Mr Salih Muslim is co-president of the Democratic Union Party or PYD. The PYD is one of the most dominant players in Syria; currently this is mostly because of its control over that most effective and formidable Kurdish militia YPG/YPJ, significant popular support, and its effective organization. In an exclusive interview with Manish Rai, Editor, ViewsAround (VA) he speaks about his party’s role in post war Syria.
Question: What relations will be pursued by Kurds with the government in Damascus after the war is over?
Muslim: We believe that Syria will not return to dictatorship after all the destruction and massacres. Therefore, a new Syria must be built with new relationships between all socio-ethnic groups. In Rojava, we managed to get rid of the regime in mid-2012 and established our democratic self-administration. With the expansion of the liberated areas, we proposed the democratic federal project for the future of Syria. This project is based on geography and not ethnicity. In the liberated areas of Syria, all socio-ethnic groups held a conference and declared “the federal democratic region of northern Syria.” It will administrator its own affairs until a political solution for Syria has been reached. Relationships with Damascus and the rest of Syria will be determined according to this new reality.
Question – What role will the PYD play in post war Syria?
Muslim: The PYD was a banned political party before the Syrian revolution. With the revolution, the PYD played a leading role in Rojava and northern Syria. The Democratic Self-Administration issued a law that regulates the work of political parties (Political Parties Law), and since then our party, together with other political parties, got a licence to work in Rojava and northern Syria. Currently, the PYD is a legitimate and legal party within the democratic federal region of northern Syria. Similar to any political party in a democratic country, the PYD will continue its political work within a democratic federal Syria in the post war period according to the terms of the social contract and the laws that might be passed.
Question – What do you think will be the legal status of Rojava in the coming time – will it be be an autonomous region, federation or an independent state?
Muslim: A few days ago the federal democratic region of northern Syria within the project of democratic federal Syria, was announced. Rojava is part of this federal project, i.e. is part of the federal democratic region of northern Syria together with any other liberated areas.
In other words, the three cantons of Rojava will be part of the federal region.
Question – Do you think Dr Bashar Al-Assad can still continue as a head of the state or he has to step down for any peace settlement?
Muslim: The future position of President Assad is linked to the political solution and its outcomes. Some opposition groups want him to step down as a precondition, while other opposition groups want him to step down at the beginning of the transition period and others want him to stay. However, the important thing for us is that the Syrian people and their real representatives should decide this issue. If stepping down would help the political solution and brings about the desired peace and stability, then it is obvious that he should step down.
Question – Do you think the two superpowers US and Russia will still support the Kurdish cause after the war is over?
Muslim: Kurds in Rojava had their project before the Syrian revolution, but the Syrian regime practiced various forms of tyrannical and oppressive methods to prevent the Kurds from achieving their objectives. The Syrian revolution was an opportunity for the Kurds to regroup, organise themselves and move forward with their project. In this project there was also the defence dimension, represented in the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). When those units defended their territory and entity, they became known to other parties concerned with the Syrian affair. Those units protected the values that the Kurds advocate, such as democracy, human rights and international laws and treaties. They defended those values against the most brutal form of terrorism, Salafist jihadists. Accordingly, various parties tried to establish relationships with the Kurds as a credible ally, who defends shared human values. This means that the Kurds have established themselves as a strong partner and are prepared to co-operate with any party adherent to the shared values and common interests. The major powers’ attitude towards the Kurds depends on how they relate to their interests with the Kurds and the extent of their commitment to human values and international human rights treaties and conventions, which they themselves signed and it is their responsibility to implement.
Question – Will all the Kurdish groups/parties operating in Syria be able to unite for promotion of the Kurdish cause?
Muslim: There are different political views and opinion in any society. It is a natural phenomenon and a source of intellectual wealth. This also applies to Kurdish society. The Syrian revolution with its accompanied horrors and atrocities, was a test for those parties. The clearer the picture, the more convergence between the different parties take place. There are 15 different political parties (legally licensed by the Democratic Self-Administration) working in Rojava, some support the administration and others are in opposition. We believe that there will be more unity between all parties when moving closer to the political solution in Syria.
Question – In post war Syria what role will the YPG play: will it be integrated with the country’s armed forces or will it be disbanded?
Muslim: The future role and position of the YPG and YPJ in the post-war Syria will be determined by the negotiation and terms of the political solution in Syria. Certainly, they will be part of the overall defence system of the democratic federal Syria. As for their positioning and location, it will depend on the agreements. However, strengthening and supporting the forces that have managed to defeat the worst enemies of humanity are beneficial for the Syrian people and the components of the democratic federal region of northern Syria.
Manish Rai is a columnist for the Middle-East and Af-Pak regions and Editor of the geo-political news agency Views Around. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org