As the fighting continues and indeed intensifies it becomes more evident by the day that the turmoil in Syria has no easing in sight. This has to do with several reasons. Firstly, as the conflict wears on, the opposition that was organized by the country’s majority Sunni population looks more and more fragmented and radicalized which has prompted the peoples of Syria as well as the West to shun its support for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian National Council (which operates mainly from outside of Syria).
With groups such as Jubhat al-Nusra and Ghuraba al-Sham joining the ranks of the FSA coupled with the FSA leadership’s inability to prevent its own men from carrying out atrocities against civilians a general disbelief has now spread in Syria which has led many people to believe that what may follow after the horrific reign of Bashar al-Assad might not be much of an improvement.
Mutual war crimes
Recently an independent UN panel investigation on war crimes in Syria led by renowned legal scholar Paulo Pinheiro stated that war crimes had been carried out by both government forces as well as by armed rebels. It also called on the UN Security Council to refer violators to the International Criminal Court.
Syria has become an international battleground; it seems the Middle-East’s accumulated contradictions over the past hundred years has been concentrated to Syria making the many possible outcomes of the current upheaval an incentive for neighboring countries such as Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi-Arabia as well as for Russia, China and the US to intervene in order to secure own future policies.
As for now Iran stands as Bashar al-Assads most adamant ally. Iran’s support for the Syrian regime is of course not merely based on sectarian reasons seeing as the small elite that have ruled Syria since 1963 predominantly consists of alewites – a shia sect. It has more to do with geopolitical reasons, Iran has a leverage on Israel in the form of Hizbollah in Lebanon which in turn is aided and assisted by the Syrian regime. Saudi-Arabia, a close ally of the US and a firm adversary of Iran seeks to minimize Iran’s influence in Syria and in the Middle-East by supporting the opposition. Russia on the other hand is reluctant to lose its last remaining military hold in the Middle-East and therefore supports the current regime.
Syria’s revolution as a zero-sum game, with such a diversity of active participants, was never going to reach a swift resolution that would lend itself to the constraints of news-editors favorite epithet as yet another 30-seconds coverage of the so called “Arab spring”. The conflict in Syria has now dragged on for over two years.
The current situation brought the Kurds together with their Arab, Izadi (Yazidi) and Christian brethren have taken it upon themselves to organize their own towns and villages independently. The Western Kurdistan Democratic Movement (TEV-DEM), an umbrella organization consisting of several different parties in the Kurdish region is currently, with overwhelming support from the people, administrating several cities. This is done by democratically elected councils and committees responsible for providing public services such as education, welfare, policing and distribution of electricity, gas and flour.
Early on when the unrest began TEV-DEM stated that it would not side with any parts, it also encouraged both sides to seek a peaceful resolution. At the same time Kurdish citizens joined together to create an independent defense-force the Peoples Defense Units or the YPG. YPG would serve the sole purpose of protecting the lives and homes of the peoples living in TEV-DEM controlled cities and villages.
Independence or autonomy
Despite of what some would claim, this has nothing to do with Kurds seeking to break free from Syria. On the contrary TEV-DEM has firmly stated time and again that it does not seek Kurdish independence but that the Kurdish regions, for obvious reasons, will seek to remain autonomous from the brutal Baath-regime in order to implement democracy locally, something which both the regime and the FSA has failed to do.
In the cross fire
For the Kurds in Western Kurdistan (northern parts of the current Syria), the current situation has seen them caught in the crossfire between the regime on one hand and armed jihadists on the other. The Kurdish people have distanced themselves from the conflict between the regime and the jihadists, but it has not been respected from any of them. Many times the jihadists have moved the war to the Kurdish cities and districts by entering those areas without regard for their neutrality. This erupted bombardment of Kurdish districts by the regime in both Aleppo an Serêkaniye (Ras al-Ayn) where many Kurdish civilian were killed and injured. The jihadists fired on the peaceful demonstrations in both districts where many civilians were killed and injured.
A kurdish model of self-governing
The current model of self-governing and independent people defense forces were rising in Kurdish areas, there is of course hope that will spread throughout Syria. The Kurdish model for self-governing was based on two main foundations. The democratically elected councils and committees, and independent defense forces. As the matter of democratic principles the Kurdish model of self-governing is nither consistent with the Assad-regime nor with FSA as none of them have shown any signs of democratic tendencies or any road map to solve the Kurdish question. That’s the reason the Kurds do not side with any of them. The kurds are blaming both sides for not recognizing the Kurds national identity and rights.
The Kurds had to a large extent been spared from the violent clashes between the FSA and regime forces. Their disinclination to take sides prompted false accusations claiming the Kurds were siding with the regime. However neither the YPG nor TEV-DEM has sided with either part.
In November last year armed groups closely affiliated with the FSA started raiding Kurdish territories moving in and out across the Turkish border. Turkey has aided these armed groups by supporting their attacks with artillery fire and also by treating wounded members of the armed groups.
The border between Northern Serêkaniye (Ceylanpinar -Turkey) and Southern Serêkaniye (Ras al-Ayn – Syria) which is otherwise closed has been used militarily as a channel for these armed groups to plunder and kill their way thru the city and then safely return back to their bases inside Turkey.
As to the reasons to Turkeys backing of armed groups inside Syria the motives are quite clear. The Turkish support for these groups has no doubt to do with their own internal “Kurdish issue”. Turkey are worried that the newly won liberties in Kurdish cities and villages in Western Kurdistan (Syria) will serve as an inspirational example for the Kurds In Northern Kurdistan (Turkey) which have perhaps been even more suppressed than the Kurds in Western Kurdistan (Syria).
Seriousness of negotiations
Recently Turkey has shown signs that it is willing to negotiate with PKK-leader Abdullah Öcalan in order to settle the 30-year old armed conflict. It is in light of this that Syria and Western Kurdistan presents itself as a serious problem for Turkey, any gains for Kurds in Western Kurdistan is a gain for Kurds in other parts of Kurdistan. Whenever Turkey has opened for negotiations they have at the same time intensified their war with the PKK. Turkey has not only attacked Kurds inside in Western Kurdistan recently it has also intensified airstrikes on PKK strongholds in Northern Kurdistan (Turkey) and in Southern Kurdistans (Northern Iraqs) Qandil mountains. Contradictory as this may seem it serves a perfectly logical albeit perverse cause, to weaken the Kurdish opposition when it’s time to sit down at the negotiation table.
When the attacks first started and the YPG fought back, Kurdish parties in the region called on FSA to condemn the armed groups. They refrained from doing so and instead claimed that the attacks had nothing to do with the FSA. However, the armed groups that entered Serêkaniye (Ras al-Ayn – Syria) did so with tanks, military vehicles and weapons that had earlier been confiscated by the FSA from regime armories in Aleppo. The same weapons have now somehow fallen in the hands of these armed groups.
By Roni Hajo