Our goal is the self-government of the
Kurds in Syrian Kurdistan: Kurdish Union Party
Interview with Ismail Hami, Secretary of the Kurdish
Union Party in Syria (Yekîtî)
September 20, 2011
Qamishli, Syrian Kurdistan, —
Ismail Hami (b. 1964) is a
founding member of the Kurdish Union Party in Syria
(Yekîtî), which was established in 1999. Since 2010
he has been the party's secretary. He lives in
Qamishli [Western Kurdistan]. In a conversation with
KurdWatch.org, Hami speaks about his party's role in
the Syrian revolution and about the Kurdish
Patriotic Movement's relationship to the Democratic
Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish Future Movement in
Q: Since the middle of March 2011,
there have been demonstrations in many Syrian
cities. To date, with the exception of the Future
Movement, none of the Kurdish parties have made a
call for this. This includes your party, which was
originally one of the more radical Kurdish parties
and was one of the first parties to organize
demonstrations at all. Why such restraint?
information is completely incorrect. We, as Yekîtî,
have taken part in the demonstrations from the
beginning and have been on the side of the
revolution since the first day. Three months ago, we
issued a joint declaration with the Future Movement
and the Azadî. We declared that we are taking part
in the demonstrations.
Ismail Hami is a
founding member of the Kurdish Union Party in Syria
is also true of the Yekîtî leadership. As secretary,
I often take part; our comrades from the politburo
are present as well. We have also organized
demonstrations ourselves; in the Kurdish regions it
is well known that in many places, the Yekîtî
actually initiated the demonstrations.
Q: Is your party
also calling for the demonstrations?
Hami: Yes. Every
week we publish a report, which mentions, among
other things, who among our leadership participated
in which demonstrations. We are taking part in the
protests with all our strength.
Q: Until now the
opposition has met several times, both within the
country and abroad. The Kurdish parties have not
participated in most of the meetings. Why is that?
Hami: We have
participated in the various meetings within the
country itself. We even founded the National Union
of the Forces for Democratic Change along with other
parties. However, we do not believe that the
meetings that have thus far taken place abroad are
that serious. Rather these were hastily organized
meetings for the purpose of propaganda. This does
not serve the Syrian revolution.
Q: There are
analysts who claim that the Kurdish parties wouldn't
take part in the meetings abroad because the
majority of the groups invited to those meetings are
demanding the fall of the regime.
Hami: We, the
Kurdish Movement, have not yet explicitly called for
the fall of the regime, but rather we have called
for a change in the system. This is a clearer demand
than calling for the fall of the regime. We, as
Yekîtî, have repeatedly issued declarations in which
we say that the regime no longer has any legitimacy.
Q: Your party
did not participate in the Damascus Declaration
because you felt that its position on the Kurds did
not go far enough. Then you joined the National
Union of the Forces for Democratic Change, but left
this coalition only a short time later. How do the
positions of the Damascus Declaration and the
National Union of the Forces for Democratic Change
differ with respect to the Kurds? And why would you
join a coalition as a founding member, only to leave
it just a few weeks later, claiming that its
position on the Kurds does not go far enough?
difference is that the National Union of the Forces
for Democratic Change has a clearer position on the
Kurdish question than the Damascus Declaration. The
National Union of the Forces for Democratic Change
realizes that the Kurds in Syria are a nation, that
the Kurds need constitutional guarantees that
recognize their existence, and that the Kurdish
question must be solved within the framework of a
democratic Syria. At the same time, they see no
contradiction between this and the fact that Syria
is an indivisible part of the Arab nation. We were
somewhat dissatisfied with this last point; we did
not think it was necessary to mention this. The fact
that this point was included in a joint declaration
by the group shows the spread of Arab nationalist
positions among the Arab groups. We were not
satisfied that our representatives signed the
declaration as it was. We want the Kurdish parties
to form their own bloc. We think it is wrong if we
or other parties join the Damascus Declaration or
the National Union of the Forces for Democratic
Change. We should negotiate with the Syrian
opposition as our own bloc. Our idea is for our
Kurdish bloc to build a coalition with the Damascus
Declaration and the National Union of the Forces for
Democratic Change. We believe that we only serve as
appendages of both oppositional coalitions. However,www.ekurd.netwe
want the Kurdish bloc to be united and independent.
Unfortunately, the Kurdish parties represented in
the Damascus Declaration have not supported us and
have thus weakened our position. If we would appear
as an independent Kurdish bloc, we would have a
stronger position. We hope that this problem can be
solved during the Kurdish National Congress. We have
asked that this point be addressed there.
Q: When will
this congress take place?
Hami: We are
currently making the practical arrangements. We have
formed a planning committee, which will start its
work next week. First we will elect the nonpartisans
that are to take part in the congress.
Q: Which of the
Syrian opposition groups can your party work with?
Hami: We can
work with the Damascus Declaration and the National
Union of the Forces for Democratic Change. By the
way, the Kurdish Patriotic Movement, not just the
Yekîtî, decided that the Kurdish parties should form
a common bloc with these two groups.
Q: The Kurds are
demanding that they be recognized as a "second
ethnicity" within the state. What exactly does that
mean? What rights are connected to this position?
Hami: We want
constitutional guarantees. If there are
constitutional guarantees, one cannot take away our
rights so easily. If the constitution states that
the Kurds are a second nation within the state, it
is easier to establish all other national rights.
Our second most important demand is a solution to
the national Kurdish question. Here the Kurdish
Patriotic Movement has different goals. For example,
we are calling for the self-government of Syrian
Kurdistan. Moreover, we want Kurdish to be the
second official language in Syria. Other Kurdish
parties want self-administration; others want a
regional self-administration; yet others only want
cultural and political rights. We want to hold this
National Congress in order to come to an agreement
on common goals. Another important point is that the
Kurdish Patriotic Movement does not have a unified
position on the revolution. Some have been involved
in the revolution since the first day and have a
clear position on the regime; they want this regime
to end. Other groups do not support these demands
and still aren't participating in the
demonstrations. We also want to solve this problem
at the congress.
Q: Many of the
meetings that have been held abroad are said to have
been dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. What is
the Yekîtî stance toward the Muslim Brotherhood?
Hami: The Muslim
Brotherhood is a political force in Syria and we are
not opposed to talking with them. We are prepared to
talk with all groups in the Syrian opposition. The
Muslim Brotherhood did dominate the meetings in
Antalya and Istanbul. We would say that the Muslim
Brotherhood is a part of the Syrian opposition, but
they are not the strongest group. The fact that many
overestimate the importance of the Muslim
Brotherhood also has to do with the propaganda of
the regime. For decades, the regime has been
spreading the rumor that the Islamists will come to
power if the regime falls apart. We do not believe
that one group alone will rule Syria. Not the Muslim
Brotherhood, not the secularists, not the liberals.
Syrian society is too heterogeneous for one group to
be able to rule alone. Thus far we've had no contact
with the Muslim Brotherhood. We keep our distance
from them and they from us. We believe, however,
that we must talk to them about Syria's future, and
we must reach an agreement.
Q: What is your
take on the Muslim Brotherhood's stance toward the
Hami: That's the
problem. They don't have a clear position on the
Kurdish question in Syria. The Islamic groups don't
want to concern themselves with national or ethnic
problems. That has to do with their ideology. For
them, Kurds and Arabs are simply Muslims.
Q: The PYD is
surfacing by disrupting demonstrations with pictures
of Öcalan, kidnapping and torturing activists, and
threatening members of the Future Movement. What are
the other Kurdish parties doing about this?
Hami: Whoever is
committing such acts, we condemn them. The PYD
denies responsibility for these acts. They blame the
regime. You know that the PYD is one of the parties
in the Kurdish Patriotic Movement in Syria. In this
group we discuss these acts again and again. There
is no proof that the PYD is responsible for these
acts. Certainly, the PKK and members of the PYD have
committed such acts in the past. In general sessions
we repeatedly put pressure on the PYD. We have also
resolved to investigate these incidents. If it were
proven that the PYD is responsible, our stance
toward the PYD would change. Some things suggest
that the PYD is behind these acts. On the other
hand, the situation today is different than it was
fifteen years ago. If it turns out that the PYD is
responsible for these acts, it will only hurt them.
I don't believe that the PYD can commit such acts
again in Kurdish regions.
Q: Why did the
Kurdish parties accept the PYD into the Kurdish
Patriotic Movement in Syria? Prior to this the
Kurdish parties were unwilling to work with the PYD.
What has changed?
Hami: Syria is
currently experiencing an exceptional moment. This
requires that we Kurds act together in order to
establish ourselves and our demands in the new
Syria. No one has any intention of having more
internal disputes. We accepted them although we
disagree on many points.
Q: Is the PYD at
all interested in the fate of the Kurds in Syria or
do they merely want to co-opt Syrian Kurdistan as a
place to retreat from the battle in Turkey,
especially now that the PKK is coming under pressure
in Iraqi Kurdistan?
the PYD is dreaming of this. It could be that they
assume there will be a vacuum when the regime falls
and that they can fill this vacuum because they have
weapons. I don't believe that they will be
successful in this regard. Ninety percent of Kurdish
society is not on the side of the PYD. The PYD has
lost many supporters in Syria. At their last party
conference, the PYD moved closer politically to our
demands for the Kurds in Syria. We hope that we can
be successful together and that we won't work
against each other. We hope that the PKK does not
make the mistakes of the past. In Turkey, the PKK
has prevented other Kurdish parties from developing.
The situation in Syria is different. The other
Kurdish parties are firmly anchored in the
population. The PYD cannot control Kurdish society
in Syria, as the PKK controls the Kurds in Turkey.
The Kurdish movement has been active here for more
than fifty years and has made many sacrifices.
Q: Many say that
there are no dissident demonstrations in ʿAfrin
because the PYD is very strong there. Is that true?
true and has to do with the fact that the other
Kurdish parties in ʿAfrin are weak. In ʿAfrin, the
PYD can assert its politics.
Q: What is your
stance toward the Future Movement, with which you
are at least formally still united in the Kurdish
Hami: We as a
party have no problems with the Future Movement. We
have accomplished much so that the Future Movement
would be accepted into the group of the twelve
parties of the Kurdish Patriotic Movement in Syria.
Many parties didn't want to include them because in
their opinion the Future Movement has made mistakes.
On the day that Mishʿal at‑Tammu was released from
prison, all the Kurdish parties visited him
together. No sooner had he entered the tent than he
said he did not belong to the Kurdish movement, but
was a part of the Syrian revolution. He greatly hurt
the Kurdish movement with this statement. We spoke
with him later about it and told him that the
Kurdish movement is also a part of the Syrian
revolution and that it would have been better if he
had forgone his critique. He then withdrew from the
coalition of twelve parties. Later, he wanted to
return, but no one wanted to readmit him. It was his
mistake; he distanced himself from the Kurdish
movement. We asked that he apologize, but he wasn't
willing to do so.
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