|Azadî Battalion / Elite Battalion|
Arabic language: كتيبة آزادي |
Participant in the Syrian Civil War
|Flag of Kurdistan.svg|
|Active||early 2012 – present|
|Part of||Free Syrian Army's Elite Army (Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army)|
Sultan Murad Division
Other Turkish-backed rebel groups
Syrian Armed Forces|
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
The Azadî Battalion (Arabic language: كتيبة آزادي), also called the Elite Battalion by 2018, is a Kurdish unit affiliated with the Free Syrian Army and reportedly loyal to Mustafa Cumma's Kurdish Freedom Party (also called Azadî Party).[lower-alpha 1] Founded in 2012 and led by Azad Shabo, the Azadî Battalion is opposed to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and fights on the side of Turkey in the Syrian Civil War.
History[edit | edit source]
Early rebellion[edit | edit source]
Mustafa Cumma's Kurdish Freedom Party is a long-standing rival of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and strongly opposes its policies. In early 2012, members of the Kurdish Freedom Party came together in the village of Tel Aren, Afrin District, where they announced the formation of the Azadî Battalion under the leadership of Azad Shabo.[lower-alpha 2] Though considered "supporters of the Kurdish Freedom Party", the Azadî Battalion denied an affiliation to any party. It subsequently joined the anti-PYD Free Syrian Army and fought against the PYD's People's Protection Units (YPG) during the Battle of Ras al-Ayn; the pro-PYD Hawar News Agency has accused the militia of directly working the al-Nusra Front in Ras al-Ayn. After the formation of a PYD/YPG-aligned FSA group, named the Kurdish Front, at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, the influence of other Kurdish FSA groups such as the Azadî Battalion and the Saladin Ayubi Brigade began to decline.
Meanwhile, Cumma's Kurdish Freedom Party left the Kurdish Supreme Committee, an attempted coalition government of pro- and anti-PYD parties for the Syrian Kurdish-held territories, in February 2013. Hostilities between the two parties consequently grew, and the Azadî Battalion clashed with the YPG at the villages of Burj Abdilla and Abdilla in the Afrin Region on 7 March 2013. Both sides blamed each other for this incident that left four fighters dead. Sporadic fighting between the two groups continued, and Azadî Battalion fighters reportedly took part in attacks on the YPG-held Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood of Aleppo since September 2013. The group also fought with other rebels against the Syrian Army in Aleppo's Khan al-Asal and Rashidin.
When the al-Nusra Front and allied FSA units attacked and overran the Kurdish Front's positions at Tall Hasil and Tall Aran southeast of Aleppo International Airport, the Azadî Battalion was accused of having taken part in the fighting. Though the battalion itself denied this, while a FSA member declared that the Azadî Battalion had simply started policing the villages after their capture by the FSA. Nevertheless, the Kurdish Supreme Committee consequently started an investigation of the Azadî Battalion "for allegedly taking part in the attacks against West Kurdistan". The Kurdish Institute of Brussels condemned the Azadî Battalion for the same reasons. Meanwhile, hardcore Islamist rebel groups accused the Azadî Battalion of working with the Kurdish Front.
Operations with the TFSA[edit | edit source]
Though the Azadî Battalion continued to fight against the YPG, its power reportedly dwindled over time, and pro-PYD media claimed that parts of the militia under Mahmut Hamo eventually split off and joined the Sultan Murad Division. The rest of the Azadî Battalion eventually joined the Elite Army while remaining under Azad Shabo's command. The unit thereafter came to call itself the "Elite Battalion", though also continued to use its old name. It is unclear how numerous the unit still is; Shabo said in late January 2018 that there were "dozens" of Kurds fighting with pro-Turkish forces in Syria, though claimed a few weeks later that his unit included "100 Kurdish fighters affiliated with the FSA".
The Azadî Battalion became part of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army in 2016 and took part in Operation Euphrates Shield against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In course of that campaign, it fought at Jarablus, Azaz and al-Bab. In September 2017, someone attempted to assassinate Azad Shabo by placing a bomb under his car, though the explosive device was found and destroyed before it could harm anyone. In early 2018, the Azadî Battalion participated in the Turkish military intervention in Afrin, causing the pro-PYD Hawar News Agency to claim that Azad Shabo's men acted as "mercenaries" for the Kurdish National Council and Turkey. On the other side, Azad Shabo accused the YPG of being "agents of the Syrian regime" and said that the campaign would not end before Afrin had been captured from the YPG. In another interview, he further stated that "Afrin will return to the arms of the Syrian revolution and will win back the rights of its people. The YPG is no different from Assad’s regime. They have both practiced tyranny and murder against Kurds. Operation Olive Branch will liberate Afrin’s inhabitants."
See also[edit | edit source]
Notes[edit | edit source]
- There also exists another "Kurdish Freedom Party" in Syria that is led by Mustafa Jum'ah and unrelated to the Azadî Battalion.
- By October 2012, there also existed a Kurdish Free Syrian Army unit in al-Hasakah known as "Azadi Brigade", though it is not known if this unit had any relation to the Azadî Battalion.
References[edit | edit source]
- "قائد ميداني في كتيبة آزادي لولاتي: لم نحارب ضد أية جهة كوردية في تلعرن أو تلحاصل". Welati. 11 August 2013. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. https://web.archive.org/web/20131021231858/http://www.welati.info/nuce.php?ziman=ar&id=9249&niviskar=1&cure=3&kijan=.
- Hogir Nejjae (24 January 2018). "Kurdish National Council participates in aggression against Afrin". Hawar News Agency. http://en.hawarnews.com/kurdish-national-council-participates-in-aggression-against-afrin/. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- Khaled al-Khateb (16 February 2018). "Kurdish fighters join Turkey's Afrin operation". al-Monitor. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/02/syria-operation-olive-branch-kurdish-fighters-fsa-afrin-ypg.html. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
- "The Kurdish Freedom Party in Syria (Azadî) divided". Kurd Watch. 7 November 2011. http://www.kurdwatch.org/?aid=2170&z=en. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- Cite error: Invalid
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- "Erdoğan’s Kurdish gangs". ANF News. 12 December 2016. https://anfenglish.com/features/erdogan-s-kurdish-gangs-17742. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- "Syria crisis: bombs hit security complex - Tuesday 9 October 2012". The Guardian. 9 October 2012. https://www.theguardian.com/world/middle-east-live/2012/oct/09/syria-bombs-hit-security-compound-live. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- Fehim Tastekin (2013). "Syria: Difficult to Read New Kurdish-FSA Alliance". al-Monitor. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/fa/politics/2013/02/kurdish-fsa-accord-syria-difficult.html. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- "Eight FSA militants killed in Aleppo". ANF News. 9 September 2013. https://anfenglish.com/news/eight-fsa-militants-killed-in-aleppo-8037. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- "PDKS leaves Syrian Kurdish National Council". ANF News. 9 September 2013. https://anfenglish.com/news/pdks-leaves-syrian-kurdish-national-council-8133. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- "Aleppo: Fighting between Kurdish Front Brigade and FSA". Kurd Watch. 15 August 2013. http://kurdwatch.org/?aid=2908&z=en. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- "Statement on the declaration of the interim joint administration in Kurdish region in Syria". Kurdish Institute of Brussels. 20 November 2013. http://www.kurdishinstitute.be/statement-on-the-declaration-of-the-interim-jointadministration-in-kurdish-region-in-syria/. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- Zaman al-Wasl (24 January 2018). "Dozens of Kurds Fighting Under FSA Banner: Rebel Commander". Syrian observer. http://syrianobserver.com/EN/News/33755/Dozens_Kurds_Fighting_Under_FSA_Banner_Rebel_Commander. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- "بعد نجاته من عبوة لاصقة.. قيادي في "درع الفرات": اختراقات أمنية في "جرابلس"" (in Arabic). Zaman al-Wasl. 5 September 2017. https://www.zamanalwsl.net/news/article/81310. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
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