War in Syria: The Kurdish Perspective22 Jul 19
On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, THO hosted a panel discussion, “War in Syria: The Kurdish Perspective” at the National Press Club.
On Wednesday, July 17, 2019 the Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) hosted a panel discussion, “War in Syria: The Kurdish Perspective” at the National Press Club. The panel featured speakers: Abdullah Kedo (via Skype), a member of the Yekiti Party and the Political Commission of ENKS; Abdulaziz Tammo, President of the Independent Syrian Kurdish Association; Farouk Belal, Syrian Activist, Co-Founder of the Syrian Culture House; and Shlomo Bolts, Policy and Advocacy Officer at the Syrian American Council. Our event was moderated by THO staffer Katherine Brumund. Our event opened with introductory remarks from our Event and Partnership Manager, Pinar Gezgec. Our moderator, Katherine Brumund, began with an introduction of our speakers and opening comments via Skype from Abdullah Kedo.
Next, the panel began discussing the number of opposition groups operating in Syria and commentary on the conversation of what is happening on the ground in Syria. Tammo mentioned the influence of the PKK and the Syrian Kurds: “Syria is divided. The Syrian people are waiting for the international community.” Additionally, a major topic of conversation regarding the Syrian crisis from the Kurdish perspective includes identity. Tammo reflected on this and shared that “we are Syrians first before we are Kurds. We are a peaceful people. We respect all religions and ideologies.”
Next, Farouk Belal addressed the state of the Kurdish groups in Syria and how they were integrated during the Syrian revolution. Belal echoed the sentiments of Tammo in identity sharing: “As a Kurd, I consider myself Syrian first and foremost and hope to work with others for the Syrian people.” Belal also discussed in ideas of identity, culture, and other forms of traditions and holidays of the Kurdish people that were initially banned. Slowly, cultural acceptance of Kurdish people and specifically Syrian Kurds have been implemented.
The moderator next turned to the aspects that have deeply impacted U.S.-Turkey and U.S.-Syria policies, namely issues surrounding the PKK/YPG and the Russian S-400 acquisition. Shlomo Bolts addresses the major concern of the Russian acquisition from Turkey citing the idea of the largest army in NATO-Europe and second-largest army in NATO now coordinating more deeply with Russia and therefore explaining how the “the S-400 purchase is deeply concerning.” Bolts continued in that the Russian influence in this aspect of the S-400 acquisition coupled with the Russian influence and involvement in Syria possesses an even greater concern for the region and check on the Russian power is needed. Belal shared that “to reward Russia from the international community by allowing them involvement is horrible. What we need from the U.S., as Syrians, we need the northeastern region of Syria to serve as a safe-zone for people to return.”
Tammo then addressed the issues of the YPG in Northern Syria and suggested that the U.S. has been extremely reluctant to pull support. Tammo mentioned that “YPG is a major threat to Syrian Kurds, and moving forward we need stability and security. We need to establish a safe zone. We are Syrian-Kurds. We will ask the U.S. and NATO ally Turkey to reach an agreement regarding Syria and hope they eject the foregin terrorists that plague the region and give back the area to its people.” In hoping to mitigate the crisis in Syria, Belal shared that “we need to work with local communities to establish and work with a safe zone to ensure that ISIS and their ideology will not come back to the region.” Bolts offered a final cautionary warning that in the future for Syria, “if Assad stays, ISIS stays.” The panel then concluded with engaging questions from our packed audience. If you are interested in seeing more from this event, please watch our event video summary here on this webpage. Additionally, THO would like to thank Turkish Airlines for sponsoring this productive and successful event.