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 'Kurdish rights must be secured within a united Syria': News chief of Syrian national coalition says

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'Kurdish rights must be secured within a united Syria': News chief of Syrian national coalition says  5.12.2012    

Muslim cleric Mouaz al-Khatib (An ethnic Arab) speaks during the General Assembly of the Syrian National Council in Doha, Qatar, November 11, 2012. Al-Khatib, the 52-year-old preacher-turned-activist is described by Syrians as a man of the people--a modest, unifying figure who commands wide respect among the country’s various opposition groups and rebels. Photo: Reuters   See Related Articles  

December 5, 2012

Syria’s Kurdish political parties have said they will join the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), a coalition of opposition groups, once it recognizes federalism for Syrian Kurdistan. But in an email exchange with Rudaw the new head of the council, Mouaz al-Khatib, said that since the SNC is a revolutionary body it cannot decide such a constitutional issue.

Mouaz al-Khatib strongly criticized Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki for allowing weapons to reach the Syrian regime through Iraq. He also thanked Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani for his support to the Syrian revolution. Al-Khatib, who had been an Islamic preacher at a Damascus mosque and spent one year in prison last year, was newly appointed as the head of the SNC at a convention in Doha. He answered the following questions by Rudaw:

Q: What is the SNC’s position on the question of federalism for Syrian Kurdistan?

Moaz Al-Khatib: I have always said that the SNC’s duty is to manage the revolution. The council is not authorized to decide the future of Syria. This is something for the Syrian people to decide. However, the Kurds have rights too. It is their right to present their view about the future of Syria and share it with the other opposition factions.

Q: What is your view about the Kurdish issue?

Al-Khatib: The Kurds have faced tremendous oppression, and Kurdish rights must be secured within a united Syria.

Q: What do you think about the recent incident in Sarekane, where an armed group entered the town and was involved in a confrontation with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD)?

Al-Khatib: What happened in Sarekane was unfortunate. I condemn the actions of any armed groups that commit killings, looting, and burning civilian houses. Those are not our principals, as we are one body. Some parties contribute to creating divisions, and the Syrian regime encourages it...

I contacted all the responsible parties, because I trust they are rational and responsible and wouldn’t allow such divisions to continue in the area. The regime had fueled the fire there. Such a dictator wouldn’t stop oppressing the Kurds and Arabs. It has been manipulating their beliefs and using them for its own gain. It has been trying to create confrontation between Syria’s ethnicities. Let’s first destroy this iron fist and then resolve our differences through dialogue. Dealing with our differences through armed struggle is not acceptable.

Q: Ryaz Al-Assad, the commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), has disowned the group behind the attack, but he did not identify the group by name or the motivation behind their attack. Why?

Al-Khatib: To be honest, the regime has been successful in creating some chaos. First, the revolution had started peacefully. Later some people were forced to carry arms in self-defense. As a result of the regime’s brutal crackdown, some odd behaviors emerged, which cannot be accepted at all. Without a doubt, any domestic confrontation is in the regime’s best interest.

Q: The Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the National Assembly, affiliated with the PYD, met in Erbil where they agreed to federalism and a parliamentary system for Syria. They decided to take part in the SNC only if the council recognizes federalism for Syrian Kurdistan. What do you think about this?

Al-Khatib: What has been decided in Erbil must be openly discussed with the Syrian opposition in a meeting. As I said, the council has a revolutionary structure and its duty is to make sure the revolution is successful and the (Assad) regime is ousted. The council has not been instructed to present its view for Syria’s future. The Kurdish political parties have rights to present their view and share what is best for Syria’s future. I believe that having their representatives in the meetings helps them to present their views better.

Q: Some opposition parties in Syria accuse the PYD of working with the Syrian regime and controlling the Kurdish areas on its behalf. What is your view about this?

Al-Khatib: According to my information, the PYD is a member of the Coordination Committee and it respects the views of this committee. Other than that, I don’t know their attitude toward the revolution...

The bottom line is that we support everyone who stands against oppression, and we reject those who become a burden to the Syrian people.

Q: It is said that there is an attempt by Turkey and the FSA to control the Kurdish areas. Do you have any information about this, or will you allow such a thing to happen?

Al-Khatib: What I know is that Turkey openly supports the revolution. As far as I know, the Turks are eager for stability in the region. As a Syrian citizen, I will not accept any military intervention that does not serve Syria and its unity.

Q: How do you view the attitude of the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Region toward the Syrian revolution?

Al-Khatib: Maliki’s attitude toward the revolution is very disappointing. He had lived in Syria for a long time and he is aware of its people’s pain, including the Kurds and Arabs. What really hurt me is when he said Iraq cannot inspect the planes that fly through his country to Syria. This means he allows weapons to reach the regime to kill Syrian people. His attitude toward the revolution is not acceptable. As for his part, Massoud Barzani has been doing everything he could to protect the stability of the region. He has a bold and clear attitude toward the revolution. He understands the will and desire of the Syrian people for freedom and equality. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him and thank our brothers in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for hosting more than 50,000 Syrian refugees. I hope to be able to visit them in the near future.

Q: When will you form the interim government, and what will this interim government have to offer the Syrian revolution?

Al-Khatib: The interim government will be formed soon. Professional and skilled people will be given positions in that government. But, first it has to win the trust of the Syrian people.

Q: How much longer do you think the Assad regime will remain in power, and do you think the government’s foundation will collapse with the collapse of the regime?

Al-Khatib: We want the regime to be overthrown. It is not our goal for the government’s foundations and society to fall apart. The government and its foundations belong to the Syrian people, not the regime. I believe the regime has already fallen politically and nationally. Some countries are resuscitating it to keep it alive as long as possible.

Q: Lately, the Islamic radical groups have been growing. How do you plan to deal with them?

Al-Khatib: There are misunderstandings about the Islamic Jihadist groups. Some people are practicing different methods of Islam, and that is their right. Some of them came from other countries because they could no longer stay and watch while the regime was slaughtering innocent people. It is surprising to me that a Turkish or Kurdish brother is to be considered a foreigner. No one mentions the Iranians and Russians who are fighting for the regime in Syria. The only groups that we cannot tolerate are those who justify the bloodshed of innocent people.

Q: What is your final word for the Kurdish nation?

Al-Khatib: What I am about to say comes from the bottom of my heart: The Kurds have been through a lot, but oppression has not spared any nation in this region. We are all one body and one soul. Our plurality must be the sign of our strength, instead of weakness. Today, in the world more countries are merging and become one stronger country. We should stop dividing. The Kurdish nation is one of the authentic nations of this region and must play a crucial role in developments. What is uniting us is more than what is dividing us. Let us no longer be manipulated by the agenda’s of those who want to play us. Let’s work toward a brighter future. Torture and imprisonment have gathered us together. Let’s hold hands to create a new hope for our children, who deserve to smile when they go to bed, and who deserve to live in a free nation.

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