Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani. Photo: krp
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani said Friday that his government is “ready to everything in its power” to protect Syrian Kurds who are under threat from Islamist fighters.
“There has been news recently that Al-Qaeda groups have declared war against the Kurds in Syria and that they behead Kurdish women and children,” Barzani said in a letter to the organizers of an important Kurdish National Conference scheduled to be held in Erbil on August 24.
“If those reports are true, the Kurdistan Region is ready to everything in its power to protect the lives of the Kurds in western (Syrian) Kurdistan,” he said in the letter.
Barzani also called for an investigation into reports of attacks on Kurdish towns and villages from groups affiliated to Al-Qaeda, such as Jabhat al-Nusrah.
In the past several weeks fighters of the Jabhat al-Nusrah have been locked in fierce fights with the Kurdish Peoples Defense Units (YPG).
The fights that first started in Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain), where the YPG fighters succeeded in expelling the Nusrah fighters from the town, has now spread to other Kurdish villages, where many families are reported to have been massacred or displaced.
But Salih Muslim, leader of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which runs the YPG, told Rudaw TV that he has enough forces to defend the Kurdish areas, and does not need help from any outside forces.
“We have enough forces and we do not want any other party to come to Syrian Kurdistan to fight against the Jabhat al-Nusrah,” he said. “If other Kurdish parties want to help, they should send us ammunition, arms, food and clothes.”
Siamand Hajo, the head of the Berlin-based Kurdocide organization for human rights, told Rudaw that his organization did not have any evidence that massacres had taken place against Syrian Kurds.
“All the numbers we have for victims is 30 people and some of them are members of the YPG,” Hajo said. He added that the PYD may be using stories of Kurdish massacres for its own propaganda purposes.
Syrian Kurds have largely stayed away from the civil war that has engulfed the country for more than two years, and are suspicious of the main rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
The PYD, which is affiliated with the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and is accused by other Kurdish groups of carrying out the PKK’s agenda in Syria, has shown little tolerance for other opposition groups.
While consistently accusing other opposition groups of implementing foreign agendas, the PYD recently shifted its isolationist policy by opening channels of dialogue with Turkey and Syria.
Muslim met with Turkish officials last month. More importantly, he also met with Iranian officials in Tehran last week, a move that invited much speculation, since Iran is currently the main regional ally of the Damascus regime.
Muslim said that Iran has its own interests in Syria and that Iranian leaders follow closely the fight of radical Sunni groups against Syria’s Shiite Alawite minority and other ethnic groups.
“We acknowledge that difference in Iranian and Turkish policies in Syria, but we will not become an obedient servant of either side,” Muslim vowed.