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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    Diplomats Hope to Revive Cradle of Civilization After Defeat of IS

    Diplomats from around globe gather at US State Department, discuss how to rebuild minority communities shattered by Islamic State group

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora