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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.