Declare Western Kurdistan, the Rojawa, as a ‘Safe Haven’!

Rebwar Reshid

By Rebwar Rashed:

The first non-violent demonstration against the Bashar Al-Assad regime started in late February 2011, more than 3.5 years ago. The people of Syria demanded more freedom and true political pluralism. However the path to more freedom now looks infinite with two hundred thousand casualties, many millions of displaced people, destroyed homes and infrastructure and tremendous material losses.

The West, which had old disputes with Damascus, had no choice but to support this growing displeasure among the Syrians against the regime. But USA and Europe made a big mistake when they gave control of the operation to Turkey.

The US and Europe were not able to guess Turkey’s thoughts accurately despite their knowledge of Turkey’s expansionist ambitions. Long before the Syrian issue, the Turks had developed a plan to rebuild the old Ottoman Empire which included “liberating” Jerusalem, declaring a Palestine state and taking over Kurdish national resources by forcing the Kurds into an unconditional surrender.

Using Arabs to gain its pan-Turkic ambitions can be regarded as a Turkish speciality. Using the Islamic State (IS, former ISIS) and organizing the Sunni terrorists across the Arabic and Asian Muslim countries is a part of this Turkish speciality. The Islamic State is a very effective and beneficial tool for Turkey´s expansionist agenda, for at least the following purposes:

  1. Fighting Kurds, not only in Syria, but also weakening the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and making it a puppet to itself. Thus Turkey will also gain an upper hand in handling the Kurdish issue in Turkey. During the last 90 years Turkey has seen the Kurdish question, no matter where, as a threat to its national security.
  2. Using IS against Iran´s Shia-expansionism and against the Syrian regime.
  3. Getting closer to Israel’s borders and having an upper hand in demanding concession from Israel. This would mean many political gains for Turkey in the Islamic world.
  4. Having Iraq, Syria and Kurdistan on fire means trillions of dollars for Turkey. That is through selling agricultural products, light industrial and construction products and getting Kurdish oil almost free of charge. Having also the ambition to collect Kurdish oil money in the Turkish Halk Bank (Turkiye Halk Bankasi: a state-owned bank) which will be devastating for Kurds if put into effect. Turkey already takes much of Syrian oil through direct illegal trade with the IS, which is estimated as worth “$1 million to $2 million a day”.

Stopping Turkey!

One very effective way to stop Turkish dangerous expansionist ambitions is through solving the Kurdish question.

It is in this context that Turkey now wants to enforce a ‘No-Fly Zone’ in Syria.

The way Syria plans a ‘No-Fly Zone’ will only benefit Turkey for various reasons. The alternative is to create a ‘Safe Haven’ for Syrian Kurds using the same model as was implemented for Iraqi Kurds in April 1991. (1) This will contribute to a win-win situation for the Syrian people, for the Kurds and for the International Coalition which is now fighting IS and which demands the transition of power in Syria.

Why a ‘Safe Haven’ for Syrian Kurds?


NATO, the USA, Europe and other democracies must take their share of responsibility for the fact that IS, Jabha Al Nusra and other dark forces are flourishing while the Arabic secular and liberal movement in Syria gets weaker and weaker. Kurds have the will for self-defence but they lack modern weaponry and the necessary resources to make the present cantons to a more stable, functioning, civilized entity. Kurds, Assyrians, Christians and Arabs have nevertheless managed to live together and, despite the war, there has been a fantastic improvement in the situation for women, gender equality, and building a secular, pluralist society.


Turkey´s ambition is to eradicate Kurds. But Kurds have been living in this part of Middle East for ages, along with Jews, Assyrians and others long before the Islamic-Arabic and Turkish conquests of the area. Kurds have the right to their homeland and cannot be uprooted. Finding a strategic, long-term solution to the current problem is the responsibility of every single democracy.


Turkey and Iran consist of two gigantic territorial-states which are very centralized and can change the balance of power in the Middle East as they wish. The interventions in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan, Egypt, Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Afghanistan are a few examples of such power. Turkey and Iran have encouraged sectarian and sub-religious conflicts and are factors of instability. They are encouraging violence, discrimination and racism. Decentralising Turkey and Iran will contribute to more power-sharing between the peoples of the Middle East and therefore more lasting peace, mutual advancement and cooperation between the different parts.


There is a huge difference between a ‘Safe Haven’ modelled on the Iraqi Kurd experience and the ‘No-Fly Zone/ Buffer Zone’ that Turkey is now suggesting.

The Kurdistan area of Syria, from a border town of Khanik to Afrin, north of Aleppo, extends for 593 km inhabited by the Kurdish population. The Kurdish border is a horizontal line which runs parallel to current border of Turkey. This area has largely been a stable, peaceful and functional area for the last 3 years. Turkey and Islamic terrorists are doing their best to destabilize it.

If Turkey succeeds in enforcing a ‘Buffer Zone’ it will eventually annex it to itself, no matter any international criticism. There are at least Cyprus and Bamarni (2) as examples to show that Turkey never respects International agreements. (3)


Turkey insists that it has brought up the ‘buffer zone’ only for humanitarian reasons and has no desire to build a military buffer zone.  But, as mentioned before, Kurds already have control over a large area of their land and they have established three autonomous cantons where they also protect Christians, Assyrians and Arab refugees. It is also important to point out, the Turkey’s main concern is to prevent the Kurds for succeeding in having a stable, functioning, autonomous political administration. Turkey sees any Kurdish gains of national rights as a threat to its national security.

The brutal Turkish attacks on Kurdish refugees from Kobani and on the local Kurdish population just across the border, who had gathered to help the Kurdish refugees from Syria, on the 22, 23 and 24th September, shows the degree of structural, institutional and systematic discrimination and racism that Turkey practices against the Kurdish people. Turkey must actually be held accountable for its destructive policy against the Kurdish people.


Turkey did all it could to undermine the Free Syrian Army by making its leaders bureaucrats and luxury-seekers spending their time in luxury Turkish hotels sponsored by the MIT and, in addition,  fostering their enmity towards the Kurds, while giving logistic and military support to IS and some 20 other Islamic fanatical groups.

The Islamic State in fact became Turkey’s neighbour in the areas where the Kurds had no power or are militarily too weak to protect the territory continuously. Therefore Turkey’s purposed ‘Buffer Zone’ would give IS legal control of the area which would in turn further aggravate the civil war. Turkey hitherto has been the first beneficiary of the Syrian war which it has cost the USA funds and costs the Kurds lives and material losses. Turkey is eager to secure UN Security Council approval for a buffer zone because it would then get international legitimacy for its expansionism policy, the cost of which, in the end, must be paid by the international community.


Ankara is demanding that Washington and other Western powers should first outline their strategy on the future of Syria before making military demands on Turkey. “[The U.S-led coalition] should openly disclose their scenarios about the future of Syria and the Al-Assad regime. We’ll evaluate our position only after hearing these scenarios from them, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan told the ‘Hürriyet Daily News’ yesterday.

This clarifies that Turkey´s concerns are indeed about Kurdish rights, not the Al-Assad regime or the future of the Syrians as Turkey usually proclaims. It is important to recall that Turkey never had a problem with the same Al-Assad when he was most cruel against his people and just as obviously a dictator as he is now. Ankara used to have good relations with Al-Assad when he had the power to suppress the Kurds. That was the only demand that Ankara had on Al-Assad once upon a time and it remains their objective.


(1) There are many good readings on this subject, for example:


(3) Bamarni is a village north of Dohuk. In the mid-1990s the KDP, Kurdistan Democratic Party, allowed the Turkish military to occupy several bases on the Iraqi side of the border, when the KDP was helping Turkey in its fight against the PKK. The Turks now have a couple of thousand soldiers at these bases including Tanks, armored vehicles and helicopters

Rebwar Rashed was born in Kurdistan. He has translated several books into Kurdish, written a novel (‘The Shadow of Helebce’) and also many articles in Kurdish and English about the Kurdistan National Liberation Movement, human rights, equality between the sexes and ethnicities, and the need for a democratic and peaceful struggle.

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