News / Middle East

Syrian Kurds Defeat Islamists, Declare Autonomy

Syrian Kurds Defeat Islamists, Declare Autonomyi
X
Henry Ridgwell
November 15, 2013 3:26 AM
The most powerful Kurdish faction in Syria has declared self-rule over the territory it controls in the north-east of the country. The announcement further complicates the civil war in Syria, and presents a complex problem for neighboring nations. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.

Syrian Kurds Defeat Islamists, Declare Autonomy

Henry Ridgwell
The most powerful Kurdish faction in Syria has declared self-rule over the territory it controls in the northeast of the country.  The announcement further complicates the civil war in Syria, and presents a complex problem for neighboring Turkey and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq.  

In recent weeks, Kurdish militia in Syria have ousted Islamist fighters from several villages close to the Turkish border.

The victories prompted the main political group of Syria's Kurds, known as the PYD, to declare autonomy.

At a press conference in Paris this week, the head of the PYD Saleh Muslim discussed why the Kurds were able to defeat the Islamists.

“Because in the end, they are fighting for money, as I mentioned.  There are about 3,000 people killed from them.  At the beginning, they were strong, but now they are not strong enough," said Muslim.

Opposition groups in Syria accuse the Kurds of colluding with Syrian government forces - a claim the PYD strongly denies.

There was some coordination over the withdrawal of government troops from Kurdish areas last year - but they remain historic enemies, says Robert Lowe of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.

“Maybe the regime has been buying time and it’s one area of Syria they would prefer not be fighting at the moment.  But I think the regime will be unhappy that the Kurds have gone as far as to declare a full autonomous government because contemplating any break-up of Syrian territory is an absolute red line for a regime built on Arab nationalism," said Lowe.

Kurdish gains in Syria pose a complex problem for Turkey.

The border has long been porous; Turkish attempts to build a frontier wall are being met with violent protests.

Ankara also is trying to negotiate a peace deal to end the decades-long war against Kurdish separatists known as the PKK, which is closely allied to the PYD in Syria.
But the move towards autonomy for the Kurds - already in northern Iraq, and now increasingly in Syria - could benefit Turkey, says Ibrahim Sirkeci of Regents University in London.

“Independence of Kurdistan in either of these countries perhaps will be conducive to establish a more peaceful solution which may appear in Turkey as well in the medium to long-term," said Sirkeci.

Kurds in northern Iraq already enjoy much autonomy.  Statehood for all Kurds may be a long held dream, but Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government will be wary of the developments in Syria, says Robert Lowe.

“The party, the PYD which has declared autonomy, is not an ally of the Kurds in Iraq.  And also partly because it upsets Turkey, which is a very, very important partner for the Kurds in Iraq," he said.

But more broadly, the regional momentum is towards Kurdish independence, says Ibrahim Sirkeci.

“It may appear in a federal system, a confederal system or whatever, but it seems at the moment there is nothing against that. The environment is quite conducive," he said.

Analysts say the Kurdish gains further complicate the ongoing civil war in Syria, which is witnessing the splintering of opposition forces.

You May Like

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid