As It Happens

Kurdish politician slain in Syria wanted to unite the country in peace, says friend

Hevrin Khalaf was "a peaceful woman" who wanted to end the crisis in Syria through dialogue, says her friend and colleague. 

UN investigating executions of civilians, including political leader Hevrin Khalaf

Hevrin Khalaf, the secretary general of the Future Syria party, was among several civilians killed on the side of a Syrian highway by gunmen who posted footage of the shootings online. (Submitted by Sinam Mohammed/Syrian Democratic Council )
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Hevrin Khalaf was "a peaceful woman" who wanted to end the crisis in Syria through dialogue, says her friend and colleague. 

Khalaf, the secretary general of the Future Syria party, was among several civilians killed on the side of a Syrian highway on Saturday by gunmen who posted footage of the shootings online.

Turkish-backed fighters have denied blame for her killing. The UN Human Rights office said on Tuesday that it is investigating the killings, and that Turkey could be held responsible for war crimes by fighters under its direction.

Sinam Mohammed knew Khalaf well. She is the U.S. representative for the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

What does this mean for your community that Hevrin Khalaf is dead?

She is a Kurdish woman. She is a young woman. And she was leading a political party which has been established in 2018, and the first woman that is leading a political party.

She is the one that she wanted to have the future of Syria to be bright ... so that the woman can be in the decision-making.

Kurdish protesters hold photos of Kurdish political leader Khalaf, left, who was allegedly killed by Turkish-backed militias, and Sehid Rojinda Qendil, a Kurdish fighter killed in Syria, during a demonstration against the latest Turkish military offensive. (Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

We've heard that a number of Kurds, of civilians, have been executed at checkpoints on the highway. And we have seen video that apparently shows these executions, including a video of, apparently, your colleague in the car. Do you know who the people are, the mercenaries that were there?

They are from ... the National Army [a.k.a. The Free Syrian Army], which is backed by Turkey. 

Do did they know who she was?

Yes, she told them. 

They shoot her. They could shoot her with one bullet actually, and she could die with one only shot. But they shoot her [with] tens of bullets ... all over her body, which shows how much they hate the Kurds.

She is a woman. And she never holds weapons. She never asked for the military actions. Actually, she always called for solving the problems in Syria through political dialogue. She is peaceful woman. She is so kind. 

This rebel group that is supported by Turkey, these mercenaries [who] are fighting in northern Syria for Turkey, they say they were not there, that they couldn't have done this killing of your colleague. What do you say to them?

Then who killed her? I don't know who killed her. So I don't think that somebody from the sky, they come down and killed her.

Mourners attend a funeral for Khalaf and others, including civilians and Kurdish fighters, in the northeastern Syrian Kurdish town of Derik. (Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)

We've also seen that [the Yeni Safak] newspaper in Turkey ... said that Ms. Khalaf's killing was a "successful operation" against a "terrorist" threat. Why does Turkey view her as such a threat?

I don't know why. If she is holding a weapon, she would be a threat. If she was in the military group, she might be a threat.

But she is not in the military group, she is the head of a political party, and she never holds the weapons. So I don't know how she would be a threat.

She said: We need the unity in Syria. We are with the decentralized system in Syria. We are with the democratic system in Syria. We have to be  ... seeking a brotherhood system, with all the Syrian people, whether they are Kurdish, Arabs, Sunni, Alawites, Yadzidis, Christians, all together.

I believe that the one who can make peace, they are woman, not man. This is the men who are killing our people there. They'll never be peacemakers.

She was, as you say, the secretary general of the Future Syria Party representing the Kurds. What's the goal of that party? What was she and the party attempting to do?

She wanted to seek to unify the Syrian people to a common goal, which is the unity of Syria, which is the equal gender, which is based on democracy, which based on ... the unity of Syria through the diversity. This is the goal of their party.

And she is seeking also to have all these problems, the crisis in Syria, to be solved in a dialogue. Every time, whenever she comes and she has a speech ... she says we have to solve our problems through dialogue. Because the future of Syria must be bright.

She was working in the Arab regions ... and most of the people there, they like her. They respect her because she is very kind to all the people who are there. She is Kurdish, but everyone, they like her and respect her because of her points of view and her work in this political party.

Sinam Mohammed is the U.S. representative for the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. (Submitted by Sinam Mohammed )

What do you think [U.S. President] Donald Trump should do and say to [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] ​​​​​Erdogan?

First of all, to stop this Turkish aggression and invasion to our region.

Second, to stop killing our civilians.

Third, to have a no-fly zone at least to protect our civilians from the Turkish airplanes.

And we would like to be in ... the peace process talks in Syria, so that we can end the bloodshed for the Syrian people.

Do you feel that the United States has betrayed you and the Kurds [by pulling U.S. troops from northern Syria]?

We are sad for our allies in the United States, working together for years defeating the terrorists of ISIS ... and paying 11,000 young men and women from our people in order to defeat ISIS, which threatens all over world. And at the end, they say: OK, your mission has ended. We are not anymore allies. OK, you go and you face your fate with Turkey.

This is what we feel. I feel very sorry and sad for that.


Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.