Support the Pluralist SDF and Stop Turkey!

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commanders at news conference, Raqqa province November 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said

By Rebwar Rashed:

Back in November, 2014, Mr. Michael Rubin explained wisely, “Here’s why training moderate Syrian rebels in Turkey is a bad idea”.  The article is still good reading for those who need a better understanding of Turkey, the so-called “Moderate Islamists” and how to ensure a Syria without dictatorship.

On October 9th 2015, Michael D. Shear, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt reported in The New York Times that, “The Obama administration on Friday abandoned its efforts to build up a new rebel force inside Syria to combat the Islamic State, acknowledging the failure of its $500 million campaign to train thousands of fighters”.

Between the period when president Obama decided to trust Turkey and let the Turks supposedly train “capable, indigenous forces” and freedom fighters that can show that they are a much better alternative to a totalitarian regime, and the decision to scrap the program, we saw emerging almost 100 different, small, radical and extremist Islamist groups, as much terrorists as ISIS, Boko Haram or Al Qaida.

Why have things gone so wrong?

Turkey under the AKP party and Erdogan had already started to show its real face of dreaming to revive the Ottoman Empire, “liberate” Jerusalem, crush the Kurdish liberation movement once for all and to build a Sunni Empire, not for religious reasons, but rather to use it as a political tool to blackmail the EU, US and NATO.

There was plenty of evidence that Turkey was supporting ISIS. There were also amateurish scenarios, for example, the scenario of ISIS taking 49 Turks at the Mosul consulate on June 11th 2014 and then releasing them in a performance like a delicate circus show. Erdogan and Davutoglu were praising themselves once again for using “proper diplomatic language” with ISIS. A month later, in a similar scenario, ISIS released 32 Turkish lorry drivers who had been seized in Mosul on 6th June 2014. Or there were incidents of the Turkish army “liberating” a few town/villages from ISIS in a couple of hours and so on.

Almost all the ISIS attacks inside Turkey have happened in the Kurdistan area of Turkey and/or against Kurdish activists and some Turkish democrats.

The Free Syrian Army has never consisted of “capable, indigenous forces” of normal people wishing and striving after a secular, democratic and pluralistic government with good neighbourly relations. These people were instead from Turkey, Arab countries, the Moslem world neighbouring the Russian Federation, Chechens and so on. They are anti-Semitic, anti-democratic, anti-Western values and, probably above all, anti-Kurdish liberation movement. They are brought up to hate secularism, pluralism and women’s emancipation and homosexuals. They really are uncivilized beasts who act as killing machines and can never be an alternative to a dictatorship. There is no fundamental difference between ISIS and the FSA. Turkey’s agenda, beyond the usual, is to destabilize Syria and Iraq so that it can suppress the area both politically and economically. The Turks have never had the intention to use the US$500 million program to organize a political, democratic-minded opposition and they will never do.

Between 26th June 2014, when the White House proposed the program to train and arm Turkish-designated “moderate” Syrian rebels, and October 9th 2015 when it decide to scrap the program, the Turks had almost 15 months to use American taxpayers’ money, logistics, weapons and ammunition, and political and diplomatic support from the US and the Coalition. France, Germany and Britain also put much trust in Erdogan’s “moderate” FSA.

Turkey controlled the level and the flow of the terrorist groups. This also explains how Turkey could afford to expose a mouthful of sharp teeth towards the European Union.


1. There has never been a FSA (Free Syrian Army) It was and still is just Turkish proxy groups. They have always been loyal to Turkey.

2. Now, when Erdogan realizes that some of his dreams may never come true, he is insisting on destroying the Kurdistan liberation movement and he is doing his very best to mislead the international democratic opinion by parallelizing both ISIS and PKK, ISIS and PYD, ISIS and SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). Turkey trying to demonize the Kurdish liberation movement and repeats “terrorism/ ISIS/ PKK” in Goebbels-style propaganda style. Turkish writers who don’t want to end up in jail and every newspaper loyal to the state is involved in this show.

3. The half-hearted American support for the SDF has encouraged Turkey to intervene militarily and occupy Syrian lands under the excuse of protecting Syrian national unity and territory. Turkey’s real aim is to stop a natural unification of the Cantons and thus undermine a federal structure of a future democratic Syria. Turkey has been and is opposing any decentralized democratic structure for neighbouring countries, fearing that this would encourage the Kurds in Turkey to ask for a similar political model.

4. The pluralist, secularist, democratic, gender-balanced power of Rojava and Northern Syria has made reactionary enemies more visible. The coalition of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey along with their terrorist organizations is a natural reaction against democratic political structures which they are really afraid of.


1. The new American administration should know that Turkey under the AKP and Erdogan will be more anti-democratic and anti-peaceful purposes by each day. Therefore, the statement of Mr. Rex Tillerson’s, President-Elect Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, during his January 11th testimony to the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee that the U.S. “has to re-engage with President Erdogan in Turkey … in the absence of American leadership, he has gotten pretty nervous about his situation and turned to Russia.” could lead to a revival of the $500 million program if this is not wisely discussed.

Putting aside the internal political competition between the Republicans and the Democrats or between the president Obama´s administration and president-elect’s incoming administration, one might say that Erdogan started to cheat and mislead America and the EU from the very beginning when ISIS announced itself, long before the story of the FSA.

Erdogan will eventually abandon all his demands regarding Syria and Iraq, but will only demand to help to crush Kurdish democratic aspirations. This will not help anything as the Kurdish liberation movement is the backbone of any strategically structural, institutional, reformative solution in the area.

2. The USA and the EU must engage with the federal-structure proposal for Syria and help the SDF to lead and take more responsibility. A democratic and decentralized Syria with good and friendly relations with its neighbours needs professional democratic-minded fighters who respect the social, cultural and national diversity of Syria and respect gender equality and human rights.

3. Turkey will be a spoke in the wheels of any kind of progress unless guided back to solve its own Kurdish issue. Things will look different when the Kurdish issue is solved in Turkey.

4. Delisting the PKK from the list of terror organisations and freeing the leader of the Kurdistan liberation movement, Mr. Abdulla Ocalan, is essential for a sustainable peaceful solution of the Kurdish question and other issues in the area. He has become an icon for a free, peaceful and democratic coexistence for the peoples of the area, but unfortunately has been sitting in a Turkish prison for 18 years now.

Rebwar Rashed is Co-Chairman of the Kurdistan National Congress – KNK

2 Responses to Support the Pluralist SDF and Stop Turkey!
  1. Jan Best de Vries
    January 15, 2017 | 09:29

    What else can I say, dear Rebwar, than that ‘Support the Pluralistic SDF and Stop Turkey’ is the best article I’ve ever read from you, if I were not an emeritus professor I would give to you a ‘summa cum laude’,like once to Benjamin Isaac who wrote The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (Princeton University Press)!

    Apo! Azadi!

  2. Shahla Hafid
    January 14, 2018 | 14:08

    Jin, jian, azadi
    A big shame for humanity is Erdogan support !

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