Friday, May 27, 2016


The Turkish government is pissed off because a U.S. soldier was spotted wearing a YPG patch on his uniforms. The YPG is a Kurdish militias that is fighting ISIS in Syria, but which Turkey accuses of being a military arm of the PKK, a Kurdish political party in Turkey that has been labeled a terrorist organization. Confused? It's pretty confusing and it gets a lot more confusing than this if you dig into the world of Kurdish militias and all their initials. But the Turkish government is a little nuts when it comes to anything Kurdish.

Anyway, take a look at the offensive patch:

Outrageous, right! Wait, still don't see it? Click the image to make it bigger.

Did you see it? It's on the arm of the guy to the left. Here's a blown up image:


Except that patch doesn't say "YPG" and the insignia is a little different from the YPG's official symbol. That symbol has a red star on a yellow background. That's because the patch in the above photo is actually from the YPJ, not the YPG. The YPJ is an all-female brigade  established by the YPG in 2012. The YPJ has gotten some positive press in the international media over the past few years because of their effectiveness and symbolic value in fighting the misogynist Islamic State. (The YPJ, however, is not to be confused with the YBS, which has an all-female Yazidi fighting unit that has also gotten some press).

So what's the deal with a U.S. soldier wearing the patch of a foreign militia? Apparently, special forces typically swap patches with the troops they are embedded with to build trust.

Anyway, to summarize: a U.S. soldier was photographed with a YPJ patch on his arm. The YPJ was formed by the YPG and the YPG is connected with the PKK. The PKK is Turkey's public enemy #1 and (partly at the urging of Turkey) has been branded a terrorist group by a bunch of countries, including the U.S., prompting Turkish protests. But the bottom line is that Turkey sees connections between the PKK and every other Kurdish group, including several that are de facto allies of the U.S. in the fight against ISIS. No one other than Turkey has an automatic distrust of the Kurds and there are a lot of different Kurdish groups, some of whom happen to have interests that align with other countries, including Turkish allies like the U.S. So the Turks are just going to have to deal with getting their feathers ruffled now and then.