The PKK terror group’s Syrian affiliate PYD has applied to open an office in the US, which would perform lobbying activities. The group expanded its international network in recent years. Here is the list of PYD’s foreign offices:
The United States Department of Justice has been preparing to announce its final decision whether to allow an offshoot of the PKK terror group to open an office in Washington, as Turkey pushes its allies to avoid such action.
The application was made in January under the name of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a group led by the YPG, PKK‘s Syrian affiliate.
Turkey’s relations with the US have strained in recent years due to Washington’s continuing support of the YPG and its political wing: the PYD.
The US used the YPG militants in their fight against Daesh in northern Syria. With US support, the YPG took control of the areas where they defeated Daesh, and now it controls nearly a quarter of the country in the north, next to the Turkish border.
Turkey, the US and the EU consider the PKK as a terror organisation. The PKK has been fighting the Turkish state for more than 30 years, which left tens of thousands killed, including civilians.
However, the US describes the YPG as “a reliable partner” in the fight against Daesh in Syria, although former US defense secretary Ash Carter confirmed direct links between the PKK and the YPG.
But the US is not Turkey’s only ally allowing the group’s affiliates to operate in their countries.
Here is the list of countries that permitted the YPG to open offices under different names.
KRG region in northern Iraq
The semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government, or KRG, in northern Iraq is the first government that permitted the YPG to open a bureau for representation outside of Syria.
The office, based in Sulaymaniyah, was opened with the permission of the regional government on August 15, 2015. They said it would represent the so-called YPG cantons of Afrin, Kobane and Jazira in northern Syria.
The office representative in Sulaymaniyah said they had planned to open their office in Erbil, but permission took too long to get, so they decided to open it in Sulaymaniyah.
Turkey’s relationship with the KRG strained after an unconstitutional referendum for independence in September 2017. Ankara called the KRG not to hold the referendum and respect the territorial integrity of Iraq. The Erbil government went ahead with the referendum, despite all the international calls, including Turkey’s. After the referendum, Turkey took preventive steps along with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, which led the KRG to declare the annulment of the results of the referendum.
Despite the annulment, Ankara’s relations with Erbil has not normalised yet.
Russia, an ally to Turkey in Syria, was the second country to allow the PYD to open an office on their soil. The PYD’s office in Moscow isn’t named after the group, it’s called “Western Kurdistan Representative”. The PYD calls the Kurdish-populated areas in Syria “western Kurdistan”.
They opened it in February 2016, a time when Turkish and Russian relations were at the an all-time low after the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish jets in November 2015.
The office has been serving as liaison between the PYD –which controls swathes of Syrian territory along the border with Turkey – and the Kremlin.
The inauguration was attended by Feleknas Uca, a Yazidi lawmaker from Turkey’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the PYD representative to Russia Abdussalam Ali and Senam Muhammed, the “Europe and US Representative of Syrian Kurds”. A number of HDP deputies were detained, accused of having links with the PKK.
The relations between Ankara and Moscow have been improving since Turkish President Erdogan called Russian President Vladimir Putin to normalise relations in June 2016, eight months after the fighter jet crisis.
In July 2016, Putin offered support to Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan following a failed coup attempt. There were a number of steps taken to ease the tension, and that led the two countries to cooperate in Syria.
However, Russia has not answered the calls from Turkey to close the PYD office, and it does not consider the PKK a terror organisation.
The PYD’s third foreign office was opened in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, on April 3, 2016, in a move to find political support for their claims in northern Syria.
However, they had to close the office at the end of the same year because they couldn’t find the support they were seeking from Czech politicians.
The Czech Republic doesn’t recognise the PYD’s territorial claims in Syria’s north, areas they captured with the support of the US in the fight against Daesh.
“Consequently, it [the Czech Republic] does not recognize any of its political representations,” the Czech foreign ministry said when the office had opened.
Two years later, relations between Ankara and Prague strained after a Czech Republic court released Salih Muslim, former leader of the PYD in late February 2018.
Turkish security officials who work in coordination with Interpol and the Ministry of Justice have begun the process for the extradition of Muslim, but the court set him free.
Muslim is sought by Turkey over charges of disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state, homicide, damaging public property and promoting hazardous information.
Sweden is another European country that let the PYD open an office, their fourth, on April 17, 2016.
Ten days after the opening, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu phoned his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom to convey his concerns over the incident.
In response to Cavusoglu, Wallstrom said the office had no diplomatic status and no Swedish authorities were in contact with it.
The PYD opened an office in Germany’s capital city of Berlin on May 6, 2016, with some German lawmakers in attendance. Germany is home to hundreds of thousands of ethnic Kurds from Turkey.
Turkey and Germany have been at odds due to PKK’s activities in the powerful European Union member country.
The far-left terrorist group had more than 14,000 members and adherents in Germany, according to the 2015 annual report of German domestic intelligence agency, BfV.
While the PKK is banned in Germany, the terrorist group is carrying out its activities via various cultural associations.
According to the BfV’s annual report released in June 2015, the PKK raised more than 13 million euros ($14.3 million) in Germany in 2014.
PYD also opened an office in France on May 25, 2016, under the name of “Rojava democratic self-rule administration representative office”.
France’s support for the group has continued since the opening of the office as Turkey criticised the EU state and called for an immediate halt in their cooperation.
Relations between Ankara and Paris have been tense in recent months, after Paris criticised Turkey’s two-month-old military operation in northern Syria against the YPG.
Those tensions came to a head on March 30, after President Emmanuel Macron met a delegation of the PYD and gave assurances of French support to help stabilise northern Syria.
The French presidential statement after the meeting on support for the PYD “means open support for terrorism, terror groups, and terrorists; an attempt to legalise terrorist groups; and clear cooperation and solidarity with the terror groups attacking Turkey,” Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson Bekir Bozdag said.