The air operations Turkey launched against ISIS and the PKK terrorist groups were welcomed by Syrian Turkmens who claim the PKK's Syrian wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) is carrying out ethnic cleansing of Turkmens. ISIS and the PYD's armed People's Protection Units (YPG) have been fighting against the Syrian regime on three fronts for a long time.
Speaking to Sabah daily, Turkmen leaders said that the proposed 100-kilometer-long safe zone, which is planned to run from Jarabulus to Azaz along the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, would relieve Turkmens from ISIS violence and the PYD threat, adding that the safe zone needs to be extended to Aleppo.
Turkmens, who have been struggling to survive in the 130-kilometer corridor ranging from Turkey's Gaziantep province to Aleppo for a long time, said: "We are passing through a historic process. The Turkmens in Syria are fighting for survival against ISIS, the PYD and [Syrian President Bashar] Assad. ISIS and the PYD are the enemies of the Syrian people. In such a critical phase, we will back every step Turkey takes against ISIS and the PYD. We are very pleased with the latest air operations launched by Turkey. We also wish such air operations to be launched against the PYD, which forces Turkmens to leave the regions it took from ISIS. Soon we will initiate a full scale fight against both ISIS and the PYD, which occupied Turkmen villages. We will save the Jarabulus-Azaz line from ISIS and the PYD at all costs. "
"The safe zone will give life to Turkmens"
Fehim Isa, who is commander of the leading Turkmen Brigade in Syria, also said the air operations launched by Turkey were welcomed by the Western-backed opposition groups fighting in Syria, including Turkmens. Isa claimed that the PYD is the enemy of the Syrian people.
Isa also accused the PYD of having close links with the Assad regime. PYD Co-Chair Salih Muslim said in an interview with Al-Hayat magazine that they could allow the return of Syrian regime forces to Rojava and that the YPG could join forces in that case.
"The PYD has close affiliations with the Syrian regime. The Kurds receive weapons aid from Assad and attack Turkmens and other opponents. ISIS always poses a threat to us. Our villages are under the control of ISIS. The Turkmens living here have to live in very harsh conditions. About one million Turkmens used to live in Aleppo before the civil war broke out. Now, our population has decreased to 20,000. For us, the Syrian war is a war of land and honor against tyranny. The peoples of Syria are conducting this battle against Assad, his co-conspirator PYD and ISIS. Turkey has supported us to a great extent during this phase. The safe zone Turkey is to establish on the border will both avert possible threats against Turkey on the Syrian border and prevent ISIS and the PYD, which are constantly assaulting and threatening us, from acting that easily. The safe zone will give life to Turkmens. We have determined to unit with other Turkmen brigades. We will fight against the PYD and ISIS very soon. Any kind of support Turkey would give during this process is crucial to us," Isa said.
"The safe zone will end the dreams of the PYD"
Turkmen groups who are fighting on three fronts at the same time along the corridor ranging from Gaziantep to Aleppo commented on the latest developments. Aleppo-based Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigade Commander Mahmut Shaban Suleiman said the air operations Turkey launched on ISIS and PKK camps had raised the hopes of Turkmens in the region. "Some 142 Turkmen villages located between Azaz and Aleppo are under the control of ISIS. Turkmens are subject to unimaginable torture there. Kurds are dreaming of uniting their cantons on the border. The PYD forces Turkmens to evacuate the regions it saved from ISIS. Caught between two fires on the Turkish border, Turkmens are experiencing the most difficult period of their history. The PYD poses the greatest danger to us. We want Turkey to hit the PYD, too. The safe zone that will be established on the border will also wreck the PYD's dream of founding a state. We do not want Syria to be divided. We want to live in brotherly terms in a free Syria without Assad. So we will resist the PYD's idea of founding a new state and ISIS's tyranny up until the end. In this phase of our struggle to survive, this operation launched by Turkey on the border intimidates our enemies. We will do our part and battle against these two terrorist groups with all our strength," Suleiman said. "Turkey should not get involved with the dilemma in Syria"
Located right across from the Kilis Öncüpınar Border Gate, Azaz has a vital importance for Turkmens. The PYD's Afrin canton is located to the west of this district, while on its east lies the border with Jarabulus, which ISIS controls. The Turkmens that are caught in between act together with the Arabs living in Azaz against their mutual enemy.
Damascus Front Commander, Zekeriyya Karsly, said a play is being staged between ISIS and the PYD. "The PYD gained control of Tell Abyad from ISIS without even shooting. Now work for the same scenario is being conducted in Jarabulus. And the turn of Azaz will come after Jarabulus. Azaz is the lifeblood of the Turkmens and opponents here. All kinds of humanitarian aid come from here. It is also the only gate from Turkey opening to the Middle East. A PYD-formed state that would be founded in this region will create major problems for both Turkey and opposition groups in Syria. The majority of the Turkmen population resides on this line. Nearly the whole population consists of Turkmens and Arabs. A PYD-formed state might be the end of all of the communities here. So we are fighting here with all we have. We wish for the continuance of the operations Turkey has launched against ISIS on the border. Along with the PKK camps, we also want Turkey to conduct military action against the PYD, which constantly threatens Turkmens. We do not want Turkey to get involved with the dilemma in Syria. Turkey should shoot ISIS and PYD [fighters] on the border or provide us support in the fields of intelligence and logistics. We will keep fighting against our two enemies who threaten our existence," Karsly said.