Kurdish YPG in Syria

Life under the Kurdish YPG in Syria | The Syrian Intifada – Belden gives a very interesting glimpse of the YPG’s method of governance. The YPG calls its rule “libertarian socialism,” says Belden, but it’s “pretty much a Stalinist state”. Belden describes the ascetic nature of the true believers in the PKK’s ideology—of which he, clearly, is not one—and the collectivized nature of life. Among other things, everyone is subjected to struggle sessions of the kind associated with Mao or the Khmer Rouge.The foreign fighters that join the YPG were, initially, “psychopaths that wanted to come kill people,” says Belden, but the YPG expelled these people once it realized what they were and has now refined its recruitment model to bring in a flow of hard-Left Westerners.

Belden says he believes the Americans will abandon the YPG in favour of Turkey and that he believes it will be Turkey and her allies that go to Raqqa to evict the Islamic State. Belden favours this outcome, believing it would be a “bloodbath” if the YPG tries to take Raqqa City. Belden concludes though that there will soon be a peace agreement between the pro-regime coalition, Turkey, and the YPG—and that after that the Turks will attack the YPG in Efrin and elsewhere. Belden says that the YPG retains the ability to strike back, with many men under arms and “lot of friends up north”. YPG have previously stated that their focus is on Syria for now but they will move onto Turkey next. “[E]veryone is just hoping the civil war spreads north,” says Belden, meaning the recommencement of large-scale PKK insurgent activity inside Turkey.

The suspicion of America is not just borne of history, where America has from the Treaty of Sevres onward, semi-regularly made promises to the Kurds that it then dashes; nor is just that the U.S. is aligned with Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds, whom the YPG “hate”. Anti-Westernism is integral to the YPG, says Belden: “We get ideology lessons a lot and they are not exactly pro-American”. Belden notes that this spills over from theory to practice: relations between the Kurdish rank-and-file and the American and British Special Forces embedded with the YPG as “tense”. Belden adds that it is “pretty bad that they’re here,” referring to Western Special Forces, and says they are not that much use to the YPG.

***
Kurdish People’s Protection Unit YPG – The People’s Protection Units / Popular Protection Units [Yekîneyên Parastina Gel = YPG] is the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). The YPG said it had 50,000 fighters as of mid-2014, though independent estimates placed the number at around 30,000. By 2016 one estimate placed YPG streanth at about 65,00 combatants. The YPG said it should be a natural partner in a coalition the United States is trying to assemble to fight Islamic State militants. This Kurdish militia group is active in areas in Syria that are predominantly inhabited by Kurds, mostly in the northeast. The PKK sent some of its militants to Kobani in 2014 after Islamic State attacks. Not too much is known about the YPG, which was formed after the Qamishli uprising in 2004, when thousands of PYD members and followers were arrested and subjected to the most severe types of torture in the notorious dungeons of the Syrian intelligence services.

Turkey and some members of the FSA accuse the PYD and YPG of being a front for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). While in the past the YPG had close ties to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), by 2014 the YPG’s leadership was trying to position itself as a pan-ethnic organization that was the defender of all of the region’s communities—both from the al-Assad government and the Salafi-jihadi organizations that are trying to impose an Islamic state on Syria. YPG leaders also insist that the organization is a-political and subsumes itself under the Supreme Kurdish Committee, which includes the PYD and the umbrella organization the Kurdish National Council (KNC) that is close to KRG President Massoud Barzani.

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