By Adib Abdulmajid:
The Kurdish participation in the ongoing popular pro-democracy revolution in Syria was remarkable since the beginning, when the Syrians started to take to the street and call for a democratic change in the country.
Undoubtedly, the oppressive policies of the current tyrannical regime didn’t exclude the Arabs in Syria, but the Kurds afforded the largest portion of that oppression as the persecution, discrimination, maltreatment, marginalization, and impoverishment exhausted the Kurdish community on all levels, besides the denial of the Kurds’ presence on their historical land.
As the second biggest ethnic group in Syria, the Kurds were exposed, over the decades of Assad family’s rule and the domination of Baath party on the reins of the civil life, to a number of chauvinistic plans, procedures, and policies which deprived the Kurds their cultural-national identity and civil rights, and caused them an unforgettable suffering; the fact which led the Kurdish people to participate actively in the ongoing revolution and support the efforts of the Syrian people to overthrow the regime and all of its figures, foundations, and tyrannical mentality in order to put an end for the dark decades of suppression and to build a new pluralistic and democratic Syria.
However, over months of popular struggle against the Syrian regime, the Kurdish participation was exposed to a wide criticism by the Arab opposition, which claimed that the Kurds are not fully supporting the current revolt. The reason behind that accusation was the fact that the shelling of the forces of Assad regime excluded the Kurdish areas and the numbers of the victims in the Kurdish region are incomparable with those who are daily falling in the other areas of the country.
The Kurds and the Kurdish issue were remarkably recognized on the Syrian political, social and geographical arena during the Kurdish anti-persecution uprising in 2004, in which the Kurds were seen as merely separatists by most of the Arab forces across the country, and dozens of Kurdish youth were killed during that uprising. Since then, the Kurdish soldiers were constantly targeted by their officers during their compulsory military service, and dozens of them were systematically assassinated, besides other prominent Kurdish figures such as Sheikh Mashuq al-Khaznawi, one of the most inspirational and influential Kurdish figures in the Kurdish society in Syria, assassinated in June 1, 2005.
The Kurds have imperative and objective motives to be committed to the participation in the ongoing Syrian uprising, which made them one of the most committed components of the Syrian society to the revolution and its goals, and the regime’s response was as expected; killing, kidnapping, and detainment. Thus, the Kurds afforded the loss of a number of prominent political figures and activists such as Mishal Temmo, Nasreddin Berhek, Jiwan Qutna and others.
Moreover, the Kurdish region in Syria turned recently into a sanctuary for the displaced Syrian Arabs from Homs, Deir Ezzour, Aleppo and Idlib who resorted to the Kurdish areas due to the brutal crackdown of the pro-Assad’s forces on their cities, and the Kurdish families received them with a national and humanistic spirit, without expecting any appreciation from the Arab opposition which proved its chauvinism over seventeen months of uprising.
Despite their remarkable support to the revolution and its principles, the Kurds remain accused of serving some agendas, and they are always expected to defend themselves to prove their intensions and goals; the fact which led many Kurdish activists to criticize this discriminative mentality shown by the Arab opposition – which seems to be holding the same degree of hatred to this marginalized nation as Assad regime itself.
However, the Kurds didn’t hesitate to adopt the political concept of the Syrian revolution to move with the country to a new phase with a new social compact between the different components of the Syrian community. The Kurdish people also showed the readiness to be committed in absolute terms to the both concepts of the Syrian issue and the Kurdish national issue without any incompatibility, and recognized the both issues as correlative and inseparable.
Nevertheless, the Arab opposition factions have constantly tended to marginalize the Kurdish component in most of the conferences of the Syrian opposition, and rigidly tried to exclude the Kurdish demands from their declarations and agreements.
The Kurdish parties in Syria might be blamed for their dereliction in not providing one unified vision on the Kurdish future and the demands of the Kurdish people in Syria, but the Arab opposition didn’t show any readiness to respond to any Kurdish draft regarding the Kurdish issue in Syria and prevented reassuring the Kurds about their future. Rather, during the opposition conference in Cairo, July 2- 2012, the Arab opposition leaders denied the recognition of the Kurds as a “nation” in Syria, and tried to avoid the use of that term and excluded it from their documents.
As the Arab opposition mounted its marginalization to the Kurdish demands, the most remarkable transformation point for the Kurdish political movement in Syria was seen through founding the Kurdish National Council (KNC) – a coalition of 14 Kurdish parties in Syria – October 2011, which could be considered as the first step towards a real Kurdish unification. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) – an affiliate of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) – was the only party which didn’t participate in the KNC. As the rift between the KNC and the PYD grew, the leadership of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq tried to play a positive role to solve the rift between the both Kurdish bodies, and an agreement – sponsored by President Massoud Barzani – was signed between them June 11- 2012 in Erbil, and that reconciliation between the KNC and the PYD was culminated by establishing the Kurdish Supreme Committee in Syria, and the Kurdish population have celebrated this remarkable Kurdish unification by taking to the streets in different Kurdish areas and raised the banner of “The Kurdish Supreme Committee Represents Us” across the Kurdish region in Syria.
As the regime’s crisis grew, the Kurdish areas saw a remarkable withdrawal of the Assad’s forces, and about five Kurdish cities were declared totally free and overtaken by the Kurdish forces, namely by the Popular Protection Unites (PPU) – the armed wing of the Kurdish Supreme Committee in Syria – and the PPU took the responsibility of protecting the liberated Kurdish areas.
These developments raised the fears of the Syrian Arab opposition factions, and led them to spread rumors about a “compromise between Assad regime and the PKK rebels”, saying that the regime has empowered the PKK in the Kurdish areas in Syria. The Turkish authorities also broke its silence concerning the remarkable unity of the Kurdish political forces and the Kurdish authority in some Kurdish areas in Syria, and its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Ankara has the right to intervene into the Kurdish region in Syria to chase the PKK’s rebels. Thus, the PKK became a sort of peg for the Arab opposition and the Turkish government to hang on all of their interests to intervene in the Kurdish region’s affairs in Syria and prevent any Kurdish control there.
The threatening statements of Erdogan could show a political ‘stupidity’ by the Turkish Prime Minister, basically because Turkey is hosting the Syrian opposition and the Syrian army defectors – the fact which gives a larger right to Assad to intervene into Turkey than the right of the Turks to intervene into north Syria for some fake and unreal reasons; as a popular Syrian idiom says “If Your House Is Made of Glass, Never Target The Others By Stones”.
Since the beginning of the ongoing anti-dictatorship revolt, the Kurdish political forces have constantly insisted two basic goals in the post-Assad Syria; to achieve a democratic change in the country on the one hand, and to guarantee the Kurdish rights constitutionally on the other. But the recent developments on the Syrian arena illustrated that the Syrian Kurds are confronting multiple challenges and different enemies; the Assad regime, the Arab opposition and the Turks.
Adib Abdulmajid is a Syrian Kurdish journalist based in the Netherlands. He is a member of the Association of Foreign Journalists and Writers in the Netherlands. He is a blogger for multiple websites in English, Dutch, and Arabic.