Jaysh Al-Thuwar: Turkey is moving the gangs from Idlib to Afrin
Jaysh Al- Thuwar Deputy Commander General Ahmet Sultan said the Turkish state is moving certain gangs under their control from Idlib to Afrin.
Jaysh Al-Thuwar Deputy Commander General Ahmet Sultan said the Turkish state wants to become permanent in Afrin and Shehba and added that the deadline of October 15 for Idlib will be expanded.
Jaysh Al-Thuwar (Army of Revolutionaries) Deputy Commander General Ahmet Sultan (Abu Arac) spoke to the ANF about the developments in Afrin, Idlib and Manbij.
Was Idlib a jihadist hub from the start?
No. The popular uprisings in Syria started in Daraa and then in Idlib in 2011. The people and the revolutionaries who rose up in 2011 were genuine. Children, women, the young, the old, everybody was out on the streets. When the revolution began, 70% of Syria fell under Free Syrian Army control. Back then the FSA was a revolutionary force. Until the Islamist forces showed themselves, with support from Turkey.
Unfortunately, by mid-2012 the Turks formed the jihadist gangs. With the emergence of these gangs, the revolution was led astray. Then, groups under Al Qaeda entered Idlib. ISIS gangs sowed up in Syria in 2013, and entered Idlib in 2014. Revolutionary forces in Idlib fought against ISIS and started a second revolution. In 7 days, they pushed ISIS out of Idlib. So, we stood against ISIS and made them retreat.
How did the jihadist gangs take control in Idlib instead of revolutionaries?
We, the revolutionaries of Idlib, and our people started on this path with good intentions. But with Turkey’s intervention, the revolutionary stance in our society was hijacked into an Islamist line. When we didn’t accept the Turkish state skewing our revolution, Jabhat Al-Nusra and some other groups declared war against revolutionary forces. FSA groups who used to act with us were part of this, as a result of treason by certain people. This war happened with the demand and support by Turkey and Qatar. They forced us to leave Idlib. ISIS confiscated our tanks, weapons, houses, property and personal belongings there. We got out with just our lives.
Then the Fatah Al Sham was founded by Turkey, under Jabhat-Al Nusra’s lead. In spring 2015 they took over the whole of Idlib from the regime. They greatly pressured the people. After Russia entered Syria, the regime and Russia carried out intense air strikes against Idlib. The people were harmed greatly. Forces from here and there were gathered in Idlib. Both their pressure and tyranny over the people, and Russia and the regime’s attacks put the people of Idlib through great pain. The people of Idlib were stuck between two sides of fire.
Turkey and Russia made an alliance in Sochi to resolve the issues in Idlib. The deadline to implement the fundamental point in the alliance passed on October 15. Did it do any good to the people of Idlib, and was it implemented at all?
They agreed to form a demilitarized zone in Sochi. Russia and Turkey formed some points so the regime could go west to Ghouta and Daraa easily. The Sochi deal protects not the people’s but the regime’s interests. According to this agreement, heavy weapons will be removed from a 20 km area. As such, the closest strike against the regime would be with light weapons from 20 km away, and won’t affect them.
It didn’t turn out like they agreed, it couldn't be implemented. Groups completely loyal to Turkey agreed on the deal but still it wasn’t implemented. The deadline to remove weapons from the region passed on October 15, but they weren’t. Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS) announced that they don’t accept the Sochi alliance and the withdrawal of weapons. An operation room was formed with several radical Al Qaeda groups coming together, so they didn’t accept the deal either.
What developments could follow in Idlib, as the agreement wasn’t implemented?
It seems like they will extend the deadline. The regime doesn’t seem to be strong enough to carry out an operation against Al Qaeda forces therein immediately. The balance is not really suitable either. There are many secrets happening behind the scenes. But as far as we know, states that support Sochi are trying to mend fences with the regime by convincing Russia, Iran, groups under the FSA and especially Turkey.
Forces who don’t accept Sochi could come together and clash with others in the coming period. I believe if there is a battle in Idlib, they will corner all radical Islamist gangs and then fight.
There could be a conflict between the Hayat Tahrir Sham and the National Liberation Front first. Because the National Liberation Front is directly under the Turks, and was the first to accept the Sochi agreement. When this battle happens, the Turkish state will look and see, they will support some Islamist gangs. Maybe they will try to convince the opposing groups instead of fighting them, and pull them to regions like Shehba and Afrin. That is a possibility.
Lately Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham commanders have been killed one after the other in Idlib. Nobody is assuming these attacks. What do you think is happening?
Yes, there are at least 3 commanders killed every day. Sometimes there are 10. They don’t announce most of these, they are kept hidden. It’s not just Hayat Tahrir Al Sham or Jabhat Al-Nusra, commanders from other radical jihadist groups are killed too. What we know is that the commanders from HTS and other groups had all objected to the Sochi. That is why they are killed. Turkey and others are involved in their killing.
As Jaysh Al-Thuwar you participated in the Afrin resistance and fought against the Turkish state. While assessing possible developments in Idlib, you said these forces could be convinced and moved into Afrin. Have other gangs been moved to Afrin from Idlib before?
When we were removed from Idlib in a Turkish state conspiracy, some groups crossed into Turkey. We didn’t, because we knew the truth of Turkey. In that time we sought refuge in Afrin to regroup.
We participated in the operation to liberate certain parts of Shehba under ISIS control as one of the fundamental forces. We liberated 75 villages. We ran into the Turkish state during that time as well. They attacked us to protect ISIS. That’s why we couldn’t liberate all the areas we had planned.
In the liberated areas of Afrin and Shehba, there was a democratic life. Peoples lived together. There were hundreds of thousands of refugees. The Turkish state attacked Afrin too because they were dead set on the invasion. We as the Jaysh Al-Thuwar resisted against the Turkish state’s vile invasion attacks shoulder to shoulder with other constituents of the SDF. We have had martyrs. The Turkish state has violated all human rights and international war laws during these attacks. Now they are implementing many inhumane practices in Afrin. They first employed demographic meddling in Ghouta, and now they are doing the same violently in Afrin. We have constant ties with Idlib. According to information we have obtained, the Turkish state has moved some Hayat Tahrir Al Sham groups loyal to them and some Turkistan Islamic Party members into Afrin. For the future, there is the task of convincing these and other groups to move into areas like Afrin and Shehba. The Turkish state wants to become permanent in Afrin and Shehba. If they could, they would remain in Idlib. I am calling on the UN, the EU, and all human rights organizations to inspect what has been done in Afrin in situ.
Right now, you as the Jaysh Al-Thuwar are also part of the Manbij defense. What do you think about the Turkish state’s threats against Manbij?
We are a Syrian force with fighters from mostly Idlib, Hama and Homs. We fought against ISIS in Idlib, Shehba, Sed Tishrin and Raqqa. We were in the Afrin defense. After the invasion of Afrin, as the Revolutionary Forces we crossed into Manbij and are now part of the Manbij defense.
The Turkish state has been waging a special war against the Northern Syrian society and the people of Manbij. It is impossible for the FSA and Turkish forces to enter Manbij.
The war in Syria has continued for 8 years. The people of Syria are very tired. They have had enough of death, destruction and war. We are calling on all political institutions and groups, we must pressure all groups to find solutions for the interests of the Syrian peoples. The people want an end to war and they want safety. Military groups must think of these people. The people have paid a heavy price for the war with the blood of their children. I believe the resolution to this issue must be political, instead of military, at this point. All the peoples, all the faiths should take their place in this solution.