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.
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