Anger towards PKK-affiliated groups across Syria has been spreading as new protests erupted in southeastern Raqqa province following the arrest of a local clan leader. Syrian journalist Mazen Hassoun reported that the local government of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is predominantly led by the PKK's Syrian affiliate People's Protection Units (YPG), arrested tribal leader Basheer al-Hamdan, the leader of the al-Bukhamis clan on Monday. Following the arrest, members of the tribe protested the SDF, burning tires on streets. In an attempt to disperse the crowd, YPG terrorists opened fire.
The U.S.-backed YPG has long had serious problems with the Arabic tribes, especially in northern Syria. The oppressive practices of the terrorist group often cause trouble among highly Arab-populated cities of the country. "People were under pressure because of high taxes and the SDF's arrests for recruitment," Raqqa-based freelance journalist Mohab Nasser told Daily Sabah. "But what caused people to explode was the arrest of the sheikh. SDF forces also humiliated him while they were arresting him."
YPG used US armored vehicles to suppress protests
Nasser said that protesters were attacked by Humvees, military vehicles which were provided by the U.S. government for the purpose of "fighting Daesh." He also reported that SDF immediately released al-Hmadan following the demonstrations.
Despite the PKK being listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, Washington has continued to supply truckloads of weapons to the YPG in Syria during former President Barack Obama's term. The terrorist groups' bad human rights record also didn't constrain the U.S.'s supportive stance.
A U.N. report released this month, "I Lost My Dignity": Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Syrian Arab Republic," has exposed brutal human rights violations, including torture, rapes and other acts of sexual violence in Syria committed by YPG forces.
Following the attacks by the SDF, a YPG intelligence officer Saleh al-Muhammed was killed by unknown assailants. His body was dumped on the road south of Mansoura, a town west of Raqqa. Nasser said that his death was not related with the recent incidents, however he said al-Muhammed "was not the first killed SDF officer, a lot were assassinated in the same area in the last two months."
Protest in Raqqa comes after Tal Rifaat, Manbij
Even though the YPG established local councils in the areas it captured from Daesh with U.S. support, it often has difficulties maintaining stability in the cities.
In January, huge protests were triggered in Manbij against city's SDF administration when mangled dead bodies of two Arab residents belonging to prominent al-Boubanna tribe were found somewhere outside city. The dead resident was reportedly arrested in December without any charges. After the incident, thousands of demonstrations were held on the streets to protest YPG, and store owners closed their doors in a strike.
Also, last year in May, 50 Arab tribe leaders coming from Syria's Raqqa and the al-Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor regions gathered in Turkey's southeastern province of Şanlıurfa to discuss military and political cooperation between the tribes against the YPG, whom they blamed for destroying the Arabic identity on Syrian soil. In addition to administrative problems resulting from the YPG's practices, the quick stability provided in areas liberated from the YPG with Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch, which was carried out by the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), has inspired confidence and encouraged hope for other Syrian residents.
The exiled residents of northwestern Syria's Tal Rifaat and numerous FSA fighters gathered in northwestern Syria's Azaz to stage a protest earlier this month. They asked Turkey to help liberate their territories and prevent the city from being handed over to the Assad regime.
Also, Abdul Karim al-Fahal, a sheikh from the Manbij's Ghanaim tribe, sent a letter to YPG militants, where he called on the PKK-affiliated group to immediately leave Manbij. He also said that persecuted locals of Manbij hope Turkey will liberate the town from PKK-affiliated terrorists just as it did in Afrin.