The US said Friday that it is concerned about the human rights record of Syrian Kurdish fighters after a recent offensive in northeast Syria forced thousands of Arabs and Turkmens to flow into Turkey.
“We’re trying to obtain more information about what’s happening on the ground,” said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke. “We have raised with the PYD [Democratic Union Party] our concerns about their human rights record, including intimidation of rival Kurdish political parties in the past.”
The PYD’s military wing known as the YPG, with the help of US-led coalition airstrikes, carried out operations in the northeast Syrian cities of Tel Abyad and al-Hasakah to push back ISIS.
Since the operations began two weeks ago, almost 15,000 civilians from adjacent villages and towns have crossed the border into Turkey’s southeastern Sanliurfa province, official sources told Anadolu Agency on Friday.
Turkish officials said the refugees are Syrian Arabs or Turkmens rather than Kurds.
“Ninety-eight percent of the region is made up of Arabs and Turkmens, but the PYD is changing the demographics of that region with aims to establish a Kurdish state by forcing Arab Syrians to migrate to Turkey,” said Sanliurfa governor speaking to a Turkish TV.
Addressing the issue, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the airstrikes of contributing to the Kurdish group’s capture of Arab and Turkmen lands.
The US dismissed those claims.
“Our airstrikes are focused on the fight against ISIS [Daesh] and not to any other purpose. So I want to make that aspect of it quite clear as well,” Rathke said.