Pro-Syrian government militia leader says Afrin will resist neo-Ottoman invasion

by Wladimir van Wilgenburg    


Mihrac Ural, a Turkish Alawite, who leads the pro-Syrian government Syrian Resistance group who is wanted by the Turkish government, was interviewed by the Syria expert Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi last Thursday. Ural said that the Turkish attack on Afrin that started on 20 January will fail.

His group has the goal to ‘return’ the province of Hatay to Syria, also known as Alexandretta, that was given to Turkey by France in 1939.

“And the attack began on Afrin as one of tyrannical oppression, and the neo-Ottomans think that the war will be a picnic, but the Syrian people of Afrin in all its components have resisted this neo-Ottoman imperialist wave,” Ural said.

“[They] have brought down its wing, broken its feet and stopped it despite all the permits that the neo-Ottomans obtained from here and there, as they fell on the mountains of Afrin. And here on the 20th day of this despicable campaign, the dictator Erdogan has not realized any overwhelming victory,” he said.

“The Turkish army is a NATO alliance army, and as the NATO generals have said: 'The cheapest commodity in Turkey is its army.' And this cheap army has been fighting for 40 years with the heroic PKK, facing abominable defeats. And today in Afrin it has been stopped at the point beyond which it cannot pass and cannot obtain any political or military gain before the Syrian people of Afrin in all its components,” he added.

Ural said that the “Syrian Resistance, it supports the people of Afrin in all its components, and as the need arises, we will fight in the positions shoulder to shoulder with our brothers in the struggle.”

The Turkish government was recently angered with Ural’s participation in the Russian-sponsored Sochi congress in January.

The Turkish government has blamed Ural for carrying out an attack in the town of Reyhanli in May 2013 that left dozens of people dead, but Ural denied his involvement. Moreover, pro-Syrian opposition groups accuse him of carrying out killings in the town of Baniyas in May 2013.

“And there is no illegitimate matter for my participation,” Ural said. “I was invited by my state, my Russian friends and the group that I was participating in and on the insistence of all parties,” he said. 

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a fellow at the Middle East Forum says Ural’s comments reflect the policies of the Syrian government.

“I think his stances broadly reflect Syrian government policy as well: in principle willing to intervene but in practice unworkable because it would mean end of Afrin Canton,” he said. “Because Syria wants the government to return to Afrin,” Tamimi added.

“Ural’s dislike of Turkey’s government fundamentally relates to his belief in the need to return the Sanjak of Alexandretta to Syria (Hatay-Antakya area),” he added.

According to Tamimi, Ural played a role in establishing links between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Syrian government in the 1980s.

“As for PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party], he was a key node in the links between it and Hafez al-Assad, and he falls officially on the same far left spectrum and appreciates its fight against the Turkish government,
but notably, he did not comment on the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces].”

According to Kurdish officials, the Russians demanded from the Syrian Kurds to handover Afrin to the Syrian government, otherwise, they would withdraw their troops from Afrin and let Turkey attack. On 20 January, the Turkish army and it’s rebel proxies attacked Afrin, with silent Russian approval.

Although the Syrian government has condemned the Turkish attacks, it did not stop Turkish jets from attacking Afrin. This although Syria two days before the operation threatened to shoot down Turkish jets in case they would attack Afrin.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Saturday said they delivered a heavy blow to the Turkish army by shooting down a Turkish helicopter.

The Turkish army on Saturday said nine Turkish soldiers were killed and 11 others were injured during clashes in the so-called Operation Olive Branch in Afrin.

Jawidan Hasan, a representative of the local self-administration in Iraqi Kurdistan on Friday in a conference said that although the Kurdish forces defending Afrin have much less technology, advances weapons, or soldiers and fighters than Turkey and its rebel proxies, he said the moral of fighters in Afrin is much bigger. “How we succeeded in Kobani, we will succeed in Afrin as well,” he said.