Turkey backs Trump stance on Antifa, asks for same on YPG in Syria
Turkey asked the US on Wednesday to crack down on "Antifa" in Syria, following President Donald Trump’s decision to declare them a terror organisation in response to nationwide mass protests over the police killing of black American George Floyd.
The Antifa (deriving from the German "antifaschistisch", or anti-fascist) label refers to a range of autonomous anti-fascist organisations and activists who use similar iconography and tactics when physically confronting far-right groups.
Though there is no formal Antifa organisation, as some right-wing commentators have alleged, the symbols and slogans associated with the movement have been used by groups linked to the pro-Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG) in northern Syria, including by foreign volunteers.
This prompted accusations of hypocrisy from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who said the US should designate the YPG - who Turkey consider an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought a long-running guerilla war with the country - also a terrorist organisation.
“The US must show the same sensitivity in Syria when Antifa draws its weapons on Turkish soldiers, or when they attack us after joining the PKK,” he said in an interview on 24 TV.
“Is it only a terror group when they touch you? And nothing needed to be done when it is Turkey?”
The YPG have long received support from the US, as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to fight the Islamic State (IS) group, which has harmed relations with Turkey who consider the YPG a terrorist organisation.
Trump’s intention to declare Antifa terrorists has drawn widespread criticism among the US public due to constitutional and political obstacles.
Legally, the US president doesn’t have power to name domestic groups as terrorists. Many consider the move as a “bluster” to distract media from police violence and appease the president’s far-right base.
However, this hasn't stopped Turkish social media commentators from using it to seek to draw parallels with Kurdish armed groups in Syria and gain support from American conservatives.
Turkish public news channel TRT published a series of articles linking the YPG and Antifa to each other, while journalists working for pro-government outlets were quick to post pictures of Antifa flags from Syria.
YPG has had an international battalion with members from Europe and North America who joined the war against IS in recent years.
When Turkey led an incursion into northern Syria last year, the battalion released a statement that vowed to defend the “revolution” in Syria, calling on other “revolutionaries” to defend the YPG-held territories.
Trump supporters, such as far-right political activist Jack Posobiec, have been enthusiastic to link Antifa to the PKK, who are designated a terror group by the US and Turkey.
“We got a group in the US tied to a designated terror group and it is not that hard to convey that designation to them,” Posobiec said.