Independent daily Newspaper


 Old Archive RSS Feed    Advertise



 A self-governing Kurdish entity in Syria – a long-term reality?

 Opinion — Analysis  
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


A self-governing Kurdish entity in Syria – a long-term reality?  11.8.2012 
By Hiwa Zandi
Special to

Kurds in Syrian Kurdistan (Western Kurdistan) Photo credit: Hajer Ghareeb.
Read more by the Author See Related Links
August 11, 2012

The political developments within and outside Syria with respect to the Kurds underscores a new Kurdish political reality: a self-governing Kurdish entity is on the making in the north and north-eastern parts of Syria.

For the past 17 months, the Syrian government is struggling to dismantle the strong rebellion that has impaired its credibility to maintain law and order in the country.

Political analysts believe that the Syrian government would not last long and give in whole or parts of the country to the belligerent opposition groups. The opposition groups are already claiming to be in control of parts of Aleppo, the largest Syrian city, and large areas of the countryside in the north.

Kurds are very much part of the burgeoning political developments. Taking the advantage of the power vacuum in the north and north-eastern parts of the country, created by the continuous and fierce fighting between the government troops and opposition fighters, Kurds have asserted power and control in those areas. It is reported that Kurdish political parties and armed forces are currently administering several north and north-eastern border districts, including Afrin, Kobane, Cindires, Derka Hemko and Girke Lege. It is further reported that Kurdistan flag is raised over official government buildings. These political developments are consolidating a self-governing Kurdish entity in the Kurdish majority populated areas of Syria.

These political gains however remain unstable. It is not determined how these developments proceed in the long run. There are several internal and external obstructions that may change the course of the developments.

The internal impediments are primarily created by the Syrian government and/or belligerent opposition groups. These sources however do not pose any serious threat at the moment. The Syrian government is crumbling progressively. Many high ranking government officials and military officers are increasingly defecting. The military’s control over the country has weakened due to the fierce internal fighting. The State’s security apparatus has become inexistent in the periphery of the country where many of the Kurdish towns are located. The prospective fall of the government at the core, the Damascus, would therefore effectuate entire removal of government’s remaining forces from the Kurdish areas. Most of these areas, apart from Qamishli, are already abandoned or forced to abandon by the Kurdish armed forces.

The primary internal threat to any Kurdish entity is therefore the future Syrian government which would most probably be the Syrian belligerent opposition groups headed by the Syrian National Council (SNC) and dominated by the radical Sunni Islamists. However, any such considerable threat is dependent on the level of power they may consolidate in the future Syrian political establishment.

Currently, there are reports that the Kurdish armed forces have refused the Syrian opposition groups entering the Kurdish areas. There is no doubt they will keep doing so and confront them militarily should they attempt entering the Kurdish areas. Furthermore, as the Kurdish parties’ sphere of influence widens in the Kurdish areas, the inhabiting people are experiencing a level of freedom they were deprived of for decades. In this circumstance, they will not be ready to give away their freedoms without fierce resistance.

Therefore, any attempt to realign the Syrian sovereignty over the Kurdish areas may only be realised through reconciling the Kurdish aspirations. The Syrian Kurdish parties are pushing for establishing a federal democratic government in the Syrian Kurdistan in the post-Assad era. The Foreign Affairs Office of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) has called for support and protection in establishing a self-governing Kurdish region in the Syrian Kurdistan. The SNC leader, Abdulbaset Sieda, himself a Kurd, in his recent visit to Erbil, Kurdistan Regions capital, assured the Syrian Kurds that their rights and identity will be protected under the new Syrian constitution.

In addition to above internal complications, there are also some external impediments that stem primarily from the regional States. At the forefront is Turkey. The Turkish government has shown serious discomfort with the emerging Kurdish entity forfear of a domino effect on its restive Kurdish inhabitant. The Turkish government is apparently concerned with the PKK infiltration into the Syrian Kurdistan through the PYD and consequently opening up another front for its fight against Turkey. It has already bolstered its military build-up along the border signalling a cross border military intervention if PKK presence is continued.

The Turkish government has also accelerated its diplomatic reaction. The Turkish Foreign Minister recently visited the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The visit was to pressure the Kurdistan Region to retreat from giving any political and military support to the Syrian Kurds.

However, the burgeoning political developments indicate that Turkey has limited influence to debilitate the new emerging Kurdish entity. The Turkish government knows considerably well that any military move into Syria will result in serious internal, regional and international reaction. Syria and Iran have already warned Turkey from any such dangerous move. The US has also signalled its disapproval. The US has further stated that the Syrian people (including the Kurds) are in charge of their future political direction. The Kurdistan Region has also tacitly rejected any Turkish intervention by stating that Syrian people need to decide their future.

The PKK has also changed its fighting tactics for the first time in its 28 years of armed struggle in light of the current political developments in the Syrian Kurdistan. PKK leader Murat Karayilan recently announced that PKK strongholds being beyond the Turkish borders remains talk of past and that from now on the guerrilla forces will position themselves in permanent strongholds within the Turkish territory. He stated that the traditional ‘hit and run’ tactic will give way to a new tactic of‘ attack from many directions, take position in strongholds and protect the area’. According to Karayilan, his guerrillas have already implemented this new tactic in Hakari, Cizreand Zagros regions in Turkey by taking positions in bulwarks located 35 kilometres inside the Turkish border.

It is interesting to note that these areas are located in close proximity to the PYD controlled Kurdish districts in Syria. This indicates that PKK is making strategic moves to protect the emerging political entity in Syrian Kurdistan by establishing strongholds within Turkish borders closer to the Syrian Kurdish areas.

These political developments indicate that the Kurds are up for creating yet another semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The US and European Union have not actively opposed this emerging political development. The regional States are not a position to act unilaterally or collectively to derail this new political entity. What is hoped for is that the political transition takes place without destruction and loss of human life.

Hiwa Zandi, Masters of Laws Student, University of Queensland, Australia. A
regular contributing writer for

Copyright © 2012 All rights reserved


  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


Copyright © 1998-2016 Kurd Net® . All rights reserved
All documents and images on this website are copyrighted and may not be used without the express
permission of the copyright holder.