News / Middle East

Syrian Kurds Take Steps Toward Self-Rule

Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units chat in front of a base captured from an Islamist Syrian rebel group in Al-Rmelan, Qamshli province. Kurdish militias are solidifying a geographic and political presence in the war-torn country.
Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units chat in front of a base captured from an Islamist Syrian rebel group in Al-Rmelan, Qamshli province. Kurdish militias are solidifying a geographic and political presence in the war-torn country.
In much of Syria’s Kurdish-dominated northeast, basic services are functioning and schools are open in marked contrast to other areas of the war-torn country.
 
That’s because Kurds have been able to maintain a strong semblance of self-governance.
 
The city of Qamishli has become a center of that rule, carved out by Kurdish militias who ousted al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists.
 
Confidence among Kurdish activists is growing and so too is their ambition, they say. They are creating a rival to what remains of the Syrian bureaucracy in the northeast and they hope it could form the basis of a semi-autonomous state once the civil war is eventually over.
 
Although criticized by the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC) because they refuse to assist rebels battling to oust President Bashar al-Assad, the Kurds say they are determined to prevent their cities from suffering the fate of Aleppo and other towns contested by the rebels and Assad.
 
Many of them have been razed in the conflict as Assad withdrew most of his forces from the northeast early in the two-and-half year civil war.
 
“The Kurdish people from the start supported the revolution and they believed in the same dream of the Arab Spring, of having a free democratic society,” said activist Moaze Abdel Kareem, a 32-year-old pharmacist who heads the new Kurdish-controlled Qamishli city council.
 
“A lot of our people were imprisoned and tortured by Assad over the years,” he said. “But we started to think we might be able to accomplish our aims through peaceful means, as much as we can. We are not only avoiding a fight with the Syrian army but also would prefer not to fight the Free Syrian Army (FSA). But we will defend our geography.”
 
The Kurds control about 80 percent of the city, they say and try to ignore the presence of Syrian soldiers. They too try to disregard as much as they can the remaining Syrian state apparatus when it comes to everyday basic needs and services.  Their approach is simply to ignore and not visit the handful of government buildings that still fly the red, black and white striped Syrian national flag with two green stars.
 
They go instead to new local Kurdish authorities that have been created from the ground up by activists from different political factions and from no factions at all, although cadres from the leftish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, are to the forefront of the initiative.
 
“When the situation started to collapse in the city because of the revolution, there was nobody to clean the streets, the trash piled up causing health and hygiene problems and people started to volunteer to do something about it,” Kareem said from  a busy office complex taken over by the council.
 
Volunteer committees started to focus a year ago on trash collection and water supplies.
 
But the local volunteerism and activism snowballed and in early summer 32 committees in all were formed to supervise a broad range of services – including public health, sewage, energy supplies, security, and women’s issues. The council set up Syria’s first ever all-female municipal police unit.
 
“There are some things you still have to go to state functionaries for, like applying for a passport,”  Kareem said. “But mostly you come to us.”
 
Funding of the new local councils comes from voluntary donations and service-fees, although Kareem says the fees are lower than those charged by the Syrian government. The 120 council workers receive token salaries and Kareem  receives $70 a month.
 
Many Kurds are happy to be freed from the months-long reign of terror of the jihadists and welcome local rule.
 
Dania Moon, owner of a women's boutique in downtown Qamishli, says life under jihadist militias was difficult, with frequent kidnappings and murders. (Courtesy photo: Mohamed Khalil)Dania Moon, owner of a women's boutique in downtown Qamishli, says life under jihadist militias was difficult, with frequent kidnappings and murders. (Courtesy photo: Mohamed Khalil)
x
Dania Moon, owner of a women's boutique in downtown Qamishli, says life under jihadist militias was difficult, with frequent kidnappings and murders. (Courtesy photo: Mohamed Khalil)
Dania Moon, owner of a women's boutique in downtown Qamishli, says life under jihadist militias was difficult, with frequent kidnappings and murders. (Courtesy photo: Mohamed Khalil)
“We used to close the shop very early because we were frightened about safety,’ said Dania Moon, owner of a women’s boutique in downtown Qamishli that sells clothing jihadists would have found offensive. “There were kidnappings and killings by jihadists and also by ordinary individuals.”
 
With stability, the exchange rate between the Syrian pound and the dollar has stabilized, although prices are still high, at least double their pre-war prices.
 
Locally grown fruit and vegetable are available in abundance, hawked by street vendors in Qamishli’ s narrow and busy thoroughfares, Still, stores are thinly stocked when it comes to goods from overseas. The Turks have closed much of the border with Syria’s Kurdistan.
 
The stability the city, which sits at the foot of the Taurus Mountains and has a population of just under 200,000, is threatened though. There is alarm at a burgeoning bombing campaign by jihadists. The latest came recently when a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb outside the internal security base near Qamishli, killing a civilian and two members of the Kurdish security forces.
 
Since the summer, there have been 37 car or roadside bombings and three blasts detonated by suicide bombers in Syria’s Kurdistan. More than 40 have died.
 
Aside from the jihadist bombing campaign, relations with the remaining Syrian troops in the Kurdish pocket are tense.
 
“The Assad regime knows we are strong, so it chooses not to attack us now,” said Giwan Ibrahim, one of the   Kurds’ top military commanders. “And we choose not to attack Assad now, despite the fact that he is not our friend.”

You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down up to three percent, while US market indexes were off around 2.5 percent in afternoon trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: salam from: kurdistan
November 29, 2013 10:52 PM
I think it is time for kurds also to get the freedom which had been taken from them more than one century and the world powers have to accept this truth ,because kurds are one of largest nations in middle east who dont have a country eventhough they are living on their land and they have their private language which distingush them from other nations who occupying their country (kurdistan) like turkey, iran ,Syria ,Iraq by help and the design of France and Britain year1918 in that year they divide kurdistan borders and as a result kurds are giving victims from that day to the present ,genocide ,murders ,exile ,taken their nationality from them etc...............

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs