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

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

    City could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters

    Turkey Aims New Crackdown at Journalists, Academics, Airline Workers

    Ankara continues targeting people allegedly linked to exiled cleric, who it says led the failed military coup

    Pakistan Ready to Inaugurate Rebuilt Afghan Border Crossing

    Construction of Torkham Gate triggered deadly clashes between Pakistani and Afghan military forces

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    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.
    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.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora