Minister Dr. Abdulkarim Omer warning US-EU-NATO-Russia-China :
“ISIS and radical-Islamist terror is still a threat to the world
– NATO member Islamist Turkish regime openly backs it.”
By Roni Alasor
25 May 2021 - Middle East Diplomatic- In an exclusive interview, Dr. Abdulkarim Omar, the Acting Foreign Relations Co-Minister of the self-government of North and East Syria/Rojava (NES/Rojava), emphasized that without a stable political-democratic solution in Syria as a whole, ISIS cannot be defeated decisively and removed from the ground. Moreover, no fair political solution can be achieved in Syria without the participation of Syria’s Kurds and all the various ethnic and religious minorities in NES/Rojava.
Minister Omar, thank you for this exclusive interview. Is the war against ISIS terror in NES/Rojava over ?
Minister Omar: We are proud that we achieved a territorial victory over ISIS in NES/Rojava in 2019. Since then ISIS no longer controls any places within the boundaries of our self-governing NES. That was an important step. It was a military victory achieved by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the International Coalition led by the United States.
You are saying that ISIS no longer rules territory in NES/Rojava. But does ISIS still have capabilities to carry out terrorist actions on the ground?
Minister Omar: Unfortunately, it does, despite our victory and the price we have paid to eliminate ISIS since 2014. Active ISIS sleeper cells are still present in different forms, and we must not underestimate them. ISIS continues to carry out terrorist actions. That is why the SDF and the International Coalition continue to coordinate antiterrorist operations against ISIS on daily basis.
Does ISIS still have support on the ground ?
Minister Omar: Yes, the ISIS ideology and mentality still exist on the ground, especially in Raqqa, Deir Ez-Zor, Tabqa, Manbij, and other regions where ISIS formerly terrorised the Arab population for years. And indoctrination in ISIS ideology and mentality is also actively being carried in occupied Afrin-Jindires-Rajo, Serê Kaniyê, Girê Spî, Al-Bab, Azaz, Cerabulus—in all the Kurdish-populated occupied by the Turkish army and its terror gangs.
According to the latest reports by the Combined Joint Task Force—Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) and the Rojava Information Center, ISIS still systematically carrying out attacks NES/Rojava, nearly one hundred in recent months. Is the work of the international military supporting the SDF finished?
Minister Omar: Active support from the International Coalition, the CJTF-OIR airstrikes, artillery, and special forces personnel are still crucial to enable SDF forces in the ground to eliminate the rest of ISIS. We still have long way to go before we can put an end to all forms of the radical Islamist terror threat, including not only ISIS but also all other terror gangs that change their names frequently on the advice of their patrons.
Dr. Omar, NES/Rojava has been facing active terror attacks since 2012. After nearly ten years of this experience, what solution do you advise to finally put an end of ISIS and the other terror groups?
Minister Omar: In order to eliminate the ground actions and structures of ISIS and the other terror gangs with their ever-changing names, we need to solve the problem of forming a stable, democratic, multiethnic Syria. Without that, it will take many years or even decades. In addition to active military support, all those areas that were under control of ISIS for years need to be economically and socially developed, in order to solidify the military victory . So to achieve a final victory, we definitely need the active support and cooperation of the international community.
What other major obstacles are you are facing right now in the war against ISIS terror ?
Minister Omar: The other difficulty we are still facing is the actions of the neighbouring Turkish state. Turkey is openly committing crimes before the eyes of the International Coalition and the Russian Federation. Since 2013-14, it has provided active support for Islamic terror organisations. Everyone knows very well that ISIS is supported mainly by Turkey. And Turkey has actively warred against NES/Rojava to destabilise our region. It has intervened and occupied our land. It is helping ISIS through its jihadist mercenaries. The jihadists in the Turkish-occupied areas think the same way ISIS does.
And when the Turkish army and its jihadist mercenaries kill, terrorise, rape, and occupy our land openly, it uses weapons it obtained from some NATO member countries.
Isn’t this a serious accusation to lodge against NATO member states? After all, NATO is working for “peace, democracy, fundamental human rights, international rules and norms.” Many NATO member states back the SDF. Isn’t it controversial to accuse member states of something else?
Minister Omar: Turkey is member of NATO. But since 2012-13 it has been working hard to disrupt the peace, security and stability in entire Middle East as well as the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, the Caucasus and elsewhere.
We call on NATO to stop Turkey and its paid mercenary Islamic and criminal terror gangs, which are also using weapons from some NATO member countries against us. It is incredible that this controversial policy continues even as we are fighting to defeat terrorism and to protect our region, the European West, and humanity as a whole.
NATO weapons are being used against SDF and International Coalition forces?
Minister Omar: We believe that some countries have sold weapons to Islamic terror organisations via Turkey. The contractors and payments are Turkish. NATO countries should know where their weapons going to be used and against whom, namely Kurds and Coalition forces. We are certain that Europeans/Western intelligence and military sources have enough evidence to know that. It is a tragic dilemma for the political leadership of some NATO countries that don’t have a clear position on Turkey’s active support for Islamic terror since 2014.
The situation in the parts of NES/Rojava that are occupied by Turkish-Islamic terror gangs is alarming. It’s worst in Afrin but also in Serê Kaniyê and Girê Spî. All kinds of crimes, torture, rapes, kidnapping, terror, massacres, and destruction of Kurdish-owned olive fields and houses continue.
We ask the international community and NATO to put pressure on the Erdogan regime and his terrorists mercenaries to stop committing acts of terror and violence against our people. What we do against Turkey? Without pressure from international community, the Turkish regime is totally out of control. The UN, the US, the EU, the Russian Federation, China, and NATO should break their silence around all the crimes, occupations, and terror that we have been facing since 2014.
NATO, instead of closing its eyes to the crimes carried out by the Turkish army and the terror organisations it backs, should actively help us to gain the last victory over terror.
A few days ago I was delighted to read that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in a speech on 15 May 2021, highlighted NATO’s values and contributions to global peace and security, saying that as “our world becomes more insecure, we must invest more in our security; because security is the foundation of our freedom and freedom does not come for free. In the pursuit of peace, there are no easy answers, only hard choices; so we must always act responsibly, in respect of international rules and norms.”
The US, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, and all other members have a heavy responsibility to act in accordance with NATO’s values and contributions to global peace and security. They must intervene to stop Turkey from violating fundamental human rights, from backing radical-Islamist-terror gangs, and from occupying our land.
You have said that NES/Rojava lost “over 12,000 brave men and women in the war against Erdogan supported ISIS terror gangs and around 24,000 fighters wounded and handicapped.” Do you feel that NES/Rojava has received enough understanding, respect, and support for what it has sacrificed and continues to sacrifice? Do you feel that you could face a new Trump-Putin kind of policy, of the kind that allowed Erdogan to occupy Afrin, Serê Kaniyê and Girê Spî—around 40 to 50 percent of Kurdish land? What are the main reactions of your population of some 5 million?
Minister Omar: Those numbers are correct, we lost 12,000 brave men and women, and 24,000 fighters were wounded and handicapped. We made these sacrifices in the war against ISIS-which was a threat not just to NES/Rojava but to the whole world—and all the communities in the world consider themselves to be in our debt, but the governments do not act accordingly, and they always put their interests first.
The people of NES/Rojava are acutely disappointed because the Afrin invasion came as the result of Turkish-Russian cooperation, and the invasion of Serê Kaniyê and Girê Spî came after a Trump tweet! Yes, the people of NES/Rojava are greatly concerned that they will again become victims of further international policies.
How many ISIS terrorists and family members are now in NES/Rojava?
Minister Omar: Right now, we are holding around 12,000 ISIS terrorists in our prisons. Some 10,000 of them are Syrian-Iraqi, and 2,000 are from fifty other countries in Europe and elsewhere. We are holding those 2,000 ISIS criminal-terrorists in prisons. But around 12,000 ISIS families (about 4,000 women, 8,000 children)—except the Syrians and Iraqis—are living in the Al Hol and Roj camps.
The situation in the Al Hol camp is very troubling. The camp is internally not under our control. It’s just too difficult to control a “city” that has a population of more than 60,000 led by aggressive men and women. People kill each other inside the camp. Worst of all, the children in the camp are brainwashed with ISIS ideology and mentality, and they witness the daily violence inside the camp. We have no power to control the camp’s internal life—all we can control is the outside, to prevent them from running away.
Media have reported that many ISIS terrorists and family members are escaping from NES/Rojava or are smuggled. What the reality of those reports ?
Minister Omar: Yes, Turkey is openly smuggling ISIS gangs and their family members. Turkey freed and took away around 1,000 ISIS family members from the Ain Issa camp and many most danger ISIS women from Kobani prison. Erdogan regime is using them for different purposes, including as threat against us and Europe. Turkish agents and criminals are now carrying out many illegal activities, paid for by the Turkish state, to bring the ISIS members to Turkey.
Meanwhile we are working on various projects to separate children and women from ISIS and to educate them. We are asking the international community for urgent help to keep the situation under control. If do not keep control the situation in the camps, we will all will later face new problems with ISIS and the other terror groups.
It must be a huge expense to feed nearly 70,000 ISIS terrorists and family members in prisons and camps. Do you get the support and aid necessary for that?
Minister Omar: We are still fighting a war against terrorism. Especially now during COVID-19, our economy is very bad, and our population is having many difficulties. The large number of the terrorists and their family members are a huge expense for us. As a result of the 2019 US legislation that sanctions Syria (the Caesar Act) and also the closure of the Til Kocher (Yarubiyah) border crossing, the situation of the people in the region has become more difficult. Especially the areas that were under ISIS rule for years are deteriorating. ISIS sees this negative impact on the region as an opportunity to revive itself there. So we must have outside support in order to fight the radical Islamist mindset and drive out ISIS.
But UN and EU say they are spending billions of US dollars to provide humanitarian aid to Syria.
Minister Omar: The UN aid, even aid intended for NES/Rojava, arrives in Syria via the Damascus government. There the regime decides what will or will not be sent to our 5 million population. In fact, we do not receive it. This includes the aid intended to fight COVID and provide vaccines. The regime sends the COVID materials and vaccines to the two hospitals in Qamişlo city for the use of its own soldiers and supporters.
Some media reports have claiming that the WHO delivers vaccines to Turkish-occupied regions in Syria where radical Islamist terror organisations have full power. But the WHO has not fulfilled its promises to provide vaccines to NES/Rojava.
Many delegations from different countries have visited NES/Rojava to repatriate their nationals from ISIS. How many ISIS members have been returned to their countries of origin so far? Which ISIS members are they, and what does the return agreement contain?
Minister Omar: As a self-government, we are following a political roadmap on this issue. We do not extradite ISIS members and women who have committed crimes to their states.
Our laws also do not allow us to separate children from their mothers. But we hand over children and women who have not committed any crimes, especially if children who have special problems and need to be given to the country they are from.
With their radical atmosphere, the camps are not a good place for children. Their presence in these camps amounts to giving ISIS a new garment—a garment designed for terror and occupation. That is why we extradite civilian minors to their countries of origin. We do so with the consent of their mothers. The handovers to the countries of origin take place according to these specifications.
So far we have handed over 52 children and 9 women to Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Norway, UK, Ukraine, and other European countries... And 526 children and 117 women have been patriated to non-European countries.
What are you going to do with over 10,000 ISIS members? Do you have any plans for a tribunal or other judicial solution ?
Minister Omar: To combat terrorism and prevent future terrorist attacks, it’s crucial to bring terrorists to justice. These terrorists have all carried out crimes in NES/Rojava and in the rest of Syria. All the victims and all the evidence are here. So we believe that they have to be tried in a court in NES/Rojava.
We are asking the international community for the active help, support, and cooperation to establish of court to conduct the trials. A UN decision to create an international tribunal would be the best. But if it is not possible, then we can do it together with UN and the countries whose citizens are in our prisons.
The COVID pandemic is slowing the process. The international community is evading its responsibility here as well. But our work on this problem continues. We are in dialogue with many countries, especially with European countries. Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands have been the most positive, and some other European countries are considering it “carefully” perhaps for political and other reasons. We are still not yet at the level of starting judicial hearings. Our discussions and cooperation continue.
Many reports have stated that “Turkey is using Kurdish water as a weapon of terror” against Kurds and millions of people in NES/Rojava. Does your government accuse Turkey of reducing the levels of water flowing from the Euphrates, causing an agricultural crisis, a major power shortage in the region, and a reduction in the supply of drinking water ?
Minister Omar: Yes, that is a fact. Turkey has started to use water as a weapon against the Kurdish people. It is using Kurdish water as a part of its terror-war against the Kurdish people and all ethnic and religious minority peoples. The water levels of the Euphrates River, coming from Turkey, have fallen dramatically. It threatens to cut off supplies of water to the region by closing down water stations. Millions of people in Hesekê are already having trouble finding drinking water. Millions of people’s lives are in danger as the water level of the Euphrates is deliberately lowered. But the water supply from Miheta Eloka, in the Girê Spî region under occupation of Islamist-terror gangs backed by Turkish army, is also threatened. While Turkey is openly committing such crimes, the world remains silent.