News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan
(ANF/AZAZ) Jabhat al-Akrad – or “Kurdish Front” as it is sometimes known – was founded as a part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in 2013 and is composed largely of Kurds living in Kurdish-areas outside of Aleppo but has fighters of many different backgrounds. In a new interview for ANF, Bahoz Deniz has spoken with the commander of the Jabhat al-Akrad, Heci Ehmet El Kurdi, about the beginnings of the organization, its mission, and the state of the conflict in Syria more generally. Below is a translation of that interview into English.
`We Joined The Revolution In Our Own Name`
Jabhat El-Akrad is a project for a ‘Democratic Syria.’ We are not like the YPG (People’s Defense Units) which is the national defense force of the Rojava Kurdistan and carries out activities in Rojava. We on the other hand carry out our activities throughout the whole of Syrian territory. During our foundation process, we told almost all circles and belief groups about our project and asked their opinion. We announced our formation on February 20th, 2013. El-Akrad is not an organization that consists of Kurds alone. It consists of fighters from all belief groups and nations. The objective of our foundation is to defend all Kurds outside Rojava and all those who demand help, and at the same time to take part in the revolution in our own name and under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army. Arabs call Kurds ‘Akrad’ and this is why our name is Jabhat El-Akrad (The El-Akrad Front), Kurdish Front in other words. We deliberately chose the word Kurd in order that we are present with our Kurdish identity and do not act on behalf of other groups. We formed our first organization in the Ezaz region and our first fighters were Kurdish youths.
The military success of the YPG in Rojava also had an effect on the Kurdish youths outside Rojava and led them to join our ranks in crowds. We started with two brigades and increased this number to 41 in a short time. Youths outside Kurds and from other nations and belief groups also joined us in the later period. We are now able to carry out activities in all regions of Syria with thousands of fighters. We are able to display our strength in all the areas we fight, and become a power to be taken into account.
-How did you capture Ebu Musab?
The FSA was formed in 2011, and we were formed in 2013. However we made up for the difference in military capacities quite quickly. The reason that we were able to become so effective in such a short period of time was that there were already Kurds all over Syria only they were not organized. When it became known that such an organization had been formed and that once more it used the word “Kurd” it was not difficult to find recruits. Our organizational discipline is at the highest level and our fighters become well-trained professionals in a short time through both military training and the ideological education which precedes it.
Our first battle was with ISIS. In that battle we captured the ISIS commander Ebu Musab alive. In all honestly we did not know how important he was at first. After we captured him the whole world knew who we were. Many different states wanted to establish contacts with us. Even the United States came around. They would come to us through back channels with passed along messages like “give this man to us and we will do what you want.”
But we paid no attention to those states or their promises. When we took Ebu Musab prisoner the ISIS went into many villages in the area, took a lot of civilian hostages and told us they would kill them he we didn’t let [Musab] go free. We thought the lives of those hundreds of civilians were more important and we let the commander go free.
Turkey Set A Special Table For Us
As we grew stronger various political games developed around us. Many different states made moves on us and Turkey most of all. We had just been formed four months earlier when Turkey set a special ‘table’ for us. They plied us with different policies and maneuvers at a table in Antep at which the district governor was present. They were thinking that for them it would be disastrous if going forward we were to grow strong in the regions of Rojava not under YPG control and take it under our control. They saw the importance of it all from the beginning. They organized gangs against us and had them attack us, principal among them being ISIS. ISIS produces fetwas in regions like Tel Ebyad and Tel Aran saying that it was religiously permitted to kill, rape and steal from Kurds and massacred a large number of Kurds. We fought against them and dealt them a serious blow. They attacked Kurds everywhere. Most recently they attempted to attack Kurds in Kobanê but the fell apart before the YPG. We are going to hit that gang like the YPG and finish it off.
The FSA Has Deviated From Its Objective
We were from the first day under the umbrella of the FSA and we are still that way. We are one of the members of the FSA’s military council. But the FSA has deviated from its objective. We do not make decisions together. The high command is located in Turkey. But there is no mechanism by which a central decision can be made and carried out. The YPG for example isn’t like that. It has a high command and the decisions it makes are applicable to all its units. No unit can make a decision apart from the central command. Because the FSA is disorganized no group works together with other groups. Every group moves according to its own objectives. Every organization attempts to achieve superiority in the area it operates. When we meet with FSA groups we tell them to “stay away from ISIS, they are not from here and are a dark organization. Tomorrow they will turn on you and destroy you.” But they answered that they were ‘mujahideen.’ Today when we look at the results we were justified. ISIS liquidated many FSA groups and took their place. At the moment FSA groups are directed by whoever is paying them and they have them attack where and whom they want. They have given these groups an endless amount of weapons and money to fight against Kurds. Right now are revolution has gone of course. No group is thinking about the revolution but are counting the money they have taken from international powers. They are not supported by any people, and have simply become the tools of the states who give them money. Every group has a state, an intelligence organization behind it. It has become such that intelligence organizations of Western states come and meet with them and the first question they ask is “how many fighters do you have?” This is enough to explain the civil war in Syria. Without any support from the people, or organization or common goals they have not been able to take one step forward. Those most organized and connected with the people in Syria are first and foremost the Kurds. For this reason they will never be defeated. After the Kurds come the Islamic groups. Some of them have some connection with the people. But the FSA groups that have come out talking about revolution can do nothing in their existing state and with their existing logic, and as soon as foreign support is cut they will fall apart and disappear.
We take all our support from the people. We take our strength from the people in every sphere. We get no support from anywhere else. We have no partnership with the YPG or TEV-DEM. They are Kurdish organizations and are carrying out very successful activities in their own areas. We will never fight with the YPG or any other Kurdish formation.
The Future Of Syria Is Dark
As regards Syria there is no serious project on the horizon. Kurds have already organized their own regions under the leadership of the YPG and have founded a system. Other than the Kurds there are only some Islamic groups which are carrying out series work for the people and the future. Both radical groups and more enlightened Islamic groups are carrying out projects. Right now a large part of the aid which Western states are sending is ending up in the hands if Islamists.
In Practice Iran Is Governing Syria
If it had been left to the state Syria would have fallen long ago. It went beyond the state a long time ago. It is Iran and Hezbollah which are keeping the regime on its feet. There is the Baath regime but unofficially the country has passed [under the control of] Iran and Iran is governing. It is Iran and Hezbollah which are controlling [the situation] and doing the fighting. On the Syrian War Council there are five people; two are from Iran and two are from Hezbollah. One is from the Syrian regime. In Syria the brain is Iran and the body is Hezbollah.
Our Goal Is A Democratic Country
We as Jabhat El-Akrad want and have as our goal a democratic Syria. We want a free country in which every people can live freely, those of different faiths can find their own space to live, and all constitutional rights will be guaranteed. Our foundational philosophy is to create a free and united country, not to destroy each other. We are fighting for this reason. It is our duty to show respect to every people and faith and to protect them. It is our responsibility to protect the lives and property of whoever comes to us for help, no matter who they are.