Sanliurfa, Turkey – When her son Anad disappeared at a checkpoint in 2012, Umm Laund feared he was by no means coming household.
5 days later, Anad walked back into the household household in Hassakeh, Syria by then she had created up her thoughts.
Convinced that her son and his cousin, Chavan, had been arrested by armed opposition fighters since they have Kurdish names, she knew she had to pack up and move the household across the border to Turkey.
“I knew I had to leave for the sake of my 4 youngsters,” the 57-year-old told Al Jazeera. “If I had stayed, I may have lost him once again, but this time for great.”
“Syria has grow to be unnecessarily sectarian … far as well rapidly,” she added as she place out a second cigarette.
Whilst Umm Laund’s husband stayed behind in their household in Hassakeh, she and their youngsters moved to reside with her brother and his household in the Turkish border city of Sanliurfa.
They by no means returned to their properties – in spite of the region getting beneath “Kurdish manage” – fearing new types of persecution.
‘We do not want a divided Syria’
For more than a week now, fighters with the opposition Cost-free Syrian Army have been backing Ankara in an operation aimed at driving the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) away from the border region.
The operation was announced as aspect of Turkey’s program to carve out a so-called “secure zone” – cleared of the SDF – to which some of the three.six million Syrian refugees presently living in Turkey can be returned.
Just after pushing the SDF out of a big aspect of two most important border towns, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated the operation would only be more than when “the zone from Manbij to Iraq [is cleared]”.
The SDF, spearheaded by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), was founded in 2015 and has helped the United States in its battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group in the area.
It has considering the fact that considerably expanded its manage across northern and eastern Syria and has sought to develop an autonomous federation there.
But several Syrians Kurds, like Umm Laund, condemn plans to “reduce Syria up”.
“We by no means returned to our properties since we do not want a divided Syria, we do not want a federal method as the YPG does,” she stated.
“We want a united Syria that involves all Syrians, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. We do not differentiate, and take into consideration ourselves Arabs just as substantially as we are Kurds.”
Ankara views the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Celebration (PKK), and has lengthy created it clear it desires to rid the border region of “terrorist components”.
The PKK has waged a decades-lengthy armed campaign against Turkey, aiming to kind an independent state, and is deemed a “terrorist group” by Ankara and several Western nations.
The YPG has been accused of different rights abuses for years, a single of the most alarming was recruiting youngsters to grow to be combatants.
In August final year, US-primarily based Human Rights Watch stated the YPG was recruiting youngster soldiers to train in military camps inside regions beneath its manage.
“It is in particular horrendous that the group is recruiting youngsters from the vulnerable households in displacement camps with no their parents’ information or even telling them exactly where their youngsters are,” HRW acting emergencies director Priyanka Motaparthy, stated at the time.
That has been a single of the most important factors Umm Laund by no means believed of returning.
“They [the YPG] took our friends’ and neighbours’ youngsters to fight … They would go door-to-door, speaking to young girls and boys, summoning them … luring them in,” she stated.
“Our youngsters are far as well dear, we just could not let that come about.”
Abu Mohammed al-Kurdi, Umm Laund’s brother, agreed.
“We do not like to be politicised, in particular since we do not endorse or agree with the YPG’s policies,” the 46-year-old stated.
The father of six does not have Syrian citizenship.
His family’s ancestors were amongst thousands of Kurds who had been deemed “foreigners” for coming into Syria from neighbouring Turkey in the 1900s, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
As a outcome, he was unable to access larger education, discover a job in the public sector, or register his marriage with the Syrian government.
“We saw persons grow to be medical doctors, lawyers, professors … but we nevertheless loved our nation,” Abu Mohammed, who described his household as a single with “musical and cultural” interests, stated.
Along with his eldest son, who is now 15 years old, Abu Mohammed tends to make a living by playing at regional events on his prized electric organ.
“I condemn all types of violence … All I ever wanted was to reside in peace with my wife and youngsters,” he stated.
“Our intent is to bring persons collectively by way of music and assistance them see beyond the variations this war imposed on us.”
Now household to about four.five million persons, the northeastern Syrian area is predominantly inhabited by Arabs, with Kurds accounting for extra than an estimated 10 % of its population.
Each ethnicities, along with minority Turkmen and Circassian groups, have coexisted for decades and have married into each and every other’s tribes and households.
Ibrahim Jaddou, a 50-year-old Kurdish history teacher from Raqqa, married his ethnically Arab wife extra than 15 years ago,
Along with their two youngsters, they fled Raqqa in 2012, operating from government air attacks on the region.
The teacher-turned-activist nevertheless remembers hearing the sounds of bombs fall not as well far from his household. He also remembers the gruesome pictures of the shelling’s aftermath.
“Seeing it is distinctive from hearing about it,” he told Al Jazeera. “I had to do a thing to assistance. I cleaned up regions exactly where I had to move physique components with my personal hands,” he stated.
Just before ISIL gained complete manage of Raqqa, which it proclaimed as the capital of its so-named caliphate in 2014, Jaddou stated life had currently grow to be “unbearable”.
Asked why he by no means returned just after ISIL was overthrown, Jaddou stated he refused to return to a different kind of oppression.
“The YPG’s policies are strictly sectarian,” he noted, echoing Umm Laund’s sentiment. “They just want to develop a nation for the Kurds, but what we genuinely want is a method overhaul.”
“I would only help a joint democratic method, a single that is inclusive of all our country’s ethnicities and religions,” he continued.
The ongoing operation has provided him hope that Raqqa may after once again fall into the hands of Turkish-backed opposition, which he supports as an option to the government’s rule.
“I would appreciate to see Erdogan assistance us reclaim Raqqa,” he stated.