I’m a Syrian Arab, pro-revolution, and have respect for the Kurdish desire to have a country.
At the same time, I’m very concerned about what it would mean if Western Kurdistan were to separate from the rest of Syria at this time, and I haven’t been able to find any articles or debates on-line about what is meant by an autonomous Kurdish state or region in Syria.
Would an autonomous Kurdish region prevent non-Kurdish Syrians from moving to and living in Western Kurdistan? Would non-Kurds in the region be treated as unwanted or second class citizens?
Is there a debate within the Kurdish community about possible compromises with the rest of Syria that could keep the Kurdish areas as part of Syria in practice, in addition to in name? Would there be free movement between Western Kurdistan and other areas of Syria?
These are issues that are large in the minds of many Syrians who fear an autonomous Kurdistan within Syria’s traditional borders.
I hope very much that there’s a way to compromise, to guarantee Syrian Kurds respect and promotion of Kurdish culture in the Kurdish areas and throughout Syria, while keeping Western Kurdistan as a part of the whole of one functioning Syria.
I and many Syrians who aren’t Kurdish also have major economic fears about what an autonomous Kurdish region would mean. Because the lands with almost all of Syria’s natural resources are on traditionally Kurdish territory, there’s a fear that Kurdish autonomy means cutting off the rest of Syria from the benefits of the natural resources that Syria as a whole nation has depended on to stay afloat. Without sharing a significant portion of the money made from natural resources, the rest of Syria will almost surely go into a severe economic depression in the years ahead, with little money to build up the education system or invest in other institutions where there is desperate need for development.
So I wonder if a significant majority of the Kurds of Syria would be willing to compromise on sharing much of the natural resource wealth.
Would Kurdish Syrians be satisfied if Kurdish-majority areas were guaranteed a larger cut of the natural resource money than the rest of Syria, perhaps double or three times per capita what the rest of Syria gets?
Would Kurdish Syrians be satisfied if they were guaranteed direct payment for each Kurdish Syrian so that they receive a significant amount of oil and natural gas money into their pockets directly with special paychecks regularly delivered to all Syrian Kurdish citizens, regardless of what part of the country they choose to live in?
This would give the Kurdish Syrians a major economic benefit over other Syrians, but would still leave money for investment in all of Syria.
I realize that this is about more than money, but I think a lot of the non-Kurdish Syrian fear is that Syria as a whole would be severely impoverished if an autonomous Kurdish government controlled the spending of the natural resource money.
Culturally, I believe there should be a guarantee in the constitution to provide Kurdish language education to all citizens who want it, Kurdish studies departments in universities, universities in the two largest Kurdish majority cities, Kurdish museums, government funded festivals throughout the country for holidays such as Neiruz (in order to bring Kurdish culture more directly into the Syrian mainstream), a guarantee in the constitution that Turkish armed forces must be prevented from entering the Kurdish region under any circumstances, a guarantee of freedom from imposed religion, and a host of other things placed in the national constitution that Kurds would institute in an autonomous region anyway. Of course, the word “Arab” must be dropped from the official title of Syria (Syrian Arab Republic), and discrimination against Kurds and non-Kurds should be banned and protected against by the post-Assad constitution.
Are there guarantees Syria could offer, short of making an effectively separate Kurdish nation, that would satisfy the majority of Kurds and convince them to stick with a Syrian democracy?
I’m sending this email because I don’t know what is meant by Kurdish autonomy. I’d like it to be defined or at least debated and discussed.
I’m hopeful that some Kurdish thinkers, particularly Syrian Kurds, can be brought together to tell the rest of the Syrians what some individuals representative of some Syrian Kurds are willing to entertain as possible moves for Syrian Kurdish and Arab reconciliation after Assad falls and a new state is created.
Thank you for reading this. I’ll be grateful for responses and ideas.
The correspondent is an American-born Syrian with family and property inside Syria. He would like to move to Syria and contribute to the university system for at least a few years while Syria develops as a democratic and pluralistic society.