.

“Over the longer term, it is hard to see how the U.S. will secure its stated political goal of stabilization in eastern Syria and genuine governance reforms in Syria,” he wrote.

syria war

Babies in Syria

Murat Yetkin, writing in Hurriyet Daily News, observed, “It is not hard to see that such a relationship [between the US and Kurdish militant groups] must end at some point, because it is not right. The partnership even evokes memories of the U.S.’s arming of Islamist tribes in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invasion.”

Well, of course I wish the people of New Zealand, their Prime Minister and her principal care-giving partner joy and happiness in their new First Baby. I’m pleased, however, to be back in a part of the world where issues of genuine global importance receive more attention.

United States opposes Kurdish referendum in Iraq – Yeah, sure!

I saw it first in our local newspaper, and I checked it out. Yep, it seems some low-ranking “spokeswoman” from the State department was given the job of lying to the world. Ignore the fact that the US used the Iraqi Kurds to get rid of Saddam Hussein – and what did they promise in return? Ignore the fact that the US is providing military hardware to Kurdish separatists in northern Syria, against the repeatedly expressed wishes of loyal NATO ally Turkey. What do they think will be the consequences of that?

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US “coalition partners” in Syria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States “strongly opposes” the planned independence referendum by Iraqi Kurds and urges Iraqi Kurdish leaders to engage in negotiations with the Baghdad government instead, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

In the most forceful U.S. statement so far opposing the referendum, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: “The United States strongly opposes the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s referendum on independence, planned for September 25.”

But not in our backyard – More US hypocrisy!

The United States government is supplying weapons to separatist Kurdish militants in Syria, in direct opposition to the clearly expressed wishes of long-term loyal NATO ally Turkey. Their generosity and support, however, stops short of allowing the PYD leader anywhere near Homeland USA.

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If he’s your friend why not invite him to your house?

The leader of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), whose military wing is planning an operation to capture Raqqa from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) with the support of the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition, has been denied a visa to the United States, following a similar decision in 2015.

The visa application by Salih Muslim was rejected two months ago, forcing him to attend a conference organized on May 25 in Washington via teleconference.

The rejection came despite Washington’s continuous support for the PYD’s military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). 

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Whose flag? Whose troops?

Despite the objections of Ankara, which considers the PYD and YPG as organic extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and hence terrorists groups, U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month authorized the Pentagon to provide the YPG with heavy weapons and armored vehicles.

Speaking via teleconference at May 25’s conference, Muslim said the decision to give weapons to the YPG was a “very important step,” noting his expectation that the relationship with the U.S. would “widen into the political field, as well as the diplomatic field.”

When Muslim was asked by an audience member why he was not in the U.S., he said he was told two months ago that his visa application had been rejected.

Muslim’s visa application on 2015 was also rejected during the Barack Obama administration.

Read the whole article

Turkish NGO provides education for refugee children in makeshift tents

n_113386_1I’m passing this on from Turkey’s English language Hürriyet Daily News:

The Imece Initiative, a non-governmental organization working mostly with Syrian refugees in the western province of İzmir, has started to provide education for refugee children who do not have access to school, by setting up makeshift tents.

As part of the “Makeshift Tent” project, the NGO has been visiting various regions and villages where Syrian agricultural workers mostly live five days of the week, setting up tents in these places. Thanks to the organization’s workshops the children are learning how to read and write in Turkish and Arabic.

The NGO has been active for the last three months in the Çamanönü village in İzmir’s Menderes district. About 180 Syrian families live in the village, where greenhouse cultivation has also been initiated intensively. 

The refugee children wait anxiously every Saturday morning for a bus of the NGO people to come to their village. 

While some of the NGO workers set up the tents, others dress themselves up as clowns to play with the kids. 

CAIMA501-Mideast-Out-Of-SchAbout 30 children aged between seven and 12 sit around a table set up in a field of olive trees, where two NGO volunteers give Turkish and Arabic language classes. 

The children have been receiving education in this tent for the last three months and have almost mastered the two languages. Apart from language education, the children are also given mathematics lessons. They have also improved their motor skills thanks to workshops on handcrafts and painting.

“Since the kids know that we come every Saturday, they wake up early in the morning and ask their mothers to dress them up in their nicest clothes. When they see us arriving in the village, they come running to us. We have been coming for the last three months and holding workshops for the kids. Every time we come, we see more kids,” Imece Initiative workers said.

n_92704_1“Since most of them were born in Turkey, they have never seen a school. First, we conduct painting workshops for the younger children. Later, we give Turkish and mathematics lessons to children aged between seven and 12,” said Ali Güray Yalvaçlı, head of the Imece Initiative Foundation.

“To ensure continuity, we are always in contact with the families. For example, a family who is in Menderes this week can be lreocated to the Torbalı district next week. Wherever the kids go, we go there,” he said.

Read the article