YPG has attracted worldwide attention after liberating Tal Abyad from ISIS. Most recently you announced the liberation of Sarrin and Hasaka. Can you update us on the battle-field please?
Sipan Hemo: Our long-standing anti-ISIS campaign has spread to larger geography. After Tal Abyad we liberated Ain Issa and Sarrin. Our forces also fought off ISIS offensive in Haseke and established control over the area. YPG is currently establishing positions in Mount Abulaziz well as the recently liberated cities and towns to prevent and meet new ISIS offensives.
There are claims that YPG fought alongside the Syrian regime forces in Hasaka, was there such a cooperation?
Sipan Hemo: These claims have no basis in reality; they are patently false. To start with, Assad regime has no power to protect Hasaka from ISIS. Salihiya, Aziziya and similar neighborhoods used to be under regime control. ISIS attacked and captured these areas from regime. I can clearly say that the regime did not contribute to liberation of these neighborhoods from ISIS. In fact in multiple fights between Asayish (local Kurdish police force) and regime, many regime soldiers and officers died.
There are speculations that ISIS launched fresh attacks on Kobane and Tal Abyad to relieve pressure on Raqqa, which could be targeted by YPG. Any thoughts on that?
Sipan Hemo: As we have said time and again ISIS is a big danger for Kurdish people as well as all other people in the region. These terrorist are attacking not just the Kurds, but the humanity. We fight ISIS as a matter of principle, as a service to humanity. Although our fight against ISIS has taken place in Kurdistan we are ready to aid fight against these terrorists whenever and wherever we are needed and welcomed. Raqqa is predominantly an Arabic city. Arabs should take lead in the fight against ISIS tyranny in Raqqa; we are ready to extend a helping hand to Arabs. We advocate for the fellowship of all ethnicities and religions in Raqqa.
After Suruc bombing that killed 31 civilians, Turkey proclaimed it has started operations against ISIS. What are your thoughts on Turkish position?
Sipan Hemo: We do not wish to interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey. However, we are criticizing Turkey for her hostility towards the Rojava Revolution. We hoped that instead of hostility Turkey would be friends with Kurdish people and we extended our friendship to turkey at every opportunity. However Turkey has displayed animosity towards Rojava during the last four years. Most recently they started using Turcoman as a tool to prevent us from uniting our three cantons. Unfortunately international community is somewhat turning a blind eye to this Turkish aggression. Turkey claimed she will start operations against ISIS, in reality it does not fight ISIS. Jarablus city which is under ISIS control on the Turkish border is within our eye-sight from Kobane; we have not seen any Turkish action against ISIS in Jarablus, just the opposite. Under the pretense of attacking ISIS Turkey attacked our forces in Zormaxara twice. They also attacked our forces in Tl Abyad. Turkey only goal in this conflict is to weaken our forces.
But Turkey is rejecting these claims?
Sipan Hemo: Free Syrian Army confirmed Turkish attacks to press and we see everything from Kobane. Turkey of course will deny her aggression. Just look at the Turkish media, there is not a single picture of Turkish attack on ISIS. You can see hundreds of photograph of Turkish attacks on Kurdish people in Turkish press. Turkey is doing the same things in North [Turkey] South [Iraqi] and West [Syrian] Kurdistan. International community backed Turkey in the fight against ISIS, but Turkey uses this as a smoke-screen to attack Kurds; unfortunately with no reaction from international community.
You said Turkey wants to use Turcomans in areas around Jarablus and Azaz. There is talk of creating a safe zone. What exactly is this safe zone and what can you tell us about Turcoman in Syria.
Sipan Hemo: Turcoman make up about 1.5% of Syria’s population. These Turcoman live all over the Syria, from Latakia all the way to Idlib. There are only a few Turcoman villages in Azaz, no more than seven in all the areas of Azaz and Jarablus combined. Almost none of those are Turcoman only villages, many also have Kurdish residents. Turkey’s goal is not to protect the Turcoman but to become a hindrance to Kurdish gains in Rojava. There are a lot more Turcoman in Layakia and Idlib. Why is Turkey not establishing a safe haven for Turcoman there? They just want to use Turcoman as an excuse to establish a buffer zone around Jarablus and prevent unification of Kobane and Afrin cantons.
You said the international community is remaining silent vis a vis Turkish aggression. However there are reactions in the US. Obama administration is being criticized for turning a blind eye to turkey. State department spokesperson Kirby said that with the availability of the Incirlic base YPG could be supported more robustly. There is a lot of talk regarding the role of YPG in Washington’s Syrian strategy.
Sipan Hemo: True! We have been collaborating with the Unites States in the war against terror with great success for a while now. We thank once again to the Unites States for the close air support. We hope to expand upon this anti-Jihadi terrorist collaboration and establish even closer relationships. All terrorist organizations are a menace to the people of Middle East and must be neutralized. We wish cooperate with all people/nations and establish bonds of fraternity and friendship among people. We should not let all the gains against jihadi-terrorists to slip away. I wish to emphasize here that one country in the middle-east plays an essential role in the survival and expansion of ISIS. That country is Turkey. We have shared this fact (Turkish aid abatement of ISIS) with the international public on many occasions.
What should be done to improve relationship with the United States? Have you received any arms from the United States?
Sipan Hemo: We put great importance on the American air support. We asked for heavy weapons from the United States. We also asked for night vision equipment and other technical instruments. We asked for these in order to expand our capability to fight ISIS. We are determined to fight ISIS and wish to make strides in the anti-ISIS struggle. To be very open we wish to have a stronger alliance with the United States.
After liberation of Tal Abyad, there is a sharper language against you. Government and media close to it started to use the argument that YPG is PKK. What do you want to say on this point?
Sipan Hemo: As we said times and again, we do not have any formal relations with the PKK. We do not act on behalf of or in coordination with the PKK. We do see PKK as a Kurdish and Kurdistani movement. Without a doubt we are in contact with all Kurdish parties, PKK included. Only enemies if humanity will be bothered by YPG. Otherwise, anyone who cares for friendship and fraternity, regardless of their affiliation with or opinion of PKK, is proud of YPG. This is because YPG and YPJ have been fighting ISIS for over a year not only for the Kurds, but also for Syria and all humanity. As YPG/YPJ we fight for democracy and we wish to collaborate with all friendly forces around world in our struggle.
What do you think of your Arab and Christian allies?
Sipan Hemo: As you know Syria is a mosaic of ethnicities and religions. Christians, Alewites, Turcoman, Syriac, Druze, Kurds, Arabs and other people make up this mosaic. Unfortunately a political system that represents all these people has not been established. All these people in Syria must establish common goals. We very much care about what goes on in Kurdish region but we also care a great deal about what is going on in Syria in general. We will therefore continue our fight against radical terror organizations in Syria.
Although the two other cantons (Jazira and Kobane) have now been united Afrin Canton is physically separated. What the situation in Afrin?
Sipan Hemo: Citizens of Afrin Canton wish to be united with the other two cartons. Every Kurd in Afrin dreams of taking a bus from Afrin and traveling to Erbil and back. However due to meddling of other countries, Afrin Canton remains disjointed from the other cantons. Efrin is a prosperous and its people are patriotic. Afrin has extensive military experience and knowledge. Should there be an attack on Afrin it will be defended like Kobane and Hasaka.
I wish to point out that Kurdish people are going through a very critical period. All Kurdish parties and organizations must pay utmost attention to matters important to Kurdish people. All the gains made by YPG/YPJ are gains for the Kurdish people everywhere. All Kurds should be cognizant of this fact. YPG/YPJ has won admiration of people all around the world. We will continue our struggle. We are fighting for human dignity, for humane values. We will develop our struggle based on the wishes of democratic people around the world.