News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
(ANF/SEYİT EVRAN – AFRİN) Sipan Hemo, the commander of the YPG, has spoken to ANF about the YPG ceasefire and the future of the organization more generally. Hemo began by stressing that although the decision to halt armed operations remains in effect the YPG will not fail to respond to attacks against itself or the people it has committed to protect. Furthermore Hemo explained that the YPG is not only a defense force for the Kurdish people but for the Syrian revolution, and that the steps taken to halt operations were made in order to allow the newly formed canton governments an opportunity to play their proper role.
Hemo also stressed that the YPG was founded upon the principal and around the strategy of legitimate defense and that it would continue to operate in this fashion, saying “when there were no attacks against our region, and our gains who not coveted but respected, we explained that we would carry out no operation against other peoples of the region and that we would respect their rights and freedoms. We will remain committed to this. However wherever there is an attack against our people or the peoples of the region we will pursue those responsible and hold them to account. This needs to be understood.”
Below is the first part of this interview, translated to English. Part II should be released in the coming days.
It has been announced that YPG operations would come to a hault. How did it arrive at such a point?
Most of all we celebrate the success achieved by our forces in the Til Berak Operation that was launched in the name of vengeance for the martyrs of Til Berak and Til Hemis. Our forces, our units once again proved that they will not leave those places there their martyrs have spilled blood. No matter what the circumstances they showed that they will avenge our martyrs. From the founding of the YPG until today the understanding of legitimate defense on which it was founded has shown its practical value. The struggle that we have engaged in until now also proves this.
As the People’s Defense Units (YPG) were founded in Rojava it proceeded on this understanding. It was founded and developed on this understanding and principal and also struggled [according to it]. It played its role in the liberation of the Rojava region. After the liberation of the Kurdish regions it played an important role in the resistance in the Eşrefiye and Qestel districts of Aleppo and other centers against which attacks were directed. Our units responded to all of these attacks within the framework of an understanding of legitimate defense which it takes as its founding principal. At the same time if there continue to be any danger for the Kurdish regions or those places where Kurds live the YPG will good into action on this understanding of defense.
What does it mean to take such a step in war that has gone on for such a long time?
Recently there have been some changes as regards Syria. As the character of the Syrian revolution changed some foreign groups began to find a place for themselves in Syria. Groups which were attacking others in the name of religion wanted to take over the Kurdish regions. The YPG resisted these groups and a long-running conflict broke out. Our war against ISIS and al-Nusra did not begin with us. As you know our regions such as Serêkaniyê, Til Temir, and Tirbespiyê have been liberated from the regime for two years. Our forces were engaged in defense duties here. But these groups came and entered these areas. They settled in places like Til Hemis, Şeddad, and Til Koçer and became predators in the region. At the same time they caused people living in these areas much pain and oppressed them. At they grew envious of the
gains made in the Kurdish region. They wanted to loot and destroy the Kurdish regions. They attacked the YPG in Serêkaniyê. These attacks spread to other areas. Before these attacks began these groups launched bombing attacks against Qamilşo. They attempted to bomb a checkpoint in Amudê. They attacked the YPG headquarters in Tirbespiyê with a car bomb. They also attempted bombings against civilians in Derik. These attacks were all carried out by groups based in Til Koçer and Til Hemis.
Legitimate Defense Does Not Mean Sitting And Waiting On The Front
When the situation developed in this way the YPG could not only defend areas of settlement but was compelled to take the decision to move toward active defense. The meaning of this decision was to put an end to attacks by groups whose origins and goals were uncertain and to no longer tolerate the arm they were doing to the peoples [of the region]. With the implementation of this decision we were able to remove the dangers facing our regions. That is to say the understanding of legitimate defense does not only mean waiting on the front. When appropriate and according to the time it can transition to active defense.
Within legitimate defense there is also passive defense. At certain times it is possible to only carry out a response to the attacks. That it is possible to use our right to reciprocate. A third level takes over when the attacks are comprehensive. I mean we are talking a level that includes operations again forces which are launching a total attack against the people and the the region in which you find yourself. Some of the attacks undertaken by ISIS and al-Nusra in the area around Cizîre recently were of this level. We had operations against Til Koçer and other areas. The attacks against our regions came from here. In this situation it could not be expected that we would simply hold our positions. Because our regions were in great danger. The name of this was to call someone to account. This was the orientation.
On the other hand there was a desire to free the Arab people in the area these groups were based from the suffering and oppression they were subjected to by them. They were using all kind of torture against Arabs where they were based. They were looting their goods and property. Arabs living in those areas themselves asked to be defended by our forces.
The YPG Is Not Only A Kurdish Defense Force
The YPG is a defense force. But it is not only a Kurdish defense force. It is the defense force of everyone who lives in our regions and the places where we live, of all those living throughout Syria who are oppressed and marginalized, of all those who want equality freedom and justice and of those who want democracy. It is a defense force founded on this understanding. For that reason of course it was in a situation to respond to the demand for defense from the peoples living in those places where these groups are based.
Our operations began and continued for these two reasons. Likewise the move toward Til Koçer…our operation began around Til Xalaf and the surrounding villages. But this did not stop the attacks. Attacks against Qamişlo continued. These groups kidnapped Kurds wherever they saw them and without any questions. The groups who were carrying these out were traced and it was discovered that they were based in Til Berak and Til Hemis. For this reason the push towards Til Berak and Til Hemis started. If not we would not nor could we have a target such as capturing Arab villages. The operations which we launched there were operations aimed at holding those attacking our peoples and our region to account.
We announced to the public with a statement that we would halt our operations. We said in our statement that we will only employ our right to respond. But this statement does not mean that we will hold our positions and not respond. Once more we are saying that we will go after those spilling the blood of Kurds, Arabs, Chechenas, Syriacs, Assyrians, Armenians and Turkmens no matter where they are based. They should know that even if they pull back to Baghdad we will follow them there and hold them to account. Defence can not only be building a wall around your own village and defending there. Those who understood it this way have misunderstood. We are speaking of the defense of a revolution. We are speaking about the defense of a revolution in which peoples can live free and as brothers in one place and in peace. We are speaking about a revolution of a country that we want to be in democratic unity. When there were no attacks against our region, and our gains who not coveted but respected, we explained that we would carry out no operation against other peoples of the region and that we would respect their rights and freedoms. We will remain committed to this. However wherever there is an attack against our people or the peoples of the region we will pursue those responsible and hold them to account. This needs to be understood.