TEV-DEM co-chair: A new phase has begun in Syria

“The Turkish state is playing on a few tables at the same time. There is no politics that is so solid and primal. Turkey tries to protect its interests by building relationships with one of the other depending on the day.”

After the accusation made by the US, England and France against the Syrian regime which, they said, had used chemical weapons in Duma, there was a new turn in the Syrian crisis, which saw new attacks carried out by US-UK and France while the Turkish state has been siding with Russia and Iran for the last two years.

Aldar Xelîl, Co-Chairman of the Rojava Democratic Society Movement (TEV-DEM) Executive Council, talked to ANF about the diplomatic activities for Afrin and the resistance in Afrin.

Here some highlights from the interview:

“When we talk about chemical weapons, we as Kurds are opposed to their use, no matter who uses them, because we have experienced and lived more than once what it means to be attacked with chemical weapons."

"We are not a party to this issue, we are neither on the side of those who used chemical weapons, nor on the side of the attackers: the military option should not be the first option, but whoever used those weapons should not get away with it.”

“These attacks have actually provided the opportunity to see the background of setting up alliances on the scene, and this intervention is enough for an agreement between these opposing forces, as neither Trump would have it his way, nor Russia will have everything as they would like.”

"The Turkish state can no longer play on more than one side. In the days to come, we believe Russia will increase its pressure on the Turkish state to counter its occupation of Syria.”

"The fall of Erdogan will not be a normal decline, his will be a very sharp fall ... (...) The occupation of Afrin will not result in what the Turkish state wanted: it might work to their favour in the short term, but in the long term they can expect very hard days.”

"Every Kurdish person who has entered the illegal council [set up by Turkey] and has legitimized the occupation, those people who have support Turkey, becoming enemy of their own people, these traitors and every Kurdish party supporting those occupying forces will be considered for what they are.”

And here the full interview:

* Let's start with the main topic on the agenda. The United States, UK and France have attacked Syria following allegations of chemical weapons being used in Duma. How do you evaluate this intervention?

This attack has short-term and long-term causes. Of course, there are short-term and long-term objectives. The reason given for the attack is the use of chemical weapons. We, as Kurdish people, are a people who have experienced on our own skin the pain of chemical weapons. If some people are opposed “in theory” to chemical weapons, we are opposed to whoever uses them because we have lived “in practice” their effects. For this reason, whoever uses chemical weapons needs to be held accountable for and we need to take necessary precautions to prevent these weapons from being used again. But it is important to investigate issues such as who used chemical weapons, how they used them, and where they got them from.

But even more important is the question of why these chemical weapons were used, why does Syria consistently opts for military options? Can we not talk about political options other than the military option? Whether it is today or tomorrow, Syria's problems must be resolved through political and dialogue methods. Before everyone else, the Syrian regime had to see this. The day the Syrian crisis began, they had to see it. Syria had to solve its problems, to see its existing problems and to find a solution for it. As long as these problems exist, it is necessary to see that such situations will always exist. Which is to say that the Syrian regime must understand that internal crises cannot be solved by calling on Russia or other forces. If they really want to protect Syria, then they should have opt for the democratic way, first of all. These last attacks revealed once again the Syrian attitude.

We are not a side to this issue. We are neither on the side of using chemical weapons nor on the side of those attacking. There is something we know and have said since the beginning: we must pursue a peaceful settlement. On the other hand, those who shout out against these chemical weapons being used [in Duma] should also seen the attacks against Afrin, where indeed chemical weapons have been used. Hundreds of our citizens have been massacred, thousands have been wounded, our people have been forced to flee from their homes, our homes have been plundered. Why did they not make a sound about it? But let me repeat once more: the military option should not be the first choice, although whoever used those weapons should not get away with it.

* Another issue that came to the agenda after the intervention was whether these attacks would continue. According to you, will these attacks continue in the short and long terms, what will be the consequences if they do continue? And if they don’t?

We talked about the short terms effects of this intervention. But there are also long-term reasons. This is the contradiction between the United States and Russia, and likewise the contradiction between the coalition forces and the forces active in Syria. The United States, Britain, France and their allies do not accept that the entire initiative on Syria is in the hands of Russia. The Astana negotiations and the moves made in Syria are not moves that operate according to the interests of the United States. The US want to break the influence of Russia, want to demolish the alliance between Russia, Turkey and Iran, they want to reactivate Geneva [talks]. The US are trying to ensure that they would remain the primary force in Syria and the region. This is why they accused the regime of using chemical weapons in Duma. Because indeed they could have said it hundred times before. Russia called the bluff. Russia saw that Syria cannot stand alone in the field.

Together with these attacks, they have caught the chance to form alliances. Such an intervention was sufficient for an agreement between these opposing forces. Trump cannot have it all his way and neither can Russia. They found a common solution. As soon as Russia was informed [by the US], some targets were hit [by the US]. Thus they gave their message. Look, we can respond whenever we want, if you want to do something in Syria, you know as far as you can go. Clearly this will have some consequences. But I do not think the military will continue for too long. This intervention, the next Russian moves in Syria, the Astana process, the future of Geneva, the slogan used at any opportunity “Get out of Syria”, the Russia-Turkey relations and many other political processes have to be clarified. But what is important here is whether the political solution will or not develop.

* The Turkish state has been talking about overthrowing the regime since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. Since 2016 it has been acting with Russia. Turkey and has been given the green light by Russia for the occupation of Afrin. However, the Turkish state expressed satisfaction at the US air raids. At the same time, some AKP ministers have hinted at the need for a political solution to make it sweeter for Russia. How to read this politics?

The Turkish state is playing on a few tables at the same time. There is no politics that is so solid and primal. Turkey tries to protect its interests by building relationships with one of the other depending on the day. In a chaotic situation and with a short-term state, Turkey can achieve some short-term interests, but it is very difficult to sustain this type of politics for long-term and strategic interests. After this move, there will be some changes in the relations of the Turkish state. It seems difficult relations with Russia and Iran will stay the same. Likewise the relationship with the US and the West will not be the same. Turkey will eventually be forced to make choices. Russia, after giving Turkey the permission to occupy Afrin, will ask things in return. Turkey will be forced to rethink many of its politics. They will have to see this new formula. The US and the West will have to see that they are not silent on Syria. They will have to switch table.

Although the Turkish state is seen as getting closer to Russia, it remains a NATO member. According to our estimates, from now on, the relation between Russia and Turkey will witness a new stage.

* Russia will impose some obligation to the Turkish state ...

True. It's time for these obligations. If the Turkish state fulfills these commitments then it will have to make a choice, if it does not, then it will have to make a decision about the future of its relationship with Russia.

*Is there any possibility that Turkey might get Jarablus, Bab, Azaz and Afrin, which they invaded basing on Russia, under the protection of US and NATO, tripping Russia up?

The new state of affairs and positions of the international powers do not resemble relationship and networks as they were in the last century. In the past, the world was bipolar, if a power would have relations with a pole, could not easily have relations with the other. But now this is not the reality. There are transitions between the poles. For this reason, I do not think that the Turkish state will be completely expelled from one side or the other, but we can say that the calculations it made, are not what they wanted.

* The Turkish state has made several promises to Russia many times in history, but it has always changed its position. For example, in the establishment of the Turkish state, Soviet Russia was promised things, but Turkey change its mind afterwards. Is there a similar plan in Erdogan's mind?

Erdogan's will eventually fall. His fall will not be so soft and normal, there will be a very sharp decline. Erdogan will not go off the scene in the normal way. I do not say this in relation to Russia. The games Erdogan plays in the region will eventually lead him to such an end. When certain situations become clear, Erdogan will not be able to play games like the old ones. Because Erdogan has very big problems inside too. He did not leave a single thing worth the name of  democracy or justice in the country. Everything is about repression and the sum of all this is a great danger on Turkey’s door. A very hard time expects Erdogan in the very near future. For example, the invasion of Afrin will not turn out as they would have wanted for them. In the short term they can say it is ok, but very heavy days are waiting for them in the long term. This will have consequences.

* We started with hot issues but Afrin is the main issue on the agenda of the Kurdish people. Political and social resistance continues in Afrin. Some sections described the latest developments as "Kurdish curse". How do you evaluate the last stage of the Afrin resistance?

75% of the people of Afrin are now out and away from their homes. If 75% of the population of a place is removed from its land then that place is under occupation. This shows that there is a persecution. The fact that so many people are outside means that they don’t accept the power there at the moment and do not want it. At the same time it shows that the people are connected to their territory. Our people continue to resist in very difficult conditions. Our military forces continue their actions on one hand while our people resist on the other, and this means that all our people are mobilized for Afrin. We are continuing our political and diplomatic struggle for Afrin. Our people in Shehba are sending their strongest message to the world with their resistance, their posture and election that they want to free their land.

Unfortunately, those who speak about human rights, international tolerance are playing blind, deaf and dumb when it comes to Afrin. We will open their eyes with our resistance, and we will make them hear our voices. But I still state that the main thing is our resistance, our people's resistance. We also think that this resistance will grow even more and will eventually change the balance.

* You talked about diplomatic struggle. We would also like to ask you about the level of diplomatic negotiations you have been carrying out for the freedom of Afrin.

Our diplomatic work has been going on since the beginning of the Rojava Revolution. But after the situation in Afrin these activities have increased even more. We have contacts with many social sectors and countries. The countries that we meet also recognise that Afrin is against the occupation. They express their opposition. Unfortunately, however, bargaining over Afrin actually ended up being bigger than those words.

* Recently, the Turkish state announced that it had formed a council in Afrin. You have previously described this assembly as a "treacherous council”. How should Kurdistan react against this structure?

When you say occupation, there is nothing more to say. Everything is very clear and open there. We repeat that what they have established there is illegal, illegitimate, has no recognition. Any Kurd who enters that assembly is actually legitimising the occupation and therefore is an enemy of his own people. We will never forget them. Besides this, everyone has to oppose it. Whoever says I am a democrat, I am Syrian, no matter where he lives should oppose it and not accept the collaborators of the invaders. Nobody should accept this and in particular Kurds. Kurds should never allow these people to be portrayed as representatives of Afrin. These traitors, every Kurdish party supporting those agents will be held accountable. A Kurdish force must never legitimize traitors. Our people have to show these traitors what they think of them. And indeed, this is what our people are doing.

* You said that 75% of the people of Afrin are away from their land. According to the international law, with a hundred thousand signatures people can go to the international tribunal and reclaim their land. Are you also working in this direction? Why the United Nations has remained silence so far?

When the attacks on Afrin started, the UN and the international bodies said nothing showing once again that they are in fact powerless institutions. We have now seen that they have lost the power to defend rights, such as human rights and laws. In Afrin too chemical weapons were used on the population but nobody said anything. But when a Russian agent was said to have suffered a poisonous attack in England twenty countries immediately cut their diplomatic relations with Russia. This shows their double standard. Forget about standing against the occupation, they did not even fulfill their human duties after thousands of people were forced to emigrated. It was our people organisations and our Autonomous Government that met the need of these refugees. The international agencies have not even sent a first aid box to the people of Afrin.

* As a final question, do you want to say something more about Afrin resistance?

There is a great resistance in Afrin and this resistance is continuing. Wherever our people are, they have to help this resistance to grow. We do not accept the occupation of Afrin. We must continue to mobilize for freedom. We are confident that our glorious people and the Afrin resistance will be made immortal through the memories of the heroes and martyrs.