This is part 2 of the interview with Syrian Kurdish politician Abdolaziz Tammo, chairman of the Association of Independent Syrian Kurds. I visited their office in Afrin in March this year. In part one, we talked about the aid to different areas in Northern Syria, and how disputes between the US and Turkey and the EU and Turkey reflect badly on Syrians in opposition-held areas of Northern Syria. We continue here about the situation of Syrian Kurdish IDPs in YPG camps in Northern Syria..and start with the negotiations about the cross border aid extension in to northwest Syria…Quite unexpectedly, Russia did not veto this last Friday.
Tammo: When Trump gave a license to an American company and gave it a waiver from the Caesar law, the Delta company, there is a point; 40% from the oil production revenues goes to the Syrian regime.
Q: They say because of humanitarian reasons?
Tammo: It is going to the regime. And the rest should go to the people of the area. So, when the oil comes from Shadadi, the oil is taken from my home every day and I have to pay three dollar for a litre? Why? It’s my oil. Why don’t you give it to me for a symbolic price? Where does this money go? This is the main point of the American presence behind everything. They’re helping the idea that the PKK is stealing the oil.
Q: And the Americans now changed it all?
Tammo: Biden cancelled the waiver for Delta, but now there are negotiations with the Russians. Those two Russian companies that used to be here will return to the area. So Russia won’t use a veto in July in the UNSC and maybe the border crossing of Azaz and Ya’roubia will be opened, and Bab al-Hawa extended.
Q: Oil versus..
Tammo: Versus food. Versus allowing food distribution.
Q: Will this happen?
Tammo: Russia will, I think, use the veto. Russia has only one goal: everything has to go via Bashar al-Assad. They aim for surrender, while using everything to put the whole control of Syria in the hands of the Assad regime.
Q: About recruitment of minors..
People in the camps in Debersiya, Hasaka en Shahba (between Aleppo and Azaz) can give you information about how they take their children for training in military camps from 12 years, young children, that is the terrorist project of the future.
Meanwhile Jolani in Idlib is pushing the jihadi case in the schools. As opposition we said before about the disputes between Turkey and the EU2 See part 1 of the interview that was published earlier., organisations were angry at us, but there is a system to learn about human rights. Religion belongs to God, the state is for all, Sunni, Druze, Yazidi: all of them are in Syria. Teach them human rights, give them workshops, let them meet with people teaching them this.
Now, with the Jolani curriculum of schools, children are taught about the Islamic Caliphate and hate is sown inside the children, that they are different from the others. From the Kurds even, hate not only concerning the religion ya’ni.
Likewise, the PKK is teaching that Abdulla Öcalan is this, or that. There is a strange curriculum now. Everyone exploits his own agenda and radical thinking. This is now a total responsibility of those to we now discuss. We consider them a part of the problem.
But we consider the Americans and the Europeans allies. They believe in human rights, and so do we. But now minors are kidnapped from the camps and exploited only by the PKK to fight Daesh. The Americans and Europeans haven’t interfered in this child kidnapping in this area. It’s a total disaster. Then they claim they’re fighting terrorism. And we are against terrorism: against Daesh, al-Qaida, the PKK and the militias from Hezbollah and Iran, and Fatemiyyoun (Afghans), Zeynabiyyoun (Pakistanis): They are all jihadists.
Tammo: Shiites. But they’re diehard jihadists. And we are fighting against terrorism. Especially the EU was offering us bread, humanitarian aid and education in the area. How do you win a whole generation after you, which believes in democracy and freedom of expression? They carry the responsibility. Now, the humanitarian goods are going to Idlib only as food. Any education curriculum to be used in the schools is not going in. Instead, the al-Qaida ideology is being pumped into these children’s hearts and minds.
The EU stopped all aid in our Syrian opposition area only.. But it is present in other areas. Aren’t they wondering when they offer aid to the PKK, what curriculum is being taught in the schools? They don’t tell Mazloum Abdi: What are you teaching, the ideology of Abdulla Öcalan and placing toxic PKK ideology in their minds? Do schools in Europe teach this? There aren’t! My children live in Europe, they follow a curriculum about norms – how to respect and help the elderly and how to respect family members unlike in the East Euphrates. There’s only the worship of Öcalan. There is none like him.
The one who pays the piper, is also responsibility for the tune. So, the Europeans and Americans are responsible for the way education money in East Euphrates is spent on Öcalan worship. So, you are paying for the education without asking what is the curriculum? In the opposition-held area, we still have the former Syrian State curriculum acknowledged and approved of by Unicef. While they teach their own and does Jolani with his.
Q: Is the regime curriculum current in Azaz?
Tammo: It is, apart from one subject called nationalism, provided by the Baath party. We could remove that one. But the materials, mathematics and so, everything is Unicef. The world education foundation. So how can they have curriculum of their own in the Republic of Öcalan and Jolani on their own?
Q: You call it the Republic of Öcalan…
Tammo: The Republic of Öcalan is a big problem. So, with the Europeans and the Americans knowing what is happening in Idlib and Qamishli, with this ongoing education, there will be future terrorist projects there.
In the opposition area, we have schools within the current possibilities. We don’t have real possibilities, but stick to the Unicef curriculum. The only addition to it was Kurdish. In Afrin, and elsewhere, Kurdish was added alongside Arabic. So were English and French. The education offered is not on top level; but 60% is okay. And nothing here calls for extremism, terrorism, or extremist thinking. Arabic or Kurdish nationalism are both absent. There is material concerning religion for the small minority of Christian brothers present in Afrin or in Ra’s al-Ayn. Taught to their students in Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn.
Q: Are there Christians in the Afrin region?
Tammo: Yes. There is also a pastor, a priest and a church. And there are Yazidis.
Q: I was aware of the presence of Yazidis.
Tammo: True. In the beginning there were violations, but they have ended. Turkey is helping them a lot in this matter of minorities.
Q: Turkey is helping?
Tammo: Turkey is helping a lot with the matter.
Q: There are people who say Turkey entered in order to ethnically cleanse the area, it wants to remove all the Kurds (Afrin).
Tammo: Not at all. Turkey entered to remove the PKK, and not the Kurds! The Kurds that stayed in Afrin get their rights. We mean there are religious rights to keep the worship places for the Christians, and for the Yazidis, and even Turkey spends money in Afrin to restore those war-damaged places, and the clergy.
Q: And where are the Christians in the Afrin region?
In the city of Afrin. Even in the town of Ma’batli there are Kurdish Alewites. The Alewites in Ma’batli have their full rights. We do not say they are Alewites like Bashar al-Assad, no.
Q: I thought before my trip, there were hardly any Kurds in Afrin, nor any Kurdish political party office open. I didn’t know that the Association of Independent Kurds was present there. And how Arabs and Kurds are cooperating to fix matters.
Tammo: In 2016, I told the American congress they were pimping the PKK and the general American opinion by telling them they are heroes, because they fight Daesh. But this picture fails when you leave out to the American public that they kidnap girls and 12-year-olds are conscribed into military service? This is no freedom for women. Sorry, but the freedom of a woman is when she voluntarily wants to go to the army. That is not a problem. But a 12- or 13-year-old child needs to go to school. And to university. Maybe she can become a teacher, a doctor, or a lawyer, or anything. But don’t force her to go fighting with you. That is not a woman’s freedom. How are the Kurdish female fighters conscripted? Do their fathers have influence? They have been kidnapped. They go to military camps in Qandil for six months, a year..and then, there is their ideology. A girl’s education girl should first be with respect of her family, her parents, and environment.
Q: The despair of the family after a kidnapping…
Tammo: That is a big problem. The Americans go by the media, the public opinion, and the Europeans too. The public opinion is pimped via the Washington Post and The New York Times or Der Spiegel. Now, over a year ago they started to tell the truth. Because the PKK causes problems inside Germany by terrorist attacks.There is a basic thing the general public in Europe should know. where did the ISIS fighters that were captured by the International Coalition when ISIS finished in Raqqa or in Baghouz or in Deir al-Zour?
Q: In prisons.
Tammo: Partly, there are also who work with the SDF.
Tammo: How can one change from jihadi terrorist to a Marxist fighter? I want to understand. There are photos I will send you of an emir of Daesh who has become a part of SDF. The general public in Europe should both know this and that we have 115,000 Kurds from Afrin in camps who were taken hostage by the PYD when they left from Afrin.
Q: Can’t they return from their side?
Tammo: The PYD/PKK don’t allow them to return. In the beginning, we helped them a lot with their return. When the PKK was expelled from Afrin, there was exchange: our Afrin office was helping every day 60, 70 families to return. This was in April 2018. During the whole of 2018 people were returning. The ones who intervened there in 2019 made a large camp, called Shahba. They put the people in a camp with always guards around it, like al-Hol. They don’t allow anyone to go out to their house in Afrin. The people say that enduring the insult of staying in our houses for one month (in Afrin) is better than ten years in a camp. Because we don’t want the Palestinian camps experience to repeat. They stayed in camps in Syria, in Lebanon, in Jordan for decades. From this perspective we supported and facilitated everyone who wanted to return to his house
Q: Who exactly did this?
Tammo: We did as the Association of Independent Syrian Kurds. We helped many and now about 60% of the people of Afrin returned to their lands, to their homes. They invest, they plant, they do their work, and they live their lives in a normal way. But we want the other 40% to return, the ones now in Aleppo and Shahba.
Q: In Aleppo, the regime prevents them….
Tammo: So, does the PKK. In PKK controlled Ashrafiyya, Sheikh Maqsoud it does. Even until now. In full coordination with the regime of course. They don’t allow them to return. Now, the returns happen in individual cases, by paying bribes to PKK members. The costs for the return of one person to Afrin is 2,000 dollars. They need to pay a bribe to the PKK and a bribe to the smuggler, so it costs ,000 dollar for one person to return to his house. It is a big problem. We demand from the Americans or from the EU to put pressure on Mazloum Abdi to allow the people to return to their homes.
Q: What do the Americans say? And the Europeans…?
Tammo (frustrated): The Americans claim they have nothing to do with the matter. But the aid they offer is money to the PYD and the PKK and humanitarian aid to these camps. But we want the people to return to their homes. All the aid for the camps in Shahba is from the Americans and the EU. But, for example, there is no aid at all for the people of Tel Rif’at who are staying in a camp near Bab al-Salama.
Q: Not at all?
Tammo: Not at all. We also are willing to accept a deal… Of course, the inhabitants of Afrin should return without a deal. We also demand the return of the people of Afrin to Afrin from the Americans, and the return of the people of Tel Rif’at to Tel Rif-at, from the Azaz camps. I’m sorry, but don’t the Americans and the Europeans say it is a Turkish occupation of Afrin? And of Tel Rif’at? Who occupies the Tel Rif’at area and its neighbouring 59 villages? is it the PKK or someone else?
People should know this: we Syrians decide who is the occupier and who are the occupied. I don’t view the International Coalition occupying our land. I don’t view the Americans and the International Coalition occupying Raqqa and Deir al-Zour. What I am saying is there is an agreement between Russia and the Assad regime. And Russia is considered an occupying state; Hezbollah is considered an occupier. But Turkey and America aren’t. America intervened to fight against terrorism, it helped the Syrians to fight terrorism. This is not an occupation. And the Americans said so. They don’t consider the Iraqi and the Turkish forces occupiers, only the Russians… That is an American statement. They consider Russia an occupying state. Russia is responsible for the citizens, the food, and the humanitarian aid. They explained to them the Turkish intervention is not an occupation. The only occupiers are…. even Iran and Hezbollah need to leave. Russia is occupying Syrian lands and it needs to take care of the Syrian people. So, the Americans expressed it is not an occupation but an intervention to fight terrorism. The Americans came with about 3,000, and the Europeans with about 1,500 aiming to fight terrorism, and Turkey came to fight PKK and Daesh terrorism 100 meter or less away from its border. In Jarabulus and in al-Bab, in al-Ra’y.
Q: At that time, in March 2016, people were arriving in Turkey at the Bab al-Salama border crossing because of the YPG-fighters who took their houses…
Tammo: Yes, YPG and PKK occupy 59 Arab villages in Shahba and Tel Rif’at.
Q: By the way, from the Azaz – Afrin Road one could see a YPG outpost.
Tammo: Yes, there is YPG presence, at Jebel Ahlam for instance.
Q: And every night there was shelling, from the Kafr Khaashir or Ma’ranaz frontlines, only 3 km away each.
Tammo: I am not with Turkey, but I am with the truth. Now, I need to respect Turkey, we have 4 million Syrians in Turkey, of which 400,000 are Syrian Kurds. It’s the biggest country in receiving Syrian refugees. That’s one. Secondly, Turkey has a 910 km long border with Syria. It is in my interest when Turkey is a befriended country, not an enemy. The PKK says Turkey is an enemy, but I don’t. Turkey is a befriended country and this it is self-interest…
Q: The border crossings and…
Tammo: Of course. My problem as a Syrian Kurd is in Damascus, not in Ankara. Neither with Baghdad nor with Amman. I don’t have another border but the Turkish one. What concerns me is that Turkey is the only lifeline, border of 910 km. If Turkey closes the border, I can’t live nor continue. Turkey offers aid to the Syrians. Refugees from Kobani for instance.
I met with former US Syria envoy James Jeffrey in Gaziantep, and we had taken families from Kobani with us… And we asked him. Of course, Mr. Jeffrey was talking about the accomplishments of the International Coalition; they had expelled Daesh from Kobani and from Raqqa, from Manbij, from Deir al-Zour. He spoke a lot. We asked him a question: ‘Okay, you International Coalition are basically the US, a country supporting democracy and freedom and respecting human rights. You don’t wonder why the people of Kobani don’t return from Turkey to Kobani? You expelled Daesh from Kobani and the families fled to Turkey. About 25 – 30% returned to Kobani. They reconciled with the PKK. But the rest, why don’t they want to return? They are present in Suruç, present in Şanlıurfa, in Nizip.’ He said: ‘I don’t know.’ I told him: ‘You expelled the terrorist Daesh, and the solution was to replace them with PKK terrorists?’ Those people can’t return because there are terrorists who expel them.
With friendly editorial support by Limwierde Taaldiensten.
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