SDF fighters graduate military training
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has released a statement (see more photos section) denying claims it is affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
In a statement dated 10 January, the SDF, which is leading the fight against the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) group, said it was a Syrian multi-ethnic group committed to freeing the country.
“We are a Kurdish, Arabic, Turkmen and Assyrian force from Syria under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces. We affirm that we are not part of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as claimed by some regional countries,” the statement read.
The statement is thought to refer to allegations by Turkey that the People's Protection Units (YPG), a leading component of the SDF, is an offshoot of the PKK. The PKK is on the list of proscribed organisations in the EU and US, but is not considered a terrorist organisation by the United Nations.
Turkey has been accused of using the proscription list to pressure Kurdish groups and prevent self-determination in the region. Ankara launched the Euphrates Shield Operation into Syria in August to "prevent a Kurdish corridor in Syria's north," according to Turkish officials.
Turkey has used the recent transition of power in Washington to raise the ante in its anti-US rhetoric by claiming the "US is supporting terrorists" in the region. Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) co-chair Saleh Moslem said Turkey was blackmailing the American government by using its warming ties with Moscow to prevent support for Syrian Kurds.
The SDF's statement was retweeted on Twitter by the US Central Command, angering pro-Turkish social media users. The SDF has been recieving US-led coalition air support, training, and advice in the war against the IS group in Syria, creating tensions with Ankara.
The SDF statement ended by stating that the group, which is represented by the Syrian Democratic Council (MSD) in the political sphere, wants to build relations with neighbouring countries, including Turkey.
The PKK was formed in 1978 in Turkey's Kurdish region and has been engaged in armed conflict against the Turkish state since 1984, initially for an independent Kurdish state and more recently for an autonomous region.
Many Kurdish groups in Syria, including the autonomous administration, view PKK founder and ideologue Abdullah Ocalan as the inspiration behind the system they are building. Ocalan advocates a secular, grassroots and communal confederal system predicated on gender equality. YPG and SDF fighters reportedly receive education in Ocalan's paradigm before heading to the battlefield. However adhering to Ocalan's ideas have denied any organic ties to the PKK.
- Kurdish Question