News / Europe

    Syrian Kurds Want Iraqi Border Crossing Opened

    Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) chat together as they stand in front of a base, that used to be for Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra, after capturing it from them in Al-Rmelan, Qamshli province, Nov. 11, 2013.
    Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) chat together as they stand in front of a base, that used to be for Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra, after capturing it from them in Al-Rmelan, Qamshli province, Nov. 11, 2013.
    Syrian Kurds are hoping the Iraqi government in Baghdad will open a border crossing they recently captured from al-Qaida-affiliated jihadists. Competing forces within Syria and social and political divides in neighboring Iraq and Turkey, however, are big obstacles.

    Syrian Kurdish militiamen have been in control since October of the town of Yaroubiya on the Iraq border after seizing it from jihadist fighters. Now their leaders want Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to open the crossing to trade and aid.

    Other border crossings from Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan into the Kurdish-dominated northeast of Syria are currently closed.

    Maliki and Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani have clashed politically over the division of oil revenue between Baghdad and the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish area.

    Competing interests

    Barzani has gone along with a months-long embargo on the Syrian Kurds imposed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who disapproves of the Syrian Kurds’ aims to set up a semi-autonomous state in the northeast corner of Syria.

    Turkey has long been battling Kurdish insurgency in its territory and fears Syria could become a haven for cross-border Kurdish attacks.

    But the closing of the border crossings with both Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdistan has caused considerable hardship for the Syrian Kurds, said Kovan, an activist who has asked for his family name not to be used.

    “The people are using what they have got, what they have already. Everything is getting so expensive,” said Kovan.

    In recent months Kurdish militiamen have pushed jihadists out of key areas and are attempting to craft a mini-state in Syria’s northeast in territory abutting both Turkey and Iraq.

    The leading Kurdish party in Syria, the Democratic Union Party [PYD] has announced intentions of conducting elections and establishing a provisional regional government.

    Turkey tightens grip

    Since the self-rule declaration, the Turks have tightened up on the border with Syria, making it harder and more dangerous to cross illegally. The dangers were underscored last month when three young Syrian Kurds were fatally shot by Turkish border guards. The Turks said they were smugglers.

    Two of them were brothers, Amer Ahmed Abdullah, aged 29, and his 17-year-old sibling, Yaser. Their cousin, Ali Abdullah, said they weren’t smugglers and had been working in restaurants in southern Turkey.

    “No work, there is no job here, so they went there to work, to get life, and to get money. They weren’t smugglers," said Abdullah. "They were only working in restaurant. They came back to visit their family and go back to Turkey again but they killed.”

    Syria’s Kurds are depending on locally grown fruit and vegetables. Stores are thinly stocked when it comes to goods from outside and pharmacists are short of basic medicines, including antibiotics.

    There are talks underway about allowing one of the border crossings with Turkey to be opened, but the Syrian army - and not the Kurds - control it.

    PYD leader Saleh Muslim recently told a Kurdish TV station that he is pinning his hopes on Iraq's Maliki opening its border.

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Holds Biggest Political Meeting in 36 Years

    Workers' Party Congress set for Friday; Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora