Outlawed Turkish party
establishes Syria battalion

The MLKP formed a military unit to fight alongside Kurds against ISIS.

MLKP fighters. (image via Haber News)

BEIRUT – An underground Turkish communist party has established a new brigade to fight alongside Kurds in northern Syria in the latest foreign militia intervention in the country’s kaleidoscopic conflict.


“The Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) formed its first battalion [in Syria]… in Ras al-Ayn,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday.


The monitoring NGO said the unit was named the Martyr Serkan Battalion in honor of Serkan Tosun, an MLKP fighter who was killed in September 2013 fighting alongside Kurdish troops against ISIS in Ras al-Ayn, a Hasakeh province town which lies along the Turkish border.


The MLKP, which was blacklisted by Turkey as a terrorist organization in 2007, has sent a number of its volunteers to northern Syria to fight with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).


Sources told the Observatory that eight of the Turkish party’s fighters have lost their lives in Syria, including the 19-year old German national Ivana Hoffman, who died in clashes with ISIS in March.


Hoffman was the first female fighter from the West to die fighting ISIS in Syria.


The MLKP maintains strong ties with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) which the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its YPG military units are affiliated to.


Not only has the Turkish communist party joined alongside PKK-affiliated Kurds in northern Syria, it also runs a military training center in a PKK-controlled area of Kurdish Iraq.


Formed in 1995, the party has an armed wing in Turkey named the Armed Forces of the Poor and the Oppressed, which claimed responsibility for a small explosion outside the Ankara Hilton in June 2004 days before then US President George W. Bush was set to check into the building.


The MLKP’s official formation of a battalion in Ras al-Ayn, known as Sere Kaniye in Kurdish, comes amid heavy fighting between Kurds and ISIS in the area of the border town.


The border town lies in a strategically important point, and was originally fought over between YPG fighters and Syrian Arab rebels after the Free Syrian Army backed by Al-Nusra Front fighters seized the town from the regime in November 2012.


The PYD established an armed presence in the town—which is populated by Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians and Chechens—following the rebel takeover.


Rounds of armed clashes and ceasefires ensued before the YPG took complete control of the town after routing the Al-Nusra Front on July 17, 2013, killing nine of the Islamist group’s fighters.


PYD co-president Saleh Muslim has emphasized the importance of the border town, telling Rudaw News that Ras al-Ayn occupies a strategic position between Kurdish front lines in western and eastern Syria.  


“Controlling it would give the Arabs more leverage over the Kurds, because the Arabs can separate [the central and western Kurdish cantons of] Kobani and Afreen from Jazira [Hasakeh],” he told the Kurdish news outlet in a 2013 interview when Syrian Arab rebels were fighting to take the town.

The MLKP announced the formation of its first Syria battalion. (image via Haber News)

The MLKP, which was blacklisted by Turkey as a terrorist organization in 2007, has sent a number of its volunteers to northern Syria to fight alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units,