[Serkan Demirel interviews Shaoz Hesen, co-chairperson of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the most influential party in the Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria.]
The Turkish state continues its occupation attacks on North East Syria, there was agreement among US and Russia and Turkey. Can you explain what is going on?
First of all, I must state that the situation in North East Syria is actually a process of chaos and what is happening in the region is closely related to every problem in Syria. The eyes of local and foreign powers in Syria are on the Rojava region, because these lands are rich in both underground resources and culturally. In addition, the democratic life built in the region, the experience gained and the high presence of Kurds in the region disturb the neighboring countries, especially the Turkish state.
Since 2011, the Turkish state has been shaping its Syrian policy, plans and projects on the territory of Rojava. It supported several mercenary groups and attacked the region. The Turkish state, which cannot get what it wants with mercenary groups like Al Nusra and ISIS, is now attempting to occupy the region itself.
Turkey is trying to prevent Kurds from having a status and along with that it is trying to crash the system built here where Arab, Syriac and Armenian peoples are living together.
We have been pushing for a resolution of any tension from the beginning with talks. On this basis there were some agreements with the USA, but every time the Turkish state carried out plans to occupy Rojava. Finally, it has launched invasion attacks using mercenary groups.
In this process, we have warned both the US and Russia that the Turkish state’s invasion attempt will affect not only the Kurds but all the people of the region and will bring Syria into chaos again. If a solution is not found, we will resist any occupation. However, when the Turkish state preferred the occupation and massacre attacks, we clearly resisted.
Our resistance to the invasion has foiled Turkey’s plans. Our resistance and the fact that the peoples of the world stand beside our righteous resistance have created a new agenda in the world. As such, states had to change their politics.
Then, under the request and with the approval of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), the United States entered into an agreement with the Turkish state. Despite the goodwill we have shown here, the Turkish state did not comply with the agreement it made with the United States and continued its attacks on new regions and villages. They have crossed the 30-32 km border line.
After that, a ceasefire took place, agreed between Russia and the Turkish state. According to the agreement, the Turkish state would not expand the occupation area and would remain bounded within the zone it has agreed. The SDF did not know the contents of this agreement. There were negotiations with the Russians on some points of this agreement. Previously, negotiations were held with the Russians and the regime on border security.
We are continuing our efforts to reach an implementation of the agreements. The Turkish state today does not comply with the agreement it has made with the Russians, it is still carrying out occupation attacks. Despite the agreement, it also attacked the regime forces on the border. According to news, a number of regime forces have withdrawn, others have been captured.
In other words, the practice and plan of the Turkish state is based on breaking Syria and we express this in every meeting we hold. As a result of these attacks, there is currently a chaos in the region. The Turkish state does not comply with the agreements and ceasefire. Today, Erdogan talks about attacking Kobane. Erdogan wants also to reactivate ISIS with these attacks on the region.
Agreements with the Turkish state may have been made, but the war and occupation attacks are still going on. We told the US, Russia, Europe, everyone, the attacks on Rojava will deepen and this will deepen the crisis in Syria. The Turkish state will never be confined to a city in northern Syria.
In the agreement signed by both the US and Russia with the Turkish state, a 32 km area is mentioned for withdrawal. What does this mean?
The SDF mentioned no dimension when it comes to withdrawal in its statement. They just said ‘we will reasonably keep our forces away’. The Turkish state is trying to create a justification for the occupation using the excuse of ‘YPG on our border ’.
On this basis, the SDF has reached an agreement with Russians and the regime in order to have regime soldiers on the borders on the basis that both public order and civilian administration would remain as they were before. The SDF and YPG are not present in the city center, where there were only domestic defense forces. Under the agreement, if the regime’s troops settled on the border, the YPG and SDF forces could pull back one step, which would not be a major problem. If they guarantee us on this and if such a solution exists, it would not be a problem for us to have Russian and regime forces on the border thus to prevent the attacks carried out by the Turkish state. The fact that the regime is on the borders is not an issue for us, we have already expressed that we are in favor of a political and negotiated solution with the regime.
All this said, if there is an attack against our region carried out by the Turkish state or another power, we will protect our people in every way we can.
Despite the statement of the Autonomous Administration which it has accepted agreements and ceasefires with the US and Russia, every statement issued by Turkey is a new threat to invade . . .
We did not agree to withdraw 32 km, such a debate is wrong. We have not accepted the existence of the invaders on our land, what we accepted is a ceasefire. In this process, we are looking for a solution through negotiations with Russia, the US and European states. We tell everyone that we do not accept the Turkish state’s plan to invade North East Syria and we will resist it.
We say that the ceasefire or alliances can be turned into dialogue if we are interested in Syria’s future. If the regime forces come to the border, the pretext of occupation of the Turkish state will disappear. However, if the Turks continue to stay in the region we will resist as Syrian people.
Erdogan did not accept the agreement with the United States because he wants to occupy North East Syria. We told Russia and the United States that the Turks did not respect the ceasefire and agreements. And indeed they have not.
Despite the fact that it was the one who made the agreement, Turkey is not respecting it. Russia and the US have to see Erdogan’s attitude. Unless the Turkish state is completely removed from the region, there is never going to be a solution to the crisis in Syria and the whole world has to see this.
How did your relations with the US and Russia change after the withdrawal of the US from the region?
We have relationships with everyone in the region. There is a Kurdish problem in Syria, everyone should see this and find a solution at this point. As to how to find a solution, the starting point is that the rights of all peoples of the region, i.e. their identity, culture, language, administration, political status and self-government should be granted through equal rights. This should be done in a democratic Syria.
Today, we are faced with a political problem. Since there is no solution to this problem, invading forces like the Turkish state are attacking the region at every opportunity.
International forces are saying that ‘Turkey is a state and we have our strategic partnership with it. Therefore we must be careful.’ But these daily relationships are no longer acceptable. While those forces remain quiet Turkey continues to massacre civilians. In this sense, the occupation should be opposed with a common attitude in a short time.
It is argued that the US has returned to some regions, is it true or how do you interpret the purpose of the US?
The United States had decided to withdraw all soldiers, some of them have indeed withdrawn. Later, US President Trump changed his decision and said, ‘We will stay in the region.’
We think the US will stay for oil. They do not want the oil to fall into the hands of ISIS, or perhaps in the hands of the [Damascus] regime or Iran. This policy concerns the United States. It is true that they have returned to some areas from where they had already withdrawn, but they have not settled in every region.
They don’t seem to be going back to the areas where the regime is located. We cannot know all the military relations, but it seems that they will stay in the region and settle in certain areas. I do not think that they will settle in as many regions as before, as they will only stay in Dêir Ezzor and Cizîre cantons.
The meetings of the United Nations-sponsored Syrian Constitutional Committee are taking place in Geneva. As before, representatives of the Autonomous Administration were not invited to these meetings. How do you evaluate this situation?
The crisis in Syria will never be solved in this way. There is no solution without us in Geneva. It is a one-sided perspective and does not provide a solution. Social problems that occur after heavy wars are never solved without inclusiveness. If there is a solution, it should cover every party involved in that conflict. On the one hand, there is a regime, which has led to many economic and cultural problems in society in the past 50 years, on the other side there are groups called ‘opposition’ which survive with the support from other countries. Most, in this group, are supported by Turkey, radical jihadist sectors, that are trying to give them legitimacy by sitting on one side of the table under the name of the ‘opposition’.
There is a democratic power that is not invited at the talks table, but represents a third way in Syria, the democratic autonomous administration, which is neither linked to the regime nor to regional powers. We are the only forces that want a democratic Syria, but we are not at the table. We have repeatedly stated that there is no solution to the war if we are not all at the talks table.
Everyone knows very well that we are the only democratic force in this land. This is a great deficiency in terms of the future of Syria if we are not all at the table. Those at the table are in pursuit of protecting their own interests, while the autonomous administration defends the existence of a democratic Syria.
Every time you are not at the table is because of Turkey. Do you believe that?
It is an excuse to say that the Turks do not accept us. The Turkish state already wants to kill us, to destroy us. If the attitude of the Turks is to act, we could never bring a solution to Syria. We do not agree to attribute this to the attitude of the Turks each time.
Today the Astana group, Turkey, Iran and Russia, wants to do everything they want on behalf of Syria but with their own control methods. This approach will never bring a solution, especially if Turkey violent and hostile approach continues.
If a real solution for Syria is truly desired, then Turkey should not continue to be allowed to have its hand on it.
Did your agreement with the regime consist only in sending the regime’s troops to the border, or it concerned other issues as well?
Russia arranged our meeting with the regime. Our agreement was only about the regime forces going to the border, but we always say that we are always open to dialogue with the regime.
We said to Russia to be the guarantor country and start negotiating with the regime. We always say that no one can avoid the Kurdish question.
Today, all peoples in North East Syria want to live in a democratic Syria under the roof of the autonomous administration.
Syria will no longer be able to be ruled as before. Therefore, we have to find solutions to our problems through dialogue. Our alliance with the regime today is related to the border, but we believe that this alliance should be further advanced on other issues.