A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The YPG Victory at Tal Abyad

The capture of the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad from ISIS by the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), combined with the previous fall of Kobane and other border areas, is a real setback to ISIS and threatens its source of international fighters reaching Syria via Turkey. The victory has also increased the flight of Sunni Arab refugees into Turkey, leading to charges by some Arab fighters that the YPG is ethnically cleansing the area; the YPG denies this and has urged the refugees to return.

Turkey is also concerned, both due to the renewed influx of refugees, and because the YPG's parent party, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, is affiliated with the Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The Kurdish front against ISIS gets little coverage in the West, and what does get covered is mostly reported from Erbil in Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)-controlled areas. But the YPG is slowly capturing the Syria-Turkish border region of northeastern Syria (which Syrian Kurds call Rojava) from ISIS.

On a lighter note, I just learned Blogger's spellchecker does not include the city of Erbil in its dictionary. It suggested "gerbil" instead.


Anonymous said...

One factor to consider in judging the credibility of stories of ethnic cleansing during YPG's anti-ISIS campaign is that it is conducting the operation in partnership with elements of the FSA, namely, Liwa al Tahrir and Burhan al Firat.

That said, the Kurds in Rojava make a distinction between their Arab neighbors who are natives of the region, especially leading tribes, and those Sunni Arabs that were moved by the Assad's to that region to take Kurdish land and break up their contiguous territory. If or how this distinction effects the current conflict in the border region, I do not know, but it WAS a topic much earlier in the civil war.

This policy in Syria was not unlike that of Saddam, who moved various populations around for politico-security reasons.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Mr. Erdogan is seeing the benefits from his Syrian policy. Unfortunately for him, the benefits are going to the Kurds. But as a consolation, he may one day get a statue as one of the fathers of independent Kurdistan.