While the U.S. insists on not calling the PKK-affiliated PYD a terrorist organization, to PKK suicide bombers who conducted deadly attacks in the Turkish capital were presented as heroes in a PYD-controlled city in Syria
The PKK terrorists who carried out the Ankara attacks were lauded in a city controlled by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) with their photos displayed on a building. The images point to the close alliance between the PKK and PYD that some circles do not acknowledge. A photograph of the poster hanging on a building in al-Malikiyah shows the picture of suicide bombers Abdülbaki Sömer and Seher Çağla Demir beside a picture of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Sömer carried out a terrorist attack in Ankara on Feb. 17 that claimed 29 lives. The blast, which targeted military buses, also left scores wounded. Demir was responsible for the suicide car bombing in Ankara that killed 37 people in March. She joined the PKK in 2013 and was trained by the PYD's armed People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. Ankara has repeatedly voiced its concern over the PYD's affiliation with the PKK and the sharing of logistical information and weaponry between them. Ankara, however, has on many occasions assured that it has no problem with Kurds, but only with the PKK-affiliated PYD, which it says aims to form a de facto state along the Turkish border. While Ankara asserts that the PYD is affiliated with the PKK, a designated terrorist organization by the U.S., EU and NATO, Washington does not share Ankara's concern. Bilateral relations took a hit following a statement from U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby in early February that the U.S. does not consider the PYD or YPG to be terrorist organizations. Kirby's statement was in response to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ultimatum to Washington to choose between Turkey or the PYD as its ally. Even though Ankara repeatedly reiterated to the U.S. and Europe that there cannot be any good or bad terrorists, pointing to the YPG, the U.S. ignored the call and designated the YPG its "partner." "Syrian Kurds are our partners against DAESH," Kirby said, stoking the rift between Ankara and Washington. Even though the U.S. maintains its position on the PYD and YPG, Ankara is unyielding in its stance to not allow any de facto Kurdish state to form in northern Syria. Erdoğan has repeatedly called on Washington to change its attitude of labeling the PYD and the YPG as an ally as he says there can be no "good terrorists." "Claiming the PYD and YPG are good terrorists because they are fighting against DAESH is unacceptable. These are organizations that are auxiliaries of the PKK," Erdoğan said in a speech at the Brookings Institute in the U.S. last week. He was in the U.S. for the Nuclear Security Summit. "The international community should collaborate against all terrorist groups – the PYD, al-Nusra Front, Boko Haram, DAESH – with the same level of earnestness," he demanded. It still remains a question whether the West will maintain its position on the PYD and not acknowledge a connection with the PKK. According to a report prepared by the London-based Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) in January, the PYD had sought to ethnically cleanse towns under its control that were mostly inhabited by Arabs. Three massacres that took place in four villages in al-Hasakah resulted in the deaths of 91 civilians, including 17 children and seven women. Together with Arabs, other ethnic groups like Turkmens have also been targeted in al-Hassaka, according to the SNHR. In December, the head of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, Abdurrahman Mustafa, said: "It has already been documented previously by international reports that the PYD has committed war crimes and violated human rights. They will do the same on the Azaz-Jarabulus line. We have to defend our lands at all costs," he said, adding that the PYD is planning to take Manbij and threatens almost 50,000 Turkmens living in the town.