Pro-Kurdish HDP demands clarity on funding for Turkey-backed Syrian rebels

Turkey’s opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has submitted a question to parliament over reports on Ankara's funding for Turkey-backed Syrian rebels known as the Syrian National Army (SNA), who are participating in an offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

HDP Deputy Chairman Saruhan Oluç carried claims about Turkey paying the Syrian rebels a monthly salary to parliament on Tuesday, news site Diken reported.

Recalling a claim by Syrian Colonel Haitham Afisi of the SNA in Aug. 2018 that Turkey provided both a salary and weapons to the rebels, Oluç asked whether it was true that Turkey was paying their salary and if true, since when, how frequently and to how many people are payments are being made to. 

The New York Times in an article published last month said the Turkish-backed SNA, also known as the Free Syrian Army (TFSA), have been on Turkey’s payroll since 2016, receiving about $100 every seven to eight weeks. 

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has gone on record to say payments for the rebels are not made from the Defence Ministry budget. 

Turkish forces and the SNA in October launched an offensive in northeast Syria targeting Kurdish forces which Ankara sees as an existential threat due to their links to a Kurdish insurgency on its own soil.

A total of 251 Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have been killed in the operation, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported last week.