Ahmad Mustafa, former member of the dissident Youth Movement of Aleppo:
»I wish that international human rights organizations would put pressure on the PYD so that they would return my son to me«
KURDWATCH, Februar 4, 2015—At the beginning of the Syrian revolution, Ahmad Muhammad Mustafa, b. 1977 in Khaltan near ʿAfrin, became involved with the dissident Youth Movement of Aleppo. To punish him, the PKK had his wife murdered and kidnapped his son. To this day, Ahmad Mustafa is wanted by the PKK. He has been living abroad since 2013.
KurdWatch: How did you become active in the Syrian revolution? Where were you and what did you do?
Ahmad Mustafa: After the revolution began in Egypt, we—a group of young people who knew each other well—began to meet regularly along with relatives in Aleppo. We discussed the revolutionary events in the region and what we could do against the Assad regime in Syria. After all, the Kurdish political parties in Aleppo were doing almost nothing. We wanted to encourage the Kurds to participate in an uprising against the regime in order to demand our rights as Syrian-Kurds. We wanted to organize demonstrations for March 2011. For us Kurds, March has always been a month of struggle. So we planned the first rally for March 10. On the evening of March 9, our comrade Zaki Muhammad received a phone call from PKK‑leadership in Damascus. He was told that our names were on their list and we should refrain from demonstrating against the regime, since the party prohibits it and anyone who demonstrates will be killed. We then met and agreed to wait and see how seriously we should take this threat. We were now meeting every other day and continued to plan demonstrations until the Syrian revolution began in Darʿa. Twice we received an invitation from a group named Yekîtiya Star, which described itself as an organization of former Kurdish female guerilla fighters from Qandil in northern Iraq. Initially we didn’t want anything to do with them. But when we saw how the PKK and the regime acted in concert to combat any stirrings among the Kurds in Aleppo’s Shaykh Maqsud district—Muhammad Saʿid, a PKK-affiliated member of parliament, distinguished himself here and organized demonstrations for the regime —, we decided to meet with these people after all. We wanted to give them the message that we did not want the PKK to interfere in the Syrian revolution, and we arranged a meeting for April 21, 2011.
KurdWatch: When did the meeting with the PKK take place? How did it proceed?
Ahmad Mustafa: We met with the PKK‑leaders Muhammad Saʿid, Jamal Durayj, and Abu Farhad in the district of Shaykh Maqsud in Aleppo. Present on our side was a group of young Kurds and students. We expressed that we wanted to make things happen in Aleppo and strengthen the revolutionary Kurdish influence. We saw Aleppo as an important city and economic center, and in addition many Kurds lived there. If we, as Kurds, were noticed in the revolution, it would also benefit the Kurdish cause. Therefore we asked the PKK to either stand with the Kurds against the regime or stay out of the confrontation between the Kurds and the regime. Jamal Durayj, who identified himself as a leading member of the military wing of the PKK in Syria, accosted us with a tirade of abuse. He said that we were traitors and asked us spitefully who we were working for, who gave us money, and who had pitted us against the regime. Then Muhammad Saʿid, the member of parliament, spoke. He said he represented the PYD in Syria and that we were still young and knew nothing about the history of the Kurds or how to fight. By contrast, they represented the Kurds from all four regions. Then Jamal Durayj stepped in again and said that preparations were being made to found a new Kurdish organization in Syria that would address the events since the beginning of the uprising. For our part, we warned that any PKK positioning in support of the regime could cost the party popularity and tarnish its fight and its victims. We did not come to any sort of agreement. There were two additional meetings, the last took place on May 5, 2011. On this occasion, Jamal Durayj assured me that we young revolutionaries would not be able to accomplish anything and that the PKK would not remain neutral. I demanded to speak with more senior leaders so that they could confirm this to me in person. Durayj then said that leadership is in Qandil and it makes decisions there. Did I want them to bring me there? When I asked who would be responsible for my safety, he affirmed that I would return unharmed.
KurdWatch: Did you go to Qandil?
Ahmad Mustafa: Yes, I arranged it with Jamal Durayj, and initially I was, indeed, brought from Aleppo to al‑Qamishli. There I was housed with a family whose relative had been killed as a PKK‑fighter. I hoped to be able to continue from al‑Qamishli to Qandil, but had to wait an entire week. Then a man named Farhan, around forty-years old came to me and told me that all of the roads to Qandil were impassable because Iran was bombing the border region. I was told to return to Aleppo. After the feast, in other words three weeks later, I was to return to al‑Qamishli, and then they could bring me to Qandil. I traveled back to Aleppo and gradually reduced my ties to PKK‑Kurds. At the same time the uprising grew more intense. My siblings, many of my relatives, and our group took part in the peaceful revolution. On September 15, 2011, I was arrested. Policemen from the Bab an‑Nayrab station stormed my apartment and picked me up. They held me as a hostage because they wanted my two brothers to turn themselves into the police. They were wanted for their participation in dissident demonstrations. Three weeks later one of my brothers was able to leave for Greece, and I was released as part of an amnesty that the regime had decreed in order to stem the uprising.
KurdWatch: Why did you become a target of the PKK in Aleppo after this?
Ahmad Mustafa: After it became known in Shaykh Maqsud and in Aleppo as a whole that my brothers and I were wanted by the regime, we became a target of the PKK‑militias that had been ordered by the regime to keep the Kurds in Syria quiet. In addition, my wife, Faryal ʿIsu, whom I had married at the end of 2009, was previously the wife of Ibish Muhammad until he divorced her. Ibish worked in Aleppo as a spy for the regime; his father worked for State Security in ʿAfrin. After the Syrian revolution broke out, this family moved closer and closer to the PKK and became active in the party’s security apparatus. Because of the PKK and the PYD, Ibish and his family felt so strong that they began to harass me and extort my family.
KurdWatch: What did this harassment and extortion look like? Were the political or military wings of the PYD involved?
Ahmad Mustafa: In mid-January 2012, Ibish Muhammad, my wife’s ex-husband, came to my father-in-law’s house with a group of PKK militias and said he wanted his wife back. He said our marriage was invalid, and therefore she was still his wife! He said he would take her back by force, and his men would kill me and my brothers. In fact, masked armed men did make several attempts to break into my apartment in Shaykh Maqsud, but they never caught me because I stayed hidden and constantly changed my location. I now understood that my family and I were in mortal danger and that I needed to flee abroad. I rented two apartments elsewhere in Aleppo, one for my wife and my children, the other for my father. I decided to gradually bring my family out of the country. On February 22, 2012, I crossed the border to Turkey with my brother Kawa and my son Perwer. Perwer is a child of a previous marriage; Faryal is not his mother. We drove to Istanbul. My other brother, Nishtiman, who has been living in Greece for some time, was waiting for us there. I wanted to bring my family to Greece and then return to Aleppo to get those left behind. At that time, the Turkish border was fairly heavily guarded, therefore we couldn’t all leave the country at once. In addition, my son Ahmad was born in December 2011. He was only two months old then. His mother Faryal also had three other children: Mustafa, 13, Muhammad, 11, and Almas, 8 years old, all with her ex-husband. Since our marriage in 2009, they had all lived with us. When we tried to cross the border from Turkey to Greece illegally, the border patrol caught us, and we were taken to a Turkish prison. Meanwhile, the PKK‑militiamen found out where my wife was living in Aleppo. They turned the entire apartment upside down, and their raid spread terror through the entire district. Fortunately Faryal was with her parents at the time, and from there she fled directly to Turkey on March 2, 2012 with our young son and her youngest daughter. She left the two older boys with her family in Aleppo. When she was in Istanbul, she received a phone call from her brother, who assured her that the PKK did not want to harm her and that it was safe for her to return to Aleppo. They were only looking for her husband, in other words me. He said that I was condemned to death, but no one wanted to hurt her! Since my wife was afraid for her two other children in Aleppo and she had her brother’s word, she returned to Aleppo two days later. The Turkish authorities released me and I called Aleppo. I spoke to my wife and her family. My father-in-law told me that the problem with Ibish had been solved and the PKK had removed me from the wanted list. If I wanted my wife, I had to come back to get her. I had no other choice but to return. I traveled from Istanbul toward Syria and arrived in the border city of Kilis on March 14, 2012. But I couldn’t immediately cross the border because the regime was shelling Aʿzaz with heavy artillery and aircraft. When I was able to cross the border into Syria the next day and called my family, they told me that Faryal had been murdered!
KurdWatch: Who killed your wife and why?
Ahmad Mustafa: An armed PYD group murdered her. It was led by her ex-husband Ibish Muhammad and Muhammad ʿAli ʿIsu, a cousin of her father’s who belonged to the PKK, as well as by his brother Akram ʿIsu. I learned later that this group was holding my wife and her children in her parents’ apartment when I called her from Istanbul and was told that I should return and that my life was no longer in danger. The kidnappers had forced her at gunpoint to reassure me in order to lure me back so that they could seize me. When I didn’t return immediately—my trip from Istanbul to Kilis and then to Aleppo took more than four days—and the kidnappers didn’t reach me, they thought I was holding out on them and wouldn’t return, so they murdered my wife. They kept the children so that they could continue to put pressure on me and also threaten me with the murder of my children if I didn’t turn myself in. I learned later that her ex-husband was the one who pushed for her murder and that Akram ʿIsu had financed everything. Muhammad ʿIsu carried out the murder himself. And all of that happened with the direct cover, support, and participation of the PYD under the direction of Muhammad Mahmud, who is well known in Khaltan near ʿAfrin. Since then, these people have kept the children of my slain wife and my young son in their custody. To this day, I can’t see my little Ahmad, even though I lived in hiding in Syria for a whole year with the hope that there might be a possibility of getting my son back and leaving the country with him. But all attempts failed and my life was increasingly in danger. In March 2013, I again had to escape abroad. Since then the image of my young son has not left my mind. My life has become hell. I’ve lost everything I had in Syria. My wife was murdered, my son was taken from me, and I live abroad without a permanent residence. And all of that just because I was against the politics of the PKK and the PYD and wasn’t willing to work under the flag of the People’s Defense Units. My reputation was damaged and it has been claimed that I insulted Abdullah Öcalan, that I am a follower of Erdoğan, that I betray the Kurds, and other unfounded accusations. The only thing I did was to take a stand against the Assad regime, I took part in demonstrations for the overthrow of the regime, and my brothers and I joined the Syrian revolution. We had no choice but to position ourselves against the PYD/PKK because it had formed an alliance with the regime. As a result, they took their revenge out on me and my family in this terrible way. I want my son Ahmad back. That is my only demand after losing everything. I wish that international human rights organizations would put pressure on the PYD so that they would return my son to me.
November 21, 2014