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Kurds Concerned Islamists Taking Over Syrian Opposition

Kurdish group fighting Assad: Islamists are taking over our cause; call for American support against Al Qaeda.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/11/2013, 2:41 PM

Kurdish YPG fighters
Kurdish YPG fighters
Flash 90

The commander of the Kurdish Front (Jabhat al-Akrad) of the Free Syrian Army, Ahmed Kurdi, revealed his goals and his fears in an interview this week to the Kurdish media outlet Rudaw.

Among his top concerns is that radical Islamic groups like Al-Nusra are taking over the Syrian civil war, with the ultimate goal of implementing Al-Qaeda’s agenda.

“They operate under a variety of different names, but all are loyal to Al-Qaeda,” he warned.

Al-Nusra recently kidnapped hundreds of Syrian Kurds.

“These extremist groups were able to suppress most FSA formations, and marginalized their power. They have seized most of the institutions left from the Assad regime,” he said.

The threat of an Islamist takeover in Syria is increasing daily, he warned. Ahmed urged the United States and Turkey, and the rest of the international community, to assist the FSA in order to keep Islamist groups in check.

Ahmed also spoke about the Kurdish front. The group has 7,000 soldiers, he said.

The front was created to give Kurds “a common organization,” he said. However, he said, the FSA does not divide its ranks based on ethnicity.

The Kurds are the largest indigenous Middle Eastern nation without a state. Their homeland, Kurdistan, is currently occupied by Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq - although Kurds in Iraq enjoy autonomy under the KRG, with their own police force and armed forces (known as peshmerga). Kurds in Syria make up around 10% of the population, and are concentrated largely in the north of the country.

Although Jabhat al-Akrad is a part of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), the majority of Kurds back neither the Assad regime nor the mainly Arab FSA, opting instead for the pursuit of autonomy for western Kurdistan. 

The Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG) has been involved in fierce fighting with Al Qaeda-linked Islamist groups such as Al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) over control of Kurdish-majority regions in northern Syria.

Not long after the start of the uprising against the Assad regime, government forces pulled out of Kurdish areas, and the People's Protection Unite (YPG) - a Kurdish militia aligned with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) - moved in to take control. Arab groups within the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) initially made a grab for Kurdish areas but were beaten back. In recent months, however, Al Nusra and ISIS have led a concerted and violent campaign to install their own independent "emirates," or Islamic mini-statelets in the region. That was met with fierce opposition by the YPG, who responded by ejecting Islamist forces from the border town of Ras al-Ain, near the Turkish border, among other areas.

Since then, anti-Kurdish rhetoric has reached fever pitch among Arab Islamists, with some mosques issuing fatwas (religious decrees) encouraging the wholesale slaughter of Kurds. The escalated rhetoric has in turn been reflected in an upsurge in violence against Kurds in Syria, and the rallying of other Kurdish factions to the cause of the brethren in Syria in response.