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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
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 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.

VOA Blogs

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