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

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora