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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More