The Turkish Army’s relationship with the Kurdish people, and its role in Iraq and Syria

The Turkish Government has been shelling Kurdish fighters belonging to the People’s Protection Units, also known at the YPG, who are the armed force of the Syrian Democratic Union Party.  The recent attacks have prompted the US, the UN and EU to call for some restraint.  The degree to which Turkey’s fight against Isis is genuine has also been questioned by Kurdish officials, and doubts have arisen about Ankara’s agenda in both Syria and Iraq.  There have even been allegations about Turkey’s inability or unwillingness to control its borders. They were up until recently, allowing extremists to enter Syria from Turkey, thus helping to establish Isis in the north of the country.

There is of course a deep rooted conflict that has seen hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Kurdish people displaced from their homes or killed.  Centuries of oppression from both the Ottoman Empire and modern day Arab States have ignited the flame for an independent Kurdish state.

The YPG’s role in the fight against Isis is a crucial one.  In fact, the People’s Protection Units are one of the main ground forces battling against the self-styled caliphate.  With Turkey continuing to bomb YPG positions, could they be using the US led coalition against Isis as a cover to attack the YPG in Northern Syria?  The Turkish government certainly have no problem fighting their own people, Turkish Kurds belonging to the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) being a case in point.

However, Turkey does have good relations with Iraqi Kurds belonging to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).  The Turkish army are training and arming a predominately Sunni militia called Hasd al-Watani.  The militia group hope that by working with the Iraqi Peshmerga, the armed force of the KRG, they will be able to help retake Mosul, the de-facto capital of Isis in Iraq.

We cannot ignore the complexities of t00he situation in the Middle East.  The number of militia groups belonging to different ethnicities seems to be growing by the month.  Different factions are fighting for territories. A cohesive effort is needed in order to suppress the threat posed by Isis.  Turkey’s role, its cooperation with the rest of the world and with the Kurdish populations needs be far more transparent.

By Nihal Patel

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