Unconfirmed reports have emerged detailing a new massacre in which 450 Kurds – including 120 children – were allegedly slaughtered by al-Qaeda-linked rebels fighting against the Syrian government. The report has sparked international concern.
“The task of tackling the terrorist threat is becoming more and more urgent,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday, in reference to the report. The current turn of events “makes the Geneva-2 conference even more pressing. The longer we wait, the more innocent civilians will die,” the FM added.
According to Iranian TV channel Al-Alam, militants from the Jabhat al-Nusra Front attacked the town of Tal Abyad on Monday, killing 120 children and 330 women and elderly near the Turkish border.
The channel also ran horrific uncensored footage from the scene – the authenticity of which can’t be independently verified at this moment. For ethical reasons, RT will refrain from airing the video.
Neither the Syrian government nor the opposition has confirmed the report. RT contacted a number of sources, including several Kurdish interviewees, who testified that increased fighting has been taking place in their areas.
RT’s Irina Galushko spoke to Kurdish journalist Barzan Iso, who confirmed that “Al-Qaeda started attacking Kurdish villages on the 19th of July. After these attacks they kidnapped many Kurds. We don’t have a specific statistic,” he said, alluding to the fact that many of the areas are dominated by Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qaeda-linked militants who do not allow Kurds to gain access and investigate.
Iso explained the Kurds’ non-allegiance to either side of the Syrian conflict: “Since the beginning of the events in Syria, the Kurds tried not to be a part of the civil conflict…there are non-Muslim Kurds, as well as Alawite Kurds – that’s why they tried to be away from [it]. But now, some of the opposition groups are using al-Qaeda and al-Nusra to attack Kurds. The main cause is that they have the mentality of radical nationalists. That’s why they are using al-Qaeda as an umbrella to attack the Kurdish people.”
Iso claims that when he spoke to members of the Syrian National Coalition, a group of opposition forces, it readily blamed the killing of Kurds on the idea that Kurdish independence was never a good idea.
“The al-Nusra militants and other rebel forces surrounded the village,” Yasin Tarbush, the relative of one of the Kurdish attack victims, told RT. “They started going door to door, entering every house. If there were any men, they killed them and took the women and children hostage.”
Syrian Kurdish refugees.(AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)
The report follows other instances of heavy strife between ethnic Kurds and al-Qaeda-linked militants in historically Kurdish-settled northern and north-eastern Syria.
The Suriya al-Ain news portal claims that the terrorists are executing Kurdish prisoners as “revenge on the Kurds, for defeats inflicted on them.” One week ago, al-Nusra militants attacked two Syrian towns, taking around 200 civilians hostage. It was reported that all of those abducted came from the families of soldiers of the Kurdish Brigades who were previously part of the opposition Free Syrian Army, but later defected to the Kurdish Self-Defense forces.
On July 30, a Kurdish militia has announced its mobilization against al-Qaeda-linked militants in north-eastern Syria after the assassination of Kurdish opposition leader Isa Huso.
“We call on the Kurdish people…to step forward…anyone fit to bear arms should join the ranks of the Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) and to face the assaults of these armed groups,” the YPG statement reads.
The Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world without a state of its own. Instead, Kurds choose to settle in Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.
The civil war – in which western-backed rebels are trying to topple the government of Bashar Assad – has been raging since 2011, with more than 100,000 people killed and nearly eight million displaced, according to UN estimates.
On numerous occasions, Western politicians have emphasized that they do not want extremists running rampant across the Middle East and gaining access to foreign arms supplies as they did in Libya and other recent conflicts. However, this seems to be happening more and more in Syria.
Despite calls by the West to arm Syrian rebels in their fight against Assad’s government, there is still no accurate way of distinguishing ordinary opposition forces from Islamic militants determined to create their own sovereign state in the Middle East.