On June 28th, foreign ministers of the 83 member states of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS met in Rome, Italy to discuss progress in the fight against the terror group.
Among the participants was Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Yet recent events have once again called into question whether Turkey still has its place in such a gathering—or if it ever had.
Earlier this year, a criminal case against more than 100 primarily Kurdish politicians and activists in Turkey was filed because these individuals had supported protests calling on Erdogan’s government to take action against ISIS at Kobane in 2014. At the time, Coalition officials had been making similar demands to Erdogan. Turkey’s intransigence ultimately forced the United States to support the YPG as the best option to defeat the jihadist group in Syria, increasing tensions between Washington and Ankara.
In addition to prosecuting citizens of Turkey who opposed ISIS politically, Turkey is also targeting Syrian nationals who fought ISIS on the ground. Kurdish, Assyrian, and Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters have been transferred from Syria to Turkey and jailed on anti-state charges under Turkish law—a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Some have reportedly been tortured, and all have been subjected to politicized and unfair trials.
Turkey’s persecution of anti-ISIS forces and sheltering of former ISIS members in the ranks of its Syrian allies shows that it is not truly committed to defeating the organization. Yet it maintains a privileged position in the global anti-ISIS body, while the ground forces that did the majority of the fighting against the group in Syria are kept away.
Though SDF General Mazloum Abdi shared a message to the conference on his Twitter account regarding the repatriation of foreign fighters and their families, neither he nor any representative of the SDF or Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) was invited to the gathering.
This is likely justified by their lack of recognized status as a state, federal region, or other official entity. Coalition officials also met with Northern and Eastern Syrian counterparts on the ground, and the United States has repeatedly stated its intent to continue cooperation with the SDF for the foreseeable future.
Yet the exclusion of the SDF shows a certain political agenda that harms efforts to truly defeat ISIS.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.