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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

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