New PYD move fuels displacement concerns in northern Syria

New displacement fears spread among Syrians in northern Syria, following Kurdish Democratic Union Party declaring recently occupied Tel Abyad is incorporated into pre-existing Kobane ‘canton’

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

A family tries to escape from Tel Abyad following the YPG takeover of the northern Syrian district of Raqqa on June 14, 2015.

New displacement fears have spread throughout northern Syrian districts, following the latest declaration of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) that has incorporated Tel Abyad into its pre-existing Kobane “canton.”

The PYD is able to expand its controlled territories in northern Syria after the YPG - the militant wing of the PYD -captured Tel Abyad on June 15 from ISIS and joined Kobane and Jazira “cantons.”

The PYD expansion against ISIS has been supported by US-led air strikes until now. The Pentagon confirmed last week that its cargo planes dropped “small arms ammunition” for the newly-formed coalition led by the YPG.

Ekrem Dede, a member of Syrian Turkmen Assembly, said in an interview with Turkish Anadolu Agency that “the PYD is saying to them, 'this is a Kurdish region, the others must get out',” referring to a zone between Azaz and Jarablus in northern Syria, where Turkey is consistently defending to establish a safe area or ISIS-free zone.

The Turkish foreign ministry  previously indicated that refugees who stay in Turkey and neighbouring countries could be settled in the “safe” areas, which will be cleared from ISIS by Turkey and US-led coalition forces, following effective operations against the group.

Dede also called to establish a safe zone in the mentioned region, arguing that another refugee flow could reach Turkey, as a result of the PYD’s latest declaration.

Furthermore, Yaseer Mohammed, who is an Aleppo-based human rights lawyer and activist, claimed that the PYD might use US-dropped weapons to subject Arab and Turkmen populations living in the areas - a forced migration according to Anadolu Agency.  

"If PYD attacks Jerablus and western part of Euphrates River, a migration wave will also begin towards Turkey," he added.

Turkey aims to keep the expansion of PYD in check and has previously declared that Turkey will consider any incursion to the west of the Euphrates river in northern Syria along the Turkish border by the PYD as a “violation of the red line” which was set by a recent National Security Council meeting in late June.

The PYD is considered by Turkey as the Syrian affiliate of the PKK which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US, EU, and NATO.

Tal Abyad is located between Kobane and Jazira “cantons” and has a strategic importance because it commands major trade and smuggling routes to Raqqa, the first major city conquered by ISIS in Syria.

Kurdish “cantons” of Afrin, Jazira and Kobane from the west to the east in northern Syria have been proclaimed in November 2013 by the PYD, following withdrawal of Syrian regime forces from mostly Kurdish inhabited areas, where YPG took control in July 2012 in the course of the Syrian civil war.

More than 23,000 civilians from Syrian villages and towns had reportedly crossed the Turkish border into the southeast province of Sanliurfa in two weeks time, following the capture of Tel Abyad by YPG.

Turkey raised concerns over border security and displacement of Turkmen and Arabs from Tal Abyad following the YPG occupation of the district - which lies within the Raqqa province of Syria across the Turkish border district Akcakale of Sanliurfa.

Ankara has repeatedly warned the PYD on its movements concerning “demographic change” and “ethnic cleansing” in northern Syria.  

Human Rights Violations of YPG

United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria found out in its latest report that the YPG has committed human rights violations in occupied areas of northern Syria.

The UN report presented by its chair Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in late September indicated that, “Following the YPG’s retaking of previously ISIS-controlled areas of Tal Abyad in early July and villages in the Tel Tamer region of al Hasakah, YPG fighters reportedly looted houses belonging to Arab villagers.”

Earlier this month, the PYD was accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes in northern Syria by forcing thousands of non-Kurdish civilians out of their homes and demolishing entire villages.

According to the report, some civilians were threatened by YPG militants with US air strikes if they failed to leave their homes.

Furthermore, speaking to Anadolu Agency this week, Dr Mustafa Muslim, the brother of PYD leader Salih Muslim, has said that the PYD represents only 10 percent of the Kurds in Syria and the reason for its strength is the fact that it has weapons.

The 60-year-old theology professor who works in Zehra University in the southeastern Turkish province of Gaziantep and said that he is one of the many Kurds to have been exiled from northern Syria by his brother.

He also said that despite the fact that there are 15 political parties in the region, the PYD is deemed to represent the Kurds in the international arena.

Muslim also praised Turkey for offering help to all Syrians affected by the war without differentiating between ethnic and sectarian groups, saying, “if the Turks had not opened their homes, the Kurds would have died from cold and hunger.”

According to Anadolu Agency, around 180,000 Syrian Kurd refugees remain in Turkey today.

Syrian refugees escaping the violence in their country fled Syria with the escalation of the Syrian Civil War, in 2012, in large numbers. One of their most preferred destinations was neighbouring Turkey, which hosts over two million Syrian refugees according to United Nations registration records.

TRTWorld and agencies