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Panel Series - Turkey's Invasion of Afrin: A Litmus Test for New Alliances


Co-organized by the Kurdish Policy Research Center & Washington Kurdish Institute


Monday, February 5, 2018

8:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

The National Press Club

Marrow Room

529 14th St NW Washington, DC 20045



8:45 am   Registration

9:00 AM – 10:10 AM

Panel 1. Kurdish-American Relations: A Tactical Partnership or a Strategic Alliance?

Turkey recently launched a military offensive and attempted invasion of the Kurdish city of Afrin in northern Syria, home to almost half a million Kurds and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Syrian Arabs, in a bid to eliminate the People’s Protection Units (YPG), US-backed predominantly Kurdish forces. Is Turkey’s recent invasion a litmus test for current state of the US-Kurdish alliance? Does the US have a coherent policy with respect to Kurds of Syria? Will it abandon the Syrian Kurds or continue to stand by them? Does the US inaction contribute to Turkey’s aggression? Does the US have to make a choice between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, or is there a third way?

Our panelists will address this pivotal new phase in relations between the emerging regional players and global powers from a variety of perspectives and make policy recommendations concerning the future of Syria and the region in the wake of the battle against terrorist groups entering a new stage and the formation of new alliances.


Speakers:      Ms. Sinem Mohamed, Democratic Federation of Northern Syria Representative to the US 

                      Dr. David Pollock, Kaufman Fellow, The Washington Institute

                      Mr. Bassam Ishak, President, The Syriac National Council in Syria

Moderator:     Mr. Christian Sinclair, Director of International Studies, Moravian College


10:40 AM – 11:50 AM

Panel 2. Where is Turkey Going? The Geopolitics of the Turkish-Russian-Iranian Alliance

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, initially among the most vocal and active proponents of efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has pursued a policy of close cooperation with Assad’s key strategic allies, Russia and Iran, to allow Turkey to intensify its military and political efforts against the Kurds of Syria, who have served as vital allies to the US, and roll back Kurds’ gains in Syria. Turkey’s recent military campaign against the Kurdish city of Afrin in Syria represents another milestone in the ongoing deterioration of US-Turkish relations and, perhaps, the beginning of a period of new alliances between global and regional powers in the Middle East.

Our panelists will discuss the underlying causes of Turkey’s aggression against the Kurds of Syria and its consequences in local, regional and global contexts.

Speakers:      Mr. Giran Ozcan, The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Representative to the US

                      Dr. Amy Austin Holmes, Fellow, The Wilson Center 

                      Ms. Merve Tahiroglu, Research Associate, Foundation for Defense of Democracies


Moderator:     Mr. Aram Hamparian, Executive Director, The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)



















Aram Hamparian

Aram Hamparian is the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). In this role, he serves as this national advocacy organization's point person with the Administration, Congress, the media, and the Washington, DC foreign policy community. In cooperation with regional offices, more than 50 local chapters, dozens of coalition partners, hundreds of community affiliates, and thousands of grassroots activists, he works daily on a broad range of legislative, policy, research, political, campaign, media, coalition, and community-related concerns. He has testified before Congress, lectured at the National Defense University, the Foreign Service Institute, and USAID, been quoted by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, AP, and Reuters, and appeared on CNN, BBC, RT, Al Jazeera, and many other media outlets.

Amy Austin Holmes

Dr. Holmes is the Fellow at the Wilson Center and an Associate Professor at the American University in Cairo. Her book Social Unrest and American Military Bases in Turkey and Germany since 1945 was published with Cambridge University Press. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, Carnegie/Sada, Atlantic Council and elsewhere. She has given TV and radio interviews with NPR, BBC, Al Jazeera, and other outlets.

Bassam Ishak

Bassam Ishak is a Syrian opposition activist and the president of the Syriac National Council of Syria. He is the former executive director of the Syrian Human Rights Organization, a founder of the Syrian National Council, and a former member of the council's general secretariat. Mr. Ishaj is a native Hassakeh in northeast Syria. He earned his M.A. in ethno-political conflict management from Royal Roads University in Canada, and a B.S. in civil engineering.

Sinem Mohamed

Sinem Mohamed is the former co-president of the People's Council of Rojava (Kurdish region of northern Syria). She currently serves as the Representative of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria to the US. Ms. Mohamed is a native of Damascus, Syria. 

Giran Ozcan

Giran Ozcan is the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Representative in the United States. After graduating from the University of Warwick with a sociology degree, he worked at the Centre for Turkey Studies in London between 2011 and 2016. He has been working with the HDP in its overseas representative offices since 2016.

David Pollock

David Pollock, the Kaufman fellow at The Washington Institute, focuses on the political dynamics of Middle East countries. He is the director of Project Fikra, a program of research, publication, and network-building designed to generate policy ideas for promoting positive change and countering the spread of extremism in the Middle East. Dr. Pollock served previously as senior advisor for the Broader Middle East at the State Department. Previously, he was chief of Near East/South Asia/Africa research at the U.S. Information Agency. He has traveled widely in the Middle East and maintains a large network of contacts in government, academia, and business throughout the region.

Christian Sinclair

Christian Sinclair is Director of International Studies at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. His research interests include media, identity, intercultural communication, human rights and music history. On campus at Moravian College he teaches “International Human Rights, Music, and Resistance.” He also directs a May-term study abroad program to Colombia: “Global Perspectives on Culture, Identity, and Inequality.” In the summer Sinclair teaches a course at Griffith College in Dublin, Ireland: “Sounds of Resistance: Music & Politics in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

Merve Tahiroglu

Merve Tahiroglu is a Research Associate at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Her research focuses on Turkey’s foreign policy, domestic politics, and Ankara’s ties to Tehran. Merve’s personal areas of interest include Turkey’s Syria policy and Islamic extremism in Turkey. Born and raised in Istanbul, Merve earned her B.A in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations from Duke University in 2013. She is currrently an M.A. candidate at Georgetown University's History Department. Merve has published and/or co-authored pieces in various outlets such as Foreign Affairs, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Politico, Huffington Post and Foreign Policy, in addition to FDD-linked publications such as FDD's The Long War Journal and Military Edge.

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