Salih Muslim: If Turkey Keeps Attacking, SDF will Return to Border

By The Kurdish Center for Studies

On December 27th, 2023, The Kurdish Center for Studies (KCS) organized a discussion about the continued attacks of the Turkish state against Rojava. The program was conducted by KCS official Nawaf Khalil, and featured the co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim, who evaluated the repeated Turkish assaults on civilian infrastructure and the reason for Turkey’s continued hostility against the Kurds.

The PYD co-chairman Salih Muslim began his evaluation by focusing on the reasons for the hostility of the Turkish state against the Kurds, theorizing: “The issue of Kurds and Turkey arose at the beginning of the 20th century, and the cause of this problem goes back to the nationalist mindset, that is, the nation-state… When the Kurds saw that Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) deceived them, and their Kurdish rights were denied.  The Kurds stood up, made preparations to gain their basic rights, and argued that Mustafa Kemal lied to us. Since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, the state has seen the Kurds as a threat. Therefore, Turkey’s enmity against the Kurds began from the beginning. That is, they are afraid of Kurdish unity and another Sheikh Said’s rebellion (1925).”

Muslim stated that the Turkish authorities believed that the Kurdish issue should be extinguished by now, but they have not left any alternative paths for themselves. Muslim continued: “In 2015, during the peace process, they reached an agreement with the leader of the Kurdish people, Abdullah Öcalan, but Erdoğan concluded and announced once again that there is no case for the Kurds. Because of this, Kurds have lost faith in Ankara and no one trusts the Turkish authorities anymore. Trust can only be established, as the leader of the Kurdish people, Abdullah Öcalan, announced, when Kurds are officially accepted in the Turkish parliament. One of Öcalan’s wishes in that process is that the Kurdish case be discussed in parliament.”

Muslim stated that the mentality of Turkey’s politics, which Erdoğan is leading, is that of an unrestricted person, adding: “Since 2016, Turkey’s attacks against us have not stopped, especially after the defeat of ISIS. Therefore, after the city of Manbij was liberated in 2016, Turkey saw that ISIS was going to be defeated, so it formed an agreement with ISIS and ISIS handed over Jarablus to Turkey. That is why Turkey’s war against us has not stopped since 2016, as they attack us whenever they get a chance. In this context, Turkey’s current attacks are a continuation of Turkey’s plan to defeat the Kurds. That is, the issue is not the failure of their operation in Zap and the killing of Turkish soldiers, because Turkey already has plans and they see the opportunity to attack. Even before this attack, for example, the Istanbul attack. At that time, it was an internal issue of Turkey. Why did Rojava become an issue? Because the issue is the extermination of the Kurds. At that time, Erdoğan carried out a comprehensive attack. On the other hand, in these areas that are currently under attack, as a result of the ceasefire agreement that Turkey was a part of, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) withdrew from those border areas. But if these attacks continue, SDF will return to those areas because SDF will not leave their people alone. On the other hand, SDF and the forces of the International Alliance are currently fighting ISIS, if the SDF gives up and comes to fight Turkey, ISIS will be revived. ISIS is also looking for this opportunity to organize itself. Therefore, these Turkish attacks are damaging the fight against ISIS. Because Turkey bombed the area around the prison where ISIS was in Qamislo so that ISIS could save itself and escape.”

Salih Muslim, co-chair of the PYD.

Muslim continued: “When you are on earth, everyone will be accountable to you. Before 2011, no one gave us any meaning, but then we gradually organized our people and for protection, we built our YPG and YPJ forces; that is, we relied on organizing the people and protecting the law.” PYD co-chairman Muslim then recalled that in 2015, when the agreement was made between them and the forces of the International Alliance, it was based on interests, that is, fighting together against ISIS, remarking, “We also had to fight ISIS, because as long as ISIS is in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, Rojava will not see any relief. Therefore, it was in our interests to destroy ISIS. As a result of the agreement with the International Alliance, we saved Raqqa in 4 months. Even now, this agreement continues on the basis of mutual interests.”

Salih Muslim said that the issue of Turkish attacks against prisons holding ISIS members has been brought up with the forces of the International Alliance. Muslim also said that he does not think Russia or the United States will allow Turkey to invade Rojava, but they are ignoring Turkey’s current aerial attacks; that is, they are keeping quiet and closing their eyes. He continued: “The reason for this is, as you know, the issue of Sweden (being allowed in NATO). There was also the issue of Ukraine and trade issues. In other words, no one wants to directly engage in enmity with Turkey.”

At the end of his assessment, Muslim surmised that the solution to the Syrian problem cannot be resolved without the SDF. That is, without including the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (DAANES).


  • The Kurdish Center for Studies

    The Kurdish Center for Studies (KCS) is the general term given for articles which are collaborations by the Co-Directors, contributors, or staff from the KCS—where listing each of the specific authors is unnecessary. The KCS Editorial Board reviews and approves such pieces before publication.

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