Abdolaziz Tammo is a Syrian Kurdish politician originally from Qamishli. He is the brother of Mashaal Tammo who was assassinated in Qamishli in 2011, by PYD militants. In March 2021, I visited the office of the Association of Independent Syrian Kurds in Afrin City.
And earlier this month I interviewed the head of the Association of Independent Syrian Kurds. His association is trying hard to help Syrian Kurds to return to Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn. I interviewed him in Istanbul. He had just returned from a trip to Afrin. I asked him about aid to Northwest Syria, IDPs, Kurdish and non-Kurdish, and about the situation in Northern Syria. Here is part 1 of the interview.
Q: Could you explain the situation about aid to Northwest Syria?
Tammo: Disputes between the US and Turkey and the European Union and Turkey reflect badly on Syrians. These international disputes are disputes between two sides. All sides – and especially the American and the European sides – do so. Also, on the Syrian opposition. The intervention of the National Army and the Turkish army into Afrin only added to all this. And from the start of the Euphrates Shield Operation against Daesh in Jarabulus and other towns. Turkey was and is still a member of the international Coalition against Daesh, against terrorism.
After the Olive Branch operation in Afrin, and the Peace Spring operation in Ra’s al-Ayn, the EU and the US halted access of any humanitarian organization to the area. This impacts us.
Q: Do the aid goods go to the Salvation government?
Tammo: The aid goods from the US and the EU and also from the UN do so. And they do not go to Afrin, nor to Al-Bab or Jarabulus and Tel Abyad.
Q: What is the evidence for the claim that the aid goods are distributed to the Salvation government?
Tammo: There are NGOs operating there. How can these organizations work if they haven’t been authorized by the Salvation government or from Jolani? Truth is, no-one can work there without authorization! This is the current situation which is also valid even in Europe or anywhere else: The government’s yes is a precondition for any organization that wants to offer humanitarian aid. This aid goes via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to Idlib, and via the Samalka border crossing in Iraqi Kurdistan to the PKK in Northeast Syria.
Q: Also via Samalka? Because there is talk on Ya’roubia…
Tammo: They closed Ya’roubia. The Russians used their veto right.
Q: Yes, but Samalka is still open..
Tammo: Samalka is open, trucks with aid enter in on a daily base to the east of the Euphrates area (Northeast Syria), in addition to that, there are huge amounts being paid to organizations that work in Northeast Syria. They work on the basis of irrigation and agriculture, but it is not like this. The amounts go to the Self Administration that is part of the PKK. The money is used for digging tunnels and for the PKK military interests. Not to the citizens.
East from the Euphrates, is the international coalition influence area. Presently, the Europeans are partners in this area, not only the Americans. We politicians see that. And the International Coalition is a group of countries, not only the US.
Q: Also The Netherlands are in the International Coalition.
Tammo: The Netherlands are also part of it, of course. Here we arrived at some significant questions. Is it logical that in an area which is rich with oil, grain and food, there is no bread for citizens? There is no petrol? It is a rich area.
All countries in the world tell us Syria is a unity, people- and soilwise. But they see Nidal Ibo’s statements, who defected from the PKK, saying: the Northeast Syria oil trade is up to 120 million dollar per month. From this, 40 million dollar go to the SDF military salaries and 80 million dollar go to Qandil. He said so on TV.
Q: Where is he now?
Tammo: In Aleppo, and Damascus, he moved towards the Syrian regime. This area here is under the International Coalition’s influence. But the coalition doesn’t ask them why these amounts of money go to Qandil. Why are they not spend on the people? As humanitarian aid? It’s all we ask.
At the same time, these organizations which reject to work in Afrin, al-Bab, Jarabulus, Tel Abyad, and in Ra’s al-Ayn – why do they work with Jolani? And Jolani is also on the list of terrorist groups with the name of al-Qaida. Why would an American go to Idlib and sit with Jolani ten days ago?
Q: I was also surprised. Why they go and sit with Jolani?
Tammo: You should be as well. But why doesn’t an American journalist go to Afrin as well? Or a British journalist. Why doesn’t he come to this area? To find out about the worries of the people, about the problems of the people?
Q: Actually I have to say, I also arranged my trip to Azaz and Afrin in March by myself.
Tammo: After 10 years of crisis, or the humanitarian disaster, we Syrians started to read politics well. Of course, we know there are no continued animosities nor friendships between states. These animosities between Turkey and the Europeans and the Americans reflect on us. It is exploited on us. We will be the victims, the simple Syrian employee who lives a simple life, from these disputes.
Unfortunately, we experience accordingly to what politicians express in the US and in Europe. The general European and American opinion. Why don’t these politicians talk about the Iranian militias or Hezbollah? They are also jihadists.
There is a basic point, I have a message maybe you can publish this, for the European public opinion in general and the Dutch. The Dutch government does not support politically the events in Syria. I’m sorry. They consider American policy. France, Germany, all consider the American policy first and then the European Union. We only ask to look at the situation through the eyes of a human being. You care about democracy and human rights in your country. This applies to every country in the world. In the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Guatemala, in America. Humans are humans whether European, Syrian, American, or African. All we ask for is the general opinion of the Europeans, to see that this matter is humanitarian, first and foremost.
This people are going through a crisis. The Syrian crisis is political, between a dictator and the people. The people want to get rid of this dictator supported by Russia and Iran.
They want to change the system towards democracy and towards the protection of human rights on the highest level. Unfortunately, the governments connected the humanitarian matter in Syria with the political matter. But the political matter is not connected with Syria but with international disputes, between the Americans with both the Russians and Turkey. This connecting of the humanitarian matter with the political matter leaves room to many questions: where are the human rights in Europe and are they leading here? There were demonstrations in Shadadi and in Manbij. Where did the gun fire come from that was fired at the people? From the International Coalition. It is the International Coalition offering these weapons to the PKK, and the PYD and innocent people are being killed.
Q: In the recent days there were also demonstration in Shadadi? Or when were they?
Tammo: Demonstrations took place in Shadadi fifteen days ago and a number of demonstrators were killed by gun fire. As we are speaking, demonstrations have been going on now for three days in Manbij. Does Europe have forced conscription? Do you kidnap minors, 12- and 13-years-old for the service? How can they kidnap children and bring them to military camps for forced conscription, with funds from the Europeans and the Americans? You are paying these organizations’ funding. And this is a fundamental point the general opinion of Europe should know. The Dutch citizens should know this.
We are here trying to get across what is going on concerning us, as Syrian representatives or as people from the Middle East. Maybe the Americans are very far, but we were looking at Europe as democratic countries respecting human rights, regardless of a person’s skin colour, religion or nationality. Europe paid the price to arrive to where it is today. It also paid victims in the millions. You know of course, Europe for over a hundred years ago. And since Europe paid the price, is it reasonable that Europe in 21st century helps a dictator and terrorist groups against humanity? Now in Syria, there is a new generation that has grown up with one idea: those Americans and Europeans supported terrorist groups who are fighting against us. We see this in Manbij. They see their brother killed by the European or American bullet, from the inside. We exhausted ourselves a lot as Syrian politicians to convince the people that Europe is pro-democracy and pro-human rights, but the new generation in Syria sees the opposite when it comes to Syria. And why do Europe and the US support the Emirate of Jolani in Idlib, but don’t support the inhabitants of Afrin, and Jarabulus, al-Bab, Tel Abyad and Ra’s al-Ayn? I talked with a European representative in Gaziantep and told him you are making a mistake. A human being is a human being, whether he is in Idlib or in Afrin or even in Lattakiya and Tartous. Don’t connect political matters to humanitarian matters. This goes also for the people in regime areas. Like the others, they are Syrian, and need aid, too.
Q: The Syrian can’t open his mouth..
Tammo: He cannot open his mouth. But in the end he is a human being and needs food, he needs medicine, and medical aid.
Q: What do the Europeans say?
Tammo: The Europeans connect the work with the political stance. Their disputes with Turkey lead to refusing aid to Syrians there. In that area, from Idlib to Ra’s al-Ayn, are millions of Syrians. In general, Europeans should understand that these millions of Syrians suffer from a refusal. This is an essential point.
We don’t distinguish between people, whatever their nationality. We don’t ask the Europeans to support us as politicians. I may differ with the EU in a political matter, but I have interests as a Syrian.
In the past, we used to say we would break the fear barrier, the fear from oppression, and from national slogans, in order to build a national state for and of the citizens, with equality between all the people in Syria. And even then, in the beginning, we hoped Syria could be part of the European Union. Our children could go and study in Brussels, in Holland, and build up Syria. Europe was our role model. But this hope, to comply fully with the EU, has faded.
We now have children that are being taught jihad. In Idlib, it is said: “We are going to liberate Rome.” Others say: “We are going to liberate Diyarbakir.” In Idlib, you can hear them say: ”Our goal is not Damascus, our goal is to liberate Rome.” Here is the problem. Unfortunately, the Europeans are the ones halting all this support, including education and humanitarian aid. It was possible to export these to the rest of Syria, but it is completely halted.
About the Kurdish IDPs, we now have 115,000 Kurds from Afrin in camps in Sha’ban, in Tel Rif’at.
Q: How many?
115,000 Kurds are present in the Shahba camps. That is called Shahba between Aleppo and Azaz. And we have 24,000 Kurds in camps in Debersiya, in Amouda in Qamishli, in Hasaka, they are from Ra’s al-Ayn. We don’t receive aid to help them return, neither from the Americans nor the Europeans, to put pressure on the PYD to allow the people to return to their houses. But what is worse, they present their terrorist projects to the people in the camps. Who is offering bread to those in the camps? That is the PKK! They offer them humanitarian aid. They take children to Qandil. What will they become? Terrorists.
Q: Do they take children from the camps to Qandil?
Tammo: Yes they go to Qandil. The PKK is using them.
Q: Is there any proof of?
Tammo: There is all proof of.
The Syrian Kurdish Yekiti party (KNC / ENKS) published an article about four minors kidnapped from al-Shahba camps.
To be continued.
With friendly editorial support by Limwierde Taaldiensten.
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