Syria's Kurds seek unity ahead of
July 27, 2012
Kurdistan flag is raised at the top of governmental
buildings and Baath party buildings in all liberated
in Syrian Kurdistan.
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QAMISHLI, Syrian Kurdistan,— Syria's
Kurds, hostile to a regime that has oppressed them
and suspicious of the opposition, are putting aside
differences to unite and manage their own region in
the face of an uncertain future.
They have engaged carefully with the uprising
against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, but have
also kept the rebel Free Syrian Army out of their
regions, for fear of attracting the violence that
has engulfed much of the country.
In recent days, the Syrian army has pulled back from
northern Kurdish areas in Syrian Kurdistan (western
Kurdistan) where fighters close to the Kurdistan
Workers' Party (PKK) have been deployed.
That has fuelled suspicions among some of collusion
with the regime, and angered Turkey, which considers
the PKK a terrorist organisation and has criticised
the presence of the PKK-linked Kurdish Democratic
Union Party (PYD) along the border.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned
this week that Turkey would not hesitate to go after
members of the PKK, which took up arms in 1984 and
has bases in autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, inside
"That's not even a matter of discussion, it is a
given," he said, describing the establishment of PYD
posts near the Turkish border as aimed directly at
The traditional parties of Syria's Kurds have been
largely suspicious of the PYD, particularly
following an influx of Kurds from northern Iraq to
But despite the differences, the region's
communities signed an accord on July 11, under the
sponsorship of Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq's
Since then, the Kurdish National Council, which
groups around a dozen traditional Kurdish Syrian
parties has joined the People's Council of Western
Kurdistan (PCWK), a PYD offshoot, under the banner
of the Supreme Kurdish Council.
"The agreement was extremely positive because we
feared violence inside the community with the PYD,
which previously backed the regime," Havidar, a
Kurdish journalist in northern Syria, told AFP.
"It seems that the Syrian Kurds have decided to work
together," said Ignace Leverrier, a former French
diplomat who spent part of his career in Syria.
The PYD "has perhaps started to understand that the
regime is finished," he said.
The People's Council of Western Kurdistan denies any
cooperation with the regime.
"We have peacefully cleansed our areas of the
presence of government forces," a spokesman for the
council, Shirzad Izidi, told AFP.
He said the group had formed "popular Kurdish
units," a kind of Syrian version of the famed
Peshmerga fighters in Iraqi Kurdistan region, who
are helping keep order in the region.
And while these fighters are believed to be the only
ones carrying arms in the Kurdish region for now,
Barzani recently revealed that Iraqi Kurds are
training their Syrian counterparts in northern Iraq,
most of them deserters from the Syrian army.
The Kurdish community, largely concentrated in the
north, represents around 15 percent of the 23
million population in Syria, according to French
geographer Fabrice Balanche,www.ekurd.net
a Syria specialist.
The community has long complained of discrimination
at the hand of the regime's ruling Baath party and
advocated for recognition of their cultural and
And it has had difficult relations with the
opposition Syrian National Council, accusing it of
seeking to marginalise Syria's ethnic and religious
minorities, even though the council's head Abdel
Basset Sayda is himself Kurdish.
But the Kurds insist they are not seeking autonomy
like their Iraqi counterparts.
"We want our rights to be clearly recognised in the
next constitution," said Bahjat Bashir, a leader of
Syria's Kurdistan Democratic Party.
"We want to be full partners in the new Syria and we
are committed to the unity of the country."
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