Attacks by jihadists from Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against the Kurdish population in Northern Syria have made it difficult for ordinary Kurds to flee to neighboring Turkey. The PYG, the military wing of the PYD (Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat), is officially responsible for the safety of the Kurdish province of Al-Hasakah and has been under attack by Islamists from 2012. Since there is no official border crossing open at the moment, the journey to safety for the elderly, the sick and children is near impossible.
Syria's Kurdish-Islamist conflict
Voice-over: Kurdish fighters have been battling Islamists in Syria’s northern Kurdish region for months now. The conflict escalated earlier this year when Abu Musab, a high ranking commander of the Islamic State of Iraq, was captured by Kurdish security forces. International human rights organizations claim that over a thousand Kurds were slaughtered indiscriminately at the hands of jihadists in the last few months alone. They claim attacks are continuous against civilian Kurds. Islamic fighters have been accused of gang-raping women and setting houses on fire after raiding Kurdish villages. The military wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, YPG, has been mainly responsible for the safety of the Kurdish population.
Quote Redur Xalil (PYD) : "The recently declared war against us by Al-Nusra, ISIS, and the other Islamic groups is not aimed at the Kurdish forces but against the existence of the Kurds in this area. These groups do not want the Kurds to have autonomy in this region, as they have their own jihadist agenda. They want to have this area for themselves, and the Kurds here and especially the YPG stand in their way. Therefore they use a lot of violence to achieve this. There are no government forces of Assad to be found here. These groups have exchanged the fight against the Syrian regime for the fight against the Kurds."
Voice-over:Islamist forces have been on the offensive for the past three months, leaving the Kurdish security apparatus in the highest state of alert. They have protected the Kurds from several suicide bombers and car bombs in the province of Al-Hasakah. The city of Amuda used to be a cultural hub for artists and creative minds. Now it is a city closed off from the outside world. With the heavy fighting in nearby Ras al-Ein, snipers are positioned on rooftops and strategic points at the city’s center. Islamists who are planning to attack the town will meet stiff resistance from the Kurdish security forces and PKK loyalists.
Quote Redur Xalil (PYD) : "Al-Nusra and other similar groups are Muslim forces operating with their own agenda. With regard to the FSA, we found each other in our common goal to bring our own regime. With the FSA we worked in cooperation, fighting side by side against the regime in Aleppo. Unfortunately, most units of the FSA in certain areas, such as Aleppo, Idlib and Azaz, are more and more influenced by Al-Qaeda and affiliated jihadist groups such Al-Nusra and ISIS, and now they attack us jointly."
Voice-over:Many families fled the violence. Kurdish activists have said that there is an ethnic-based hatred against the Kurds in Syria, but Muslim and Christian leaders have denied this claim categorically. Since the border at Ceylanpinar is still closed, Kurds who seek asylum in Turkey are forced to use dangerous and illegal border crossings at night. For elders, infants and children, this is a nearly impossible journey. Many Kurds are stuck in a region they cannot escape. For now, the only option is to go through Pesh Khabur to Kurdish Iraq. Many Kurds hope the relationship between their government and Turkey will improve.
Quote Redur Xalil (PYD) : "Turkey is a neighbor to Syria. We hope that the Turks will build a more friendly relationship with the Kurds. They do not need to be afraid of us. The Turks have played an unfortunately negative role in recent fighting between the Kurds and Al-Nusra. They have opened their borders for these jihadist groups and they are supplying them with the weapons to attack us. We hope Turkey revises its position on these groups. The current attitude of the Turks, overall and in the long term, is not favorable for Turkey as a neighbor and not for the Turkish people."
The situation remains fluid and uncertain for Kurdish people in the region.