The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist group by both the U.S. and Turkey, penned an open letter in English rebuking President Trump‘s comparison of the group to ISIS amid a fight between Kurds and Turkish forces in northern Syria.
The PKK said in Friday’s letter that it “refused comparisons” to ISIS after Trump said at a press conference on Wednesday that the Kurds were “no angels” and that the PKK is likely “more of a terrorist threat” than ISIS.
“We refuse comparisons being made between our movement and the inhumane thugs of ISIS,” the PKK’s Foreign Relations Committee wrote in the letter.
“We are not guilty of terrorism; we are victims of state terrorism. But we are guilty of defending our people. We believe that the American people will be able to judge for themselves who the dangerous terrorists of this world are,” the group added.
The PKK has been in armed conflict with Ankara for decades as part of an anti-Turkish insurgency to establish an independent Kurdish state. Turkey has accused the PKK and People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is fighting against Ankara in Syria and allied with the U.S. against ISIS, of being linked.
The letter comes amid a fragile five-day cease-fire in northeastern Syria that calls for Turkey to cease its military operations for 120 hours to allow Kurds in the area to withdraw from a designated safe zone along the Turkish and Syrian border.
The deal, brokered by Vice President Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was panned by critics who said the ceasefire essentially allows Turkey to continue its offensive after five days while forcing Kurds to retreat.
Reports have already emerged of fighting in the border region of Syria.
Trump, who drew criticism that he greenlighted Turkey’s offensive by withdrawing U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, sparked rebukes for his comments about the PKK, with former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday calling him a “total sell-out.”
The PKK suggested it did not deserve the criticism, arguing it is committed to human rights.
“The PKK has never targeted the U.S. or any other country,” the group wrote. “We have never shied away from the negotiating table to solve this conflict peacefully and politically. As a matter of fact, we have declared no less than eight ceasefires since 1993 to pave the way for negotiations. The PKK’s political project is founded on basic human rights and liberties, gender liberation, religious pluralism and ecological rights.”