'Communist militants' among US partners in Syria

'Communist militants' among US partners in Syria
Analysis: The Marxist-Leninist Communist Party, an underground faction classified as a terrorist organisation in Turkey, is an ally of the US-backed YPG, report Sibel Düz and Ömer Özkizilcik.
6 min read
The communist faction has strong ties with Syria's YPG Kurdish forces [AFP]
Among the US partner forces in Syria, one of the many armed militias is the Turkish-originated Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) who operate under the command of the PKK/YPG, regularly conflated as Syrian Kurds, inside Syria, Turkey and the Qandil Mountains.

MLKP's training camps in Syria and its global propaganda outreach to radical-leftists is a main source of concern. In this piece, the organisations activities will be elaborated solely based upon open-source material provided by the communist organisation itself and its subgroups – MLKP's main branch for the youth mobilisation KGÖ, MLKP's main branch for the women mobilisation KKÖ, its main armed wing MLKP-FESK (the Forces of the Poor and Oppressed) and MLKP Kurdistan. 

MLKP in Syria

The Marxist-Leninist Communist Party has established a strong footprint in Syria thanks to its relationship with the PKK/YPG and has formed its own training camps and armed battalions.

In the Syrian city of Rasulayn, which borders Turkey, MLKP formed an entire training camp named after the MLKP veteran Alişer Deniz, who was killed in the Turkish city of Tunceli.

[Serêkaniyê'de Şehit Alişer Deniz Tugayı kuruldu from ETHA on Vimeo]

MLKP seem incapable or unwilling to act as a separate and autonomous armed group and are fighting under the command of the YPG in Syria. From Ayn al Arab (Kobane) to Deir az-Zour, the Marxist-Leninist organisation fought and lost fighters against the Islamic State group [IS] alongside US partner forces in Syria. 

The Marxist militants have been involved in direct military confrontation against Turkey inside, as well as taking part in the 'urban campaign' of the PKK in Turkish cities. It has lost militants in the Turkish city of Tunceli, also named Dersim.

Another operational area for the MLKP are the Qandil Mountains from where the militants published a video claiming to be ready to defend 'southern Kurdistan' against Turkey and the AK party.

In the Iraqi region of Zap, Şevin Söğüt from MLKP was killed by Turkish Armed Forces. Also in Syria, MLKP members were killed in combat during the Operation Olive Branch. Wherever the PKK has a footprint, MLKP has been seen there, like in Iraqi Sinjar, indicating how much both organisations have grown into each other.

MLKP's global outreach

As a recruitment tool and propaganda, MLKP is using demonstrations organised by the YPG in cities like Ayn al Arab (Kobane) where MLKP flags show up.

These demonstrations are being portrayed as the decisiveness of the people to fight against 'Fascism'.

Furthermore, events like the annual festivals of the capture of Manbij with active US support and graves of MLKP militants are being used for propaganda. On May 1, the organisation handed leaflets to civilians in YPG-controlled areas to promote its radical leftist ideas, and intensively prepare for the May Day beforehand.

MLKP is also using international organisations by the YPG to promote its agenda and ideas.

For example during the second Middle East Youth Conference in Ayn al Arab (Kobane) where more than 300 delegates from Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Libya, Armenia, Egypt and Turkey attended, MLKP was present and propagated its agenda.

In its global outreach to radical-leftist worldwide, MLKP is publishing a monthly bulletin in English, French and German. Due to its global outreach, the MLKP managed to win non-Turkish and non-Kurdish members like the German citizen Ivana Hoffmann who died while fighting for MLKP. 

Bayram Namaz known as Baran Serhat plays the most important role. Baran Serhat was the overall leader of the MLKP in Syria and got killed by the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition. At his funeral in Rasulayn, officials from the YPG, MLKP, TIKKO, DKP, DKB, Assyrian Council and SYPG have honoured his duties and promised revenge against Turkey.

After his death, Baran Serhat became a main propaganda vehicle for the Marxist organisation. MLKP started education programmes on 'how to become Baran Serhat' in the Syrian town of Qamishli. His death was reportedly commemorated in Kobane (Syria), Tal Tamer (Syria), Dirbesiyah (Syria), Rasulayn (Syria), Mannheim (Germany), Stuttgart (Germany), Ulm (Germany), Kiel (Germany), Hamburg (Germany), Cologne (Germany), Frankfurt (Germany), Paris (France), Strasbourg (France), Bordeaux (France), London (UK), Den Haag (Netherlands), Bruxelles (Belgium), Switzerland, Athen (Greece) and Lavion (Greece).

MLKP's activities in Europe go so far that they are involved in active 'resistance' against the French police in Paris.

MLKP's tentative attempt on the institutionalisation of the 'Rojava Revolution'

MLKP, which is mainly operative in Turkey, Iraq and Syria, is one of the early arrived Turkish-Leftist forces in Syrian territory. Since August 2012, the militant group has joined in decisive battles like Hasakah, Rasulayn, Tel Abyad and Tall Tamr. Under the banner of the International Freedom Battalion (IFB), the Turkish-Leftist group took part in combat operations in Sinjar and Tishrin Dam, as well.

In addition to supporting the 'Rojava Revolution,' the initial role of the MLKP was the politicisation of the idea of revolution and mobilisation of the masses.

With this aim, the militant organisation activated its manpower in areas ranging from agriculture policies to public health and trade. The main institutional bodies as vehicle of the development of the revolution were community centres/people houses ('Mala Gel') and the Institution for the Unity and Solidarity of the People (SYPG).

These bodies have contributed 'Rojava Revolution's' realisation in socialist character. The group emphasised the uniqueness of the revolution regarding the historical process, military progress and its core demands.

The 'Rojava Revolution,' according to the MLKP, encompasses both the social movement of the youth and women, beside trying to call for a class movement and nationalist, anti-imperialist demands. However, these claims advocated by the MLKP, have made the revolution ambiguous in character and made it seem like a tentative attempt to appeal to a broader audience.

As illustrated in the first congressional resolution of the group's political and military branch the MLKP Rojava, the implementation of the community and public assemblies system, the development of the collective public properties, the attribution of the revolutionary attainments to the poor, the popularisation of women and youth mobilisation and the revitalisation of the socio-cultural values, are determined as the essentials of this revolutionary model.

Furthermore, the MLKP has emphasised the 'Rojava Revolution' as a roadmap for other radical leftists. In this regard, the battle at Ayn al Arab against IS is being recommended as how to fight against the Turkish state.

Overall speaking, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party is using the network and methods of the PKK and its affiliates to operate and promote its ideas and goals. The radical-leftist organisation and the PKK has grown in each other and are inseparable.

The MLKP's territorial activities overlap with those of the PKK. Its armed wing is under the command of the PKK and the YPG. This alliance between the PKK and the MLKP has to be researched deeply as the MLKP is among the US partner forces in Syria and poses a direct threat to Turkey and an indirect threat to the world by promoting extremists ideas and supporting armed radical leftists from all over the world as their 'comrades'.

Sibel Düz and Ömer Özkizilcik work at the Directorate of Security Studies at the SETA Foundation in Ankara, Turkey.