Westerners fighting alongside Kurdish militants have urged other foreigners sympathetic to their struggle to carry out attacks against Turkey in an online video that threatens to complicate upcoming peace talks on Syria.
An English-speaking man with the face covered by a scarf is seen delivering the international call to arms in a six-minute clip titled Revolutionaries! Join the Resistance of Bakur! – a reference to Kurdish areas in south-eastern Turkey. "We call on all revolutionaries worldwide – join the resistance. This is not the time to sit at home and ponder what might be," he says, reading from a written statement, while standing with a Kalashnikov leaning on his leg.
The man is flanked by other gunmen, who, according to Kurdish news agency ANF, are all members of an international brigade within the Popular Protection Units (YPG), a large Kurdish militia in Syria. "Attack the institutions of the Turkish state all over the world. Come to Kurdistan and join the forces of YPJ, YPS and the guerrillas," he says.
The video, which superimposes stirring music with dramatic footage of fighting and rioting, was recorded near the Syrian-Turkish border between the cities of Qamishli and Nusaybin. The location has a symbolic relevance as the speaker implies the group fights for an independent Kurdistan comprising territories in both countries. He also urges volunteers to join either the YPJ or the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The clip marks the first explicit foreign recruiting effort by Kurdish militants and explicitly targets leftists and communism-nostalgists by using a language typical of left-wing revolutionaries. "When the Soviet Union collapsed it was said that we are at the end of history. But now, 25 years later, we see once more that capitalism isn't and never has been able to solve our problems," the masked fighter says.
Founded in 1978 the PKK originally had a mixed Kurdish nationalist and Marxist-Leninist ideology that has through the years moved closer to the former. In 2013, after years of armed combat it struck a ceasefire with Ankara, which collapsed last summer. More than 100 civilians have lost their lives and thousands have been displaced in the conflict that has ensued, according to human rights groups.
The Kurdish appeal for foreign recruits comes at an awkward time for international diplomacy as it makes clear the affiliation between the PKK and the YPG, with UN-backed peace talks on Syria due to begin on 29 January. Turkey has demanded that the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the political wing of the YPG, is kept out of negotiations exactly because of its links to the PKK, which is considered a terrorist group also by the US.
At the same time the YPG is a key player in the Syrian conflict and a crucial US ally in the fight against the Islamic State (Isis/Daesh). Russia, which is at odds with Turkey over the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, insists the YPG should be sent an invitation to the Geneva talks, which Ankara has instead threatened to boycott were that to happen. "How can you talk about political reforms in Syria if you ignore a leading Kurdish party?" said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.