The pro-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is considered by Turkey as the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK, has allowed refugees to return to Tal Abyad after the group reclaimed the northern Syrian district from ISIS.
More than 23,000 civilians from Syrian villages and towns have crossed the Turkish border into the southeast province of Sanliurfa in the past two weeks, as the YPG along with Free Syria Army (FSA) forces carried out operations with the help of US-led coalition air strikes in the northeastern regions of Tal Abyad and Al Hasakah to push back the ISIS militants.
Tal Abyad came under the domination of ISIS in June 2014 and was captured by the YPG and FSA forces on June 15. Tal Abyad is across the Turkish border district Akcakale of Sanliurfa within the Raqqa province of Syria.
Turkey recently raised its concerns over border security and the displacement of Turkmens and Arabs from Tal Abyad.
Salih Muslim, the co-chairman of the PYD, replied to accusations from the Turkish government that the PYD is preventing Turkmens and Arabs from returning.
“Nobody could prevent people from coming back to their homelands. These charges are baseless. Everybody will return their hometowns and should have no fears except people who have joined and shed blood with ISIS,” Muslim said in his interview with the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
More than 1,700 refugees have come back into Syria following PYD and FSA calls “to return” to Tal Abyad last week. However, the allied militant forces have closed the border crossing on the grounds that the district has been booby-trapped by the ISIS militants.
They have reopened the crossing yesterday after cleaning the district they said and then about 2,100 refugees have passed into Syria. About 100 refugees left Turkey for Syria on Tuesday.
Tal Abyad is located between the Kobane and Jazira “cantons” and has a strategic importance because it commands the major trade and smuggling routes to Raqqa - the first major city conquered by ISIS. Now, by taking control of Tal Abyad, the PYD is able to join both “cantons.”
The Kurdish group YPG also captured on Tuesday a strategically important air base from the grip of ISIS in the Raqqa province, according to a spokesman for Kurdish forces and activists.
Reuters quoted a spokesman for the Kurdish forces saying the troops seized control of the "Brigade 93" air base in Raqqa.
In November 2013, the PYD announced three autonomous areas or “cantons” which are Afrin, Jazira and Kobane from west to the east following withdrawal of Syrian regime forces from mostly Kurdish inhabited areas such as Afrin, Kobane, and Amuda where the YPG took control in July 2012 in the course of the Syrian civil war.
Ankara has repeatedly warned the PYD on its movements concerning “demographic change” and “ethnic cleansing” in northern Syria.
Turkish government spokesman Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc recently said, “We keep saying that in northern Syria, no formations which threaten Turkey should be allowed. But recent developments began indicating an emergency situation for Turkey,” following a cabinet meeting in which the “cantons” was discussed on June 15.
Muslim denied the claims of ethnic cleansing.