Turkey Complicating the ISIS Conflict

The conflict with ISIS (a terrorist group who calls itself the Islamic State) in the Middle East is at a standstill while the world’s superpowers attempt to devise plans and strategies to destroy the militant group there is but one force who has proven to be most effective at countering ISIS’s advances, The Kurdish fighters also known as the YPG. According to BBC, the YPG is a branch of PYD a Syrian counterpart of the Turkey-based PKK which is the acronym for the Kurdish Workers party. Each of these branches of PKK are focused on the protection and safety of those of Kurdish ethnicity, a political minority largely in Turkey and Syria that has been denied representation in Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran for over a century. In the 1970’s the PKK’s civil rights protests in Turkey had them branded as terrorists by the world’s superpowers including the United States. The formation of the PYD and YPG was a response to the PKK’s terrorist status as a way work with governments that without being labeled as terrorists. The YPG and the PYD assisted the United States in the “War on Terror” and is not considered a terrorist organization by the United States. The PYD and YPG have received have been recognized as the most effective way of countering ISIS by the United States and have received support by the U.S. military. This acknowledgement is not shared by the everyone, in fact, Turkey’s government believes the YPG’s effectiveness against ISIS is proof the Kurdish fighters are more of a threat than ISIS itself according to CNN. At face value that is fair point and if the United States has learned anything from training the Taliban in the 1980’s it’s that recklessly training militants is a very bad idea. However, in this circumstance the Kurdish groups like the PYD and YPG are not in their position as a militant faction because they have a hellbent desire to bring about an age of radical right wing Islamic State rule like the Taliban. Kurdish is not a religion or anything pertaining to lifestyle, it’s an ethnicity, which means Kurds can have diverse religious views and although the majority are Sunni Muslims all Kurdish organizations are secular. Religious goals are not on the Kurdish agenda, in fact, the reason why they fight is for independence. The Kurds believe that since they receive no representation in Turkish government they want to create their own country, which is the belief that got the PKK branded as a terrorist organization. The reason for the militarization of the YPG was an attempt to stabilize and protect chaotic regions in Syria riddled with hostile activity. The Kurdish are also egalitarians, which means men and women hold equal status and fight against ISIS side by side, according to the Independent (a UK newspaper). The female fighters have become famous in the UK and Americas as feminist icons, acutely different from the Taliban who views women as objects.


Female Kurdish fighters

Turkey’s opposition to the Kurdish fighters has made the task of fighting ISIS much more complicated. According CNN, Turkey has been bombing small towns and villages with large Kurdish presence killing over 200 Kurdish fighters since October. Turkey’s active bombing of the Kurds limits how the YPG can combat ISIS because if they YPG fighters stay in one place for too long they’ll be destroyed by the Turkish air force. Not only does this inconvenience the YPG but the U.S. as well. The focus of the weapons and training the U.S. military gave the Kurdish fighters is now being split between the Turkish military, hard right militant Arab groups that receive support from turkey to fight ISIS and the YPG.

Just to clarify who supports who, here is a diagram from BBCthat should help clarify:


*Note the The KRG is almost excluisely based in Iraq and is not relevant to the purposes of this paper.

According to the IB Times Turkey ended the a two year cease fire between the Turkish Nationals and the Kurds in late July 2015 and became systematically attacking Kurdish cities in order to surpress the Kurdish presence. As to why Turkey ended the cease fire is unknown, but most rhetoric suggests that the Turkish attacked the YPG and PKK oppertunisticly to reduce kurdish military prescence in Turkish claimed cities while the two Kurdish factions were distracted fighting ISIS. However, Turkey hasn’t stopped just at Turkish citie, Turkish forces have bombed cities in Syria with Kurdish presence killing hundreds of YPG fighters and civilians. Despite the critism from American media, Turkey has not relented it’s stance on the Kurdish fighters. If anything Turkey has upped their efforts in attacking Kurdish YPG forces. According to CNN, the militant Arab groups Turkey endorses to fight ISIS and the Kurds have been appearing running anti-YPG operations out of cities with high Arabian populations in areas controlled by the Kurds to destabillize the relationships between Arabians and Kurds. Arabian is an ethnicity largely associated with Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, These attempts have been very successful. The YPG have become wary of Arabian presence in cities and in are currently under investigation for illegal eviction of Arabian residents and demolishion of their homes.


Allegeded evidence of illegal evictions and demolishions


Aftermath of PKK and Turkish Forces Fire Fight

Turkey desire to completely annihliate the Kurds is a unilateralist and detrimental to the situation in the Middle East. As ISIS is pushed, their lost territory needs to be stabilized with some form of government to avoid anarchy and the Kurds are in the best position to accomplish this stabilization. Most Kurds want their own independent nation and if stabilize the ground ISIS loses as they lose it the middle east can economically and physically recover more quickly. However, that will be impossible if Turkey maintains its current stance toward the Kurds. The YPG will not be able to stabilize the areas ISIS loses out of fear of being bombed and the liberated areas will likely fall into anarchy unless another more powerful nation steps up and offers to lend its own forces to institute a temporary government. However, even if a temporary government established by a foreign nation is not as ideal as a force that is already there stepping up to govern. Prior to Brexit, the European Union leaders as well as the UN requested that Turkey stop bombing Syria because they was complicating the endeavors of other world powers who wanted to use the Kurds to fight ISIS, but this request was in vain. Turkey has not stopped it’s aggressive campaign against the Kurds and does not plan on stopping either. The Turkish government has shown no respect for the plans of other nations and sees the effectiveness of the YPG as a threat. Turkey actions are not only extremely unilateral, but are possibly endangering the future of the Middle East.









(^Kurds and complications)


(oppression of Kurds in Turkey)


(^ Oppression of the Kurds)



(^who are the Kurds)


(Female Kurdish fighters)



(Female Kurdish fighters)




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