Turkmens ‘draft’ sultans into battle
ALEPPO - Hürriyet Daily News
Syria’s Turkmen fighters join the fight against the regime with new units. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL
Syrian Turkmens who have joined the opposition have announced the formation of their own brigades of Turkmen fighters under the roof of the al-Tawhid Brigade of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).
The Turkmens have decided to name their brigades after two Ottoman sultans: “Fatih Sultan Mehmet” (Mehmet the Conqueror) and “Sultan Abdülhamid.”
Members of the group have said they most demand arms from the Turkish government. “I have the names of 1,500 Turkmen soldiers registered in the Free Syrian Army, but only 300 of them can fight now because we don’t have arms. First and foremost, we want arms from the international community, especially from Turkey,” Ali Beshir, the organizational leader of the Syrian Turkmens and the person in charge of the Turkmen brigades, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Aug. 2 in a Turkmen village in northern Syria.
Beshir said machine guns were being sold on the black market by arms traders in Syria, but that they did not have enough money to buy such weapons. Beshir also said they did not have any problems with Syrian Kurds but admitted to worries about the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“We don’t have any problems with Kurds. But we have problems with PYD. They are very strong in Syria, they cooperate with the Syrian regime and they also get arms from northern Iraqi Kurdistan. They raise PKK flags in villages where Syrian Kurds live, and we are very opposed to this, but we don’t have arms or any power to interfere,” Beshir said.
No discrimination in rebel brigades
“Almost all of our fighters are fighting in Aleppo right now. We left only a couple of soldiers in every village for the protection of the villages,” Beshir said. Many of the soldiers appeared to be young, around 19 years old.
The community leader also introduced his son, who is 12 years old, saying “he will also be a member of the Free Syrian Army.”
Despite the existence of a Turkmen brigade, Beshir said there was no separation within the Free Syrian Army between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens.
‘We collect crumbs to feed our kıds’
Ayşe Ismail, 68, a resident of the village of Errael in northern Syria who escaped the violence in Aleppo with her family 10 days ago, said the northern villages of Syria were in need of significant humanitarian help.
“We don’t have medicine, we don’t have bread, we don’t have gas to cook, we need everything here,” Ismail told the Hürriyet Daily News on Aug. 2. Ismail said they had left their houses in Aleppo and fled to Errael “to save their lives.”
“I have four daughters and four sons, and they have children too, now we all have to take shelter in this small house in the village. I feel devastated, but at least we saved our lives,” she said.
The Syrian Turkmen village of Errael’s population has risen to 9,000 from 4,000 because of the influx of people fleeing violence in Aleppo, where heavy clashes have been going on for the last 12 days.
Ismail said her family had left behind many relatives in Aleppo, but they had not been able to obtain any information about their situation for the last two days because the telecommunication lines have been broken. “We keep calling them but we cannot get a hold of them. We are very worried about their situation,” she said. Ismail also complained about the shortage of basic human needs in Errael. “The bakeries are closed; we sometimes collect bread crumbs to feed our children. But there are people in a much worse situation than ours.”