YPG not PKK, says Syrian Kurdish leader

Syrian Democratic Council co-leader Ilham Ehmed.

The co-leader of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), Ilham Ehmed, in an op-ed for The Washington Post published Friday, said claims by Turkey that the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria are the same as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were “disingenuous.”

Writing after Turkish airstrikes in northeast Syria killed 20 members of the YPG and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) on Tuesday, Ehmed said Ankara was acting under false pretenses.

“Erdogan justifies these illegal attacks with the same baseless claim: that the YPG is the same as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is currently fighting the government inside Turkey. This claim is based on the fact that we share a founder and many intellectual values with the PKK — but this is equally true of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a legal political party in Turkey with 58 members in the Turkish parliament. They are no more PKK than we are, and any attempt to equate us with the PKK is disingenuous,” she wrote.

The Kurdish politician also refuted claims that PKK attacks in Turkey had been co-ordinated and carried out from inside Syria.

Ehmed argued that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was pushing the US to choose between him and Syrian Kurds but that this wasn’t necessary as “with each passing day… it becomes clearer who the United States’ true ally in this conflict is.”

“If Erdogan were a true U.S. ally, then instead of dropping bombs on the headquarters of the YPG, which currently hosts more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel, Turkey would seek to destroy al-Qaeda, which has set up bases in Idlib, right along the Turkish border. Al-Qaeda in Idlib is among the largest affiliates in the organization’s history. (That’s according to U.S. officials, by the way.) Yet Turkey does nothing.”

Ehmed concluded by saying that they did not want to escalate the conflict but that Erdogan was “turning a blind eye to terrorism as he aspires to build his totalitarian state,” and was “on the wrong side of history.”