Welcome to the Kurdistan Region of Syria

For thousands of Kurds in Syria, achieving basic rights and citizenship was a dream let alone witnessing the hoisting of the flag of Kurdistan on the historic soil of their ancestors.

For hundreds of years, Kurdish valour, passion and determination stood up to many forms of tyranny and the sheer force and military might of their oppressors. Often helicopter gunships, tanks, fighter jets and even chemical weapons were no match for the heart and pride of the Kurdish warrior.

After decades out of the limelight, it is the turn of the Kurds of Syria to seize their historic opportunity, to unite and liberate another part of Kurdistan from tyranny and dictatorship. As a series of cities succumb to Kurdish control, Kurds need to ensure that the last Arab troop to leave Kurdistan is the last oppressing force to ever be seen in their territory.

Much like the uprising of Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991, Syrian Kurds must ensure that the newly hoisted Kurdish flags on-top of government buildings are the only flags that the region will ever see.

Liberation of Kurdistan

As Kurdish forces of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) finally united via the recent Erbil agreement brokered by Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani, the renewed vigour of the Kurds was on instant show.

The fall of Kobane, in the province of Halab (Aleppo) and close to the Turkish border, served as the first symbol of freedom. This quickly followed with the liberation of Amude, Afrin, Dêrik and the Cidêris district. Kurdish People’s Defense Unions (YPG) alongside the Kurdish citizens, were at the forefront of the liberation.

The battle for these cities was largely without any real confrontation. This is not because Bashar al-Assad’s government sees these areas as non-important. On the contrary, they dare not indulge in a bloody confrontation with a group of determined, passionate and patriotic Kurds, where the outcome was certain defeat. Instead, the Syrian army decided to regroup and focus their efforts in maintaining control of key cities.

With reported clashes in Qamishli, the iconic Kurdish power centre of Syria, it is unlikely that Assad will give up the city without a fight. However, with a united Kurdish offensive and the Syrian army already stretched in Damascus and in other battles with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Damascus can ill-afford a protracted and ultimately costly battle against the growing Kurdish brigades.

The Union of Kurdish Coordination Committees (UKCC) urged the members of the Syrian army to withdraw from the Kurdish areas or face consequences. Indeed some reports indicate that the Syrian army may well withdraw under certain conditions rather than risk a bloody conflict with the Kurds.

At this historical juncture, the Kurdistan Region must continue to support their brethren in Syria, both through a continuation of political efforts to bolster unity and harmony amongst the disparate Kurdish voices in Syria and also through logistical support and aid.

Erbil Agreement

Only a few weeks ago, there was a deep split in Syrian Kurdistan that threatened the nationalist goals of the Kurds, undermined their efforts at a key time to topple Assad and even threatened to break into civil war.

As part of the Erbil agreement, the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the People’s Council of Western Kurdistan formed an agreement for the join-administration of Syrian Kurdistan.

Maintaining unity is perhaps the biggest risk to nationalist goals of the Kurds in Syria. Even Assad is less of a danger that the danger of Kurdish disunity itself.

Through unity, the Kurds become a cohesive force and where their battle becomes one of ethnic and sovereign rights, rather than individual goals of political parties.

Kurdish parties seem to be well aware of the dangers of not fulfilling a united front. The importance of working together was recently echoed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Kurdistan Freedom Party.

Unity amongst such an array of Kurdish views will not be easy but any alternative is simply not an option.

Ankara Alarm

Whilst the Kurds in Syrian and throughout greater Kurdistan looks at the emergence of a Kurdish controlled region in Syria with great pride, Turkey is inevitably alarmed at such developments.

Regardless of greater Kurdish unity in Syria, there is no denying that a major force on the new Kurdish political maps is the PYD which has strong links to the PKK.  The PKK flags on display tell its own story,

Barzani has helped to reposition the PYD focus from one of anti-Turkey and supporting the PKK to one that can focus on the primary and historical objective of liberating Syrian Kurdistan.

PYD has changed its tone for now, but it has left Turkey in a precarious position. Does it remain idle and watch as the Kurds and particularly the PYD carve out a new bastion of Kurdish nationalism, or does it intervene and do something about it?

If Turkey does take military action to intervene then it almost certainly will alienate the Kurds further and may even lead to a greater cross border insurgency. It will also undermine their role as the main sponsor of Syrian oppositional if ironically they are seen to punish Kurds for ousting Assad.

Kurdistan Region on the other hand has the difficult job of keeping Syrian Kurds in tandem with their Region and working on their side and away from one that may incur the wrath of Turkey.

The Kurdistan Region will become the natural foster parent of Syrian Kurdistan and it will be interesting to see how Ankara reacts to this inevitable reality.

However, it may be a small price to pay if the Kurdistan Regional Government can manage to keep the PKK away from dominating the Syrian Kurdistan region.

Kurdistan First

The focus of Syrian Kurds must be on Kurdistan before the nationalist objectives of the Arab dominated Syrian National Council (SNC).

Syrian Kurds will be wary of taking any new power and influence for granted, knowing only too well of the Arab opposition to the idea of Kurdish self-rule let alone de-facto independence.

In this light, it was a wise move by the Kurds to prevent the FSA forces from entering their region and to limit the prospects of confrontation and thus damage to Kurdistan as much as possible,

While the Kurds should continue to do what they can to topple Assad from power, the very future of post-Assad Syria is far from certain.

How the array of opposition voices can be wedged together is a difficult undertaking. There are many echoes of Iraq in the new Syria, and once the euphoria of the eventual fall of Assad wanes, the battle to keep a united Syria will take centre stage.

Much like Iraq, Kurds in Syria would have a pivotal region with a plenty of oil reserves, and will work to safeguard and bolster their region before submitting to the sentiment of Arab nationalism once again.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: eKurd.net, Various Misc.

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