News / Middle East

    Kurdish Independence Movement in Syria Worries Turkey

    Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani (R) attend a ceremony with Erdogan's wife Emine Erdogan in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Nov. 16, 2013.
    Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani (R) attend a ceremony with Erdogan's wife Emine Erdogan in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Nov. 16, 2013.
    The announcement last week of a provisional Kurdish regional government in northeast Syria is worrying Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and he has sought the assistance of Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani to help him stop it. 

    Barzani hadn’t stepped on Turkish soil for two decades until this past weekend, when he came to Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey,  to aid Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan’s efforts to try to dissuade Syrian Kurds from forming an autonomous state of their own in northeast Syria.

    While they have had partial autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991, nationalist movements have been suppressed in Turkey, Syria and Iran. Both Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan share concern about the growing power of Kurdish militias in Syria.

    Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, and his chief of staff, Fuad Hussein, spoke out against the self-rule declaration by the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, in Syria. 

    Hussein argued other Syrian Kurds disapproved of the move and that the PYD was really working with President Bashar al-Assad, a claim disputed by Syrian Kurds.

    “It was not the right time. It is dangerous to have a one-party system in Syrian Kurdistan, many other parties have been marginalized or ignored,” he said. 

    The self-rule declaration, which came in the wake of PYD victories in recent weeks over Jihadist and Islamist Syrian rebels,  couldn’t have come at a worst time for Erdogan.

    It has heightened the separatist sentiment among Turkish Kurds and is complicating his year-long peace process aimed at ending a bloody three-decade long insurgency by Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, the PYD’s sister party.

    The Kurds are often described as the world’s largest stateless ethnic group. They number about 30 million spread across four countries - Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They have long harbored dreams of independence.

    The divisions between Kurds are now growing with some seeing the PKK as the rightful Kurdish transnational leader. Others favor Barzani in that role.

    Those divisions were on display during Barzani’s visit to Diyarbakir.

    A PKK member, Mahmoud, 55, who declined to give his family name, says that Barzani should have spoken out against al-Qaida-linked rebels in Syria who are fighting Syrian Kurds. He like many Kurds claims the rebels receive assistance from Turkey.

    “The people there in Syria, don’t have anything to eat, they don’t have medicines. Al-Qaida gets support from here," he said. "They pass through with their weapons. So why is Barzani coming here? He is shaking hands with the Turks, and they are doing all these things against the Kurds and help al-Qaida.  What is he going to do here?"

    Only a few thousand people gathered to greet Barzani. There was a counter demonstration of a few hundred.

    Mehmet, a 45-year-old construction worker and father of four, said most Turkish Kurds supported the PYD’s declaration of independence in Syria.

    “We want them to get their own rights. We support this. We want them to be more strong,” he said.

    In a worrying sign for Prime Minister Edrogan, on the eve of Barzani’s arrival, Kurdish militants attacked a Turkish military convoy near the Syrian border, one of the most serious breaches by PKK fighters during the current eight-month-old truce.

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora