Geopolitics

Turkey‛s Twisted Logic: Fearing Kurds More Than ISIS

The Kurdish victory over ISIS in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad has brought out the worst instincts from Turkey's leaders.

In Tal Abyad, at the border of Turkey and Syria
In Tal Abyad, at the border of Turkey and Syria
Fehim Tastekin

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL â€" The Turkish government and its accomplices weren't disturbed when the ISIS terror group was banging on the gates of Turkey's border. But now that the Kurds are experiencing a victory over the brutally violent organization, government officials are suddenly mourning its defeat in the northern Syrian border city of Tal Abyad.

Officials in Ankara are nurturing a number of irrational conspiracy theories about the Kurds, including the notion of impending ethnic cleansing of Arabs and Turkmen via U.S. bombardment, the possible creation of an independent Kurdish state, the opening of an energy corridor to the Mediterranean, even the ultimate disintegration of Syria and Turkey. There is no end to the "deep strategy" constructs when Kurds are involved.

Those who were silent when ISIS controlled the city on Turkey's border are now making calls to clear out YPG Kurdish forces there.

But as I have written many times before, YPG did not liberate Tal Abyad on its own. It took the help of Arab allies such as Burkan al-Furat, Liva al-Tahrir and Suvar al-Raqqa, former components of the Free Syrian Army.

I asked Salih Muslim, co-president of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), about its road map for Tal Abyad. He began as always by offering peaceful messages to Turkey. He repeated the call for cooperation despite nasty accusations from the Turkish government. He denied all allegations of ethnic cleansing.

"Nobody can prevent the people from returning to their homes," Muslim told me. "There is no base for such an accusation. All of the people will return to their homes. Nobody needs to be afraid except those who joined ISIS and spilled blood. Everybody knows who committed what crime. Of course, those who have spilled blood will be delivered to the judiciary. Everybody else should relax. Let Turkey relax, too."

We should not forget that Muslim's own son was murdered in Tal Abyad two years ago by organizations that Turkey supported. "There are our people at both sides of the border," he says. "How can we be enemies to our own people? We have said it many times: We feel safe if Turkey feels safe."

Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim. Photo: Jan Bojer Vindheim

So what is the fuss about? It may be a hard pill to swallow for Turkey that the Syrian followers of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan are establishing autonomy in Syria and being praised by the world for fighting ISIS. Comparing the YPG to ISIS and even saying that ISIS did not chase these people from their homes is devoid of reason and conscience.

A road map

Everybody asks what's going to happen next. If you look at the existing cantons of Kobane, Afrin and Cezire and exclude the first two because their populations are mostly Kurdish, the third one may offer a clue about what will happen in Tal Abyad.

The road map as Muslim outlines it is as follows:

• The booby traps and mines at the city center and villages will be cleared. Defense lines will be formed for outer attacks simultaneously.

• When the city is secure, those who have fled will be able to return.

• When the people are back, a civilian government that features all ethnic groups will be founded.

• The YPG and other fighting forces will transfer the city's security to local law enforcement.

In terms of how the Akcakale-Tal Abyad border gate will be run, Muslim offers cooperation to Turkey. Turkey's policy for border crossings, which open to Kurdish-controlled areas, may be defined as: open for humanitarian aid with a heavy heart, otherwise closed.

Muslim suggests that his forces can control the border gate alongside the Free Syrian Army. "We want Turkey to be relaxed about this," he says. "We're not saying the YPG should hold the gate alone."

Would this process produce a new canton? I asked Idris Nassan, the foreign relations associate minister for the Kobani Canton. "Right now, our priority is for Tal Abyad to be completely secure," he says. "The danger hasn't passed. Its people will decide how Tal Abyad will be governed. The civilian governing council will be formed by Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and other ethnic groups. They will decide, not the YPG."

Civilians returning to their homes may create problems. Syrian Journalist Barzan Iso has been traveling from village to village alongside the YPG forces. I asked him his impressions.

"There were few people in the villages," he says. "Most were the elderly, women and children. The people who see the YPG forces come out of their houses and wave. Some come and ask, "Do you need anything?""

Iso concedes that such a warm welcome may be driven by fear. "People don't know what the YPG will do. The Arabs who left the area would wait and return depending on the attitude of the YPG," he says. "Some of the families have lived under the rule of ISIS and had to cooperate somehow. Now they are afraid whether they will pay a price."

The AKP government succeeded in casting Kurds in the same light as ISIS in Tal Abyad, just as they did in Kobane. Now it makes it even harder to change the image of who is and isn't a terrorist.

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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