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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid