The Turkish ambassador to Albania, Murat Ahmet Yoruk has claimed that his country is not fighting the Kurds and is only fighting “terrorists”.
In a press conference given to the Albanian media today, he stated that “Kurdish civilians are not the enemy, they are our brothers.” He stressed that the Turkish military operation in Syria was “not directed against Kurds”.
Six days after a Turkish offensive aimed at driving out Kurds it calls “terrorists” from northeastern Syria, some 130,000 people have been displaced. The Turkish government claimed that it had “neutralised” almost 500 Kurds from the YPG militia whereas the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was nearer 100.
The United Nations has estimated that up to 400,000 civilians in the border area between Syria and Turkey could need aid and protection in the near future.
The attacks by Turkish forces have raised the possibility of US sanctions against them as well as NATO Allies France and Germany saying they may stop arms exports to the country. The offensive has triggered a number of protests against Europe with thousands marching against the actions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Kurdish militia had previously been supporting the US in their fight against the Islamic State until President Donald Trump withdrew most of his troops from the region just before the Turkish assault, effectively leaving the Kurds in the lurch. Concerns have been raised not only at the risk of Turkey committing genocide against Kurds, but also that the Islamic State could regroup and regain strength in an area they had previously been driven out of.
Turkey-backed forces have been accused of executing Kurdish civilians as well as female Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf.
“The nine civilians were executed at different moments south of the town of Tel Abyad,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed.
Also murdered by Turkish forces was journalist Saad Ahmed. On Saturday, a Turkish airstrike hit a civilian convoy travelling between the northern Syrian town of Qamishliand Ras al-Ain, killing Ahmed, five civilians, and injuring four other reporters.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the attack, stating, “We are deeply concerned by the apparent targeting of a civilian convoy today in northern Syria. Turkish forces must respect international standards and ensure that journalists and other civilians are not targeted; such attacks are expressly prohibited by international law and may constitute war crimes.”
Turkey is known not just for being the world’s worst jailer of journalists, but also for its human rights record against Kurds. There is a long history of discrimination, massacres and allegations of genocide perpetrated by the Turkish government against the Kurdish minority.
These attacks have happened periodically since 1923 with more than 40,000 mainly Kurdish civilians estimated to have died. Turkey has been repeatedly admonished for thousands of human rights abuses against the Kurds, with a considerable amount of European Court of Human Rights judgements executed against them for torture, murder, discrimination and forced displacements.
The actions of Turkey in Syria has been called “ethnic cleansing” against the local Kurdish population, making Ambassador Yoruk’s claims of brotherhood seem absurd.