human rights watch

onsdag 30 juli 2014

Syrian Kurdistan's leader: Europe is breeding jihadists

Syrian Kurdistan's leader: Europe is breeding jihadists.
BARCELONA, Spain,— The leader of the Syrian Kurds Salih Muslim warned in Spain that Europe is breeding jihadists who are fighting in their thousands in Syria. In a meeting with Catalan MPs in Barcelona on Tuesday, he accused Turkey of allowing jihadi fighters across its borders into Syria.

Muslim is in Europe to try to persuade Western countries that if they want to fight Islamic militancy at home they must help his Democratic Union Party (PYD) -- the dominant force in Syrian Kurdistan (Rovaja) -- in its fight against militants of the Islamic State (IS/ISIS).

On Monday, he warned at a gathering of civil society movements in Barcelona that, “European democracy shouldn’t finish at the borders of Europe. If you don’t have democracy in the Middle East you are not saved in Europe.” 

“We have 4,000 people from Europe joining the fighting against us. There is something wrong in Europe which is producing people with this mentality,” Muslim said. “The Europeans should sit and think about what they should do.”

The People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its sister Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the military wings of the PYD, have been the dominant military force in the Kurdish-populated areas since the withdrawal of most government forces in 2012. They have been mainly fighting against Islamist armed groups, particularly IS and the al-Nusrah Front.

Muslim told Catalan parliamentarians on Tuesday that despite its denials, Turkey was involved in helping IS militants, Quim Arrufat, one of the MPs at the meeting, told Rudaw. “He blamed Turkey for allowing jihadists to cross the border to fight in Syria,” Arrufat said.

“Turkey says that ISIS is dangerous for us and them, but members of ISIS pass through Turkey. We were in Turkey many times and they say that they don’t support these groups but on the ground it is different,” Muslim said the day before.

Arrufat said that the Kurdish leader met in Barcelona with the president of the Catalan Parliament, Nuria de Gispert, and representatives of four major Catalan parties.

During the civil society meeting, which was organized by the Barcelona-based Escarre Centre for Ethnic Minorities and Nations (CIEMEN), Muslim spoke about the issues affecting the three Kurdish cantons of Kobane, Afrin and Cizire, where the PYD declared autonomy in July 2012.

He stressed that the PYD is practicing genuine democracy, but confessed to mistakes.

“Of course we have made some mistakes, because we used to live under the pressure of the (Syrian) system and because of that we don’t have very good experience. We have had mistakes happening, especially regarding human rights (issues),” said Muslim.

“The people need to be trained and we are asking everybody -- all the organizations -- to teach us,” he added.

He said he expected pro-democracy organizations and Europe to help build a better model of a democratic society for the 3.5 million people living in Rojava.

Human Rights Watch said in a report last June that Kurdish authorities running the three enclaves in northern Syria have committed arbitrary arrests, due process violations and failed to address unsolved killings and disappearances.

In a positive development, the report said that the new constitution introduced in January in the enclaves, called the Social Contract, upholds some important human rights standards and bans the death penalty.

Muslim has been visiting Europe for the past two years, trying to gather support for his people. But he said that Europe had began to listen only since IS militants captured Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul in June, beginning a dominoes-fall that has the militants in control of about a third of Iraq.

IS has declared an Islamic Calipate that straddles Syria and Iraq.

“We have been in Europe more than two years just knocking the doors and trying for the people to listen to us. We have been fighting against ISIS in the small city of Kobane for a year, while in Mosul six battalions of the Iraqi army could not stand ISIS for 24 hours,” Muslim remarked.

Regarding a planned referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan on independence from Iraq, Muslim said: “Every part of Kurdistan has different conditions. Maybe in South Kurdistan (Iraqi Kurdistan) they can look for the referendum and look for independence. It is their view and the result of the referendum will be respected by us because the people are deciding the fate.”

“In our case we, as a political party and component of Syria, believe that it is not the time for the independence of (Syrian) Kurdistan. The others should also respect what we are doing on our part. We should be within a democratic Syria.”

Regarding the lack of international aid to the Kurdish enclaves in Syria, Muslim said that the cantons “need everything.”
  He said that just a few days ago the enclave started receiving some international aid after the UN adopted a resolution allowing aid delivery without the approval of the Syrian government in Damascus.

Jalil Tamo, a Syrian Kurd who has been living in Spain for the past 33 years and has many family members in the city of Kobane, is thankful for the Kurdish resistance in Syria.

“The most important thing for me at this moment is that, thanks to the Kurdish guerrillas, my family is protected against the Islamist criminals. If the guerrillas were not there the Islamists would come to our areas and they would do brutal things against our women and our land,” said Tamo, claiming no political affiliation.

By Alexandra Di Stefano Pironti - Rudaw

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