UPDATE II, 27 July:
Turkey attacked a Kurdish village in northern Syria on the night of 26 July, wounding at least four Kurdish anti-ISIS fighters and several more civilians, according to a monitoring group. The Erdoğan government denied this, but the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said Turkish tanks shelled Kurdish and allied Arab rebels in the village Zur Maghar in Syria’s Aleppo governorate.
“Instead of targeting ISIS terrorist occupied positions, Turkish forces attack our defenders’ positions,” the YPG said in a statement. “We urge [the] Turkish leadership to halt this aggression and to follow international guidelines. We are telling the Turkish army to stop shooting at our fighters and their positions.”
UPDATE I, 26 July:
The US government defended Turkey’s bombing of the Kurdish resistance, in spite of the fact that the US has relied on Kurdish rebels to fight ISIS.
AP reports that White House spokesman Alistair Baskey “is strongly condemning recent terrorist attacks by the PKK” and “pointing out that Turkey is a NATO ally.” No mention was made of the ever-accruing evidence that Turkey has supported ISIS.
ORIGINAL, 25 July:
In yet another move demonstrating how NATO member and US ally Turkey greatly prioritizes crushing Kurdish dissidents over fighting ISIS, Turkish President Erdoğan decided his country would only bomb ISIS on the condition that it also bomb the Kurdish resistance that is combatting ISIS.
Reuters notes that “Turkey was long a reluctant member of the coalition against Islamic State, a stance that annoyed NATO ally Washington.”
“Critics including opposition politicians accuse President Tayyip Erdogan of trying to use the campaign against Islamic State as an excuse to crack down on Kurds,” Reuters reports.
The left-wing, secular, feminist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is affiliated with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). The groups have fought ISIS for months, freeing the city Kobanî from ISIS control and subsequently liberating much of northern Syria.
The Kurdish resistance—working with elements of the Syrian resistance, including branches of the Free Syrian Army (FSA)—has proven to be the most effective opposition force to ISIS. Yet Turkey has clamped down on the Kurds, which, in addition to fighting ISIS, are waging a revolution to create a free, independent, democratic socialist Kurdistan.
Turkey has consistently used the threat of ISIS to repress not ISIS’ extremist supporters, but rather the very Kurdish militants fighting ISIS. In the 36 hours from 24-25 July when Turkey announced its bombing campaign, the government reportedly detained 3600% more Kurdish fighters who fight ISIS than suspected ISIS members.
This policy is not new. Turkey has in fact supported ISIS for months.
David L. Phillips, Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, published a detailed research paper reviewing the evidence that Turkey has
- given military equipment to ISIS;
- provided transport and logistical assistance to ISIS fighters;
- helped train ISIS fighters;
- offered medical care to ISIS fighters;
- supported ISIS financially through purchase of oil;
- assisted ISIS recruitment;
- sent forces to fight alongside ISIS; and
- helped ISIS attack the leftist, democratic, feminist, secular Kurdish resistance in Kobanî.
In late 2014, a former ISIS fighter who managed to escape (he was lucky; many of those who have tried to flee ISIS have their heads cut off) told Newsweek that “ISIS sees Turkey as its ally.”
The former fighter (referred to with the pseudonym Sherko Omer) revealed that Turkey allowed trucks from the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa to cross the “border, through Turkey and then back across the border to attack Syrian Kurds in the city of Serekaniye in northern Syria in February.” He later explained that, not only did ISIS fighters travel “through Turkey in a convoy of trucks”; they even stayed “at safehouses along the way.”
As a communication technician, Omer recalled “connect[ing] ISIS field captains and commanders from Syria with people in Turkey on innumerable occasions,” reporting that he “rarely heard them speak in Arabic, and that was only when they talked to their own recruiters, otherwise, they mostly spoke in Turkish because the people they talked to were Turkish officials.”
“ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks,” Omer said.
Newsweek indicated that, until October, “NATO member Turkey had blocked Kurdish fighters from crossing the border into Syria to aid their Syrian counterparts in defending the border town of Kobane,” and “that people attempting to carry supplies across the border were often shot at.”
YPG spokesman Polat Can also remarked:
There is more than enough evidence with us now proving that the Turkish army gives ISIS terrorists weapons, ammunitions and allows them to cross the Turkish official border crossings in order for ISIS terrorists to initiate inhumane attacks against the Kurdish people in Rojava [north-eastern Syria].
The evidence of Turkey’s support for ISIS continues to grow, as it bombs ISIS’ worst enemy.