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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
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 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 US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
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.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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