News / Middle East

    Syrian Kurd Self-Rule Declaration Raises Concerns

    Kurdish Democratic Union Party head Saleh Muslim pictured on November 13, 2013 (Reuters).
    Kurdish Democratic Union Party head Saleh Muslim pictured on November 13, 2013 (Reuters).
    The announcement by the most powerful Kurdish faction in Syria that it has declared self-rule over parts of northeastern Syria has generated angry reactions from Syrian rebels, rival Kurdish Syrian groups and Turkey.  Moreover analysts say the Kurdish faction known as the Democratic Union Party or PYD, is tainted by an association with the Assad government in Damascus, and its self-rule declaration could have a negative impact on Kurds in Iraq and Turkey.

    The consolidation of the PYD’s hold on Kurdish-majority towns in northeastern Syria prompted the self-rule declaration on November 12th, triggering a fierce condemnation by the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC), who described the move as a separatist and hostile act.  

    SNC leaders have long accused the PYD of working with Syrian government forces, something PYD head, Saleh Muslim strong denied in an interview with VOA.

    "They are saying this because they want to use us for their aims and we won’t do that. They have been supporting jihadists and Islamists fighting us. We don’t have any contact with Assad, ” he said.

    In reference to his own series of imprisonments by the Assad regime from 2003 until he fled in 2010 to neighboring Iraq, the 62-year-old PYD leader said: “We were fighting Assad long before them.”

    But Dr. Aziz Hasan Barzani, an Iraqi-Kurdish academic and adviser to the International Middle East Peace Research Center, a think tank in Ankara, dismisses the claim by Muslim that there are no connections between the PYD and the Assad government.
     
    “I don’t want to say that PYD is loyal to the Assad regime but they think that Assad is also fighting their enemy, al-Qaida.   Sometimes in politics when you need help even from people you don’t like sometimes you say I don’t have any option. And maybe when they don’t get any weapons from Turkey or weapons from other countries but Assad is ready to give weapons to help them defend their territory, maybe they take them. In my view I think there are contacts but I don’t know exactly what,” he said
     
    The PYD Kurds say they support the rebellion against the Assad government but they have not been engaged in battles with the Syrian president’s forces since the Syrian army withdrew from Kurdish areas in the early months of the civil war. For the last few months they have battling al-Qaida affiliated jihadists for control of oilfields and border crossings. Muslim claims about a third of Syria’s oil wells were under Kurdish control, although none are currently producing.

    The Kurds have long had the goal of carving out an autonomous region in northeastern Syria similar to the autonomy secured by Kurds in northern Iraq. Muslim says Syrian Kurds “would like to be with the secular rebels fighting Assad, those who believe in democracy but all the brigades now are full of Islamists and Salafis and religious people who want to replace Assad with an Islamic emirate.”

    Impact on Turkish, Iraqi Kurds

    Barzani also says the self-rule declaration is a “dangerous game” that could impact  Kurds in neighboring Turkey and Iraq. “They need to be careful. Kurds outside Syria can’t tell them what they should do but they need to understand they should be cautious. We are all inter-connected. They shouldn’t ignore other Kurdish parties.”
     
    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who accused the PYD of not “keeping its promise”, has harshly criticized the self-rule declaration. “We told them to avoid a de facto administration declaration that could divide Syria," Davutoğlu told Turkish broadcaster NTV.
     
    The PYD is a sister party of the Turkey’s own separatist Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK and Muslim acknowledges that Turkish Kurds are assisting with aid, funds and weapons. The PKK has been designated a terrorist organization both by the US and the European Union, complicating Western discussions with the PYD as Washington tries to coax all warring parties to negotiate a peace deal.
     
    The Turkish government is in talks with the PKK to solve long-running separatist demands in Turkey but a peace process has stalled.
     
    Muslim accuses the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of aiding jihadist groups fighting the PYD. “They were supporting them directly. They were sending them weapons and taking their wounded from fighting with us to hospitals. Recently after pressure from Western countries the Turks have been more secret about their assistance,” he said.   He claims that arms being funneled through Turkey going to the FSA (Free Syrian Army)  leak to the jihadists. Turkish officials have long denied aiding jihadist elements fighting the Syrian government.  
     
    Not all Syrian Kurds are pleased by the self-rule declaration. About 16 groups affiliated with the Kurdish National Council have rejected the PYD move. Earlier the groups signed an agreement with the SNC in September pledging cooperation.  The KNC’s patron is Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, who this week will hold talks with Turkish leaders about an energy deal between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan.
     
    Sunni rebels battling the Assad government say that PYD gains benefit the Syrian regime and in recent weeks they have been courting other Syrian Kurdish groups. “They are trying to divide us,” Muslim says.  The PYD leader says he will only agree to attend Geneva peace talks being brokered by the Americans and Russians if there is a separate Kurdish delegation.

    You May Like

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    November 16, 2013 1:09 PM
    What is wrong with having a Kurdish country if what Muslim says will be true - a secular society. But it is sometimes easier said than done, today's free Kurdish state may become an islamic republic tomorrow, hence these muslims (and his name here is muslim) are never to be trusted. Well, let's wait and see. But secular state that will soon start practicing weird freedoms and counter-human norms from USA? Never know what to desire nowadays, until USA moves to an outer planet leaving the earth for those created by God.
    In Response

    by: Ronald from: Germany
    November 17, 2013 7:39 PM
    Please stop writting senseless junk!
    The Kurds are only people in Middle-East who are friendly towards USA and Israel.
    Didn't you read that they are fighting Al-Quaida? USA should support them and not the fanatic Islamists. Don't you wonder what would happen if the "rebells" win? Their will be a new islamist state in the neighbourhood of Israel, a second Iran.
    The only solution for ME is a free, democratic Kurdistan!

    And please don't judge anybody because of theier names. Kurds aren't allowed to have kurdish names. His name is Arab because of the Arabization of Kurds.
    Last thing: google Kurdistan or watch some videos especially about Iraqi Kurdistan. You will be suprised!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.