Will the envisioned safety zone in northern Syria be transformed into a Sunni belt? Political analysts believe that both the United States, Turkey, the EU and Syria's regime would be pleased that a few million Syrian refugees in Turkey, as well as jihadists in Idlib and captured IS terrorists, could be given refuge in newly built communities along the Syrian-Turkish border.
All the aforementioned parties appear to benefit from a possible Sunni Arab belt; Turkey gets rid of a future Kurdish threat to its territory. The Syrian government will regain sovereignty over Idlib. The US and Israel prevent Iran from forming a Shiite belt from Iran to Lebanon. The EU does not need to accept millions of new refugees and their own IS terrorists who carry European citizenship. The latter is at least what the EU countries hope for, but IS terrorists with, for example, Swedish passports will probably still try to get home to Sweden.
The Turkish offensive against the Kurdish controlled region of Syria has just begun. US dithering finally came to an end when President Trump last weekend made it clear that the US is pulling its hand away from its Kurdish "mercenaries", the YPG/SDF. Trump says that the Kurds of course have played a big role in helping the US and the coalition defeat IS. However, they have been well paid for their services with “huge amounts of money and equipment”. He also acknowledges, for the first time, that the United States has cooperated with the PKK. Previously, the US administration denied any ties between YPG and terror classified PKK. For that reason the US established the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which in reality is fully controlled by the Kurdish YPG.
YPG, which is the PKK's Syrian branch, has seen itself as an ally of the United States and has dreamed big about Kurdish independence or self-government similar to that found in northern Iraq. The Western media as well as the Kurds themselves have presented themselves as the guarantors of democracy and diversity. But we as Assyrians have had a bitter experience with the Kurdish PKK regime in Gozarto in recent years. Targeted assassinations against Assyrian leaders, ethnic cleansing of homogeneous Assyrian areas, forced recruitment of Assyrian youth, confiscation of Assyrian property, bombings of Assyrian businesses and attempts to indoctrinate Assyrian schoolchildren have been commonplace. Free Assyrian media such as Assyria TV and Hujådå magazine have continuously highlighted these abuses, but the general image in the West is still that the Kurdish regime is an exemplary model for Syria.
On Wednesday, October 9, 2018 when the Turkish offensive began, Kurdish military posts became the primary target for Turkish artillery. But the YPG, which has throughout the years given a false image that all the peoples of the area support its rule, continues to use Assyrians and other Christians as a propaganda tool. In order to show that even Assyrians are the primary target of Turkish fire, YPG shelled rockets from Assyrian districts in Kameshly towards the city of Nsibin (Turkish Nusaybin) on the other side of the border. As a natural consequence, the Turkish defense responded by shelling at the places from which the rockets came. The Turkish bombs hit an Assyrian home near the church of Mor Giwargi, which belongs to the Assyrian church of the East in the Bsheriye district. The Fadi Habsuno family was hit by the bombs. Rudaw and other Kurdish media immediately spred images of the injured, claiming they were dead and speaking of "Christian martyrs of Turkish aggression". Fadi Hapsuno and his wife were taken to hospital where they were treated. Fadi's injuries are not said to be life-threatening, but his wife’s state is unsure, according to Assyria TV reporter Ahiqar Issa.
Obviously, the YPG feels pressed and uses all the means to get the world's attention to stop Turkey's offensive. The YPG is working diligently to bring the war into areas where civilians exist and has also called on the inhabitants for general mobilization by going to the border as human shields. However, the call has been a blow in the air, says Ahiqar Issa. The population does not buy the Kurdish regime for five cents and waits impatiently to be freed from its yoke. The Assyrians of Gozarto (al-Jazeera) Province are among these people, though they prefer no Turkish rule as a substitute. Many Assyrian organizations and activists have condemned the Turkish offensive, relying on the experience after the Assyrian genocide Seyfo. On the other hand, many feel relieved that the deadlock is now being broken, that a change may finally be underway. Most residents hope that the regime in Damascus will regain control, thus end the Kurdish regime's abuses that have turned out to the character of terrorism. Also against Kurds of a different view are suffering from this terror rule.
How the development on the ground will progress remains to be seen. However, as far as the security corridor is concerned, most political analysts agree that all major players (except Kurdish YPG/SDF) accept that it will turn to a new Sunni belt. The majority of refugees in Turkey are Sunni Arabs, as are jihadists and their families in Idlib. Already 40 years ago, President Hafez Assad tried to relocate population groups and gave land to Sunni Arabs to settle in the area east of the Euphrates on the pretext that the so-called Assad Lake would be built of Euphrates’s waters.
The IS terrorists, who are Sunni Muslims from different parts of the world, are also likely to be offered residence in the new Sunni belt, but those who have European citizenship will probably try to return to Europe. Whether Turkey, now blessed by President Trump to take care of the IS prisoners, will keep them in its grip, remains to be seen. President Erdogan may use them as continued extortion against the EU after the refugees in Turkey have resettled in Syria. Many of these refugees have been granted Turkish citizenship, which also paves the way for any Turkish claim to incorporate the new Sunni belt into Turkish territory in the future, analysts believe.
As to the IS, it is less known in the outside world that even thousands of Kurds joined the terrorist sect. In the attack on the Shigor Yezidis in August 2014, surviving Yezidis recognized many IS terrorists as their Kurdish neighbors. This fact has been silenced in Western media whereas the Kurds have been portrayed as the defenders of democracy and Middle Eastern feminists with female guerrillas.
It is true that the PKK has long had female guerrilla soldiers and presented itself as a revolutionary Marxist liberation movement for all ethnic groups in the area. But the experience of the PKK's government in Syria has proved the opposite. In reality, the PKK/YPG has shown a pure and cutting edge of opportunism and intolerance towards other people groups or dissidents. It has been YPG's motto for the exercise of power. And now this rule finally looks set to an end. Faithful to their habit, the YPG now tries to bring other innocent groups of people like the Assyrians into the fall. Let's harden and stay in our own country, says Assyrian enthusiasts like Ahiqar Issa, who urge Assyrians in the diaspora to spread the real picture as a counterweight to the disinformation spred by Kurdish media.